With the groundbreaking African-American comic book hero Night Thrasher getting some buzz - and Hollywood conscious of showcasing diverse heroes, it looks like seeing Dwayne Taylor is a better possibility than ever.
So I caught up with legendary comics writer Tom DeFalco - whose most recent comic book work is "Reggie and Me" for Archie Comics - who co-created the character (with artist Ron Frenz), as well as the other members of the team he led, The New Warriors. We discussed his take on how he came up with Night Thrasher - and how he would react to a Marvel Studios movie starring the hero and the original New Warriors.
"During that period of time (1989),the bulk of Marvel's readership was sixteen-year-olds of all ages—meaning those younger who dream of that golden age and those who remembered that age with fondness," said DeFalco. "Aside from 'New Mutants', Marvel wasn't producing any titles that featured teenagers. I wanted to introduce a new team—filled with teens—with the idea that we could eventually spin the more popular members off into their own titles."
"I consulted with our newsstand distributor and asked him about the magazines that teens were currently buying," DeFalco said. "He told me their most popular magazines were devoted to skateboarding with names like Thrash and Thrasher. They were even outselling the men's magazines.'
"That's when I decided that the new team would have a character called Night Thrasher as its leader and Ron and I started talking."
When picking team members, DeFalco stresses he wanted a young, fresh, lineup with new or underused characters.
"We wanted a diverse line-up, characters who had different types of powers," he recalled. "If I remember correctly, Ron was a big fan of Nova. I had fondness for Firestar and Speedball. Marvel Boy seemed like a natural and Namorita added a little more power to the team."
"I remember I wrote up a basic bible that described how the characters interacted and their various motivations, but I no longer have a copy so I can't tell you what it said," he laughed. "Since Night Thrasher was a new character, I assumed I laid out his personality and powers with the most detail."
Ironically, while DeFalco wrote his new team's first adventure in the pages of "The MightyThor," when it came time to launch the team in their own title, he handed the writing reins over to Fabian Nicieza.
"Fabian did a fantastic job—much better than I could have done—and I've never forgiven him for that,", DeFalco said laughing. "While I would have loved to write the title, I just didn't have the time. Trust me, we were all better off with Fabian and Mark Bagley (who replaced Frenz as the artist)."
While many point to Night Thrasher, a cross between Batman and Iron Man, as one of the most significant African-American characters of all time, DeFalco deflected any praise.
"Ron and I try to make every character we create something special," he said.
Still, the idea of a young African-American character who was a team leader had not really been done before at one of the major comic companies.
"I wanted to get a little more racial diversity in Marvel's line of comics," DeFalco admitted, while adding his reasons for making the hero an orphan like Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne.
"I wanted him to be a teenager and I knew that no parents would want their kid risking his neck as a costumed hero. Since we didn't want that to be a part of the series, Ron and I made him an orphan," DeFalco explained. He also said he purposely wanted Night Thrasher to be a rich businessman like Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne to set him apart from the tired tropes of the time, like having him be a poor, wrongly jailed black man.
"Again, Ron and I wanted to make him different from all the other characters."
As for the character's initially maligned skateboard, audiences soon reacted the way The Punisher did in one issue, where he said, "I called it stupid? it serves as a shield and a weapon at the same time. Maybe I should get one."
Plus, it looked cool - and a ton of teens ate it up.
"Well, those skateboard magazines...Ron and I really studied them," he said matter-of-factly.
DeFalco said he made sure to keep up with how Nicieza and Bagley made his "children" soar in impact and sales for much of the '90s but he confessed "I haven't been following the New Warriors for a longgggggggggg time."