How Wizard Magazine Helped Create a Forgotten Thunderbolts Hero

The Thunderbolts are currently in the headlines when it comes to Marvel Comics, no doubt due to a new book in the works and plans to introduce them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comics, this team featured several recognizable villains and heroes, some of whom, like Zemo, have already been introduced in the MCU. Others, however, are much more obscure, one being actually created by a now defunct magazine.

Once Incredibly Popular Wizard Magazine used to have its pulse on the comics industry, which several publishers took advantage of. Marvel, for example, held a contest to create a new villain, which ended up on the Thunderbolts roster. Unfortunately, legal issues and publisher disinterest prevented this fan-made character from going anywhere. Here’s the story of Marvel’s Charcoal, how it eventually ran out, and how Marvel could potentially bring it back.

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Who is Charcoal from Marvel Comics?

Charcoal was created by Wallace and Kroja Frost, with comic book pros Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley and Scott Hanna actually bringing it into a comic book. He made his debut in Love at first sight #19, or at least his human form did. Born Charles Burlingame, his real name was an obvious predecessor to his Charcoal superhero title, the Burning Man. Charlie’s father was constantly looking for work, which brought his attention to the Imperial forces of Arnim Zola. Zola noticed Charlie’s genetic potential, later having him experiment to turn him into Charcoal.

As his name suggests, Charcoal has a scorched, rocky exterior to his massive superhuman body. The former Charlie Burlingame was incredibly strong and physically resilient, and able to manipulate his crater frame, as well as heat himself up. Taking advantage of Charcoal’s newfound power, Zola and company take over a small town. Their conquest was short-lived, however, as the Thunderbolts drove them from the city. This caused a change in Charcoal’s blackened heart and he abandoned the Imperial forces to join the anti-hero group.

Charcoal remained a loyal member of the Thunderbolts, earning him and his former Thunderbolt teammate Jolt a spot on the Redeemers team when the Thunderbolts disbanded. Unfortunately, he still harbored immense resentment towards his father, leaving the elder Burlingame to die when given the choice to save him. It came back to bite him, however, as a battle against Graviton also marked the end of Charcoal. He’s been dead ever since, and it’s all down to the exact nature of his real-world origins.

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Wizard Magazine Helped Create Marvel’s Charcoal

Although it was “created” by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley, Charcoal actually had much more “witchcraft” origins. It was part of a competition organized by Wizard Magazine, which, as mentioned, was basically the social media for comics at the time. The contest involved readers submitting their ideas for a new Marvel Comics villain, with the winner being made part of Team Thunderbolts.

Unfortunately, there weren’t many legal parameters like there might have been under such circumstances, so Marvel’s ownership of Charcoal became somewhat suspect. These problems were only compounded by the failure of Wizard to give the winner the remainder of their prize, leading to them supposedly pursuing legal action to claim the copyright.

What came next was apparently always planned by writer Fabian Nicieza, but it was also pretty legally convenient for Marvel Comics. Nicieza had Charcoal killed in the 56th issue of Love at first sight, although he intends for him to return in some capacity. When he informed his superiors of his plans to restore Charcoal, rumors of legal issues surrounding the character were their reasoning for telling him to do otherwise. Since then, there’s been a pile of broken rubble, which isn’t expected to change any time soon.

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Ironically, the character was still just a young man and specifically a young black man when he was killed. Despite this, there was no real controversy surrounding his death, likely because he had little or no real impact in the world. Love at first sight book. His generic, completely ’90s character design certainly didn’t help him stand out.

It should be noted that the legal issues involved Charcoal, but not his Charlie Burlingame alter ego. This was due to his human identity being purely the creation of Busiek and Bagley, with the Wizard submission involving only his supervillain persona. This lack of communication and concrete plans is part of why, despite the contest being for a new villain, Charcoal turned into a good guy pretty quickly. So Nicieza’s plan could possibly be used to some extent to bring the character back, but only in his civilian form.

Given the news to come Love at first sight Marvel Cinematic Universe book and movie, now would be the best time to bolster the property with characters unrelated to the wider Avengers pantheon. After all, the current roster looks more like a West Coast Avengers team than the supervillain rehab Thunderbolts are supposed to be. Charlie Burlingame could be one of them, but Charcoal will likely remain burned to ashes.

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