The Wrecking Crew has been Marvel’s longest-running villainous epidemic. The Wrecking Crew was Dirk Garthwaite’s future, not that they operated as anything less than a team. Dirk was known as The Wrecker before joining the team of four, and first appears in Thor Issue #148.
He went up against Thor a few times, armed with his magical crowbar, but alone. Piledriver, Bulldozer, and Thunderball made up the rest of the Wrecking Crew, all of whom were Wrecker’s prison cellmates.
The Wrecking Crew has fought some of Marvel’s most popular superheroes, including the Avengers, Defenders, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Omega Flight, Spider-Man, and the Hulk, to name a few. It is a fairly well known fact that the Wrecking Crew has been a threat to the life of any Marvel superhero who has appeared on-page, despite them being vastly underappreciated.
So, today, we will take a look at their origins and how they become a continual thorn in the side of the Marvel Superheroes’ greatest and budget.
WRECKING CREW: Origins and First Major Comic Book Appearance
A Salvatore Buscema and Leonard Wein creation, the Wrecking Crew came into being right as the year 1974 was coming to a close. Their powers were acquired through supernatural phenomena and one of their most common enemies was Thor.
Dirk Garthwaite was held captive at Ryker’s Island Prison when he first met a physicist and then convict Dr. Elliot Franklin. Dr. Franklin told Garthwaite about a miniature gamma bomb that he had designed intending to use it to blackmail New York City. In return for not executing those threats thus making them very real actions, he would ask for millions of dollars. The catch was that one Edgar Pennyworth who worked for Richmond Enterprises had stolen that bomb from him. Garthwaite then decided to share his story, and see if they could retrieve the bomb.
He gathered two other inmates – Ex-Farmhand Brian Calusky and Ex-Army Master Sergeant Henry Camp – in a meeting with him and Franklin, telling them of his superpowers granted by Karnilla, the Norn Queen. Garthwaite revealed his Wrecker identity to them, boasting how he had taken on Thor himself, the God of Thunder. The trio around him seemed impressed, and together they hatched a plan to escape the prison.
Garthwaite recovered his enchanted crowbar and the four of them stood outside during a heavy thunderstorm. He asked Franklin, Camp, and Calusky to also get a grip on the thing. Soon after, a bolt of lightning struck the tool, and all powers that the crowbar had were passed on to all four holdings it.
All costumed and blessed with superpowers – they transformed into their alternative super-villain selves. The Wrecker Crew was formed when Dr.Franklin became Thunderball, Sergeant Camp became Bulldozer, and Calusky became Piledriver. As a result of only one enchanted crowbar having to split the powers, Wrecker’s initial strength was split into four parts, one for each member to share. As a team, the Wrecker Crew became quite an intimidating force to be reckoned with.
Of course, they managed to escape from prison and decided that their first task would be to retrieve the stolen gamma bomb that belonged to Dr. Franklin. It is at this point in their timeline that they first appeared in print, in Issue 17 of the first volume of ‘The Defenders’ title comics.
The story of the Issue begins when the Defenders had just come back from some adventures in foreign countries. While some others left in a while, Dr. Strange and Kyle himself were sitting in Richmond’s Riding Academy on the River Nassau. They were quite immersed in catching up when Kyle’s business manager Pennyworth called him up in full panic mode.
He relayed information to the duo that a group calling themselves ‘The Wrecking Crew’ were being true to their name. They were actively destroying buildings belonging to the Richmond business group, all while holding the entirety of New York hostage. Destroying the Richmond buildings was foresight into what The Wrecking Crew would do to the rest of New York if they were not paid a huge sum of money.
Kyle transformed into Nighthawk and traveled to New York with Dr. Strange to see the group for themselves. They were duty-bound to do the needful to protect another building of the Richmond business – one that was being newly made. Before they could meet the Crew though, they came across Luke Cage a.k.a. Power Man, who Pennyworth had taken in charge to protect the said building. Not knowing who the duo was, Power Man engaged in a confrontation with them, assuming they were the Wrecking Crew. While that exchange got heated, the building came to pieces and fell around them, bringing them to now meet the real Wrecking Crew who had done the damage they intended to.
In that context, the Wrecking Crew did get overpowered in the end, but not before they had put up a tough fight against the Power Man and the Defenders. Bruce Banner eventually obtained the gamma bomb and disarmed it before NYC could be hit by its after-effects.
WRECKING CREW: A Brief Biodata
A home he could never call his own because of an alcoholic and abusive father, Dirk Garthwaite grew up to be a troubled adult. At four years of age, he had to deal with the news of his father’s apparent death, and his mother’s struggles after that to keep them floating on the bare minimum food and housing standards. As his mother would be working multiple jobs to secure their food each day, young Dirk would be left alone with his thoughts over long periods.
Eventually getting employed by a demolition company when he came to be of age, he was released after several instances of violent and anti-social behavior. “Empty mind, devil’s workshop” proverb came to life for this man as he decided to use his skills to create chaos and public unrest unless paid enough to not do so. He made a simple costume for himself to conceal his true identity and went around engaging in criminal activities – small and big. Under the alias of The Wrecker, he was recognized by his favorite tool – a crowbar, also a medium of bringing his ideas of destruction to bear fruit. As time went by, the Wrecker became a true menace as his scale of crimes got bigger and worse, all while evading police custody.
Post his encounters with Loki and a relatively weakened Thor, in which he managed to overpower them magnificently, the Wrecker met his temporary end in the hands of the Destroyer. The Destroyer being an Asgardian robot of sorts, then controlled by the soul of the Asgardian deity Sif, was practically impossible to defeat. He was restrained right after and kept bound in an upstate New York hospital for months on end, under very heavy tranquilizers.
However, at some point, the Wrecker started resisting the effects of the sedatives and managed to escape. Once again, he met Thor on the battlefield, but this time around the God of Thunder had all his powers back up and ready to fight, so Wrecker lay defeated. The Wrecker’s extraordinary power was sapped by a release of energy from Thor’s enchanted hammer when he was thrown into the electrified third rail of a subway track in NYC.
A brilliant physicist with slightly insane inventions like miniature gamma bombs to his credit, Dr. Elliot Franklin was an otherwise famous man. He rose to fame particularly because Bruce Banner a.k.a. the Hulk was also working on something similar at that time, unable to come up with significant results. As most people say, fame got to his head when he came to be known as the “black Bruce Banner”, owing to his intellect par excellence and extensive knowledge of gamma radiation. With his mind all twisted now, he started to steal and rob to fund his experiments. That landed him in jail alongside you know who.
As Thunderball of the Wrecking Crew, Franklin’s weapon of choice was an ordinary-looking wrecking ball, quite magically powerful on the inside due to the transfer of magical energies from the Wrecker’s crowbar. Their relationship though remained quite strained because of Franklin’s superiority complex about his brains. He was often miffed that the Wrecker was in partial control of his powers as Thunderball, and even tried to take that control from him, only to be disappointed by complete failure or a fully crushed hand, as it happened in the hands of the Wrecker once. Despite instances of treachery, the Wrecker always accepts Thunderball back because of the family-like feelings he has for all three members of his Crew.
NY-born Brian Calusky spent his young days on a farm. Deeming it too boring and lethargic for his taste, his knack for petty crimes led him to the way of bigger ones, purely for the thrill. Being in Dirk’s friendship and company in prison when they were sentenced together were his first days as a part of the Wrecking Crew. After becoming Piledriver and escaping prison, Calusky had several super-heroic conflicts to his credit. He fought Iron Fist and Captain America, all in an attempt to attract Thor into the battle. He even went up against Hercules to lend a helping hand, but Thor’s attack drained him of all his powers. Unfortunately, he also met defeat at Spider-Woman’s and Spider-Man’s hands.
Things looked up for him when he escaped from being held at the Vault, a high-security prison, and S.H.I.E.L.D. base and defeated Captain America right after. With the rest of the Wrecking Crew assisting him, Piledriver was credited with helping free the Ulik – leader of the Rock Trolls of Nornheim – and the Wrecker from the police one time. Once again, they met Thor, Ghost Rider, Excalibur, and Code: Blue, and right when his powers were drained by Loki, Piledriver managed to run free.
Finally, speaking of Henry Camp; he was born in Kansas but left to fend for himself in a trash pile as early as two days after birth. Thankfully, he was taken in by an orphanage where he stayed until his deployment with the U.S. Army. He climbed through the ranks rapidly, becoming Master Sergeant soon. His colleagues were “blown to pieces for a lie, for oil, for billionaires” during his tenure in the Army which ended up getting him dishonorably discharged. At some point, he is also known to have had a career in boxing.
Akin to his fellow Wrecking Crew teammates, he too entered a criminal’s life and mindset before being held and being sent to the Ryker’s Island prison to serve his term. With the Wrecking Crew, he became Bulldozer and unlike Thunderball, remained dedicated to The Wrecker’s service. Henry joined Hood’s Criminal Army with the rest of the Wrecking Crew but was subsequently imprisoned during the happenings of the Siege of Asgard, as they assisted Iron Patriot. S.H.I.E.L.D. also apprehended him and imprisoned him in Pleasant Hill.
THE WRECKING CREW: Spotted in The New She-Hulk Trailer
On Tuesday, 17th May 2022, Marvel fans woke up to wonderful news. The first trailer for ‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’ by Disney+ was released and the fans had a feast to gorge upon in terms of content to decipher. The trailer did carry the presence of what looked like a Frog-Man – maybe Leap-Frog – and Abomination is said to return. Of course, Bruce Banner is in the picture too! While fans await the summer series, they might as well keep an eye out for…you guessed it…the Wrecking Crew. If true, this could be the first look we have had at them in a while.
Around 10 seconds into the trailer, there’s a snippet of a heist to be carried out by a group of men. Normal, right? Not when we tell you that there’s a lack of gear or arms, but there does exist a fair outline of a crossbow in one of their hands and a crowbar in another one. We’ll leave it there for you to see and the MCU to bestow upon us.
THE WRECKING CREW: Multiple Television Appearances
With quite a few television appearances to their credit, the Wrecking Crew is highly anticipated in the MCU for good reason. They were seen first in an episode of The Super Hero Squad Show, titled ‘To Err is Superhuman’. Alimi Ballard, Roger Rose, Travis Willingham, and Charlie Adler lent their voices to the characters of Thunderball, Bulldozer, Piledriver, and Wrecker respectively.
The Wrecking Crew also appeared in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series, in episode ‘Damage’ of the Ultimate Spider-Man, in the Avengers Assemble animated series, the Hulk, and overall two episodes of the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. animated series, titled ‘The Big Green Mile’, and ‘The Skaar Whisperer’.
They were last seen on television in a singular episode ‘Mutant Girl Awakening’ of the Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers anime series.
THE WRECKING CREW: What Made Them So Dangerous?
Each member of the Wrecking Crew had several superhuman abilities to their credit. They were further empowered by their gear – weapons as well as equipment. Let’s point out a few of them.
The bane of the entire Wrecking Crew is Wrecker’s crowbar. About four feet long and made of cast iron, it is quite resistant to damage as it stays in prolonged contact with Wrecker’s skin that has magical characteristics. Wrecker himself is super-strong, so whether he uses the crowbar as a weapon of attack or defense, the potential of destruction is quite vast. Ulik even taught the Wrecker to have the crowbar return straight to him, just like Mjolnir returns to Thor.
Bulldozer is characterized by his way of attack – ramming into his opponent without notice. To enhance the effects of it, he wears a specially made helmet that is appropriately armoured. His own protection is ensured by the neck and shoulder apparatus and he becomes impenetrable when launching the said attack. His peripheral vision becomes slightly affected by the helmet, but then “you gain some, you lose some”, right?
Thunderball owns a greatly sturdy wrecking ball too, attached to a chain that is about four feet in length. The ball itself is capable of wielding an exoskeletal suit and small jolts of electricity. This ball too has powers to return to the owner after its launched into action and when spun fast enough, it can help dodge bullets.
The ball being hurled at the ground can cause minor earthquakes up to a certain distance, good enough to throw an opponent off their balance. Being hurled at buildings causes near to no damage to the equipment. Thunderball is unaffected by its destruction or shattering; he has no bad psychological consequences and merely receives a new wrecking ball. The wrecking ball must then be recharged by The Wrecker himself in order to obtain enhanced damage resistance.
THE WRECKING CREW: Closing In
Over the years, the Wrecking Crew saw some new members stepping in temporarily. When the Wrecking Crew was working on a mission for Mayor Wilson Fisk, a female mercenary named Demolisher stood in for Thunderball as a member of the Wrecking Crew. Ricky Calusky, a.k.a. Excavator who was Piledriver’s son, joined in during his teenage.
To Ricky’s credit, he had a shovel that was enchanted – poorly though – that broke right when he hit Molly Hayes on the head with it. It was his first battle and left behind only a young, very agitated mutant girl. Bulldozer’s child too came into the picture at some point. Marci Camp was his daughter and inherited his powers by blood, after which she engaged in heavy training so she could work with her father for their cause.
Coming to the present day, the chances of seeing the Wrecking Crew in action draws close with their potential appearance in She-Hulk. It would be interesting to see the creators’ spin on the Crew, and their arc development as a threat. It must be remembered though, that the trailer isn’t the first instance of Wrecking Crew’s appearance against She-Hulk. Last year around this time itself, there were reports supporting their appearance. So, if MCU loyalists are waiting, it is not for no reason! More on it in August 2022!