Art by Scott Kolins
Dirk Garthwaite was a burglar given powers through a crowbar enchanted by the Asgardian Loki. When he lost his powers, he tried to reclaim them by taking back the crowbar. Upon grabbing it, a lightning bolt struck the weapon while he was surrounded by three other men. This bolt gave Garthwaite his powers back, along with granting powers to Dr. Elliot Franklin, Sergeant Henry Camp, and farm worker Brian Calusky. Garthwaite and his crowbar became powered, and he became the Wrecker. Franklin took a wrecking ball and became Thunderball. Camp became Bulldozer, and Calusky became Piledriver. The four men became a team incarnation of catastrophe and took the name, Wrecking Crew!
So, I’m sort of cheating here by counting four guys for my Number 9. In my defense, it would be really hard talking about any one of these guys individually. They rarely work apart, and there’s not much to say about any one of these characters individually with the exception of maybe the Wrecker and Thunderball. These two have often been at odds, as Thunderball has always believed himself to be better suited for the leadership position due to his intelligence. Thunderball has often also had a softer heart and been more sympathetic than his comrades, and this has led to him interfering with some of the Crew’s ventures.
Their first effort as a team was to reclaim a gamma bomb that Thunderball had a hand in creating years before when he was a physicist. This quest led them to level a number of buildings owned by Richmond Enterprises and, more specifically, Kyle Richmond aka Nighthawk, then a member of the Defenders. They were met by the Defenders and Power Man, whom halted their rampage. Dr. Bruce Banner disarmed the gamma bomb.
The Wrecking Crew were put in separate prisons, but the Puppet Master, an old foe of the Fantastic Four, freed the Wrecker and used mystical clay to force Garthwaite into fighting the FF. The Wrecker was defeated by the Fantastic Four and was imprisoned once more. He escaped and freed his comrades from their prisons.
Their next effort was to defeat Thor, then a member of the Avengers, in an attempt to build validity as genuinely dangerous criminals. They were intercepted by Iron Fist and Misty Knight, the latter of whom they took hostage. They blackmailed Iron Fist into infiltrating the mansion on their behalf. Fist was met by Captain America, and the two cooperated to defeat the Crew and save Misty Knight. The Wrecking Crew was promptly put in prison.
The Wrecking Crew were among the rogues brought to Battleworld by the Beyonder to take part in his Secret Wars.
Upon their return to Earth, they joined up with Baron Helmut Zemo’s incarnation of the Masters of Evil. They divided the Avengers and attacked the mansion, taking loyal Avengers butler Edwin Jarvis hostage. The Avengers were able to reunite and defeat the Masters and the Crew.
After a run-in with Spider Woman, they were imprisoned in the Vault. They staged a riot and took the employees of Damage Control, an organization dedicated to cleaning up after super powered battles, hostage. Thunderball, whom had worked with Damage Control in the past, convinced the rest of the Crew to let them go. Captain America promptly arrived and put the Wrecking Crew away once more.
The Wrecking Crew’s next big scheme involved another hostage situation. This time, a police force known as Code: Blue goes to resolve it. The British super hero team known as Excalibur also go after the Crew, believing they may be able to lead them to the Juggernaut. Loki, Enchantress, and Ulik the Troll also arrive on the scene, as they have business with the Wrecker. This leads Thor to the scene as well. Magic from the Asgardian rogues causes Excalibur to perceive Thor as the Juggernaut. This causes a massive battle between Excalibur, the Wrecking Crew, Thor, and Code: Blue. Lockheed, the small dragon pet of Shadowcat (a member of Excalibur at the time), discovers Enchantress and Ulik, whom flee. The illusion on Thor dissipates as a result. Code: Blue captures the Wrecker, and the rest of the Crew also escape.
In attempt to free their leader, the remaining members of the Wrecking Crew are met by Ghost Rider and Mephisto. The Wrecker becomes determined to bring down the Rider and Mephisto. Loki arrives on the scene once more, and he brings Thor’s involvement. Loki reclaims the Asgardian energy from all members of the Wrecking Crew, with the exception of the Wrecker himself, whom the Trickster God kidnaps. The team later regains their powers, though how they did this was never explained.
The Wrecker later returns, and his team is scattered. His first priority is to take revenge on Thunderball for his constant challenges to his leadership. This brings him to Yancy Street, where brings down the apartment building in which Elliot is hiding. This brings the Thing to the scene, and he easily dispatches the Wrecker. S.H.I.E.L.D puts the Wrecker and the rest of the Crew are put away in the Cage, another superhuman prison.
They manage to escape, only to be beaten by the Thing once again, this time being incarcerated in the Big House, a small prison designed by Hank Pym using his Pym Particles.
After another escape, the Wrecking Crew move to Los Angeles with Piledriver’s son, “Excavator”, whom now has the super strength and invulnerability of the Wrecking Crew’s members. Here, they are challenged by the Runaways, a group of young super heroes. They attempt to recruit Excavator, but he stays loyal to his father and the Crew. This led to another defeat of the Wrecking Crew.
They were sent to the Raft, a New York-based super hero prison. There was a massive breakout staged by Electro. The Wrecking Crew, with the exception of the Wrecker, were able to escape. The remaining members joined up with the Hood’s gang, whom recruited a massive conglomerate of less successful super villains. The Wrecker was able to escape later and join them.
The Wrecking Crew later did battle with Excalibur once again as well as Omega Flight, a Canada-based super hero team. They also had run-ins with the New Avengers as a part of the Hood’s gang, the Punisher, Daredevil, Captain America, and the Enforcers. They even managed a defeat of the New Avengers thanks to the chemical weapons of Chemistro, another member of the Hood’s gang. The worked for the Hood for some time, staying through Iron Man’s Initiative movement and Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign.
They partook in the Siege on Asgard orchestrated by Norman Osborn, where the team fell to in-fighting due to Thunderball’s sympathy for the Asgardians. The Hood’s gang was finally captured here, and the Crew was arrested along with the rest of the group.
They, along with Titania, Whirlwind, and the Absorbing Man were recruited by a villain called Lightmaster to steal technology from Alchemax, and they were met by Spider-Man (then inhabited by the mind of Otto Octavius) and his Superior Six, which consisted of the members of Octavius’ Sinister Six. They were defeated, but they remained with the Masters of Evil for a time. They were on the team when it went against the Secret Avengers.
They were hired by Mister Sinister to obtain the Adamantium-covered body of the deceased Wolverine.
Thunderball recently joined up with the Hood’s new incarnation of the Illuminati, but the team has experienced trouble with in-fighting. The team was a part of Baron Zemo’s revolt against the Pleasant Hill prison, and they escaped during the uprising.
I like the Wrecking Crew much for the same reasons as I like the Absorbing Man. They’re essentially big, dumb thugs who don’t really have many aspirations beyond thieving and self-serving. They’re not the most interesting rogues in the world, but they’re still a lot of fun whenever they take the scene. The in-fighting between Thunderball and the rest of the team gives them it something of an interesting character dynamic, but I’m still primarily interested in them for the reliable henchmen that they are. This is what places the Wrecking Crew at Number 9 of my Top Ten Favorite Marvel Villains.