As a descendant of the original Phantom Rider, J.T. James inherited a touch of the supernatural. However, he spent most of his life knowing nothing of this. He never knew who his father even was, much less that he had any relation to Carter Slade. He didn't even realize his supernatural power until he was a guy in his twenties working at a convenience store in Atlanta, Georgia. A man attacked him with a chain outside of a nightclub for reasons having to do with the man's sister. J.T. caught the chain and instinctively manifested hellfire for the first time.
Hellfire was created by Brian Michael Bendis as one of a handful of new characters meant for Nick Fury's Secret Warriors. Jonathan Hickman then took over writing the character for the Secret Warriors ongoing series and was responsible for most of the character's development.
Major Story Arcs
Recruited For A Secret War
A week or so after the nightclub incident, J.T. was found by Daisy Johnson. He was apparently on Nick Fury's list of Caterpillars, people with superhuman talents that hadn't been discovered by anyone else yet. Daisy watched him casually allow someone to steal from the store, and when questioned about it, he let her know about his philosophy of minimum effort for minimum wage. Then, she surprised him by expressing knowledge of his power. He took her out to the alley behind the store and showed her what he could do.
In return, Daisy told him why he could do it and recruited him into Fury's new covert team.
J.T. then proceeded to go through months of brutal training from Nick Fury to be one of his Secret Warriors, allegedly meant to fight the Skrulls. J.T. was beaten, tortured and implanted with a tracer over the course of all his training and did not like it one bit. This was a fact he made sure Fury knew at every opportunity. After going through everything, Fury finally gave them a mission to abduct Maria Hill under the pretense that she was truly a Skrull. J.T. was not happy with the idea of Fury throwing them into the deep end by having them nab the world's top cop as their first operation, but he did his part anyway. They succeeded, after a fashion. They only nabbed a life model decoy of Hill, but that was fine with Fury. He knew she was not actually a Skrull, and this was all nothing but a training exercise.
Knowing that Fury had lied to them all again pissed J.T. off more than usual, and he was about to quit over it. However, he was interrupted by news coming in that the Skrulls had just launched their full-scale invasion.
For further details: Secret Invasion
With the Skrulls making their big move, J.T.'s plan to quit on Fury fell by the wayside as the Secret Warriors prepared to mobilize and do what they could. They watched a force of Super-Skrulls in Manhattan utterly defeat the combined force of the Initiative and the Young Avengers. That is when they intervened, having the advantage of surprise because no one even knew they existed until that point. They quick assault turned the tide of the battle and allowed them to escape with the defeated members of the Young Avengers and Initiative.
The Secret Avengers took the time to regroup with the other heroes and await the best opportunity for their next assault. That came when Thor began calling heroes to battle in Central Park. J.T. joined everyone there on the front line, where the gathered heroes took on the full force of the Super-Skrull army at Queen Veranke's disposal. The fight turned in the heroes' favor when Norman Osborn landed a killshot on Veranke.
J.T. left in a hurry along with Fury and the other Secret Warriors in the battle's immediate aftermath.
The Real Secret War
It turned out that J.T.'s work for Fury only began with the Skrulls but it was never really about the Skrulls. It was about HYDRA. The terrorist organization was bigger than Fury had ever imagined, and in the new world order under Norman Osborn, it was only going to get bigger and stronger unless the Secret Warriors did something about that.
Sitting at a restaurant with his teammates, J.T. listened to Alexander telling them all their destinies with his prophetic power. When it came to J.T.'s turn, all Alexander could say was that J.T. was going to die and that he was sorry. J.T. shrugged the prediction off, saying it was better to burn out fast anyway.
After robbing a HYDRA-run bank, J.T. was frustrated that they did not get to keep any of the huge piles of cash they had come away with. Every last bill of it was to go to Dum-Dum Dugan's Howling Commandos PMC. Despite Fury's command, J.T. kept some of it anyway, and Alexander would later call him out on it, saying nothing good would come of it.
J.T. and Alexander had become close over time and developed a habit of getting into trouble, mostly fueled by J.T. being fed up by Fury's half-truths and outright lies. They began snooping around their current base, discovering Fury's stockpile of LMDs of himself and later an emergency transmission from the Black Widow. Fury was not around to inform of the Black Widow's emergency, though. Rather than leave a hot woman like that to her troubles, J.T. decided they should help and Alexander had a plan. Along with Eden Fesi, they came to Black Widow and Songbird's aid by having Alexander pose as Fury using one of the LMDs. This plan failed, resulting on Alexander being captured by Osborn's Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers along with the ladies.
J.T. and Eden came to Alexander's rescue, making a quick escape thanks to a headstart given to them by Ares. They tried to teleport back to the base, but agents of HAMMER and some of the Dark Avengers were able to follow. A big battle between the Secret Warriors and Osborn's forces broke out in the middle of their no-longer-secret base. As a result, the base self-destructed.
Hellfire, Agent of HYDRA?
Unfortunately for J.T., the money he kept from the bank heist was not clean. HYDRA was able to track the money he spent, and that led HYDRA right to him. It never occurred to J.T. that Fury had denied him any of the money for his own protection, but hindsight like that did him no good at this point. His only way out was to inform on Fury for them. But in return, he wanted assurances that nothing would happen to Daisy. Over time, his attraction to Daisy had developed into something much stronger and protecting her had become his primary interest.
He and Daisy became serious after Sebastian was booted from the unit by Fury. This put Daisy in major conflict with Fury for the first time, and she wanted to know how J.T. dealt with that since he was almost always in conflict with Fury. J.T. admitted that he did not really deal with it. He was not here for Fury or Fury's cause. As far as he was concerned, Fury was an old man fighting an old war about old grudges and just using them all as his latest tools for doing it. He told Daisy that he was only there because of her, and this became the start of a serious relationship between them.
The Secret Warriors fight with HYDRA and the awakened Leviathan carried on for several months, escalating the entire time. Fury's organization had been decimated early on with the loss of the Howling Commandos and some crucial secret bases. But a devastating bombing of a HYDRA target in Seattle by Leviathan prompted the Secret Warriors to take desperate action to bring the conflict to an end. Their target was going to be Gehenna, HYDRA's most important base. As part of the deal with HYDRA he had been forced into, J.T. snuck out and informed them of the plan, reiterating that Daisy was not to be harmed in whatever would happen.
Because J.T. tipped HYDRA off, members of HYDRA's ruling class were waiting for the Secret Warriors in Gehenna and prevented their means of escape by injuring Eden. The bomb had been successfully planted, but there was now no easy way out for the Secret Warriors. They made a run for it through Gehenna's underground tunnels, and J.T. had to watch as Alexander sacrificed his life in a duel with the Gorgon.
The team found access to the surface, but HYDRA soldiers were closing in. Fury covered their escape and quickly become overwhelmed, so it was J.T. who went back for him, telling Daisy to get the others onto the aircraft and make sure she gets on first. With that, he jumped into the fray to rescue Fury, and together, they were able to hold off HYDRA until the bomb exploded.
The detonation caused the mountain over Gehenna to begin collapsing, wreaking havoc with J.T. and Fury's immediate surroundings. The ground at J.T.'s feet gave away, and he fell back into a chasm only to be caught just in time by Fury. As J.T. dangled over the edge, Fury said that he knew that J.T. informed HYDRA of their attack. He had followed J.T. that night and saw the meeting. Now, he wanted to know why J.T. did not come to him. J.T. said it was because he did not trust Fury not to just use his situation like Fury does with everything and everyone else. He only wanted to protect Daisy. Fury asked if he loved Daisy, and he admitted that he did.
Fury told J.T. that he believed him and then let J.T. fall.
- Height : 5"7'
- Weight: 145 lbs
- Eye Color: Brown
- Hair Color: Auburn
- Place of Birth: Atlanta, Georgia
- Citizenship: USA
- Occupation: Secret agent, former convenience store clerk
- Known Relatives: Carter Slade(Phantom Rider, deceased), Lincoln Slade (Phantom Rider, deceased), Hamilton Slade (Phantom Rider, deceased), Jamie Slade (Phantom Rider, deceased)
Powers and Abilities
J.T. James has the supernatural ability to channel hellfire, which he typically does through a metal chain. Because of his reliance on using a chain, the extent of his abilities with hellfire have not been explored.
Personally trained by Nick Fury, J.T. is a proficient hand-to-hand combatant and familiar with many espionage techniques.