The Liberty Project was my earliest take on super-crooks redeeming themselves as heroes, inspired by the era of Avengers that featured Captain America and the what-us-villains-that-was-yesterday lineup of Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. The Thunderbolts were the third try.
This was the second, an unsuccessful series pitch I did with Karl Kesel. The “H.I.T.” stood for “Heroes In Training,” and the picture explains the concept about as well as I ever could. Art by Karl, from a rough and inadequate sketch by me; click on it for a closer look. The guy at the top had nothing to do with the Shi’Ar, but was an Amerind mutant (I think), who had such natural talent that he was cocky and didn’t feel he needed to train, which would have been an ongoing source of irritation for Hawkeye.
There was another never-sold series I cooked up about a criminal trying to go straight, Sirocco. But that was inspired by the TV show Alias Smith & Jones more than anything from comics. What can I say? I like redemption stories.