Home Interviews INTERVIEW: FRED VAN LENTE chats about his origin of PETER CANNON

INTERVIEW: FRED VAN LENTE chats about his origin of PETER CANNON

The writer is taking on the legendary character with Dynamite

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Writer Fred Van Lente (DIE!namite, Archer & Armstrong) and artist Jonathan Lau (Vampirella Strikes) are gearing up with Dynamite to bring back The Lightning Vessel of the Awakened this fall with Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt: Destroyer of Death. This new installment for the character will center on his origin and how he becomes the Living Thunderbolt. 

The character was the creation of writer, artist, and New York City police officer Peter Morisi and was originally published by Charlton Comics in 1966. Considered a thoughtful superhero comic with some of the first respectful invocations of Eastern Mysticism to appear in American pop culture, Dynamite began publishing the character a decade ago with a series co-written by Steve Darnall and Alex Ross and drawn by Lau. 

Van Lente chatted with the Beat about taking on the legendary character and revamping his origin story.

Deanna Destito: How did you approach this retelling of Peter Cannon’s origin?

Fred Van Lente: I wanted to take Peter out of that strictly 20th-century pulp milieu of guy-goes-to-monastery-gets-powers that is so many other heroes’ backstories, dating all the way back to Amazing Man (“Prince of Orphans” to you Immortal Iron Fist fans). Thanks to the MCU, I think Dr. Strange pretty much has that origin cornered. My wife had been working on a musical about cults (yes, really) and so I’d been doing a lot of reading along with her and it occurred to me I could take Peter in a different direction if his powers and backstory came from a much more local source. Making a sensei (or sifu, if you prefer) into a sinister cult leader seemed like an interesting direction to take Peter. 

Destito: Do you tackle legendary characters differently or in the same way when you write them as original creations?

Fred Van Lente: Sort of. It’s slightly easier to do legendary characters because they’re more well known–even to me–and so the path to get their essence is a bit clearer. With brand-new characters you come up with yourself, you’re still figuring all that stuff out and if you’re lucky you get it right the first time.  

Destito: How was working with Jonathan Lau on this series?

Fred Van Lente: He is absolutely brilliant. The work on the kung fu sequences is amazing–it’s a kung fu book, so it kind of has to be–and some of the best I’ve ever seen him do. 

Destito: Why is this version a good spot for both old and new readers to get into the character?

Fred Van Lente: It’s an adaptation of the first issue of the original Charlton series, recast in a modern setting with a heavy element of mysticism and romance. What’s not to love? 

Destito:  What surprises can you tease for the book?

Fred Van Lente: The title, “Destroyer of Death,” refers to a specific forbidden move taught by the Hooded One at the compound where Peter grew up. No one has mastered it but Peter’s archnemesis, the Hooded One, and when you see what it is–well, it’s maybe not what you think, is all I’m saying. 

Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1 is available for preorder this month and is slated for release in November. Check out a sneak peek at some interior pages below!

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