Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Friday, May 27, 2005

Cool Moments in Comic Book History: The Thunderbolt’s Prophesy

Peter Cannon- Thunderbolt was an unsuccessful superhero comic put out by DC in the early nineties. It revived the Charlton Comics hero of the same name, based him in London, and tried to establish him as a new hero in the DC universe.

The series tanked, dying after twelve decent but unexceptional issues. Not more than a footnote in comic history, except for one very cool plot element.

First, an explanation: Peter Cannon was the reincarnation of a warrior, the Vajra (Sanskrit for “Thunderbolt”), who protected a Tibetan temple against danger over his many lifetimes. The latest incarnation of the Vajra had been killed by Chinese soldiers just as two American doctors arrived at the temple seeking sanctuary. The doctors died shortly thereafter, the woman just after giving birth to their son, Peter.

The monks raised and trained Peter in the temple, along with assorted other local moppets, to see which child was the reincarnation of the Vajra. As a result, Peter learned all sorts of snazzy whoop-ass skills, and of course, proved to be the newest incarnation of the Thunderbolt.

Due to a chain of events not worth relating, the Thunderbolt journeys to the outside world and gets into superhero adventures.

Yeah, a none-too-original setup: an American raised abroad to study mystic disciplines, a Chosen One, hidden temples, yadda yadda. Aside from the funny red and blue suit, he could be straight from the pulps.

Then...came coolness. Late in the series we find out…the Vajra who died before Peter’s birth was still alive.

Oops.

Peter was not the reincarnation of the ancient hero. He was not “the Chosen One.” And the original Vajra had come back to cave in the skull of the pretender.

For once, the hackneyed phrase “everything you know is wrong” was true.

Now that’s a friggin’ cool idea. It came as a genuine shock to readers,* since Peter’s status as the reincarnated hero was unquestioned until that point. The comfortable myths and stories he had believed his entire life had shattered, and he had to face the world without the comfort of a prefabricated destiny. Neato-keen, sez I.

That series was so damn close to being excellent. Alas.

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*By "readers," I mean "me."