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Peter Cannon Thunderbolt by PAM (Charlton Comics)

Peter Cannon… Thunderbolt !


“Somehow, it seems natural that the heavens should roar angrily… as the forces of evil and greed conjoin in a terrible destruction ! Only one man, a strangely clad figure, dares challenge the awesome powers that offer, at best, only a horrible doom !”

Context

Peter Cannon… Thunderbolt! is the best-known creation of Peter “PAM” Morisi (1928-2003). Mr. Morisi was a police officer who moonlighted as a comics artist during the 1950s and 1960s.

Morisi’s harmonious, steady art emphasised composition. But the rise of the aggressively dynamic Marvel/Kirby style overtook this approach.

On Peter Cannon… (1966-67, Charlton Comics) he both drew and wrote. The book was markedly above Charlton’s average, and is well-remembered. It is also noted as a relatively early example of positive depiction of Asian spiritualities.

Howbeit, like Stan Lee’s similarly well-meaning efforts with Dr. Strange, it didn’t age well. For a modern reader it is a textbook example of the “the East rejuvenating the West” Orientalism  with a big helping of White Saviour.


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Background

  • Real Name: Peter Cannon.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Dr. Richard Cannon (father, deceased), Mary Cannon (mother, deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: Former monk at an unnamed lamasery.
  • Base Of Operations: Formerly an unnamed lamasery in Tibet, later a mansion near New York City.
  • Height: 6’1” Weight: 195 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Blond


Powers and Abilities

Peter has been superbly educated in “both the ways of the East and the West”. His expertise ranges from Buddhist philosophies to standard model physics.

He was also trained as a formidable athlete and hand-to-hand combatant.

Physical adept

After studying many of the sacred scrolls, Cannon can — this being the late 1960s — unlock the power of the mythical “90% of the human brain that lay unused”. This means he can enhance his body through willpower, commanding even such involuntary functions as bleeding.


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As the narration puts it “his magnificent body responds completely to his will”.

His speed, agility, strength, etc. are at least peak human. The power of will is also used with great efficiency for all the usual heroic things. Extraordinary efforts, recuperating in the nick of time, enduring great pain, etc.

The sweetest Tabu

Tabu is basically Peter’s Alfred Pennyworth. In DC Heroes terms his Attributes and Skills were around 04 APs and he seemed to have most or all of Peter’s Skills at that rough level. So he’s competent, but not cinematically  so.

Tabu seems to actually be Indian – presumably from one of the Uttar states. He constantly wears a turban, but is likely not a Sikh since he does not carry any of the other visible symbols. So perhaps he’s from Rajasthan and not an Uttar state… oh well.

Tabu is proactive and driven toward justice. He’s usually the one convincing Peter that Thunderbolt’s talents are needed.

While he has no issue with being in the field and helping out, Tabu is aware that he’s just the sidekick (in DC Heroes terms he has low Hero Points ). Therefore, he will only attempt to get things done alone if he has no other recourse.


Soundtrack

Lessee, what’d be fitting among the signature 1966 tunes…

Available for download on Amazon .


History

Peter Cannon is the only son of Mary and Dr. Richard Cannon. This couple was a dedicated medical team, bringing modern medical relief to lower-tech areas.

Reaching Tibet with their newborn, they discovered that the Black Plague was spreading anew in a valley. They worked from a local lamasery to contain and destroy it. Though many died, the medical countermeasures eventually worked. But the last two recorded victims of the terrible disease left baby Peter an orphan.

At the lamasery

To honour the selfless Cannons, the abbot made the White boy the Chosen One. The Chosen One was the the only person who could study from the sacred scrolls at the lamasery.

(Here I’m using the terms used in the 1960s story. I’m no expert, but I assume that nowadays the site would be called a monastery, and the abbot a lama or a guru.)

(To conserve the story, I’d suggest to assume that the monastery was more about the study of a specific school of magic, than about Tibetan Buddhism per se. Which is also simpler, unless you know a whole lot about Vajrayāna.)

This greatly angered the disfigured man known as the Hooded One. The Hooded One was the previous Chosen One, but he was now forced to halt his studies of the scrolls.

The abbot further had educative material procured from the US. Thus, Cannon would be educated in both the ways of Tibet and America. To prepare for his eventual reading of the scrolls, he also received intensive fitness training from infancy onward.

Once he was old, wise and fit enough, Peter Cannon spent years deciphering the secret scrolls.

An honest man’s education

Once done, he had to face a number of challenges in his habitual red-and-blue training outfit.

  1. Facing Himalayan bowmen, he escaped their arrows by leaping high above them.
  2. Facing a savage tiger, he wrestled the powerful beast into unconsciousness.
  3. The third test was simply an open door in the lamasery’s outer wall. The trial was to return to America and live there.

Cannon did so with great reluctance. He considered the lamasery to be his only home, and viewed Western civilisation and its “wars and hatred” with contempt.

As he was packing to leave, his childhood friend Tabu asked to come with him, which Peter agreed to.

In 1966 they reached the US. Cannon bought an isolated mansion with his parents’s savings. He then found work as a freelance writer on “all things Himalayan” for Newsfront Magazine. Mr. Cannon later graduated to the position of international reporter.

Not wanting to get involved in the evils of civilisation, Cannon lived as a reclusive gentleman. But unbeknownst to him, the Hooded One (using secrets from the scrolls that Peter never studied) was conspiring against him.

The Hooded One strikes

Soon, New York City was simultaneously hit by a crime wave, a dinosaurs rampage and a storm. Whilst Cannon did not want to get involved, he could not let innocents die either. Tabu came up with a solution by adding a mask to Cannon’s old training uniform.

The masked Peter Cannon killed dinosaurs with sticks of dynamite. He also took out the looters and criminals secretly organised by the Hooded One. The press nicknamed the dynamic hero “Thunderbolt” after a description by a police officer.

For his next attempt on Cannon’s life, the Hooded One used his “mental telepathy”. He thus set in motion the return of the evil witch ruler of ancient Egypt… Princess Evila ! Returning to life, Evila used her hypnotic power to carve a criminal empire across America.

However, Thunderbolt :

  • Found Evila’s HQ.
  • Took out all of her henchmen.
  • Evaded all of her traps.
  • Defeated a crocodile in a savage underwater fight.

Mr. Cannon then seemingly destroyed Princess Evila in an hypnotic duel of wills.

Reluctant adventurer

Others adventures followed. Against Eric Gore the Man-Ape, then against the Tong and his borer machine.

Peter then returned to the Himalayas to cure Tabu from the deadly Sleeping Sickness. Invading the Hooded One’s mythical cave, Peter found a lost world. Complete with… dinosaurs ! And Pygmies ! As he hoped, Mr. Cannon eventually the herbs he needed to save Tabu.

More adventures followed :

  • The mysterious Mummy !
  • The nefarious Cobra, using deadly venoms to turn men into slaves to be sold !
  • The magician and warlord called the Dragon, taking over the whole of the Himalayas !

A grave matter

Peter and Tabu then returned to the lamasery. They learned about the daughter of a pilot who had crashed his plane into the lamasery years before. It was that accident that had disfigured the Hooded One. He had been caught into the explosion of the plane as he heroically rescued wounded monks.

The pilot’s daughter was looking for her father’s grave. Peter has to rescue her from the deadly perils of the lost world to which the Hooded One’s cave led.

Thunderbolt :

  • Fought pterodactyls, lions, and tribesmen.
  • Was captured.
  • Found that the daughter was also a prisoner of the primitives who considered the Hooded One their king.
  • Fought a giant ape in the arena.
  • Escaped back to the mountains beyond the lost valley with the young woman.

Pfew.

Later adventures

Peter and Tabu later crossed the pond. They were to report on a parliamentary session in the UK.

There the Hooded One struck again. He tried to eliminate them using lifelike wax figures of famous criminals, which he animated with his mental powers.

Peter Cannon’s flight to Australia was then hijacked by the men of the Dragon Master, a crime lord of the Chinese Mafia. Thunderbolt escaped, called the authorities and thus forced the Dragon Master and his men to flee.

Retirement

Mr. Cannon left the Australian police handle the rest, but asked Tabu to investigate an odd clue about the Chinatown in New York City. Tabu, of course, was kidnapped while investigating. Thunderbolt rescued him, but the Dragon Master was accidentally killed while trying to murder Thunderbolt.

Feeling guilty over this death, Peter Cannon retired his Thunderbolt identity for a while.

That was 1967, and the end of that Peter Cannon… Thunderbolt ! run.


Description

See illustrations.


Personality

Cannon views the Western civilisation with contempt, thinking it too brutal and greedy. And it wasn’t even the 1980s yet !

But he can not let innocents die either. Therefore, Peter finds himself compelled to act to save lives. With Tabu’s help (or rather, unrelenting nagging and encouragement), Peter increasingly came to reflect on how his considerable power meant considerable responsibility.

His distaste for “modern” life is strong. Yet his unique heritage and abilities mean that he is the one best-placed to struggle for such lofty intangibles as tranquillity, brotherhood and peace amongst men.

Still, he’s at best a reluctant hero.

Formula

Thus adventures followed a steady pattern of :

  1. Peter refusing to get involved as Tabu brought him the news.
  2. Tabu nagging and convincing Peter to act as they trained.
  3. The dynamic Thunderbolt jumping into the fray and solving the situation as a 1960s action hero would.

He’ll almost certainly fight some kind of dangerous animal in doing so.


Quotes

(His mantra) “I can do it… I must do it… I will do it !”

(Reading the newspaper) “Killing, violence, destruction ! Man’s inhumanity to man ! Civilisation is nothing more than a jungle, Tabu, and I don’t intend to get involved in its problems !”

“Your minutes are numbered, killer, and so are those of your men ! You will pay for your crimes !”

“I felt kind of sorry for those dinosaurs, Tabu. They weren’t at fault ! It was greed that caused their being and destruction !”

“You’d really unleash… that kind of terror on a defenceless world ? On women… and children ?”

“This gift of mine… this power of will… isn’t a cure-all for the ills of mankind ! The way I see it, it was meant to further the goals of a peaceful civilisation – not to fight its battles !”

“I’ll find you, Mummy… and make you pay for your bloodthirsty schemes !”

“We almost fell victim to a very advanced application of black magic tonight, Tabu ! What warlock do we know with such great power ?”

“With all my heart I hate this costume… for every time I put it on, Peter Cannon dies so that Thunderbolt can live ! And Thunderbolt represents the failure of civilisation and the triumph of brute force !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Thunderbolt (1960s)

Dex: 08 Str: 06 Bod: 06 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 08 Wil: 08 Min: 08 Occupation: Freelance writer, later international reporter
Inf: 06 Aur: 05 Spi: 08 Resources {or Wealth}: 006
Init: 026 HP: 050

Powers:
Jumping: 02, Mind over Matter: 01, Regeneration: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:
All Powers are Skilled Powers.

Skills:
Acrobatics*: 08, Animal handling (Horses): 05, Artist (Writing): 05, Martial Artist*: 08, Thief (Stealth): 06, Vehicles (Land, sea): 05

Advantages:
Confidant (Tabu), Expertise (“All things Himalayan”), Headquarters (Extensive – his mansion, which connects to numerous secret passages to and under New York City), Iron Nerves, Language (Tibetan, Mongolian), Lightning Reflexes, Schtick (Master of chi, Power of will), Stabilisation.

Connections:
The High Abbott of the lamasery (High), Detective Palmer of the NYPD (Low).

Drawbacks:
Secret ID.


“I can do it… I must do it… I will do it !”

Peter Cannon’s ability to focus his willpower into great feats is arguably superhuman. In game terms his Master of Chi Schtick makes him a specialist when it comes to Pushing his abilities.

The effects of the Schtick are as follow :

  • The minimum number of RAPs the Action Check for the Pushing attempt can score is 1, even if it completely misses the mark.
  • The “Push fee” is diminished from 3 HPs per AP down to 2 HPs per AP.
  • Burnout only occurs on a failed roll of 7 or less.
  • With the GM’s permission, this Schtick allows the Character to use his Martial Artist Skill for Power Tricks having to do with paranormal energies. This explains a lot of the weird, one-shot chi stuff Thunderbolt has done. At one point, he even convinced the GM to allow him to conjure a live dragon (Animate Image) via ’extra-sensory materialisation’. However, that was not the regular author writing.

Thunderbolt’s other Schtick (Power of will) caps the cost of Desperation Recovery at 10 HPs, no matter what the Genre.


Game Stats — DC Adventures RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Peter Cannon… Thunderbolt! — Averaged PL 10.2

STR STA AGL DEX FGT INT AWE PRE
05 05 05 03 08 03 04 02

Powers

Mind over matter ● 13 points ● Descriptor: Chi training
– Leaping 2.
– Regeneration 1.
– Enhanced Advantage (Diehard, Extraordinary Effort, Great Endurance, Ultimate Effort 7 (Strength, all Defenses, Athletics, Acrobatics)).

Combat Advantages

Close Attack 3, Defensive attack, Defensive Roll 3, Evasion, Improved Defense, Improved Initiative, Improved Trip, Instant Up, Move-by Action, Power Attack, Ranged attack 3, Uncanny Dodge.

Other Advantages

Benefit 2 (Independantly wealthy), Benefit (Owns a mansion connected to numerous secret passages under new York City), Languages 2 (Tibetan, Mongolian and perhaps more), Second chance (Fear/intimidation), Trance.

Skills

Acrobatics 6 (+11), Athletics 6 (+11), Close combat (Unarmed) 2 (+13), Expertise (Himalayas lore) 10 (+13), Expertise (Horse riding) 5 (+8) Expertise (Writer) 7 (+10), Insight 5 (+9), Perception 7 (+11), Persuasion 2 (+4), Stealth 4 (+9), Vehicles 4 (+7) (Limited 1 to land and sea vehicles).

Offense

Initiative +9
Unarmed +13, Close, Damage 5.

Defence

Dodge 12 Fortitude 09
Parry 12 Toughness 05*/08
Will 12

* Without Defensive Roll.

Complications

  • Responsibility Though he’d rather not, Peter Cannon feels compelled to intervene and fight to save relatively innocent lives.
  • Who was that masked monk ? Thunderbolt’s identity is a secret.
  • Nemesis The fallen Hooded One is Thunderbolt’s sworn nemesis.

Powers Levels

  • Trade-off areas. Attack/Effect PL 9, Dodge/Toughness PL 10, Parry/Toughness PL 10, Fort/Will PL 11.
  • Points total 159. Abilities 70, Defences 23, Skills 28, Powers 13, Devices 0, Advantages 25. Equiv. PL 11.

Notes

The HP-centric Advantages don’t feel special, but the end result should be fairly close to the fine-tuning of HP economy he receives in his DCH stats.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Chiefly the Charlton series of the same name (1966-67). This does *not* cover later appearances, such as the 1992 DCU revival.

Helper(s): Frank Murdock.

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