Kieron Gillen Hit By The Thunderbolt
Jan 31, 2019
Kieron Gillen plays Peter Cannon like he's Sherlock Holmes with a splash of James Bond. In this interview, the writer says that Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt is the smartest man in the room. And he wants to leave.
D.E.: Peter Cannon returns in Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 (NOV181059)! What can fans look forward to in your imagining of the character?
Kieron Gillen: Peter Cannon is an interesting guy. Partially because the (ahem) canon is so relatively small - the Sixties issues, the attempted DC integration, the Dynamite mini and that's about it. At the same time, he's a character whose impact has been huge. To state the obvious, you remove Peter Cannon, and you remove Watchmen. So I've looked at all the threads of the characters and tried to find a throughline as directed as a bullet. Plus everything I've ever loved in the genre. High adventure, big ideals, epic destruction, heroism, despair, and nine-panel grids.
On a personal level? I've been away from the genre for a few years. This is me refreshed, grinning, and more than a little bit angry. I want to try things. I want to have fun. Hell, we've created a whole new supporting cast of heroes for this series because we wanted to. I wanted to do a state of the art, state of the superheroic nation, and Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt is it.
D.E.: You're a super-powered writer writing a character with super powers, how do you identify with Peter Cannon?
Kieron Gillen: I tend to come across as a Labrador of a human, but scratch that surface and I'm as misanthropic as the next writer. The push and pull between my hopes and fears for the species are always there. And Peter Cannon? He's got a lot of that. Hell, Peter Cannon was raised in a far more enlightened society than ours, and now is off in our world. Basically, every episode of the original Sixties episode was based around Peter Cannon having his arm twisted by his best mate until he got around to saving the day. "This entire human civilization is awful and dumb. Why on earth is it worth saving?" is the beat that hit, time and time over. That's really unusual for a hero figure.
D.E.: Do readers need to know anything about the character before picking up the first issue?
Kieron Gillen: Absolutely not. It's an issue one. If you need to know something before picking up an issue one, something’s gone horribly awry. We restate and update anything anyone needs to know and give a one issue download of where we see the character. You don't need to know anything about the character, in the same way that you didn't need to know that Peter Cannon was the inspiration for Ozymandias before reading Watchmen. All we ask is an active, engaged mind, and we will do the best to entertain you.
That said, we have delved into the character's whole history. Even in the business side, it's fascinating - he's one of the very few 1960s created heroes which the creator (and now the estate) owns the rights. All that stuff feeds into our choices. I prefer to think of the book as a gateway to knowing more. You'll come out of the book interested in learning more, not feeling the lack.
D.E.: What's your collaboration process with Caspar Wijngaard been like for Peter Cannon?
Kieron Gillen: I've been following Caspar's work since Limbo with Dan Watters, which was a masterclass in the "Hello, here we are, we're great, pay attention to us" kicking-the-door down swagger. He's a strikingly ambitious, notably smart artist, with a writer's creative brain. The word "collaboration" is key. I have written this in an ornate and structured clockwork style, but knowing Caspar would be drawing it, also left room for lots of collaboration and additive ideas. This is something Caspar's great at, knowing that there's a necessary structure but also knowing that it's something we build upon. I imagine that 90% of artists when reading my outline for the series and the demands it would put upon them would run a mile. Caspar's the 1% who would read it and go "HELL YES!"
D.E.: Anything else you'd like to add?
Kieron Gillen: Honestly, I wish I didn't have to add anything. This is a "Pick up the first issue, we'll take you places" sort of comic. An "Oh my - they're actually doing this" kind of comic. I can't wait to share it and feel lucky that I get to do it.