So back in 1983, DC published a very out-of-the-box comic called Thriller, originally by Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden. It ran for 12 issues all together, though I only read four issues back in the day. Since then, I’ve managed to get ahold of the rest, and have only finished reading the whole series recently.
It’s a dense story that benefits from multiple re-readings, and indeed, has often left me confused. So I thought…let’s read it through and journal the experience, and see if I can make sense of it all. So let’s start with Issue #1.
The cover recreates the moment that Dan, on the verge of suicide, is confronted by the huge disembodied head of Angie Thriller. It boasts that this a “First Issue–Collector’s Item”. Based on the lack of success the series had, I doubt that ever became true.
The series starts with a bit of TV exposition from SNN reporter Ronald Morris, who mentions that Scabbard, a Molluskan terrorist has been holding seven US citizens hostage in Mecca for four days now. (7? 4? 47!) President William Martin is mentioned.
Morris also mentions covering things from the Holy Mosque via “simuleye transcam”.
At the end of the page, Dan and Ken Grove are obscurely introduced.
The top of the page gives the title “Down Time Part One”, but no other credits yet.
Dan and Ken, twin brothers who are working for SNN as war correspondents (just like their father), get shot at, and Dan is injured. It is clear that Ken is thrilled to be working this job while Dan is more reluctant. They come face to face with the frightening Scabbard, and his “woman” Malocchia, who is apparently a hypnotist. Realizing that she’s putting them into some sort of trance, Ken slaps her, which angers Scabbard.
Oh, “transcam” is eplained as Dan’s video camera. Short for “Transportable Camera” presumably.
Scabbard, enraged executes Ken with a sword. Ken goes down giving Dan the “A-OK” sign, insisting that Dan continue to film.
Someone Dan at the critical moment, though his images are still seen projected live onto TV screens. No explanation is given yet as to who distracted Dan or why. We see, by the way, that Scabbard’s back is a literal scabbard for his giant sword. Scabbard is a religious zealot of some sort, although he isn’t identified as Muslim or anything else. He refers to the US President as the Great Satan, and he refers to his sword as the instrument of God.
The scene uses a match-cut to take us to later, when Dan is standing on the edge of a bridge, apparently contemplating suicide as he remembers his brother’s death. He is distracted by a voice speaking his name…
In an amazing double-page spread, we see that the voice is apparently spoken by a striking woman whose gigantic face apparently appears in the clouds and smoke in the sky.
At this point, the issue is titled “Seven Seconds” (I guess a subtitle for “Down Time”) and the credits are given: “Writer- Robert Loren Fleming – Co-creators – Trevor Von Eeden – Artist” (all in that order), followed by “Zukio Colorists Felix Letterer and Dick Giordano Editor”
The face in the sky tells Dan that he did his best with Ken’s death, and that it was Quo who distracted him and saved his life. No more detail is given about this. The Woman introduces herself as Thriller, and says that she sees pieces of the future, and that Dan is part of her future. She says it’s not time for suicide and she’s sending a car to pick Dan up. He agrees to go.
Thriller comments that she has “Seven Seconds” now.
The car arrives and picks Dan up. I don’t know what type of car it is, but it’s license plate is “4 TRAN” which is an early computer reference. The large black man in the back of the car introduces himself as Data, an information specialist, who describes the car as his home. It is clearly under his mental control–he claims to have a 64 (raised to power of 7) KB computer in his head. 64 raised to power of 7 is actually equal to over 4000 Terabytes, so I guess that’s actually pretty fast even though at first it doesn’t sound so. Data drops him off at the side of the road in a dangerous neighborhood.
Incidentally, there’s some captions in Dan’s own voice at the start of the page–as if he’s talking to someone but we don’t know who–where he mentions that his full name is Daniel Grove and that after Ken died, Satellite Network News (SNN, mentioned before) paid him $30,000 for filming his brother’s decapitation and offered him Ken’s job as the Middle East correspondent, but Dan refused.
Dan hears a woman being attacked and goes to her rescue. She turns out to be White Satin, who is dressed in some strange semi-transparent white flow-y thing. She subdues her kidnappers by touching them and causing bizarre physiological reactions–eg uncontrollable laughter, that sort of thing.
Dan, for his part, is sent into a sort of drunken stupor, and briefly hallucinates that White Satin looks like his mother, but also wonders what his mother looks like. When White Satin realizes that Dan is connected to the “Seven Seconds,” she gives him a train ticket to Los Angeles.
Some more off-panel dialogue captions (which actually start the previous page) talk about being a lady’s man in a way that also matches the action of this page.
One of the guys who was attacking White Satin pulls out a gun and is about to shoot Dan. Someone else with a gun reaches his hand around the corner, but he also has an eyeball on his palm that he can apparently see through. This figure shoots the attacker’s bullets out of mid-air. This new figure appears in silhouette and calls Dan a soldier and tells him it’s time to move out.
Now we see the shadowy figure, and he introduces himself as Tony “Salvo” Salvotini, the sister of Thriller (first name revealed to be Angie). Salvo again demonstrates himself as an expert marksman, shooting Dan’s jacket off his body. He also yells out what will come to be known as his catchphrase: “Only flesh wounds! Only out-patients! I won’t kill a fly–so don’t ask me.”
Salvo also shows Dan his unexplained power to make things appear on his palm, in this case his sister Angie. He also obliquely references Superman, so maybe Superman is a fictional character in this world.
Salvo takes Dan to the top of a building and unexpectedly pushes him off of it, but he is snatched mid-air by someone in a helicopter, saving his life.
This turns out to be Beaker Parrish, who is described in Dan’s narration as the first artificial man, created by two renegade Harvard medical students who didn’t know what they were doing. He’s 26 years old, nine feet tall, and an ordained priest.
Dan is taken to the Trinity Building, home of Edward Thriller, whose award-winning research led to a cure for cancer. There he meets Robert Furillo, an ex-actor who nearly burned himself to death free-basing cocaine. He was covered with an experimental synthetic skin, and became Proxy, the master of disguise. When Dan first sees him, he is disguised as White Satin.
Proxy refers to himself as Number Five of the Seven Seconds, and a young boy who is with him as Number Six. This is “Crackerjack”, who is described simply as a “Honduran Houdini.” Proxy refers to Dan as Number Seven.
Dan realizes that the Seven Seconds is some sort of club. He sees some leaves fluttering around and is again reminded of his mother, but he doesn’t know why. The leaves seem to take the form of a man, who introduces himself as Edward Thriller.
And that’s the end, the last page goes write up to the back cover with no text page at all. It’s a pretty straightforward issue, actually, used to give an overview of the characters and the basic threat, but with very little explanation for anything. The art is dynamic but mostly quite clear, with just the sequence of Dan being rescued by Beaker Parrish as he falls off the building being a little confusing.