We continue to look at Thriller, the out-of-continuity experimental comic that DC Comics produced in the early-mid 1980’s. Thriller #2 has a publishing date of December 1983, and is one of the issues I bought back when it first came out. It’s one of the more dense and oblique mainstream comics I have read, so this series is really me journaling my own attempts to understand it.
Read all about #1 here.
This time around the image is of young Angeline Thriller standing in front of her burning house, with disembodied Angeline’s face appearing over the house. Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden get “above the title” credit on the cover, which I think was unusual at the time?
Two men with flamethrowers rob a bank. They both call themselves Mr. Mollusk when dealing with the bank tellers. Last issue, the terrorist leader Scabbard was referred to as “Molluskan.” They kill a bank manager.
One page 1, the title “Down Time Part Two” is listed, as well as “Written by Robert Loren Fleming” and “Illustrated by Trevor Von Eeden.”
Narration by Angie Thriller, like words to an unseen companion, guide us through the scene, similar to how Dan’s words did last issue. We learn that Angie foresaw the murder, but not soon enough to stop it, and was unable to intervene herself because of the threat of fire. Angie sent her brother Tony (Salvo) to catch the criminals, who attempt to escape in a van.
Tony, we learn, was a member of the Rapid Deployment Force, serving on the Kuria Muria Bay in Oman before being dishonorably discharged. He seems to be able to talk to Angie at any moment and to hear her voice.
The issue is subtitled “Home Again”, and the rest of the credits (“Lettered by Philip Felix” “Colored by Tom Ziuko” and “Edited by Dick Giordano” are given, as well as a “Created by” credit for Fleming and Von Eeden.)
Tony jumps off a tall building and falls on top of the moving van, his descent slowed by flagpoles that Angie seems to manifest at will at strategic points down the building.
Angie’s face appears over the entire side of the building at one point, a variation of something that happens a lot in the series. She tells us a bit about her family background. Mainly, we learn that Tony and Angie’s father was an acrobat and a clown who taught Tony some of his skills.
I’m a bit confused by this. Tony’s action cause the van to smash into the side of a building. As far as I can tell, this van that Tony landed on was supposed to be the criminal’s van, but after it smashes into the side of a building (because of what Tony did), the one criminal is outside the van, while Tony himself is seen crawling out of its cab. Maybe everyone was a bit dazed for a minute after the accident, and the one guy (who had been in the back) just got out first, and then for some reason went into the building that was crashed into.
Anyway, he threatens some civilians and screams at Tony for trying to kill him. Whenever anyone says anything like this to Tony, he screams out his catchphrase: “Only flesh wounds! Only out-patients! I wont kill a fly so don’ ask me!” He does, however, shoot off the bad guy’s finger in order to stop him, at the same time warning his sister away because of the threat of fire.
A police officer who is nearby somehow knows Salvo’s name.
As Tony then approaches his mother working in a cafe, Angela narrates more of her life. She reveals her full name is “Angeline Marietta Salvotini Thriller”, although her father meant to call her “Angela” but his handwriting was messy.
Salvo talks to his mother Marietta, who in spite of working in a cafe, is blind. She does not know that there is anything strange about her daughter (Angeline herself describes herself as dead, and also tells us that Marietta was blinded in the same fire that killed her father). Ange (as Salvo sometimes calls her) can actually physically manifest via her brother–changing his appearance so that he “becomes” her. This seems to be to perpetuate the illusion to their mother that she is also physically present.
The story cuts back to the Trinity building, where Dan Grove and Crackerjack have a little conflict which wakes up a baby. The baby is Scotty Thriller, and as Dan looks after him he’s suddenly confronted by Malocchia–Scabbard’s girlfriend who helped to murder Dan’s brother Ken. Malocchia is a hypnotist, though (briefly mentioned last issue) and she hypnotizes Dan into forgetting who she is, introducing herself instead as Molly Lusk, the baby’s nanny. Hmm…Molly Lusk…Mollusk? Coincidence? Unlikely! Explained? Uncertain!
The layout of this double page spread is a loose “Z” pattern, and prone to easy misreading.
Tony and Ange continues to talk to their mother, and Tony has to eat the Ziti that she is cooking for both of them.
Tony leaves, and Angeline leaves him (illustrated by some sparkly lights floating out of his head). White Satin shows up, called “Jet” by Tony, and the two are evidently a couple. Jet is also an air stewardess, having just returned from Honolulu. Tony reveals that he is hiding out in an alley because he is on surveillance–watching his mother.
Tony explains to Jet that Ange had a premonition that there would be trouble, but that he also visited her because it’s the anniversary of the fire.
Somebody is watching them–possibly Scabbard based on the lettering of his thought bubble (which says simply, “Soon.” Later, it’s confirmed that it is indeed Scabbard).
Tony tells Jet about the fire–his parents had come home from a late show to find Tony outside and their house burning. His father, Peter, ran inside to save her. Using an oxygen mask that had been his mothers (for her emphysema), he is able to find young Angie and keep her alive to get her out of the building. Marietta followed him inside, and was blinded while Peter was killed.
There is a bit of a hint that there was something “special” about Peter or his bond with Angeline, as he seems to “instinctively” know that she’s in the fire, but I don’t remember this ever being followed up upon.
Tony reveals to Jet–apparently for the first time–that he actually caused the fire, playing with matches, and that he has been saving people’s lives ever since.
For whatever reason, Edward Thriller has been delayed until this moment from his conversation with Dan (started last issue). Now it continues.
Edward shares that he was colleagues with one Moses Lusk, and together they had defeated cancer, won the Nobel Prize, and were then at a void in their professional lives. No connection is made for the reader at this point that Malocchia’s other name is Molly Lusk, and that Scabbard is described as a “Molluskan”. Edward is seen neglecting his wife Angeline and his child as he does his work.
Edward discovered a piece of human DNA that was indestructible. He references real-world theorist Erich von Daniken and his ideas about alien influence in humanity, but Edward reckons instead that this common cell, passed from man to man over the centuries explained the idea of reincarnation. He decided to perform an experiment upon himself to disperse his own cells, knowing the rogue cell would survive, and that he’d have one chance to tap into its energy and return to life (this is not elaborated upon).
Angeline came across the experiment and (apparently reminded of the fire that killed her father) ran in to save him. I don’t really understand this precisely, but she finds Edward lying on the ground, telling her that he couldn’t find her, that he thought he lost her. Presumably he’s talking about whatever “process” he undertook going from being dispersed to being reconstituted again. He says he is going to change, and then there’s an explosion between them.
On the last page, Edward concludes by saying that they are now a combined being–two people merged into one. “I’m just the body. She’s my soul. She always was.”
Meanwhile, Salvo continues to lurk near his mother’s restaurant. The person watching him turns out indeed to be Scabbard, who is hiding nearby in a manhole. When Salvo gets too close, Scabbard knocks him out, and approaches his mother.
You never see clearly the name of Marietta’s place, but it has the word “Home” in it. Maybe it’s “Home Again”?
Issue #2 of the book is trickier to follow than Issue #1, with things like whether there are two separate bank robberies going on being uncertain at first, plus the odd action that is on Pages 8-9, which I already mentioned. Storywise, it’s probably helpful to give us a bunch of background on key characters quickly in a book as complex as this, but it does mean the overall plot advances only slowly and that three of the “Seconds”–Proxy, Beaker Parrish and Data–don’t appear at all. And even with this explanation, exactly what Edward Thriller was up to in his fateful experiment is not particularly clear.
Also, so far nobody has mentioned why Dan Grove of all people has been invited to join this group, aside from Angeline’s premonitions.