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Thriller 03 - 00 - FCSynopsis: Issue 3 opens with an SNN News account of the odd events leading to the death of Dan’s father, correspondent Gardner Grove. Grove perished, the report says, while reporting from a combat zone in the “war-torn country of Quintana Roo”, losing his life to save some children. Dan and Crackerjack are watching this at the Trinity Building when suddenly, Salvo stumbles in, assisted by Satin. His hands are injured, and as Satin tends to his wounds, Scabbard appears on TV, interrupting the broadcast to announce that he has Marietta Salvotini on a train full of passengers, and he will trade his hostages for U.S. President William Martin. Scabbard has placed an explosive device on Mrs. Salvotini, which is connected to a triggering device implanted in the terrorist’s palm, in order to secure the Seven Seconds’ cooperation. He states that he will wait one hour for media representative Dan Grove, which makes the reason for his recruitment by Angie obvious to Tony, and he tells him so in no uncertain terms. Dan, however, is reluctant and afraid, and after a hostile exchange with Salvo, is startled to see the bandages unwind themselves from Tony’s Thriller 03 - 09suddenly healed hands, and form the outlines of Angie’s face. She says simply and forcefully: “You WILL help us to save our mother.”

Thriller 03 - 10Dan responds by fainting dead away.

When he comes to, he is in Data’s Rolls. Data gives him a one-way train ticket to L.A. and drops him off at the Church of St. Jude, where Beaker Parish meets him at the door and invites him to confess. Angie’s face forms in a stained glass window as she watches them go inside.

Meanwhile, the other Seconds put their plan in motion, Proxy arrives, made up as the engineer of the train. Satin and Salvo pair off, as well as Data and Crackerjack, who leave in the Rolls. When Proxy arrives at the train station and is taken inside, he is surprised to see Malocchia, who doesn’t recognize him.

Thriller 03 - 27Back at St. Jude’s, Beaker hears Dan’s confession, and instructs him to step out of the booth; when he does, he is amazed to discover that he has been transported somehow to Quintana Roo, just in time to witness his father’s last news report, acting as his cameraman, Beaker urges Dan to retrace his father’s actions as if he was reporting on them, and makes a sobering discovery about the circumstances of his death.

The issue ends with a solemn Dan boarding the train, with the memory of Scabbard’s laughter after killing his brother ringing in his ears. Satin and Salvo fly over the train in the Seconds’ helicopter, and the latter steps out of the copter in a reprise of his stunt at the beginning of issue #2, setting the stage for the climactic issue #4.

Comments: The whole “Dan witnesses his Dad’s death” scene is a little difficult to explain, other than attributing it to Angie’s still-not-really-defined powers. I suspect that she just caused Dan to “see” all this in his mind and that they never left the building.

The “off-screen” battle between Salvo and Scabbard mentioned at the beginning came a little out of left field- at the end of #2, it was implied that Tony had been knocked cold by the flying manhole cover…but now we find out that he had apparently revived, tried to stop Scabbard from abducting his mother, and got the crap kicked out of him, because when he rolls into the Trinity he is a mess (especially his hands, which seem to be burned- don’t know how this happened). Unfortunately, this sort of thing is a textbook example of how this series threw people in the early stages, contributing to its eventual failure.

Thriller 03 - 20We’re also given a scene between Crackerjack and Data, in which the latter hides a Tootsie Pop in his pocket and lets CJ (a pickpocket, if you recall) fish it out. Some remarked that this scene had possible homosexual/pedophilic overtones…I prefer not to speculate, but that is, I suppose, one way of looking at it, intentional or not. Draw your own conclusion. At any rate, this uncomfortable scenario was never really taken any further. There was a definite bond between the two, though…as the scene in #5 in which Data thinks CJ has been shot.

TVE has some really nice moments in this issue, including the scene in which Dan realizes his father died (spoilers here, I’d imagine) because he obeyed a traffic sign; the Escher swipe of Angie appearing to Dan through Salvo’s bandages was also clever and memorable.

Synopsis: Issue 2 opens with Salvo and Angie preventing a bank robbery by one “Mr. Mollusk” and an associate. Angie, of course, saw that it was going to happen and had Tony staking out the building. Unfortunately, as Angie’s voiceover narration tells us, she couldn’t intervene because the Mollusk crew had flame throwers, and this is where we discover her fear of fire…foreshadowing revelations later on. As a result of her inability to see what’s happening, a man dies. As soon as they leave the building, though, Tony snaps into action- he shoots out a fire hydrant in front of the fleeing robbers’ van, causing them to divert down a narrow street in the direction of the bank they just left… then he leaps off the building, his momentum halted via a series of flagpoles which Angie causes to appear beneath him. It’s also implied that she’s controlling the wind currents, and by extension controlling Tony’s downward momentum. As he closes in on the van, he shoots a circle of bullet holes in the roof and crashes through, causing them to drive into the side of the bank, where he shoots the trigger finger off the flamethrower guy, and turns them over to the police.

Tony and Angie merge to fool Ma.

We are then introduced to their sightless mother- Marietta Salvotini, who, despite her handicap, owns and operates an Italian restaurant called “Home”. Mom is still unaware of what has happened to her daughter. When she and Tony decide to visit her, Angie uses her abilities to merge with Tony and reshapes his face to look like hers, which deceives their mother. Thinking she’s feeding two “thin children”, she serves up a double portion of pasta, which causes Tony no end of discomfort.

Meanwhile, at the Trinity Building, we check back in with Dan Grove as he horses around with Crackerjack, and in the scuffle they wake up Edward and Angie’s infant son, Scotty. Resigned to going in to change the crying child, they are interrupted by Scotty’s nanny, introduced as Molly Lusk- who Dan immediately recognizes from the fateful night when his brother was killed- she is actually Scabbard’s mate Malocchia! When he confronts her, she hypnotizes him into thinking that they’ve never met.

Back at “Home”, Tony, stuffed and miserable, says goodbye and goes outside to keep watch on his mother…seems Angie has foreseen some kind of trouble involving her. Janet (White Satin) Valentine joins him. It’s here that Tony reveals the events that led to his mother’s blinding and his father’s death due to a house fire when he and his sister were children.

The scene shifts back to the Trinty, as Dan and Edward have a question-and-answer session in which Angie’s husband reveals how the two came to be merged due to a lab experiment with alien DNA that went awry…Ed serving as body, and Angie as soul. The two can now never be in the same place at the same time. Finally, back at “Home”, Salvo hears a noise coming from a manhole cover in the street. As he bends over to get a closer look, the cover suddenly flies up and strikes him, rendering him unconscious. Scabbard then emerges, and the last panel shows the neon “Home” sign reflected on his face.

Skipping the elevator made easy.

Comments: Lots of comic book physics in this issue, to be sure…I can buy Salvo’s rooftop plunge simply because Angie has the power to affect wind currents, but the whole “creation of flagpole-like projections out of the side of the building” thing gave me pause. It had been established that Angie could merge with organic material like Tony, but we had not been shown that she could also merge with inanimate objects or materials, so while I suppose it’s not exactly playing fair with the reader, this ability is portrayed consistently in future issues so it gets a pass as well. Also, there’s the whole nature of the experiment which Ed conducts with his colleague Moses Lusk (notice a theme here?)…he’s discovered a “rogue cell” in some alien DNA (where this alien originated from is one of many unsolved Thriller mysteries, and alas I never thought to ask RLF) which he hopes to use to cure cancer (depressing that 50 years in the future cancer is still undefeated). It’s not really clear how and why the resulting conflagration, explosion and merger takes place…but we are talking alien DNA 50 years from now, so who knows. We’re supposed to just roll with it , I guess.

Speaking of Lusk, he gets at least one cameo in this issue (I’m not sure that the cocky bank robber in the opening scene wasn’t he), first of several mentions in subsequent issues…Bill DuBay went on to establish him as the prime motivator in the whole scheme of all things Thriller, but if memory serves, RLF told me that while he did have a bigger role in mind for the character down the road, DuBay took him in a different direction than he intended, so as far as I’m concerned Lusk will an enigma remain.

Another first- the romance between Satin and Salvo. It was hinted at in #1, rather obliquely, but here it’s made plain. There were complications later, as we’ll see, but this relationship was an integral part of the Thriller mosaic.

There’s an attempt to parallel the Salvotini house fire and the lab accident that resulted in Ed and Angie’s merger…but it wasn’t made particularly clear, was inferred more than anything- par for the Thriller course. I think the colorist may have to share some blame, but the sequence as presented was pretty difficult to do by 1983’s standards, I’ll bet. This did help to establish why Angie’s so averse to fire; her fear is rooted in this traumatic event, which cost the Salvotini kids their circus acrobat father (this is where Tony picked up many of his high-wire-like stunt abilities). Salvo’s poignant revelation at the end was a complete surprise to me, and was one of the many signals (another- the amusing, if discomforting- imagine being forced to eat multiple plates of ziti!- diner scene early on) that here were characters that behaved like family and friends in a naturalistic manner, as opposed to typical comic book style.

Trying to draw parallels between the house fire and the lab accident.

Not so good, though, was the scene at the end of the big bank robbery…a police officer comes up to thank Tony for stopping the thieves, and Salvo responds by curtly smarting off to him. Perhaps this was intended to demonstrate his distrust of authority figures (to be discussed more later on), or maybe it was meant to make him seem badass…but here he comes across as a real jerk, unfortunately. Fleming went on to atone for this; his first post-Thriller series was the 1985 Ernie Colon-illustrated NYPD Blue-style miniseries Underworld.

We also meet bank teller Marjorie Collins. She will soon embark on a difficult career path.

Credits:

Script: Robert Loren Fleming
Art: Trevor Von Eeden
Color- Tom Ziuko
Lettering- Phil Felix
Editor- Dick Giordano 

Synopsis: In this “getting acquainted” first chapter, we meet most of the major players in the series. It begins as Satellite News cameraman Dan Grove, with his correspondent twin brother Ken, sneaks into a hostage situation involving the international terrorist Scabbard, and things go south rapidly when they get caught and Dan is forced to film his brother’s decapitation at Scabbard’s hands. Despondent about Ken’s death and his role in it, and full of self-pity, he seeks to end his life by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge…when he is stopped by a ghostly, shimmering face of a young rainbow-haired woman, filling the sky above him. She informs him that she is Angie Thriller, and that she sees parts of the future, and that he is in hers…as a member of her group of agents, known as the Seven Seconds. He then meets the other members in succession in various situations, eventually ending up at the Trinity Building (their headquarters), where he is introduced to the remaining two Seconds, as well as Angie’s husband, scientist Edward Thriller.

We (and Dan) see Angie Thriller for the first time.

Comments: This issue reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland in the way Fleming has his everyman POV character meet each (well, all but Crackerjack and Proxy, who wait at the Trinity) of his future teammates in successive perilous situations (set up to show what abilities each possesses) after tumbling down Angie’s rabbit hole, so to speak. I think it’s also apropos to make a comparison to the old Shadow pulp adventures; Fleming admits that the Man in Black and the agents at his call were among the inspirations drawn upon in the creation of the group. One of the Shadow’s operatives, Harry Vincent, was also looking to end his life when approached by the Shadow.

Dan meets Janet Valentine, aka White Satin.

Right off the bat, it became apparent that RLF and Von Eeden weren’t looking to spoon feed info to the reader in the method the average comics consumer was accustomed to in 1983…RLF only provided plot information gradually, fully planning to reveal more as the series went on, theoretically provoking reader curiosity rather than alienation. For example, early on Angie mentions Quo, a shadowy figure that caught Dan’s attention just prior to his witnessing his brother’s death…but nowhere else in the issue to we get any information whatsoever about who that is or why it’s important. Sadly, hindsight reveals that this may not have been the most prudent approach…but it worked for me, at least, though I must admit I, too, was a bit nonplussed after my first reading. However, it had the desired effect, and I immediately re-read it to see what else I might pick up on. I wish more had followed my example, in this case, anyway.

Rescue from Heaven above!

Especially controversial was the page at right, which is the transition between the scene in which Dan meets Salvo to when he meets Beaker Parrish. After a rooftop exchange, Salvo abruptly shoves Dan off a tall building, and he’s rescued by Beaker in his helicopter. As you can see, it’s a full-page sequence, in which the action takes place in diagonal slashes, suggesting the chopper’s whirling blades. Of course, it engendered mass confusion among the readers who commented in the fan press outlets of the day, and was frequently cited when discussing why Thriller didn’t work for them. Innovative, for sure…but it is a bit hard to follow, and doesn’t successfully, at least for me, convey the terrifying feeling of falling from a great height. Still, all credit is due to Von Eeden for pushing the envelope in his storytelling! Trevor has said that the idea came to him in a dream.

Also in this issue, Salvo first recites his mantra “Only flesh wounds! Only Outpatients! I won’t kill a fly- so don’t ASK me!”. Not quite “It’s Clobberin’ Time” in the comics catchphrase department, but it does sound cool and sums up Angie’s brother, a bit of an Anti-Punisher, very well. It’s also revealed that Angie can manifest herself as part of her brother, in this particular case appearing as an eye, then a face in his palm, which points to some interesting situations in later issues.

One character that was introduced was SNN News anchor Ronald Morris, who seems to be nothing more than a Walter Cronkite homage at first, but soon is revealed as much more.

Dan’s reply to Angie still cracks me up to this day.

Over time, I remain puzzled by the opening sequence, in which it was established that Scabbard and his terrorist group occupied a mosque, hence SNN’s (and by extension the Grove brothers’) presence. This must have caused no small stir in the international community- with (surely) repercussions to follow- but after Ken’s decapitation, it was immediately forgotten about in the narrative, never brought up again. Also, I wonder, after this incident, how and when did Scabbard get into the USA to kidnap Salvo and Angie’s mom in issue #2? What happened with the hostages and the other terrorists? Were they all still in the mosque? I’d like to think this would have been addressed eventually, but who knows?

All in all, Thriller 1 was a tantalizing glimpse into what was yet to come, and read completely unlike anything else on the rack at the time- a blessing, and a curse as it turned out.

Credits: Script: Robert Loren Fleming
Art: Trevor Von Eeden
Color- Tom Ziuko
Lettering- Phil Felix
Editor- Dick Giordano