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.
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.
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.
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.
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