Thriller #1 (November, 1983)
“Down Time, Part One: Seven Seconds”
Writer/Co-Creator – Robert Loren Fleming
Artist/Co-Creator – Trevor Von Eeden
Colorist – Tony Ziuko
Letterer – Phil Hugh Felix
Editor – Dick Giordano
Cover Price: $1.25
Thriller is another one of them books that kinda gave me the heebie-jeebies when I’d come across it in a back-issue or cheap-o bin. Something just seemed off about it. I suppose a lot of that has to do with the somewhat stylistic art of co-creator, Trevor Von Eeden. Even in just a quick flip-through, his gritty angular style just pulls me in. This book will not let you read it passively… you must allow the words and art to seep in through your eyes and fingertips, Thriller simply wouldn’t have it any other way.
For the longest time, I only had the second issue of this series. I swear it would call out to me each time I entered my library… begging to be read. Special Origin Issue was plastered along the bottom of an image of a house engulfed in flames. Somehow, I was able to hold out… I wanted to read this series in order.
When I decided to pursue this reading project (as we bloggers/comic fans call them), I had a ridiculous time finding the remaining eleven issues. Comic shop owners claimed to not even know about it. There’s very little information of this series online… for a moment I thought perhaps I’d imagined the whole thing.
As luck would have it, I stopped in to a somewhat local record store one day during my lunch break. They had a box of “last chance” items (comics, books, magazines) sitting in front of their doorway, that were priced at somewhere between a dime and a quarter… one last ditch effort at making a little cash before sending them off to be recycled. The very top book was the one we’ll be discussing today, Thriller #1. In another odd twist, I found the entire series there that day… the only one missing was #2, which I already had. Talk about something being meant to be!
We open during a Satellite News Network report of some happenings in Mecca. We join twin brothers, Ken and Dan Grove. The former a correspondent, the latter his cameraman. They are on the run from from a team of gunmen who have spotted them. In their attempt to flee over a wall, Dan falls. Ken quickly comes to his aid, however, they now find themselves both at the mercy of a large masked man who introduces himself as scabbard.
Ken helps Dan to his feet and tells him to keep recording… no matter what. Scabbard calls forward “his woman” Malocchia. She speaks almost melodiously and stares deeply into Dan’s eyes. Ken warns that she is a hypnotist, and again presses him to keep the camera rolling.
Scabbard backhands Ken, knocking him to the ground. Ken stops Dan from intervening, giving him the OK sign and once more tells him to keep recording. Scabbard reaches behind his head, and draws a sword out of the skin of his back. It is as though he’s wearing a scabbard of his own skin. Rather disturbing to observe, but fitting. Scabbard raises the sword above his head, and brings it down the back of Ken’s neck, decapitating him. All while Dan watches… and films.
We now flash forward to Dan standing on a bridge preparing to throw himself off. He looks into the night sky, tears streaming down his cheeks. As he appears to come to peace with his decision he hears a disembodied voice call his name. Suddenly the sky is filled with the rainbow swirls of a woman’s face.
She introduces herself as Thriller, and tells Dan that he needn’t feel bad about what happened with his brother. She also tells him that she sees him as part of her future. There’s no more time for tantrums or cowardice. It is now time for him to step up. He’s told there’s a car on its way for him, and Thriller comments that she now has “seven seconds”.
A black car pulls up and Dan is yanked in. It is here that he (and we) meets a man called Data, the first-second. He introduces himself as an information specialist, and it is soon clear that he is controlling the car, which he also claims is his home, with his mind. Data drives Dan to a terrible area of town and unceremoniously kicks him out.
Here, in an alley Dan witnesses two men attacking a woman. He attempts to intervene, only to gets knocked on his ass for his trouble. The woman frees herself and appears to be able to affect the physiology of others with only a touch. She easily takes care of her would-be attackers before turning her attention toward Dan. She introduces herself as White Satin, and is the second-second. When Dan makes it clear he’s working with Thriller, she slaps him in the face with train tickets to Los Angeles, and leaves.
One of the attackers regains his composure and readies himself for one last shot at Dan. As he pulls the trigger, an odd hand extends from around the corner. From out of the shadows a man emerges firing multiple rounds toward the attacker, one of which actually collides with the oncoming bullet. This is Tony Salvotini, or Salvo the third-second.
Dan doesn’t appear to be too thankful, and makes some contentious remarks toward Salvo. In response, Tony unloads his gun into Dan at point-blank range. Dan is shocked to find that he’s not bleeding, let alone dead. Here we learn that Salvo only uses non-lethal rounds, and vows he wouldn’t even kill a fly. He claims to be Thriller’s brother, and invites Dan to join him on a roof-top run.
Once atop a nearby hotel, Salvo shoves Dan off. As he falls a helicopter swoops in, a large arm snares Dan out of the air and into the chopper. Dan recognizes the owner of that big arm as Beaker Parish… the world’s first artificial man, and the fourth-second. Years earlier, Dan’s twin brother Ken interviewed him. At this point, Parish is nine-foot tall and an ordained priest. He delivers Dan to the Trinity Building.
The Trinity Building is the home of Edward Thriller, the man who won the Nobel Prize for finding a cure for cancer. Inside, Dan runs into who he believes is White Satin… however, this is the fifth-second Robert Furrillo aka Proxy, a former actor who badly burnt his body while freebasing cocaine. He was “shellacked” with synthetic skin that melts off every 24 hours.
We see a cameo of the sixth-second, Crackerjack, who Proxy refers to as their “Honduran Houdini”.
Dan hears the disembodied voice call his name once more, and has a brief memory of his mother. When he comes to, he finds himself standing before the extended hand of one Edward Thriller who welcomes him to their family.
Thriller is a great comic. This was a very strong opening chapter that introduced our potential Point-of-View character in Daniel Grove, and touched briefly on his teammates in the Seven Seconds. The scenes were dynamically paced and illustrated, with nothing really overstaying its welcome. I did not recall how, ahem, thrilling this series could be… and after rereading this first issue, I find myself wanting to dive head-first back in to the series (at least until the unfortunate creative-team change).
I suppose a minor complaint would be that at times the art was somewhat hard to follow. Whether this was a simple hiccup in the stylistic approach, or if this was intentional to play up the almost psychedelic dream-like state the latter half of this issue provides is unknown to me. I would imagine if I were reading this monthly, as fans were in 1983-84 I would be a bit more confused. The passage of time between each issues release would likely only exacerbate any bewilderment felt by those readers.
I will concede that knowing what I know about the creative shuffle and struggle did affect my overall enjoyment of this issue. I can only guess what Fleming and Von Eeden had in store for their story before butting heads with DC Editorial. I’m sure it would have been, ahem, thrilling.
All that having been said, I would still wholeheartedly recommend checking this one out. The first seven or so issues are great fun, and illustrate the potential had by a non-traditional, non-code comic series in the early 1980’s.