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June 5, 2012


Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Thriller

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I was all over this series from the first issue. If you're not aware of it, Thriller was the Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden adventure genre effort that was sort of a high concept TV show/movie in comics form -- quirky oddballs with special abilities assembled to combat various menaces, with the exact reasons why they are assembled and by whom shrouded in just enough mystery to make for a through-line plot. There is a relative ton of material out there on the series, which indicates it's fondly remembered. I have to admit I like the idea of it more than I like revisiting the actual comics issues. It had its virtues. The characters were fun despite a Gary Sandy-style sort of dud as the lead, and writer Fleming was good at the kind of story-moment heavy narratives that drive a lot of today's comics. One of the more memorable comics scenes of the decade came in the first issue when a villain called "Scabbard" revealed that he got this name for having a marsupial-style pouch on his back in which he carried a sword. That's all kind of gross, and makes little to no sense as something one would develop or use, but it's little-kid cool and certainly something one remembers even years later. Von Eeden's art was stylish and arguably pushed at the limits at what a superhero comics fan at the time of this comic's appearance could take; or maybe it pushed past those limits, given the series' relatively quick cancellation. The cover above could have appeared 10 years later when more attention was given to that kind of art direction; it could appear now.

The critic R. Fiore has mentioned a few times that the one misapprehension people had about comics from about 1975 until 1985 or so is that the way to get to comics that could be read by adults was by reforming the existing superhero and action/adventure formulae so that they better represented an adult's interests. Thriller seems to be the perfect example of both the fun to be had and the severe limitations to be found in making comics according to that model. We were all-in, though; the number of my comics-reading friends that were on board with something a bit new from one of the big companies far outstripped those of us spending any serious time buying dramatically new comics without a DC or Marvel logo on them. Still, I think the immediate rejection that greeted the series when the creators left the title -- at least among the kids I knew -- suggested a slightly more sophisticated ethos, one that depended on a certain approach to characters instead of just those characters themselves. We were becoming little snobs. I've recently wondered why the money and energy spent on Before Watchmen squeezing an extra bit of life from a property already perfectly realized couldn't be spent on reviving a fun bunch of characters with a lot more story left to tell like the ones here.
 
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