Tuesday, January 05, 2016

30 Days of The Fade Out: A Dead Giveaway.

Thanks to shipping delays, issue #8 of The Fade Out reached some stores on August 5th and was available in all stores by August 12th, all preceded by a three-page preview.

"Act Two" of the story concludes with a closer look at Brodsky's investigation into the threat of blackmail -- and Charlie's discovery of how Gil has been spending his time.

The Movie.  A month after the death of its star Val Sommers, Victory Street Pictures throws its annual Halloween party on the studio lot.  We find out that Schmitt should hit the wrap date on Shadow of the Valley, because being late isn't an option.

The Murder. Gil has sent another anonymous note, this time demanding an implausibly small amount of only $1000, and Thursby sends Brodsky on the wild goose chase to discover the blackmailer.  At the studio's Halloween party, Charlie is found by the woman who left the mysterious note at the end of the last issue: Tina the dancer ("Or was she a singer?").  On her way out of town, she tells Charlie that Brodsky had leaned on her about her leaving Earl's party with Val on the night of her death -- he wanted to know who she was with, and it's clear to readers that he also wanted to see if she was the blackmailer.  Charlie wonders why Brodsky is asking questions so long after Val's death, and he discovers the answer when he finds the mistyped drafts of Gil's blackmail note.

In the first issue, we see a group of five people who left Earl's party for the long walk to Val's Studio City bungalow -- two women, three men, none identifiable.  We know right away that Charlie and Val are in the group, and in the last issue Charlie learns that his mystery man is the producer Drake Miller.

Here, Tina provides the first comprehensive list of the people leaving the party, albeit a frustratingly vague list.
"Brodsky was asking about Val?"
"Yeah, he knew that I left the party with her that night..."
"Listen, Tina,... I'm actually a bit foggy on that night... Who else **did** we leave with?"
"It was your movie star friend, and some producer... and some other guy I didn't know."
That gives us six people, not five.

  1. Val Sommers
  2. Tina the dancer/singer
  3. Charlie Parish
  4. Charlie's movie star friend: he asks if she means Earl, and Tina moves on to the subject of Charlie's drunkenness, but we learn in issue #10 that his friend was Tyler Graves, not Earl Rath.
  5. A producer, who we now know is Drake Miller
  6. "Some other guy" that Tina didn't recognize

When we see the photograph of the group in issue #10, we're back to that group of five people --- two women, three men -- so presumably the "other guy" was the man behind the camera, who we surmise to be the recently deceased photographer Stevie Turner.


One other thing worth mentioning is a plot point not directly affecting either the production of Charlie's movie or the mystery of Val's murder:  Charlie and Maya's rescuing her ex-husband Armando Lopez from a "shooting gallery" heroin den.

This is the second straight issue where considerable time is spent bringing some conclusion to the story of a character who is (presumably) incidental to the central narrative.  In the last issue, we see that Tyler Graves had survived his accident and resigned himself to the studio's control, and here we see the cataclysmic effects of Armando being beaten by Brodsky and his goons.  His mouth evidently so broken that he could no longer play the trumpet, he became lost in drug addiction.

Maya's ex-husband and the man pretending to be her boyfriend:  their stories may not be essential to the main plot, but I think they're important to the overall work.  I'm reminded of Michael Mann's Heat, where time is spent to flesh out secondary characters.

In both that movie and this comic book series, the vignettes add to the story being told, echoing or commenting on the main themes.  With Tyler and now Armando, we see the very high personal costs of those living in the shadow of Hollywood's corrupt power structures.

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