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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

at popapostle-dot-com
The Thing
"Questionable Research"

Dark Horse Comics #13-16 (Dark Horse)
Script by Edward Martin III
Pencils by Ted Naifeh
Inks by W. "Moose" Baumann and Alex Niňo
Cover (from Dark Horse Comics #15) by John Higgins


A U.S. scientific research team gathers evidence and specimens from Outpost 31.


Story Summary


A U.S. scientific research expedition travels by helicopter to the ruins of Outpost 31. There they gather the notes left by the former inhabitants and collect one frozen Thing corpse found on the ice. As the frozen corpse is loaded into the copter, a small claw is broken off in the hatchway and lands unnoticed inside.


After the copter has returned to the research ship Donachek, the scientists begin poring over the notes. Meanwhile, the broken claw thaws and assimilates a rat, from there assimilating an unidentified person.


Soon, the scientists are experimenting, allowing unfrozen bits of the Thing carcass to assimilate a rabbit before freezing it with nitrogen. One of the researchers realizes that Blair's estimate of the Thing's rate of infecting the entire world is too low; in warmer climates, the Thing is capable of assimilating much more quickly and world infection would take place in just 3,000 hours, not 27,000, if loosed.


During an argument which turns physical, over the morality of even performing these tests in light of the danger to the world, the glass cage of the frozen rabbit is knocked off the table, shattering the specimen and forcing the researchers to collect every piece, lest it thaw and gain freedom. Afterward, they decide they should perform blood tests on each scientist to confirm no one is infected. Blood is drawn from each until they realize that two people are not present. Just then gunshots are heard and all but two of the assembled researchers race to find the source.


They discover that one of the missing people, Arlene, is a Thing and was building some kind of large device in the bowels of the ship. Arlene-Thing grabs several of the new arrivals while two others, Douglas and Marion, race back to the lab, only to find it practically demolished. One of the two women left behind just minutes ago must have also been a Thing.


Suddenly, Arlene-Thing bursts up through the floor and grabs Marion. Douglas escapes but is confronted by his wife, fellow researcher Barbara. She threatens to shoot him with a flare gun unless he proves he's not a Thing. He still has his blood sample and the electric tester in his pockets, so he shows her his blood is still human. She tells him that the other woman, Tamara, attacked her when the rest of them had gone to investigate the gunshots. She leads him to the helicopter, saying they have to get away and he is, after all, a former pilot. But when she sets down the flare gun, he grabs it, needing proof that she is still human as well. He tests her blood sample and it reveals the contamination. She Things-out and comes after him, but he fires the flare at her. Another shot and the fuel leaking from the helicopter is ignited.


Douglas jumps into the sea and soon the ship blows up. Douglas clings to a piece of floating wreckage and is joined by a seagull. The gull's red eyes tell him that the Thing has survived. Then the bird flies off into the blue sky.




Didja Know?


"Questionable Research" was a series of four 8-page installments which appeared in issues 13-16 of Dark Horse Comics in 1993.


Didja Notice?


"Questionable Research" Part 1 - Dark Horse Comics #13 


The distorted Thing corpse found by the scientists on page 10 looks similar to the one found and left behind in "The Thing from Another World" Part 1 by the SEAL team after they take MacReady into custody.
Thing corpse from "The Thing from Another World" Part 1 Thing corpse from "Questionable Research"


At the ruins of Outpost 31, Barbara finds floppy disks containing a simulator module which includes infection simulations; these would be the simulations created by Blair in The Thing. Audio tape records are also found; these would be the audio logs recorded by MacReady.


From Hooper's dialog on page 13, the members of the mission seem to believe that all 12 men stationed at Outpost 31 were killed. Perhaps they are not aware of the subsequent events involving MacReady and Childs in the earlier series of Dark Horse mini-series of The Thing.


"Questionable Research" Part 2 - Dark Horse Comics #14


Again, the myth that the events of The Thing take place over the course of only 48 hours is propagated; it was actually 6 days.


Marion's research suggests that Blair's estimate of the Thing's infection of the entire Earth population at 27,000 hours is off by a factor of ten, due to her learning that the infection rate increases in a warmer climate than the frozen Antarctic. Her estimate is only 3,000 hours (a little more than 4 months) when exposed to a warm climate and access to transportation. She also estimates that only in the first 100 or so of that would there be a chance of stopping it. This finding may be used to explain, somewhat, the rapid assimilations that occur in the earlier series of Thing mini-series published by Dark Horse.


Hooper is depicted wearing a crucifix, perhaps intended to signify to the reader why he is more cautious about the experiments being conducted and worried about the implications if they should accidentally allow the Thing to get loose from their shipboard lab.


On panel 9 of page 26, Douglas appears to be wearing an Izod Lacoste crocodile shirt. Izod is a clothing company which, from 1952-1993, teamed with the Lacoste shirt company to produce the famous Izod Lacoste polo shirts with the Lacoste logo of a crocodile on the left breast.


On page 27, Hooper tells the other scientists they aren't playing Mr. Wizard anymore. Mr. Wizard was a television personality (real name Don Herbert, 1917-2007) who taught children about science.


"Questionable Research" Part 3 - Dark Horse Comics #15


In this chapter, Hooper's crucifix has disappeared from around his neck, though possibly he tucked it inside his t-shirt for the clean-up of the frozen Thing parts.


What is the device that Arlene is building in the bowels of the ship? It doesn't look like a typical saucer or winged aircraft; possibly it is intended as a submersible vehicle since they are out at sea.


Marion comments that Blair's autopsy notes showed that the brain is the last part of a creature that is assimilated during the takeover process. Barbara remarks that may be due to the brain's complexity. Within our Thing chronology, it may also be argued that it is last because the Thing has not encountered individual beings like those on Earth before, as suggested in "The Things"; in that story it thinks of the brain it sees during Blair's initial autopsy as "a great wrinkled tumor...a thinking cancer..."


"Questionable Research" Part 4 - Dark Horse Comics #16


For some reason, a couple of flare gun shots cause enough of a fire on the Donachek to cause it to blow up. Seems unlikely considering a ship is mostly metal, even with what appears to be fuel leaking from holes in the helicopter on page 22. And how did the copter get damaged in the first place?


On the last page of this, the last Thing story published by Dark Horse, an assimilated seagull escapes for parts unknown. Between the seagull here and the fish at the end of "'Til Death Us Do Part" (and possibly more), it seems Earth's doom is assured. 


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