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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

at popapostle-dot-com
The Thing from Another World (Part 1) "The Thing from Another World" Part 1
The Thing from Another World #1 (Dark Horse)
Script by Chuck Pfarrer
Art by John Higgins
Cover by John Higgins



MacReady awakens in the infirmary of a Japanese whaling vessel in the Southern Ocean. But where is Childs?


Story Summary


As the story opens, Childs has managed to carry or drag the exhausted MacReady to the ice near the coast. He leaves MacReady for a Japanese whaling vessel to pick up. MacReady wakes up later to find himself in the sickbay of the ship. The doctor tells him that Childs has gone back to the research station "to get the others". MacReady knows their are no others and suspects Childs must be a Thing. He gets irritated and tries to leave, so he is sedated by the medical personnel.


MacReady wakes up again later and manages to escape the ship by stealing their helicopter. He heads straight for Outpost 31, but runs out of gas and crash-lands just on the periphery of the outpost. He picks up the flame thrower again and finds Nauls' frozen body and burns it. Then he finds the frozen remains of the Blair-Thing in the ruins of the generator room and blows it up. After that, he finds another frozen Thing body and is about to burn it when he is assailed by a Navy SEAL team.


The SEAL commander, Erskine, finds MacReady's story of the shape-changing alien difficult to believe and takes him into custody after MacReady tries to stop one of his men, Pybus, from touching the frozen body. They all head for the landing zone pick-up point and, as the Navy copter is about to land, Pybus suddenly Things-out and begins shooting his teammates, hitting the copter as well. The copter is brought down, as well as all of the Navy SEALS except for Erskine before MacReady blows up the Pybus-Thing with a thermite charge.


Erskine and MacReady find the communications destroyed and the copter unusable. Two of the SEALs are still alive, though badly wounded, and Erskine forces MacReady to help him carry the injured men across the ice in the direction of an Argentine research station 30 kilometers away. MacReady would prefer he and they all die out on the ice to prevent the Thing from getting to civilization and he allows Erskine to lead them in the wrong direction. Suddenly a snowcat-type vehicle approaches and some Argentines step out...along with Childs.




Didja Know?


Dark Horse used the 1951 film's title The Thing from Another World for its comic book sequels to The Thing in order to avoid conflict with Marvel Comics' superhero character and 1983-86 series called The Thing.


The writer, Chuck Pfarrer, is a former U.S. Navy SEAL who trained for cold weather duty, so the military terms he uses in the story tend to be real ones.


Didja Notice?


In the introduction to the story, the Thing is described as being able to infect a victim merely by touching them. This is not true to the depiction in the movie, where it takes about an hour for takeover and requires more than a mere touch, as witnessed by the scene of the attempted dog takeover. The entire story in this two-issue mini-series depends on this misrepresentation of the ease of infection. This makes the story ring "not true" by my mind.


Page 1 mentions the Eternity Mountains. This is a 28-mile long north-south mountain range in the middle of Antarctica.


Page 1 also appears to show an aurora australis (the southern hemisphere version of aurora borealis, or northern lights) in the sky.


On page 4 we learn the ship that picks up MacReady is named the Misaki Maru, a Japanese whaling vessel out of Okuska. "Misaki" is a type of Japanese pony and "maru" (meaning "circle") is the traditional suffix given to non-warships in Japan. Oksuska is a small port in Japan. However, I'm not sure why a whaling vessel would be so close to the Antarctic coastline that they would spot one or two people on the shore.


When MacReady attempts to escape his sick bed on the ship, he puts his clothes on and his shirt appears to have the sewn-on tag "K.L. MacReady Lt. USN". USN stands for U.S. Navy, and MacReady was depicted as a civilian at the base in The Thing (as were the other personnel). The director's commentary of the film reveals that John Carpenter and Kurt Russell came up with a back-story for MacReady that he was a Vietnam vet, so possibly the shirt is an old one he still wears from time he spent in the Navy. However, his initials are given as "R.J." in the film, not "K.L."


As MacReady makes his escape from the ship's sickbay, he spies a helicopter tethered on the rear deck and, as a pilot, happily mutters, "Luck of the Irish." This is likely a reference to his Irish heritage, as "MacReady" is an Irish surname.


MacReady identifies the helicopter as a Hughes 500. This is a family of helicopters designed by Hughes Helicopters, now owned by McDonnell Douglas. The copter depicted does look similar to the actual Hughes 500 silhouette. He also says he hasn't seen one since Pensacola; this may be another reference to a Navy past, as Pensacola is the home of Naval Air Station Pensacola, where many Naval Aviators receive their flight training.


Escaping the ship in the helicopter, MacReady guesses he was picked up near Marguerite Bay. This is an actual bay on the Antarctic Peninsula. Since Childs had to guide him there, it would indicate that Outpost 31 is not far from the bay. The original script of The Thing, however, indicates the outpost is about 1,000 miles from the coast, an impossible trek on foot. And if Outpost 31 was located anywhere near Marguerite Bay, there are plenty of research stations it could have attempted to contact in the film, so why did they keep trying McMurdo which is practically on the other side of the continent? On the other hand, it is a bit odd to think of Outpost 31 being located so far inland as the movie script suggests since there are no real world outposts set anywhere near that distance on the western portion of the continent except for Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole itself. Here is a map of research stations on the Antarctic continent; notice that in the western Antarctic, the stations are positioned near the coast. Even though Outpost 31 is a fictional station, it seems logical to assume it would share most of the characteristics of real ones. So it becomes a real toss-up which location on the continent to accept as the location of Outpost 31.


On page 10, MacReady mentions Palmer Station. This is a real world research station located on a small island not too far from Marguerite Bay.


Panel 4 of page 10 shows a portion of the sign posted outside of Outpost 31, seen in the movie, referring to it as United States National Science Institute Station 4.


On page 11, MacReady discovers Nauls' frozen body in a state of transformation as a Thing at the ruins of Outpost 31.


On page 13, MacReady discovers the Blair-Thing's frozen body, apparently not entirely incinerated in the explosion at the end of The Thing.


On page 14, a third frozen Thing body is found by MacReady. Who was it? The body is not identified in the story. It seems only Garry would be left (his fate was left unrevealed after being dragged off by Blair-Thing near the end of The Thing).


On page 16, a U.S. Navy SEAL team captures MacReady at Outpost 31. Navy SEALs are an elite military group trained for special missions and unique environments. SEAL stands for Sea, Air and Land.


On page 17, the SEAL team leader, Commander Erskine, tells MacReady that SOUTHCOM lost communication with Outpost 31 three days ago. But in the timeline of The Thing, the outpost was out of communication for about 6 days (first due to the weather and then due to Blair's sabotage). SOUTHCOM is United States Southern Command, which provides U.S. military planning and operations for the Caribbean and Central and South America; possibly that range could be construed to extend to Antarctica as well in an emergency.


Commander Erskine also remarks that a C-130 out of McMurdo spotted Outpost 31 on fire. C-130 is a reference to a C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft, designed in 1954 and still in use by the U.S. military today.


The SEAL team refers to the burned bodies (apparently 5) found at Outpost 31 as KIAs; this stands for Killed in Action. Possibly we can excuse the presence of Nauls' and Blair's and maybe Garry's bodies as still being somewhat intact after the fire and explosions gutted the outpost, but who are the other two bodies? The infected bodies were deliberately incinerated completely by the non-infected members of the outpost in The Thing. Possibly these two bodies could be Clark (shot by MacReady) and Copper (killed by the Norris-Thing on the surgical table), neither of whom seem to have been infected according to the film (though "The Things" states that Copper was infected, but not yet completely assimilated, and Clark's body was later consumed by the Blair-Thing for additional energy and biomass).


MacReady tells Commander Erskine to check the Norwegian camp at Dronning Maud. Dronning Maud Land is a large expanse of Antarctica claimed by Norway. The problem is, it's thousands of miles away from Marguerite Bay, so how could the men of Outpost 31 have reached it, let alone the dog have made it to the U.S. outpost, in The Thing if Outpost 31 is close to Marguerite Bay as implied in this story?


On page 19, Commander Erskine says, "Let's get back to the L.Z." This stands for "Landing Zone".


Also on page 19, one of the SEAL team members remarks, "Now comes Miller Time." "Miller Time" is a catchphrase used in advertising by the Miller Brewing Company for Miller Beer. It refers to the time when your hard work is done and now you can relax and have fun.


According to this story, the Thing's cells can infect a person through clothing; it apparently infected Pybus through his gloved hand. The transformation also seems to occur very quickly afterward. Both suppositions seem to conflict with how the Thing was depicted in the film.


After the infected Pybus shoots up the SEAL team and causes the helicopter to crash, Commander Erskine tells MacReady that sat comm is history. "Sat comm" is a reference to satellite communication.


On page 26, Commander Erskine says there is an Argentine research station just 30 klicks from the landing zone. A klick is military slang for "kilometer". Since the landing zone is shown to be within easy walking distance of Outpost 31, that means the Argentine station is only about 30 kilometers from there as well! Again, the outpost could have called the Argentines during the storm in The Thing instead of relying on trying to reach McMurdo. 


On the last page of the issue, one of the passengers of the snowcat says, "Que paso?" This is Spanish for "What is wrong?", though it would usually be phrased "Que pasa?"  


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