October 1, 2012
Man is the warmest place to hide... except when he cranks the air conditioning up.
(Open on a title for this series, parodying The Thing, suspenseful music and all, then cut to Linkara sitting on his futon as always)
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. For the previous three years, we've looked at "Silent Hill" comics. Well, we're pretty much out of "Silent Hill" comics. The ones that suck, anyway. (points to camera) Now it's time to dive into another horror franchise: The Thing!
(The titles for all three movies is shown, followed by footage of the first movie, The Thing From Another World)
Linkara (v/o): If you're not familiar with The Thing, here's the basic rundown of all three movies: a team at a remote polar outpost has an alien stalking them. The original, called The Thing From Another World, is a black-and-white sci-fi film about a humanoid plant creature that crashed in the Arctic and was buried in the ice. A scientific research team and some Air Force personnel are holed up in a base and find the creature, accidentally thawing it from the ice. There's a dumbass scientist who thinks the creature can be reasoned with, despite it continually killing things, feasting on blood, and demonstrating enough intelligence to know how to fight them. The asshole even takes some seed pods from the creature and tries to grow them! I'm just glad the monster shoved them aside at the end. I know many people consider this film to be really, really great, and I admit, it's a good science fiction film, especially for its time, but in the end, I don't think it holds a candle to its remake.
(The title for the remake is shown, The Thing, followed by footage of that)
Linkara (v/o): John Carpenter's The Thing is a masterwork of suspense. While the Arctic was just kind of there in the original film to keep the crew from radioing for help, the Antarctic atmosphere of The Thing truly works to its advantage. You feel how cold this place is, especially after every time they have to go outside in a storm. The basic plot is that a Norwegian chasing a dog arrives at the camp, screaming and trying to shoot at it. When they investigate the Norwegian outpost, you see that this place has gone through absolute hell, and we quickly find out why: the dog is a shapeshifting alien that absorbs other creatures and imitates them perfectly. And because the dog had been wandering around the camp for the better part of a day, no one is certain of who's infected by the thing and who isn't. Because there are plenty of scenes where characters aren't shown, the audience is put in the same position as the characters: we don't know who to trust. Even Kurt Russell, who serves as the main protagonist, could be an unreliable narrator. I know James Rolfe has said that the special effects of the film ruin it a bit because they're too gruesome, but frankly, I think this shows it as the king of practical effects over CGI for horror films. And don't get me wrong: CGI is not a bad thing and sometimes necessary, but a lot of films don't integrate it well, and in the end, it's something that the actors are actually interacting with is always gonna be more interesting than something that isn't. The effects for The Thing truly show how completely and utterly alien it is, and there is nothing that we fear more than what's different.
Linkara: (now massaging his forehead in frustration) And then there was the prequel that came out last year.
(The title for the 2011 version of The Thing is shown, followed by footage of that film)
Linkara (v/o): Look, I'll be honest with you: I don't think the prequel is entirely awful. It had a lot of good ideas, but it's not half as scary as the Carpenter film, and for a prequel to that movie, The Thing is wildly inconsistent from that film. In the prequel, the Thing is really damn fast, really damn strong, and while in the Carpenter film, it was smart, took its time, and only revealed itself when it absolutely had to, in the prequel, it reveals itself over and over FOR NO DAMN REASON! And as I said before, the CGI is not integrated well, and half the creatures were clearly not really there. Plus, the Thing rarely looked like some hideous monstrosity birthed from your nightmares; it was just this big gaggle of tentacles.
Linkara: And you know want to know what my favorite part about John Carpenter's The Thing is? (cups his hand over his mouth to shout) NOBODY WAS STUPID!!!
(Cut to a clip of Carpenter's The Thing)
MacReady (Kurt Russell): I know I'm human. And if you were all these things, then you'd just attack me right now, so some of you are still human.
(Editor's note: "This text here because ContentID is a pain in the ass." It remains on the screen for the remainder of Linkara's dialogue below)
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, the characters act exactly how anyone with half a brain would act in this situation.
(Cut to the 2011 version, still with the message displayed)
Linkara (v/o): In the prequel, the characters are complete and utter morons! And hell, it didn't even take advantage of the fact that we have people from two different nationalities at play! And yes, I've heard from people that Norwegians are taught English at an early age, but dammit, if you don't USE that English, like, say, being at an Antarctic research station with only other Norwegians around, you'll probably start to forget it! And in a movie that's supposed to be about paranoia, tension and mistrust, they don't utilize a very basic way of building mistrust? Not being able to communicate with each other?! Ugh! Like I said, the prequel had good ideas, but it did not take advantage of them.
Linkara: So, where does that leave us? Well, before the John Carpenter film, there was another adaptation of (makes "finger quotes") "Who Goes There?", the original story that all these movies are based on. (singsong voice) And it was in comic form! (normal again) Let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Starstream #1" and take a look.
(AT4W title theme plays; title card has "Livin' In the Fridge" by Weird Al Yankovic playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's first page)
Linkara (v/o): "Starstream" was a four-issue science-fiction anthology series that was rarely actually sold alongside comics. They were published by the Whitman Publishing Company, which was a sister company of Gold Key, a comic publisher we've talked about before. "Starstream" was rarely, if ever, sold on comic racks in grocery stores. Bear in mind, comics in hobby stores were not that common back then, so this was back when comics could be reasonably sold in grocery stores, but instead were packaged with multiple issues and sold in the children's section, alongside coloring books and the like. It was a bizarre practice, to say the least, especially when you consider that the comic covers were going for something that more resembled paperback sci-fi novels than a standard comic cover. The majority of stories in "Starstream" were adaptations of classic sci-fi stories, and because it was an anthology, today's comic has five other stories in it, aside from "Who Goes There?". Because this month is focusing on "The Thing", and because the review would be too damn long, we're only going to focus on the "Who Goes There?" adaptation and not talk about the other stories.
(Cut to the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Subsequently, our cover is not relevant to the story and is just really bizarre. There's some vague humanoid shapes, a colorful Rorschach painting framing everything... I have no idea what the hell it is we're looking at, but I'm sure I'd be able to make sense of it if I was high.
Linkara: Or it could be some kind of Magic Eye thing. (looks at cover) Oh, look, a bunny.
Linkara (v/o): We open in the Antarctic, where four men are standing over a spaceship encased in... very cracked ice. Seriously, look how cracked that ice is. Looks more like a broken mirror or something.
Narrator: There were 37–Scientists, technicians and support personnel...
Linkara: There are 37 people in this thing? (takes off glasses) Geez, and people say the anniversary movies have too many characters in them. (puts glasses back on)
Narrator: ...trying to unlock the natural secrets of the Antarctic–equipped to face any challenge of that frigid world!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Whose Line Is It, Anyway?)
Clive Anderson: I brought the umbrella.
Ryan Stiles: Cuisinart.
Colin Mochrie: Ice cubes.
(Cut back to the comic)
Narrator: But none could have anticipated the frozen horror that was about to become–A PART OF THEM!
Linkara: (as one of the scientists) My God! We left the Dippin' Dots in the freezer for too long!
Scientist 1: What the devil is it?
Scientist 2: It could be anything from a prehistoric seal to a grand piano!
Linkara: (stunned) IT'S A FLYING SAUCER, YOU IDIOTS!
Linkara (v/o): For crying out loud, if we can look UP THROUGH THE ICE like this and see you guys perfectly, you should be able to see it just fine!
Scientist 3: I'll ignore your piano joke, Dr. Copper!
Linkara: (as this scientist) You know damn well that a piano killed my father!
Scientist 3: And I'm also willing to bet it's not–Super-Seal!
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang watching The Deadly Mantis)
Tom Servo: One thing we can be sure of, it wasn't a giant deadly mantis.
(Back to the comic again)
Scientist 4: One thing's sure... it's big!
Linkara: (sarcastically) Yeah, thanks, Steve. You're a barrel of useful information today.
Narrator: MacReady radioed to the base for the steam tractor with pneumatic-hammer attachment!
Linkara: (announcer voice) Available now! Order in the next hour and get the drill attachment absolutely free!
Linkara (v/o): Sure wish I knew which one of these guys was MacReady. Neither one of them looks like Kurt Russell. With the steam tractor pounding into it, they manage to partially uncover the UFO. Realizing it's something metal and that it's possibly an alien ship, they decide they need to free it from the ice. They figure thermite is the best bet to melt the ice around it. However, whatever type of thermite reaction they decided on was apparently a bad idea. The alien ship is made of a metal that just melts away, thanks to the heat.
MacReady: Alien metal couldn't withstand heat! Much hotter than any re-entry friction!
Linkara (v/o): I'm gonna let the comic get away with this, because some thermite reactions do reach upwards of 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and reentry friction on a shuttle is about 3,000 degrees.
(Cut to Dr. Linksano)
Dr. Linksano: However, I will pipe in that the original story says that the reason that the thermite ignited the hull was because it was based off of magnesium, which, if you were to make a spaceship out of it, well, chances are it would be a puddle of goop before it hit the ground, if not just vapor.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): So yeah, the ship is completely vaporized, leaving nothing but hot water.
MacReady: Water! Nothing left but hot water!
Linkara: (as MacReady) I'm just gonna stand over this hot water while it cools so it can freeze over and trap me.
Linkara (v/o): The flash was so bright as to dim or temporarily blind some of them, and they stumble back towards the tractor. However, they do spot that the destruction of the ship revealed a part of the ice with a strange figure inside of it. Well, better get that thermite again! (a shot is fired at the comic, but doesn't do anything) Nah, I'm just kidding. They're smart enough to realize that they shouldn't risk it after losing the spacecraft and the scientific find of the century. So obviously, they're gonna be extra careful with this one. And by that, I mean MacReady shoves a pickax at its forehead.
MacReady: Yuchhh! The ax went right into the thing's skull! If that's what it is!
Linkara: Boy, MacReady's gonna have egg on his face when he finds out that that's the alien's crotch.
Narrator: Blair, the blindest, stayed rooted while the others brought power saws from the tractor!
Linkara (v/o): Boy, it's a good thing they told us that. Otherwise, I would have been wondering what the hell Blair was doing. Within forty minutes, they've gotten the Thing out of the wall, naturally making sure to shape it into a perfect rectangular prism. Nice.
Blair: We came with our feeble instruments to measure wind and ice and magnetic forces–
MacReady: –and found a thing that had a thousand times our knowledge–ten million years ago!
Linkara: Yep, they sure had a thousand times our knowledge, which is why they made a ship out of a metal that lit up like a Roman candle. I imagine cigarette breaks would be awkward on this planet.
Linkara (v/o): They put the ice cube into the back of the tractor, covering it with only a tarp. AND BLAIR.
Narrator: On the trip back, Blair stretched out on the tarp-covered thing without a second thought!
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, maybe he should have been thinking a tad bit more! They're in ANTARCTICA and probably have been outside for more than an hour – AND YOU'RE STRETCHING OUT ON TOP OF A FROZEN BLOCK OF ICE!!! The fact that Blair didn't freeze to death is pretty damn impressive! Blair suddenly awakens while screaming, telling the others that he had a terrible dream where the alien in the ice was alive and commanding him.
Driver: What about it, "men of science"? Enlighten a lowly second-in-command military mind!
Linkara: Damn you, men of science! What has science ever done for us?! Except for this tractor? And the thermite? And interplanetary travel? (looks around shiftily, then shakes fist) DAMN YOU, MEN OF SCIENCE!
(Cut to a bookshelf as Linkara walks by, wearing a blue jacket and singing "Get Your Game On" from Yu-Gi-Oh!)
Linkara: (singing) Game on, get your game on... (sees he's on camera) Oh... (tips his hat) We'll be right back, people.
(Linkara walks off, humming the song as the AT4W logo appears in the corner. Then cut to black as we got to a commercial. Upon return, the bookshelf is shown again as Linkara walks by again)
Linkara: (singing) Tough times, hard climbs... (sees he's on camera) Oh... (tips his hat) We're back. (walks off, singing) We'll take 'em on together...
(The AT4W logo appears in the corner. Then we cut back to the comic as the review resumes)
Linkara (v/o): They wonder if the Thing could still be alive, since there are microbes out in Antarctica that quick-freeze and then thaw to life months later, but they dismiss it due to how complex a life-form the alien must be. Back at the base, Commander Gary has called all 37 people into the barracks to discuss what to do with the thing. Blair wants to thaw it and examine it, but Norris wisely points out that the Thing could be carrying diseases completely alien to humanity, and they should quarantine it until they have better resources. I actually really like this scene because it shows the characters being intelligent. No one's being an asshole about it, either. They're throwing out very likely possibilities, the danger of alien disease, that a sterilizing bath might damage the original life-form. It's smart, and the thing that pisses me off more than anything else in movies is when characters are stupid.
(Cut to footage of the 2011 prequel version of The Thing)
Linkara (v/o): Like, say, in the Thing prequel movie, when they just DRILL INTO THE DAMN THING TO GET A SAMPLE WITHOUT ANYONE EVEN BRINGING UP THE POSSIBILITY OF ALIEN DISEASE!!
Linkara: (waving hastily and dismissively) Sorry, sorry, no more harping on the prequel, (becomes frustrated) but something like that just pisses me off! For heaven's sakes, the people in that movie are supposed to be SCIENTISTS!
Linkara (v/o): And so, they put it to vote, with the votes to thaw it out winning through. They say that the creature's head should be thawed out by now, and I'm actually really curious now. In John Carpenter's movie, we never got to see an original form for the thing, so what kind of hellish monstrosity does...
(Said monstrosity is a green creature with mop-like white hair and three red eyes. At this, Linkara bursts out laughing)
Linkara (v/o): That's the Thing?! Look at this goofy-ass thing! It's like a rejected Muppet! Classic Series Doctor Who is looking at this thing and saying, "Yeah, we can do better than that."
MacReady: It looks like pure evil!
Linkara (v/o): (amused) Yes, gaze upon the true face of evil: a three-eyed, scraggly-haired plush doll! You know what it looks like? It looks like one of the alien squeaky toys from Toy Story wearing a wig! Later at night, while it thaws, a man named Connant is doing some work. He has a sudden urge to set fire to the Thing and thinks he sees the "worms" that are the thing's hair wriggling a little, but figures it's just his imagination. Naturally, he's so engrossed in his work, he doesn't notice the Thing get up and start moving. Shortly afterwards, he comes running out and screaming that the Thing is alive and he must have dozed off and it walked away. They hear dogs barking and they think they have the alien cornered, but then they spot it. Now, here is a creature! The Thing now has one arm as a tentacle and its head is becoming a dog!
MacReady: Charnauk! Our lead dog! This thing is– absorbing it! Not just eating it– becoming it! The dogs spotted it escaping! To defend itself–it started to become Charnauk!
Linkara: (as MacReady) It must have realized that Charnauk is a very vain dog, so it would never attack something that looked like it!
Connant: No! If it lived with an ax in his head–bullets won't do it!
Linkara (v/o): ...Which is why... you're... shooting it? Huh? Anyway, there was apparently some backstory that we missed, since the guy yells for MacReady to get an electric harpoon that they had evidently fashioned for killing fish. It's a live cable lashed to a mop handle. They use it to fry the Thing, apparently killing it. One of them reaches for the remains, but Dr. Copper yells not to touch it since he has a sneaky suspicion about it. He orders it all to be shoveled into plastic bags, and he examines the remains, realizing the remains weigh the same as the dead dog did, despite the Thing clearly being larger and having more mass than the dog.
Dr. Copper: It can separate itself from the animal it becomes! And then become another! The thing is– free again!
Linkara: (as Dr. Copper, holding a pipe) Dear Lord! This could interrupt my pipe-smoking!
Linkara (v/o): The personnel quickly realize that if the thing could become a dog, it could also become a human. The first under suspicion is Connant to give some personal information to try to dissuade them, but Blair says it wouldn't matter and believes that the thing is telepathic because of his earlier dreams. Of course, they don't actually know if he's the Thing, so they lock him in a supply closet while one of the men goes out to bury the remains of the dog thing. Copper suggests using a blood serum test of injecting his blood into a rabbit, which will create antibodies against human blood, and then they'll inject a sample of Connant's blood into the rabbit. If he's the Thing, the rabbit should reject this new blood.
Linkara: Or, you just infected the rabbit with the Thing and it'll assimilate the rabbit, and you won't be able to tell. Smooth.
Linkara (v/o): Also, here's a dumb question. They said earlier that Connant is a scientist specializing in cosmic rays, half the personnel are military, and they have equipment for excavation from ice and astrological study. What the hell do they have test rabbits for? Anyway, they hear screams from outside and see that the Dog-Thing is regenerating. The man who is burying it, Kinner, quickly grabs some kerosene and burns the Thing away. MacReady thinks that they only have Connant to worry about now, but Copper points out that if Connant is one of the things, he could have infected others before he sounded the alarm. Blair shows up, pouring kerosene everywhere and starts yelling like crazy.
Blair: I had the same thought, Dr. Copper! That's none of us must carry this thing back to civilization! We must burn! All of us– BUR-R-R-R-N!
Linkara: Oh, well, clearly I've been saying it wrong this whole time: Welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics BURRRRN!
Linkara (v/o): MacReady doesn't tolerate this kind of crap on his watch and promptly decks Blair so hard that the kerosene can is left suspended in the air. Actually, come to think of it, that might be gasoline. Great, not only do they have to deal with the thing, but they're gonna have Vapora on their hands soon. Commander Garry orders Blair locked up in the tool shed and tells Copper he needs to think of a faster test, which Copper has already figured out. Everyone is called into an emergency, save for Kinner, who was the cook and has gone completely insane, locking himself in the kitchen and singing hymns. I wonder if Blair is doing the same thing in the tool shed. Anyway, Copper has reasoned that every part of the Thing is a living, independent creature and will try to stay alive if threatened. As such, he puts some of his own blood in a test tube and puts it over a Bunsen burner's flame. He figures if it's alien blood, it'll react to the fire and try to escape the test tube, while human blood will just boil and singe. Garry volunteers after the doctor and it reacts, revealing that he is the Thing! And of course Garry-Thing has already grabbed an ax and tells them to come and get him.
Narrator: They were on him–a wall of human frenzy!
Dr. Copper: Kill him!
MacReady: Stop him!
Blair: Nothing must live!
Linkara (v/o): (amused) Just look at this! Not a one of them is arming themselves! According to the narrative captions in the next panel, they literally tear the Thing apart with their bare hands!
Narrator: They tore the thing apart before it had a chance to revert to its own form...
Linkara: (waving dismissively) Oh, yeah, because clearly it was only dangerous if it was the googly, three-eyed Thing. You can't do anything with an ax.
Linkara (v/o): Once it's ripped apart, they use the electric harpoon to fry it once more. Yeah, because that worked so well the first time, except when it didn't and it came back to life. One of the other crew members wonders why the thing doesn't just attack them all, but MacReady reasons that they have superior numbers against it, so everyone needs to take the test. MacReady passes the test, but the next man refuses to take it.
Narrator: But no test was needed! The lineup was clear– and instantaneous!
Linkara (v/o): And yep, Connant was indeed infected, and we see that Kinner was infected as well.
Linkara: But it wasn't just the Thing that was inside the singing Kinner. He had the music in him, too.
(He raises his index finger in the air and a snippet of "You Get What You Give" plays)
New Radicals: (singing) You've got the music in you, / Don't let go, / You've got the music in you...
Narrator: The battle was brief and brutal!
Linkara: (as narrator) And completely off panel.
Linkara (v/o): You gotta love this dialogue.
Blair: Let none of them live!
MacReady: The things must die!
Linkara (v/o): You know, in John Carpenter's movie, it's clear that there's no reasoning with this creature, since it never attempted to communicate with them, but here, does anyone suggest talking to it and asking what it wants? Just sayin', they're jumping pretty quickly into the homicidal rage. After burning the remains of the others, they finish up the test and make sure all the remaining people are human. MacReady orders them to contact the outside world and let them know what's been going on, but Copper points out that they forgot about Blair and need to test him, too. I also just realized that Copper in this version is rocking a Santa Claus beard. He brings the gift of common sense. When they get to the shed and they hear a strange humming noise from inside, and peeking in, MacReady can tell it's not Blair. They burst through the door and light the creature inside ablaze.
Narrator: The last sight of that alien nightmare literally burned itself into their memories!
Linkara: No, that's still a bit of a stretch for (makes a "finger quote") "literally", but whatever. It's close, so I'll give it to you.
Linkara (v/o): They find a strange device inside the shed, and Santa Copper reasons that it's some kind of power source for a backpack. MacReady puts it on and tests it, discovering that it's an anti-gravity device, no doubt for an attempted escape from the continent. And so, our story ends with MacReady and Copper looking at the burnt-out remains of the shed and contemplating that they came close to losing their world.
Dr. Copper: I know, Mac! Sheer accident it landed here! Couldn't possibly happen again... could it?
Linkara: Call this number (a made-up phone number appears: 1-900-NOSTALGIA-CHICK) and cast your votes! Could it happen again? (closes comic and holds it up) This story... is okay.
Linkara (v/o): It's not great, partially because the dialogue is stilted due to the time period it was written in. It would be at least another decade before we started seeing realistic dialogue in comic books. Before that, it seemed like everybody was always shouting in comics, putting exclamation points at the end of every sentence. For the story itself, it's a decent adaptation, short and to the point. There is horror to be found in concept alone and the realization that this alien being survived being frozen and could imitate you. It's actually more interesting to look at this after you've seen the John Carpenter film, if only because you see how they both took the same source material and did different things with it. Ignore the different mediums; they hit on similar points of mistrust, a blood test, MacReady becoming the leader, and men going insane from the possibility of the Thing spreading out beyond the frozen wastes of Antarctica. It's just that since this was a short story and had no real basis for the thing before, the creature looked absolutely silly, here's not much to say for character development, and the mood isn't quite captured the same way as the later film.
(Suddenly, the room dims slightly as the lights flicker. Linkara looks around in confusion)
Linkara: Huh. I wonder what that is. Well, maybe we'll find out next week.
TO BE CONTINUED
(End credits roll)
Sooo, the Thing had taken over Garry, why did it order Copper to think of a faster test to find it and then volunteered first to BE tested?
So all the people who were the most paranoid about the Thing were the ones infected?
(Stinger: The panel showing the green-skinned, three-eyed, mop-haired Thing is shown again)
Tom Servo: (singing in background) It's time to meet your maker on The Muppet Show tonight.