Revisiting the Sequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing

A look at the Dark Horse series

This article was originally published in November 2010. We dusted it off in time for The Thing prequel’s release.

“Why don’t we just wait here for a little while. See what happens…”

With those haunting final words spoken by R.J. MacReady, accompanied by the ominous, pulsing score of Ennio Morricone, John Carpenter’s 1982 creature feature, The Thing, ended on an ambiguous note, leaving the door wide open for a sequel. A dismal performance at the box office killed any chances of that, however. The Thing would live on as a once critically-panned remake to a film which has been hailed for its FX achievements (by Rob Bottin), moreover, it was a film later analyzed and accepted as not just a masterful re-telling of John Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” but a poignant commentary on Cold War paranoia and the rise of AIDs in the ‘80s. The Thing would ultimately find its audience, yet chances of a follow-up were always slim.

Within the last year, Strike Entertainment and Universal opted to revisit the property with a prequel to The Thing (set report) that is due to open on October 14, 2011. Going backward, rather than forward, the story focuses on the staff at the ill-fated Norwegian Antarctic outpost responsible for discovering, and freeing, the otherworldly creature that assimilates its prey.

In 1991, however, Dark Horse Comics hired writer Chuck Pfarrer and artist John Higgins for the two-part “The Thing from Another World,” a tale picks up 24 hours after the ‘82 film. In several interviews, John Carpenter has stated that if the fans wanted a second part to his story, this was the place to look, even though he had no part in its creation. He considers the comic book a worthy sequel.

Pfarrer was fresh off of writing Navy Seals and Sam Raimi’s Darkman at the time. He would later go on to pen Hard Target and the Dark Horse-produced Barb Wire, starring Pamela Anderson, and Virus. His last screen credit was 2000’s Red Planet.

Complimented by Higgins’ quite vivid artwork – laden with windswept vistas of the Antarctic and grotesque, glistening portraits of the Thing’s various guises – Pfarrer’s story finds MacReady, one of two survivors of U.S. Outpost 31, setting off across the Antarctic tundra alone, leaving Childs behind and presumed frozen to death. Mac is picked up by a whaling vessel and, after a brief blood test to make sure he’s “all there,” he steals a helicopter to make his way back to Outpost 31 to roast what is left of the Thing. Childs’ body is gone and what Mac discovers is a SEAL team, led by Commander Erskine, waiting for him.

It’s not long before Mac is detained, suspected of killing all of the Outpost’s men and torching the place to the ground. Mac’s wild stories of an alien creature don’t help his case either, but proof of the Thing’s existence is quickly made palpable when Erskine’s men become infected or are annihilated by the creature. Erskine and Mac are left on their own to find refuge at an Argentine camp and by the end of issue one, Childs reappears, healthy and uninfected.

Issue two is riddled with monster mayhem. The Argentine camp – aware of the “blood test” and the Thing, thanks to Childs – experiences its first encounter with the alien. Erskine, meanwhile, reveals a nasty lil’ secret he’s been harboring for a few hours. The two-part arc culminates in a massive action sequence that finds the Thing, Mac and Childs aboard a submarine until one survivor (guess who?) is left floating to the surface of frigid waters and pummeled by icy winds.

As a follow-up to Carpenter’s picture, “The Thing from Another World” eschews paranoia for speed. Not that it’s completely absent of the former. Mac stays true to character and suspects everyone he meets is the Thing, however, Pfarrer elevates the action giving us more explosions, a machine gun battle with an infected soldier, the giant version of Thing smashing through a wall (while taking a prisoner) and other fun stuff (like that sub finale). Higgins’ representation of the Thing allows him to have fun with teeth ‘n tentacles and blood galore. In the monster department, it does not disappoint. As far as substance, it’s not as heavy as Carpenter’s film, but that’s due to the nature of the story. It’s all about “containment” on a larger playing field with Mac running from place to place trying to stop the infection. Pfarrer does a fine job capturing Mac’s cynicism, too.

Pfarrer reportedly pitched this sequel to Universal in the early ‘90s, alas, nothing ever came of it. Naturally, his comic book two-parter warranted a sequel, so Dark Horse teased, at the end of issue two, that a four-part series was to come in July of 1992.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor