Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
Today’s special guest Tales From The Long Box columnist is JP Fallavollita.
It’s summer in the early 1980’s and I’m standing alongside a couple of buddies in the sequestered “Horror Movies” room of our local Jumbo Video. For the last few weeks, we’d been renting the types of VHS films our parents would never rent for us. But this was summer holidays. And our parents were at work. And we were mobile on our banana-seat bicycles, with a penchant for trouble and an idle time thirst for some scary stuff.
I reached for a bluish cardboard box containing the image of a hooded man wearing a zipped-up ski jacket and a malicious bright light emanating from where his face should be. The cryptic title seized my imagination – it made for almost imperceptible perspiration on my forehead and neck.
“Boys,” I said to my pals, “this is the one we’re getting.”
This week, it was John Carpenter’s The Thing.
If you didn’t watch it live last night, you can catch the archived edition of this week’s Biff Bam Popcast! wherein we talk about all things John Carpenter. His The Thing film takes up much of that discussion.
But we shouldn’t forget that in December 1991, Dark Horse Comics published a two-issue sequel to that movie, featuring the characters of Macready and Childs. It told the story of what happened to them after the fires died out and they were left facing each other, mistrusting one another, in the cold Antarctic night.
Written by novelist, screenwriter and former Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer (Darkman, The Jackal, Red Planet and SEAL Target Geronimo), and illustrated in wonderfully visceral paints by John Higgins (Judge Dread, Watchmen and World Without End), The Thing From Another World (named after the original black and white film so as to not confuse audiences with a certain rock-formed Fantastic Four character in the Marvel Comics universe) was a worthy story directly following Carpenter’s classic film. The engaging tale expands the roster of characters and heightens the threat level that the alien “thing” poses to humanity. (Oh! Those meddling Antarctica Japanese fishing trawlers!)
The highlight of the mini series is undoubtedly John Higgins’ artwork. His line work, framing and especially his colouring perfectly invokes the Rob Bottin’s special effects from the film. The landscape is cold here. But when the alien does appear, it’s wet and kinetic and menacing. There are drawn panels where I swear you can actually hear the “fwip!” “fwip!” “fwip!” sounds of long, extraterrestrial tendrils, rising from carcasses, and energetically flapping in the air before striking at the bodies of nearby human beings! It’s brilliant imagery, stunning to behold, and reminiscent of the fear and apprehension audiences felt during the John Carpenter film.
Dark Horse Comics would go on to produce three other The Thing From Another World comics book series’, all of various lengths and by different writers and artists, but it was the success of the 1991 original that set the tone for those others and remains the most memorable of the bunch, exposing a new whole new and different generation to that early 1980’s movie.
The local Jumbo Video store and their “Horror Movie” section may be long gone, but people are still renting, downloading, or watching The Thing on demand, for the very first time.
New “Thingies” are created everyday!