It all started with a simple question. One week into rehearsals for The Humans, when the assistant director, Gracyn Mix, emailed me this: “Would it be possible to get a copy of a Quasar comic?”
She asked because, in The Humans, the character Richard loves the comic Quasar. He says, “it’s about this species of like half-alien, half-demon-creatures with teeth on their backs, but on their planet, the scary stories they tell each other... they’re all about us. The horror stories for the monsters are all about humans.”
As the dramaturg apprentice for OTC, a lot of the work I do is historical and contextual research to support the plays through rehearsals and beyond. That includes researching words/concepts/references in the text that might need further explanation. When it comes to historical or pop culture allusions made in the text, I try to determine where that reference comes from and if it is based on reality. It’s usually something I can take care of in a few minutes, but it does occasionally lead me down crazy paths. For The Royale, I spent a couple of hours sorting through 1910 newspapers to figure out who Jack Johnson’s real-life coach and training team were.
When the AD emailed me this question, I knew about Quasar already. He’s on page 72 of The Humans and I’d already looked into him. The series is not at all about this half-alien, half-demon race. It’s about a space-traveling superhero who’s like a combination of The Green Lantern and Captain Marvel. If these creatures are in the series, they likely only made an appearance in one or two of the comics. If I was going to bring a copy of the comics to rehearsals, I wanted it to be the right one. I would just need to look through the comics to figure out which one, if any, has monsters who tell scary stories about humans. How many of them could there possibly be?
Bad news. There are 60 individual comic books in the series.
To Google, then. I searched “Quasar, half-alien half-demon creatures, teeth on back.” The Quasar Wikipedia and Fandom pages make no references to these monsters. At the bottom of the Wikipedia page, there’s a list of the alien creatures Quasar encounters, but it’s very short: major antagonists only. A one-off reference to a group of aliens wouldn’t appear there. I do, however, spend some time looking through this list. I suspect maybe The Brood—insectoid, parasitic, extraterrestrial beings—might be the culprit. After all, they’ve got nasty teeth.
I searched, “Quasar and The Brood.” No luck there, at least not where The Brood tells scary stories about humans.
A few google searches later (“Quasar, scary stories about humans”; “Marvel monsters, half-alien, half-demon”; “half-demon, half-aliens with teeth on their back”; “Marvel aliens with weird teeth”) I found a website selling all of the Quasar comics. Each listing had a one to two sentence summary of the comic. I read every single summary and looked up all of the monsters and proper names I didn’t recognize. I came up empty.
I found a Marvel website about demon classification within the universes. Turns out there are three classes of demons and the third class are “extradimensional in origin and often alien in form and motivation.” That seems to fit the half-demon, half-alien criteria. I cross-reference the list of third-class demons with the list of aliens in Quasar comics. None of them have teeth on their backs. None of them tell scary stories about humans.
I send a tweet to Mark Gruenwald (a comic book writer who wrote many of the Quasar comics) and Stephen Karam (The Humans playwright). Neither is very active on Twitter, so I don’t hold out hope.
At this point, I decided to hunt down some experts. I started on Reddit and I get only one response to my question: “The monsters you’re referring to could be the race known as ‘Deviants’; they’re basically the evil version of another race called the ‘Eternals’ who preceded humanity on Earth.” It’s not the Deviants. The Deviants are almost humans. Why would they tell scary stories about humans as if they were monsters? They also certainly don’t have teeth on their back.
I call every comic book store within a 30-minute radius from OTC looking for a Quasar expert or a copy of the comic. Nobody has any idea what I’m talking about. Quasar is an obscure superhero from the 80s. If he has superfans out there, they’re not hiding in Montgomery County. However, one store does have a collected edition of Quasar #10-25. It’s in their clearance section. I decide to go look at it, at the very least. I arrive at the store about an hour before they close and meet the guy I talked to on the phone.
He’s really interested in my quest and about 10 minutes later, every employee in that store is trying to help me answer this question. They’re searching databases and texting anyone who might know. I eventually left the store without an answer but with a copy of the Quasar book, a promise to email if they find anything, and three new friends.
I bring the book to rehearsals, pretty confident that the creatures don’t exist. Still, I send a few emails to some less-local comic book stores with my question. One of them responds to me:
“Hi Sarah - I don’t recall the name of the races, but these are characters from a Quasar story. Thanks! -Steve”
Steve, why did you have to be so vague? Steve?
His confirmation that the creatures exist tells me I just haven’t been looking hard enough. I spend a small bit of time over the next few days going back over my research to see if I missed something. I didn’t. I started reading through the series in my free time. I’m starting to feel hopeless.
Then, on March 19th, a week after I started this quest, Stephen Karam responds to me on Twitter:
Sarah Kiker: Hi Stephen! Which Quasar comic are you referencing in The Humans?
Stephen Karam: None! I made it up. It doesn’t exist. I wanted to create a fictional comic series. I do believe there is a Marvel or DC hero named “Quasar” but he doesn’t get his own comic, I think he’s more of a player in that universe… hope this helps.
It does help. My Quasar quest comes to an end with a final and definite answer:
It’s made up.