They Mostly Come Out At Night… Mostly
“You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with do you? The perfect organism. It’s structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. I admire its purity…A survivor unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality”
– Ash Dialogue from the movie Alien
*** Warning: this write up contains strong, adult content ***
Greetings from the desert fellow CBSI members.
Did that above quote from the android, Ash grab your attention? It sure as hell did for me the first time I heard it. In fact, the whole Alien universe grabbed and shook me since I saw, more like witnessed, the first one on an old VHS tape when I was 10ish.
My thoughts on movies were never the same. It helped mold my deep love for film, and the science fiction genre. A few weeks back, Aliens was on Showtime and of course tired from the day I still sat thru it yet again for the umpteenth time.
Red eyed and exhausted I thought to myself as the clock showed 1:47AM on a work day was – Dam this flick is good decades later. There has to be films for each of you that no matter what, you get sucked in and watch it over and over. Most comic enthusiasts are movie fans in some capacity as well so we all share this sickness.
Alright so what gives with this opening rant?
Let’s take a look at the history behind the Alien franchise including the art, and where comics fit in to all of this. First check out this bad ass limited edition print below. It would be perfect in a CBSI man cave!
This story starts by venturing back to the times of late 70s to early 80s cheesy monster movies and even worse depictions of them on screen. The origins of Alien manifest themselves back to a old student film John Carpenter made titled Dark Star.
Dan O’ Bannon (Alien Co-screenwriter) worked on this project as a young kid and tried to solve the puzzle – How do we make a believable monster on no budget?
Well, below is the end result: A painted beach ball, and Creature from the Black Lagoon hands bought from a Hollywood Magic Shop morphed into look like chicken feet and BOOM here is the result for the film.
Wow! That’s some high tech stuff there yeah? The whole point of this is it drove Dan O’Bannon to make sure his next penned script while living on Dan Shusett’s (Co screenplay credit) couch was that this will NOT happen again.
We will find the right look for the main baddie…period he prophesied. Now this is where we bring in the iconic Swiss artist H.R. Giger and his one of a kind vision. Dan came across one of his paintings titled Necronom IV which ended up being the model for the Alien:
In Dan’s words:
I was struck by the originality of Giger’s paintings, Not only were they frightening works, but they were absolutely, utterly original and beautifully executed. Looking at them I thought, If somebody could get this guy to design a monster for a movie, it would be something no one’s ever seen before. So I went in knowing that I had the cherry on top with the visualization of the thing.
Now all that was needed was to secure financing. Sci Fi fans will appreciate this – Alien was green lit from Fox because of the success of Luke Skywalker and Co.
The studio was looking for the next Star Wars when the script for Alien landed on the desk of then head of Fox, Alan Ladd Jr. It was a that time the only story that took place in space, and had a ship with a crew. Almost overnight the money was in place, and the rest is history.
Here is a bit of trivia… John Travolta was considered to play the lead Ripley until out of nowhere came this young, enthused Sigourney Weaver gal who blew the lid off her screen test.
Vincent Vega, yes… Ellen Ripley, no.
Stick to saving mob bosses girls who OD off heroine with a magic marker and a shot of adrenaline!
With the talent backing of Sir Ridley Scott, H.R. Giger and Dan O’ Bannon, and countless others Alien tore into the box office. The Xenomorph (translation from Greek: Xenos – Strange / morph – form) was something people had never seen before.
This memorable money shot will forever be etched into the minds of fans… The dinner scene anyone?
Let’s take a look at some additional beautiful original art by Mr. Giger for the movie. Fans will instantly recognize the renditions.
Seriously who else makes art like this?
Can you imagine what these paintings would go for into today’s market?
Someone from CBSI has a one of these… right? LOL!
Alright with that… you have the backstory to Alien. It sets the table to now delve into the comic material.
The first appearance of Alien in comic form came from none other than the publisher Heavy Metal in 1979 simply titled Alien: The Illustrated Story. Originally this was published in Black and white, written by Archie Goodwin directly from O’ Bannon‘ script, and illustrated and inked by Walt Simonson.
Now let’s fast forward a few years with the arrival of the sequel Aliens and subsequent Aliens comics published by Dark Horse. This started in 1988 with Aliens:Book One a six issue mini series written by Mark Verheiden and illustrated by Mark Nelson and Ron Randall.
It was a direct sequel of sorts to Aliens and continued the story of Hicks and Newt several years after Hadley’s Hope – This was the human terraforming and research colony that well, you know had a bad infestation problem.
The series proved to be a huge success and not too long after arrived Aliens:Book Two which was a four issue limited series written by Mr. Verheiden once again.
It should be noted after that abomination of the movie Alien3 came out, they went back within these comics and changed names and characters due the deaths of Newt, Hicks, and Ripley. This was done “To keep the comic stories relevant to the Alien franchise”
Those changes surfaced in the novel adaptation, then were edited and reprinted in their new forms within the comics as well. They should have just left them alone IMO, as no one had the emotional attachment to these new characters.
Below is the original #1s and covers for book one and two before reprints.
This was followed by four part series titled Aliens: Earth War. Again, it was reprinted and repackaged as Alien: Female War after the travesty known as Alien3. Here is the cover to honor the original # 1. The one to the right is the new and not so improved revision with the present characters…
This next piece is a deep cut for the die hards. Following the books aforementioned came a stand alone titled Aliens: Reapers. The interesting piece to this is it was published into the Fifth Anniversary Special for Dark Horse.
It delved into a potential species that could threaten the existence of the Xenomorphs called The Reapers. Here is this cover and panel for when you are out there digging. Those Reaper cats don’t seem to be intimated by the big bugs!
On that note, let’s look at one more deep cut…
Dark Horse Annual #56 has a one shot story involving the President of the US, and assassination attempt, and a Space Jockey who is trying to reshape the planet. Ah, that sounds a little complicated to me…
The 1990’s continued to see a stream of Aliens comics including more mini series, one shots, and Graphic novels under the Dark Horse label. Here are a few highlighted covers…
Also, there have been 24 different Aliens vs. Predator editions as well for those who like cross overs. The results of this popularity led to a few movies as well.
The 1st appearance of them together in a comic came from Dark Horse presents Vol #1 34-36. Issue #36 was the 1st Aliens vs Predator in the title and 1st cover.
See below as reference:
In closing, there have been many other crossover comics involving the Xenomorph. This creature has truly become an iconic piece of American pie that started with a horribly painted beach ball in a student film, followed by the determination to legitimize a creature the next time out.
Amazing what the human mind can do when it’s tested. The movie tag line: In space no one can hear you scream has become synonymous with terrifying audiences for decades.
Queens, facehuggers, Xenomorphs, and LV-426 have all become part of the English vernacular. If you are a fan, I urge you to try these on for a read. The mythos is there, just in another media form.
We all wait with anticipation and fingers crossed that the next Aliens script that’s supposedly written with Ripley and Hicks involved comes to fruition soon. I do trust the potential director, Neill Blomkamp as he has an eye for sci fi – See District 9 as an example.
In addition, the most important piece to him is he is a die hard fan, and wants to steer the series in the right direction. However, the studio heads at Fox and Sir Ridley Scott seem to have put a kibosh on that right now as we wait for the last part of the trilogy involving Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. A
h the red tape of Hollywood can screw thinks up at times!
Finally, I hope there was something you can take away from this to add to your comic knowledge. The Alien universe is healthy as the last movie did turn a profit, let’s hope it can continue for the foreseeable future.