Hasslein Blog: The Alien/Predator Comic Strips, Part Two

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Hasslein Blog

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Alien/Predator Comic Strips, Part Two

By Jean-François Boivin

(For part one of this article series, click here.)

ALIENS (Magazine)
While Dark Horse Comics' Aliens and Predator series were big hits in North America, they were hard to obtain in Europe and had to be imported from specialty comic shops. But in 1991, a small, two-years old comics company and mail-order comic shop based in Leicester, UK named Trident Comics (an offshoot of Neptune Publishing) obtained the license for "the rights to publish these comics in Britain*." These were magazine-sized straight reprints of the American material, and no original content was ever planned. Like most European publications, each issue contained several comic strips (in this specific case, three to four per issue); unlike most European publications, the mags didn't contain much else in the way of news, articles or editorials aside from "story so far" blurbs at the start of each strip, a letters page starting with issue #4, and a few extras listed below.


Whether the reprints were fully authorized or not, this was a solution for the avid European fan who needed a monthly dose of his favorite space monsters. The first issue was dated February 1991 (on sale date: late January), numbered 48 pages and was priced at £1.50. The first 11 issues were edited by Martin Skidmore (1959-2011), long-time editor of the Fantasy Advertiser comic book fanzine. The credits also list Jane Huband handling the design and Nigel MacKay for the promotion. Issue #12 (January 1992) did not list an "editor" in the credits, instead Dan Abnett and Nigel MacKay were credited as "production team." That issue also sported a new design by John Mould (replacing Huband) and now contained 64 pages at the new price of £1.95 so a fourth monthly comic strip could be added. Issue #14 stopped listing any credits aside from the cover artist, and issues #15-16 only contained two strips each. Issue #16 (May 1992) was the last Trident Comics issue, and while the Aliens: Genocide reprint reached its conclusion, the Aliens Book One strip was stopped abruptly at the equivalent of page 11 of issue #4 of the original American comic.

Issue #17 saw a complete change in publisher, as the newly-formed International branch of Dark Horse Comics took over the UK publishing duties of their own licensed comics. Without missing a beat, #17 was published a month after the last Trident issue, and the look and design of the mag became much more professional. Edited by Michael Bennent, this issue contained original cover art, an editorial, an original article and an interview with cover artist and Alien³ designer Chris Halls (both by Dave Hughes), and a contest. Instead of continuing the Aliens Book One reprints, the reprints were the remaining (up-to-then) Aliens and Predator stories from the anthology comic Dark Horse Presents: "Theory of Alien Propagation" (DHP#24), "Advent/Terminus" (DHP#42-43), "Reapers" (DHP 5th Anniversary Special) and "Predator" (DHP#46). The first three of those were the colorized versions that were collected as Dark Horse Presents: Aliens. Now 52 pages and priced at £1.95, this was a taste of what would come next as Dark Horse would restart a new series with Aliens Volume 2 (see below).

* According to editor Martin Skidmore in a response to a letter (issue #6). The details of this statement as to whether Trident was licensed by 20th Century Fox and/or Dark Horse Comics falls outside of the scope of this article.

As a side note, Trident Comics also published two other series of Dark Horse Comics reprints: The Terminator in July 1991 (12 issues) and Indiana Jones in October 1991 (3 issues). A 52-page monthly Predator Magazine was announced for March 1992 reprinting the Predator 2 movie adaptation, but by all accounts it never saw print.






Reprints:

Extras:
  • a 3-page preview of another Trident publication, the weekly Toxic! (in #3)
  •  a poster of a Dave Dorman cover (in #8)
  •  a "design your own frightening monster" competition & a readership survey (in #9)
  • the six winning entries of the competition (in #13)
  
ALIENS (Magazine) Volume 2
Volume 2, Number 1 was published on June 18th, 1992 (cover date: July 1992) in the UK by Dark Horse International, the British off-shoot of the five year-old American publisher. Volume 2 continued the same design and content style that DHI had started with #17 of the previous series. During DHI's short life, a few other titles (see the entry for Total Carnage below) came and went, but the Aliens series was there from the beginning to the end and could be considered the flagship title. Early issues had limited print runs of 10,000 copies (probably lower in later issues) and became available through US retailers shortly after. Unfortunately, sales dropped after the first year and the series was cancelled after #22 (April 1994) when DHI ceased operations.

Dick Hansom took the solo editorial reins from Michael Bennent with issue #2, and Cefn Ridout took over with #11. Dave Hughes officially became the "Features Editor" with issue #3 and wrote most of the articles in the series. Nigel MacKay became Production Manager with #21 replacing Mark Collings, and is the only staff that was also part of the Trident Comics series.







This particular series has some appeal to collectors and fans, as each issue between #9-20 included an original comic strip consisting of two stories: "Aliens: Sacrifice" (#9-12) by Peter Milligan and Paul Johnson was reprinted in the US as a one shot in May 1993, and later collected in the Aliens: Sacrifice and Salvation TPB. "Aliens: Crusade" by Michael Cook and Christian Gorny was next, starting with #13, and was supposed to run in 10 parts until #22. Sadly the story took a hiatus with #21-22 due to some last-minute artistic delays and so the last two chapters were rescheduled for #23-24 never appeared in print, "Aliens: Crusade" remains uncollected to this day. All we have of those last two chapters are from the original solicitations (in outlets such as Dark Horse Insider and Previews) for #21's "Aliens: Crusade" entry reads "where the horrors of the cathedral are revealed" and for #22 "reaches its conclusion with a climactic confrontation between Channon and the Alien Queen in the River Thames."

After "Aliens: Crusade" would have been concluded, another story that was solicited for #23 titled Aliens: Matrix (with the "Crusade" delays it would have been pushed back to #25). The solicitation (from Dark Horse Insider Vol.2 #28) reads "Aliens: Matrix is a new illustrated novella, written by one of comicdom's top talents, Grant Morrison, with fully painted illustrations by cover artist and Alien³ special-effects designer Chris Halls. A ship of synthetics lands on a snow planet, but cannot imagine the horrors that lie in store for them." This long-lost story is lamented by fans.

Here's the solicited cover for the unpublished #23.

The cancellation of the magazine also interrupted the running reprint stories: Aliens: Colonial Marines went as far as the first half of the original issue #7 (of 10); only the first installment of Aliens: Rogue was published; and only the first two parts (of 3) of the "Aliens: Alien" story were shown.

Other exclusive items of interest in the magazine's run included "Technical Readout" by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, which covered in-universe data about various technologies mostly pertaining to the Colonial Marines from the movie Aliens (most of which were later edited as part of Brimmicombe-Wood's book Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual [Boxtree, 1995; reprinted Titan Books, 2012]); "The Motion Tracker" was a regular feature containing Aliens-related news; the "Bug Hunt" letters page, and various features, articles and interviews. Issues #9-10 also included detachable reprints of the "Aliens: Countdown" story from Dark Horse Insider #14-27 (see Part 1 of this blog), and is the only place it was ever collected or reprinted. As a side note, ironically these two bonus insert comics sported the same cover art (by Denis Beauvais) as Trident Comics' Aliens Magazine #2-3.


Reprints:
  • Aliens: Hive #1-4 (in #1-9)
  • Predator: Cold War #1-4 (in #1-8)
  • Aliens: Newt's Tale #1-2 (in #2-8)
  • Dark Horse Insider Vol.2 #1-14 "Aliens vs. Predator 2" parts 2,4,6-15 (in #3-14) (part 6 was duplicated in #7 & 9; see Alien³ Movie Special below for parts 1,3,5)
  • Aliens: Colonial Marines #1-10 (in #9-22 incomplete)
  • Aliens: Tribes GSA (in #10-16)
  • Dark Horse Comics #1-2 "Predator: Rite of Passage" (in #10-11)
  • Dark Horse Comics #3-5 "Aliens: Horror Show" (in #12-14)
  • Dark Horse Comics #12-13 "Aliens: Backsplash" (in #15-16)
  • Dark Horse Comics #11 "Aliens: Taste" (in #17)
  • Dark Horse Comics #15-16 "Aliens: Cargo" (in #17-18)
  • Dark Horse Comics #1-2 "Renegade" (in #18-19)
  • Aliens: Salvation (in #19-21)
  • Dark Horse Comics #17-19 "Aliens: Alien" (in #21-22 incomplete)
  • Aliens: Rogue #1-4 (in #22 incomplete)
Original Material:
·         Aliens: Sacrifice (in #9-12)
·         Aliens: Crusade (in #13-20 incomplete)

Extras:
  • "Martha Washington's War Diary" story from Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special as an insert b&w booklet (in #1)
  • "Sole Survivors" story from Dark Horse Presents #10 as an insert b&w booklet (in #2)
  • Dark Horse readers survey (in #4)
  • Aliens Special Mini Comic #1-2 reprinting the "Aliens: Countdown" strips from Dark Horse Insider #14-27 (in #9-10)
  • Alien³ Super Nintendo game ad "Terminal Addiction" (in #12)
  • Free Aliens postcard (in #17)
ALIEN³ MOVIE SPECIAL
The beginning of the Aliens Vol. 2 magazine also corresponded with the release date of Alien³, and most articles were about the making of that movie. For the movie adaptation itself, by Steven Grant and Christopher Taylor & Rick Magyar (published June-July 1992 in the U.S.), Dark Horse International chose to reprint it in a separate "Aliens Magazine Presents" spin-off magazine, published bi-weekly (or fortnightly as the British say). Also edited by Dick Hansom, this limited series contained exclusive Alien³ articles (such as an Alien³ Technical Readout), contests and posters, and interviews with Stephen Norrington and Sigourney Weaver The series also reprinted parts 1, 3 and 5 of the Aliens vs. Predator 2 strip from Dark Horse Insider Vol.2 (see Part 1 of this blog) as a crossover with its parent publication.

#1 was published August 5, #2 on August 26 and #3 on September 23. All three used the same Arthur Suydam covers as the US original series.


TOTAL CARNAGE
During its two-year existence, Dark Horse International (UK) published a few other titles aside from Aliens. But there was only one other of interest for this article. Total Carnage started in April 1993 and was targeting the action movie fanbase, with articles and interviews from the genre. With monikers such as "COMICS WITH ATTITUDE" and "NOT FOR KIDDIES," the magazine reprinted some edgier and a bit more violent stories, such as Grendel, The Mask and the Army of Darkness movie adaptation. The classic three-issue crossover Batman vs. Predator by Dave Gibbons and Andy & Adam Kubert was reprinted in #1-9. Issue #9 also started the reprinting of Chris Claremont's Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species series, but it only lasted for two issues as Total Carnage was cancelled after #10 (January 1994) due to low sales. Solicitations for #11-12 were advertising the reprinting of the Predator story "Blood Feud" from the anthology series Dark Horse Comics #4-7.

The only cool extras in the series were a Total Carnage tattoo included with #1, and a Predator postcard (forming the other half of the image from the only in Aliens Vol.2 #17) with issue #9.




As a side note, other DHI titles that were published were The Terminator in October 1992 (5 issues, taking over from Trident Comics with #13), Star Wars featuring Indiana Jones in October 1992 (10 issues), Bram Stoker's Dracula in January 1993 (10 issues), Manga Mania in July 1993 (15 issues; then continued by Manga Entertainment and later by Titan Comics), Jurassic Park in July 1993 (11 issues) and Max Overload! in March 1994 (1 issue). A RoboCop series was announced for early 1994 but never saw publication.



NEXT: John Byrne's ALIENS visits the 1950's, and JUDGE DREDD's encounters.


Jean-François (JF) Boivin is currently writing If It Bleeds: The Chronology of the Alien/Predator Universe for Hasslein Books. He collaborated on Echoes of the Jedi—the fourth adventure of the Dawn of Defiance campaign for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game—with Abel G. Peña. He is a founding member of the Star Wars Fanboy Association, and contributes comics reviews for TheForce.Net. Boivin was listed in the acknowledgements for Ann Margaret Lewis' The Essential Guide to Alien Species, as well as Ryder Windham's Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force.

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1 Comments:

At December 21, 2013 at 10:56 AM , Blogger JF Boivin said...

I,d like to point out that, there is a lot of misinformation on various online Wikis and such, about Trident Comics, Dark Horse International, and the Aliens volume 2 final issues. I started to correct some of them but it just goes to tell you that anyone can write those entries without doing proper research. I never use wikis as references.

 

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