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


Hasslein Blog

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Alien/Predator Comic Strips, Part One

By Jean-François Boivin

The Aliens and Predator licenses have been held by Dark Horse Comics since 1988 and 1989 (respectively), and several series of each and/or both franchises have been published over the years. But some harder-to-find stories were published outside of the regular comics medium either for promotional reasons, or as crossovers with another publisher, or because magazines are the medium for comic strips in that country. In this series of blogs, I will cover all the Aliens and/or Predator comic strips that were published in various magazines.

The American comic magazine Heavy Metal debuted in April 1977. It was created by the editors of National Lampoon as an English language version of the artistic French publication Métal Hurlant that had started publication more than two years prior. But Heavy Metal Publications, Inc., soon branched out into publishing some original graphic novels as part of a Heavy Metal Presents series* (distributed by Simon & Schuster). In summer of 1979, one of those books was titled Alien: The Illustrated Story, adapted from the 20th Century Fox movie by Archie Goodwin and illustrated by Walter Simonson, two giants of the comics industry. The book came out around the same time as the movie, but to give us a taste, "The adult illustrated fantasy magazine" presented a two-part preview of the book at the beginning of their third year of publication, in the May and June 1979 issues of the magazine.

Volume III, No. 1 (whole issue #26) contained the first eight pages of the story starting on page 12, including the big "Alien" title splash page and the Joseph Conrad quote: "We live as we dream—alone." Volume III, No. 2 (whole issue #27) had the next eight pages starting on page 48, and ending with a literal cliffhanger: just when the landing party walk up a rocky rise on LV-426 and gasp in disbelief at what they discover.

To read the following 45 pages you had to buy the book, which is mentioned in the editorial of both issues and came out around the same time as Heavy Metal #27. The final book contains only minor corrections within its first 16 pages that differ from the magazine preview: mainly, the dialogue spoken over intercoms was now blue, and the "Alien" from the "Alien: The Illustrated Story" title was removed from page 9 (because it was redundant with the "Alien" title on pages 1-2).

Heavy Metal Books also published The Book of Alien, by Paul Scanlon and Michael Gross, at the same time. Both books were later reprinted in the U.K. by Titan Books, with different covers: The Book of Alien in April 1993 and Alien: The Illustrated Story in September 2012. In October 2012, Titan published Alien: The Illustrated Story—The Original Art Edition, which consists of the "b/w comic strip, scanned from the artist's original art boards, plus an in-depth interview with Simonson, the original script pages, colour tryouts and sketches."

* Early entries included Psychorock (by Macedo), Arzach (by Moebius), Candice at Sea (by Lob and Pichard), Conquering Armies (by Dionnet and Gal), Homer's Ulysses (by Lob and Pichard), Is Man Good? (by Moebius), Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human: The Graphic Story Version (by Doug Moench and Alex Nino), Barbarella (by Jean-Claude Forest) and So Beautiful and So Dangerous (by Angus McKie).

Skeleton Crew started out in 1988 as a fanzine about "modern horror literature" created by Dave Hughes in the U.K. The self-published magazine saw moderate success with its varied content of professional fiction and articles by and about such respected writers as Clive Barker, Brian Lumley and Ramsey Campbell. After a couple of years, the magazine was picked up by Argus House which began publishing it as a professional magazine. The numbering started anew (with Volume 2, Issue 1 dated July 1990), and the subtitle was now "Portraits of Horror."

With its second professional issue (cover date: August 1990; on-sale date: mid-July), the editor (still Dave Hughes) turned his attention to the Aliens franchise and made an "Aliens-themed" issue. Of interest was an original two-page comic story (p. 32-33) with a script by Adrien Rigelsford and art by assistant-editor Lee Brimmicombe-Wood (who would later write and illustrate articles for Dark Horse International's Aliens Vol. 2 with help from Hughes. The story contains no dialogue, as it is told from a Xenomorph's point-of-view, from hatching, to implanting an egg inside a human's throat, to bursting from the human's chest and escape in the wilderness of what seems to be LV-426. The alien hides inside what looks like an atmosphere processor and when an alien queen is burning to death, the alien screams and a title appears: "Do Aliens Dream?"

Other articles included in this issue (among its regular dose of horror fiction, articles and reviews) consist of:

  • Rigelsford's early speculations about the upcoming Alien III (AKA Alien World)
  • Alien concept artist Chris Foss writes about his experiences working on the pre-production of the movie
  • Actor Brian Blessed expressing his love of the Alien movies
  • A long interview with James Cameron about his career by Philip Nutman
  • A review of the Dark Horse Aliens comics so far (at that point only Book 1 and 2 were available) by Nick Gillott; the beautiful cover by John Bolton is from Aliens: Earth War #1, which had just come out the month before
  • A one-page parody by Brimmicombe-Wood of Leading Edge Games' Aliens Expansion for their licensed boardgame
That particular issue also reportedly had the editorial page, a discourse about censorship by editor Hughes, removed at the last minute and replaced by a magazine subscription advertisement. Some copies of the "banned" version might have seen circulation.

The first incarnation of Dark Horse Insider was a free (it was sold in bundles of 100 copies for $5 to retailers) eight-page, monthly "newspaper" published by Dark Horse Comics from 1989 to 1991 (in the style of Comic Shop News). Starting with #14 (Sept. 1990), the strip Aliens: Countdown by Mike Richardson and art by Denis (herein spelled "Dennis") Beauvais ran for 14 one-page installments until the penultimate issue #27 (Nov. 1991). Some highlights included one issue that carried two pages of the strip (#22, May 1991), and an apology by the editor for past grammatical errors (#23, June-July 1991). This story was only reprinted one time to date, as a two-part insert comic included with #9-10 of Dark Horse International's Aliens Vol. 2, and thus became quite rare. The final issue #28 (Dec. 1991) contained a two-page preview of the next strip, an Aliens vs. Predator story that would start in Vol. 2 of the publication.

Note: Missing from the above pic are #16, 20 and 23.


In January 1992, Dark Horse updated the format of their self-promotional publication from a thin newspaper to a comic-sized, 32-page black-and-white format. It was still free, and still contained some original comic strips on top of news, previews, interviews and other bits of inside information. The first strip was Aliens vs. Predator 2 (initially Aliens vs. Predator II), written by Randy Stradley and illustrated by Chris Warner. This was a continuation to the blockbuster 1990 Aliens vs. Predator miniseries (as well as its "epilogue" in Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special in 1991) by Stradley and Phill Norwood, and shows Machiko as part of a tribe of Predators on a mission to capture an Alien Queen. The strip lasted for 14 issues, and was first reprinted (in black and white) in Dark Horse International's Alien 3 Movie Special #1-3 (Parts 1, 3 and 5) and Aliens Vol. 2 #3-14 (Parts 2, 4 and 6-15), and later in color as Aliens vs. Predator: War #0 a prelude to the sequel miniseries.

This incarnation of Dark Horse Insider got bumped to 48 pages with #27, then back to 32 in the later issues until the last one #48 in December 1995. Some other Aliens-related highlights of the series included previews of Aliens: Hive #1 (in #1), Cyberantics (in #2), Aliens: Newt's Tale #1 (in #4), Aliens: Colonial Marines #1 (in #12) and Aliens: Rogue #1 (in #14).

As a side note, later comic strips included Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi—Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast-Wars of Onderon (#15-20), Tales of the Mask (#21, 23-27 and 29-34), and The Dirty Pair: "I Honestly Hate You" (#35-36). There was a third volume of the Insider that lasted for 20 issues from January 1996 to August 1997, but each one consisted of a folded promotional poster with some release information on the back. That series contained no exclusive comic strips (that job went to Dark Horse Extra).

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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