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


Hasslein Blog

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Alien/Predator Comic Strips, Part Three

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

By Jean-François Boivin

Diamond Comic Distributors is now the main provider for comic shops all around the world. But when the company started in 1982, there was a lot of competition. The company grew and absorbed other distributors, and in 1990 they started publishing a catalog for pre-orders titled Previews (much like their main competitor Capital City Distribution did the year before with their Advance Comics) that was sold to the public through local shops. The magazine includes advance solicitations with description of upcoming releases (in order of publishing company) and an order form that could be filled out by comic shop owners to order for their customers.

Most issues included preview pages of comics and promotional cards and posters. In its third year, Previews started including exclusive comic strips with the January 1993 issue (Vol. III, No. 1). That very first storyline was provided by Dark Horse Comics, and was laid out over 13 two-page installments. The selection was a biggie: John Byrne was given full freedom to write and illustrate his own story set in the Aliens universe, titled "Aliens: Earth Angel." Byrne had a bit of past history with the Alien franchise: in his end notes for the Dark Horse re-publication in July 1992 of one of his early stories, Critical Error[1], Byrne says that he was inspired by a photograph of the movie Alien that he saw in the pages of Heavy Metal. Now he had the chance to write an actual Alien story, and he chose to set it on Earth, in a small American town in the 1950s, and make it play out like an old school sci-fi movie. It'’s got a crashed alien ship, a motorcycle gang, and a town doctor who becomes a hero.

The first installment was labelled “Part 1 (of 13)” but was mostly a double-page spread of what would become the wraparound cover for the collected one-shot. By the third installment (in the March 1993 issue,) the label was “Chapter 2,” effectively wiping the original “Part 1” and making it a 12-part story that concluded in the January 1994 issue (Vol. IV, No. 1). The story was collected and published by Dark Horse as a cardstock-cover, high-quality pages one-shot in August 1994.

The following year, the exclusive Previews comic strip was another Dark Horse story, this time an installment of Frank Miller’s Sin City titled “The Babe Wore Red.” After that run was over, another strip of interest for this article began in the February 1995 issue (Vol. V, No. 2) and comprised twelve parts, ending in the February 1996 issue. It was titled “Aliens vs. Predator: Booty” and was written by Barbara R. Kesel, with art by Ron Randall. This self-contained story came along right at the same time that Dark Horse was publishing the unrelated[2] Aliens vs. Predator: Duel and Aliens vs. Predator: War series, which were widely popular. The strip was released immediately after as a one shot issue[3] by Dark Horse on January 23, 1996.

Today, Titan is the main licensor for Alien, Aliens, Aliens vs. Predator and Prometheus books and novels. In the ’90s, they used to print the comic collections from Dark Horse for the U.K. market. They also publish many magazines, and in December 1997, after the release of Alien Resurrection in theaters, they tried to “resurrect” a magazine of comic strips much like Trident Comics and Dark Horse International had done years before (see part two of this blog series). But the comic magazine, edited by Marcus Hearn, had very little success and was cancelled abruptly after only three issues.

The first two issues reprinted the Alien Resurrection adaptation from Dark Horse Comics, written by James Vance with art by Eduardo Risso. To date, it is the only place where it was reprinted in English. To make up the rest of the mag’s 50 pages, a reprint of Aliens: Earth Angel (see previous part of this blog) was also included in those two issues. Issue #3 began a reprint of the first part of Aliens: Berkerker, and the rest was a reprint of half of the three-part story “Aliens: Mondo Pest” from Dark Horse Comics #22-24.

Exclusive articles were also printed: #1 has “The Beginner’s Guide to Alien Resurrection” by Eric Frederickson and “Alien Archivist,” an interview with Alan Adler. The second issue include “Giger’s Aliens” by Dave Hughes and “Beasts” by Jonathan Rigby. There were also some news page titled “The Company Bulletin” and contests. The last page of #3 advertises the content for the next issue to go on sale March 9, 1998, and there’s even a subscription coupon. But that issue was never realized.

Today, this mag is collectible mostly for its articles and the larger page-size of the comics.

This magazine started being published in the U.K. in October 1990 as a companion to the popular 2000 A.D. (see next section for its history), both by Fleetway Publications at the time. Like its sister magazine, The Megazine was an anthology of sci-fi and fantasy stories starring Dredd and other characters. But unlike 2000 A.D., this one was monthly and included reprinted stories, and the new stories were not necessarily in chronological order.

The Megazine went on for 20 issues, then continued as a Volume 2 in May 1992 when it became bi-monthly (and switched titles to simply Judge Dredd Megazine at #50.) This incarnation lasted for 83 issues until July 1995, around the time of the awful Sylvester Stallone movie. Then Fleetway became Egmont Fleetway Limited, and they continued publishing the title monthly again as Volume 3, which included 79 issues during its run from July 1995 to July 2001.

During its Volume 3 era, one story was a cross-over between Judge Dredd and Twentieth Century Fox’s property Predator, in collaboration with Dark Horse Comics. The story, simply titled “Predator vs. Judge Dredd” and written by Dredd co-creator John Wagner and illustrated by Enrique Alcatena, was published in three parts of 20 pages in issues #36-38 (Dec. 1997 to Feb. 1998.) The rest of the pages were dedicated to other strips and articles. At the same time, the Megazine was “evolving towards a new look and a new editorial philosophy[4]” which was geared towards more original material. The crossover was published right on the heels of its counterpart in North America where it was released by Dark Horse Comics as the three-issue Predator vs. Judge Dredd on Oct. 22, Nov.19 and Dec.24 of 1997. Dark Horse later published a collected edition TPB in October 1998.

Much like the Dredd stories in 2000 A.D., this one takes place 122 years in the future so is set in 2119 (see details about the dating system in the next section). The greatest revelation was that the events from the Predator movie and the Predator: Concrete Jungle comic did take place in Dredd’s world’s past, as they are referred to in the story. Even better, one of the new characters brought in from Psi Division to help the judges hunt do the Predator is Alan Schaefer’s great, great granddaughter! Unfortunately that character never appeared in later stories.

Egmont Fleetway was bought out by video game developer Rebellion in 2000, and Judge Dredd Megazine went on to a Volume 4 which lasted 18 issues, before resuming normal numbering starting with #201. It is still being published to this day.

2000 A.D.
2000 A.D. (later “AD”) is a weekly British sci-fi/action anthology comic that started out in 1977 by IPC Magazines. It contained strips starring various characters, the most popular of which is still Judge Dredd who was a hit upon his first appearance in the second issue. Issue numbers are referred to as “progs” or programs. A concept that was very innovative at the time was to have the Dredd stories progress at the same rate as real time, i.e. when a year passes in the real world, a year has passed in the chronological ongoing strip. The very first Dredd from 1977 was set in 2099, in a futuristic New York City (which in the following issue was made a small part of the cross-continent Mega-City One). From then on, readers could know when the story was set by adding 122 years to the year of publication.

Several specials and spinoffs have been released over the years, including Annuals which stopped being published after 1991, when it was renamed Yearbook until the last one in 1995. When the publisher and the magazine were bought out by Rebellion in 2000, the “end of the year” annuals began anew, but were now numbered with a Prog of the year of publication, in-between the regular numbering, a practice that would last to this day. So Prog 2000[5] (15 Dec. 1999 to 4 Jan. 2000) chronologically followed Prog 1173 (8 Dec. 1999) and would be followed by Prog 1174 (5 Jan. 2000).

Two years later in the Prog 2003 (18 Dec. 2002 to 7 Jan. 2003), the Judge Dredd storyline would cross-over into the Alien universe, again in collaboration with Dark Horse Comics, with the first chapter of “Judge Dredd vs. Aliens: Incubus,” which would continue weekly in Prog 1322 until Prog 1335[6] (9 Apr. 2003), a total of 15 parts of six pages each. The story was co-written by John Wagner (who had previously written the Predator vs. Judge Dredd crossover, see previous section, and had dabbled in the Aliens universe before with Aliens: Berserker for Dark Horse) and former editor Andy Diggle, with art by Henry Flint and colors by Chris Blythe. At that point in the Dredd universe, the year was the end of 2124 and beginning of 2125, which is only a couple of years after the events of the movie Alien, but unlike in the Predator crossover, the events of the Alien movies do not exist in the Dredd universe.

In America, Dark Horse published (or can it be considered a reprint?) the storyline as a four-issue series[7], the first of which a few weeks (March 19th) before the 2000 AD strip ended and the last on June 18th. Rebellion published the collected edition of Judge Dredd vs. Aliens: Incubus in hardcover[8] later in November 2003, then in softcover in April 2007. Dark Horse published their own collected edition in January 2004.

Rebellion’s Hardcover and Softcover collections.
On October 8, 2014, both Dredd crossovers were collected in a 184-page hardcover titled Predator versus Judge Dredd versus Aliens: Incubus and Other Stories.

[1] Originally published in his 1980 book The Art of John Byrne Volume One.
[2] “Booty” does tie-in to the Aliens continuity, as it includes a reference to the Innominata station from Aliens: Labyrinth.
[3] Which also included a 3-page preview and order form for Aliens: Mondo Heat.
[4] From the editorial of Vol.3, #36 by David Bishop.                            
[5] The regular numbering reached Prog 2000 recently with the 28 Sep. 2016 issue. They kept using the numbering even if 2000-2015 were used with the end-of-the-year annuals. Maybe Prog 2016 will come out twice…
[6] Prog 1335 was offered in two variant covers.
[7] Re-using the covers from 2000 AD Progs 1324, 1322, 1330 and 1335 (Variant A).
[8] With an introduction by Simon Pegg.

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At October 27, 2016 at 8:09 PM , Blogger Christophe said...

Interesting stuff. I had no idea about the Titan magazines from 1998. How's the book coming along?


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