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Aliens: This Time it’s Comics



This year the movie Aliens turns 30. It’s a seminal movie for me — it’s still one of my favorite films and for a time was my favorite movie. And while I suspect a lot will be written on it this year, I don’t think anyone else will be writing about something Aliens that’s just as important as the movie is to me; the Dark Horse Aliens comic books.

ca9f16c9251cfcafb2b316114c8895d9One of the things I find fascinating about Aliens is that while the movie was a hit at the 1986 box office there wasn’t an immediate rush to release a sequel. If Aliens were released today a sequel would go into production immediately and be in theaters in a year or two, but back then there was a six year gap between Aliens and the next Alien 3 in 1992. Which meant that fans of the Aliens story like myself were clamoring for anything Aliens related. Which meant that when Dark Horse Comics released a comic book sequel in 1988 we were all over it.

Written by Mark Verheiden with art from Mark A. Nelson, the six issue Aliens continued the story from the 1986 film in a comic form. Here, survivors of the movie Hicks and Newt must come to terms with what it means to have lived through the alien swarms where no one wants to be around Hicks since he was scarred by the creatures with Newt suffering mental problems from basically having her life destroyed as a young girl on a far-off world. Plus there’s government agencies wanting to weaponize the creatures and a religious group trying let the alien loose on the Earth as a cleansing force.

And like the movie, the Aliens comic was also extremely successful. The series was reprinted many times — one issue I have is from the fifth printing — which would lead to two additional Aliens series as a continuation of this story as well as a host of other Aliens comic books after. Even today Dark Horse is still producing new Aliens stories and comics.

aliens_book_1_cover_4_by_syl3ntbob-d3929p0I discovered the comics in a roundabout way, by buying the first issue of the second Aliens series first, being blown away then collecting the rest of the second series as those were released monthly. Then, later on, I saved up enough cash to order the first six issue series direct from Dark Horse to complete my collection.

(One funny thing about the first Aliens comic series is that when the film Alien 3 was released Dark Horse went back though the early series to feature Hicks and Newt and renamed them as Billie and Wilks and re-lettered those issues for future publications since in neither Hicks or Newt live to see the events in Alien 3.)

With Aliens comics being so popular Dark Horse would also do the same thing with the 1987 Predator movie, continuing that story too from the movies to comic book form in 1989. And with Dark Horse doing both Aliens and Predator comics it was only a matter of time before those two characters would cross over with Aliens vs Predator.

While the Aliens vs Predator movies of the last decade were, to put it mildly, quite lame. The Aliens vs Predator comics were anything but and are things I still pick up and read to this very day.

3Comic books back in 1988 didn’t have much edge to them. To be sure things like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns had been released and were redefining the genera. But for the most part comics then were mostly super-hero in nature and were directed at kids. But the Aliens comic was anything but — it had an edge and wasn’t meant for kids. The comic dealt with adult things and Verheiden told the story on adult terms which appealed greatly to myself — a young teen who still loved comics but was quickly aging out of Marvel and DC’s core demographic.

If the movie Aliens were released today I doubt the movie studio would give Dark Horse as much latitude as they did in 1988 with the Aliens comic. My guess is that they’d either be limited to publishing a comic book adaptation of the movie or of perhaps telling a story in the same universe but not about two of the characters from the film.

The first three Aliens comic book series that tells the Hicks and Newt…errr…Billie and Wilks stories can be found collected as, in order, Aliens: Outbreak, Aliens: Nightmare Asylum and Aliens: Earth War or all three collected as Aliens Omnibus, Vol. 1 and a brand new hardcover Aliens 30th Anniversary: The Original Comics Series is also available.