image from Dark Horse's Free Comic Book Day 2009 editio
Last week we spoke with Dark Horse Comics VP and Senior Editor Randy Stradley about the state and upcoming new projects in their Star Wars line of titles. But Dark Horse has another pair of licensed comic book titles inspired by science fiction movie franchises, but of a very different nature than everyone's favorite galaxy far, far away?
Separately, the Aliens and Predator franchises are about as far away as you can get from the Star Wars mythos, and when put together, as Dark Horse has successfully done, well comparisons are probably even inappropriate.
That doesn't make them any less fun or successful, however. In fact, Dark Horse has plans to relaunch each property's solo titles and their AVP title later this year. We recently spoke with Chris Warner, the man in charge of the properties and the fellow who used a comic book crossover idea to inspire a movie franchise , about all things Aliens and Predator…
Newsarama: Chris, while comic books being translated to the big screen is now nearly a monthly occurrence at this point, the road from two distinct movie properties, to comic book properties, to comic book crossovers, to big-screen crossover is a petty unique one. How do you feel about basically inspiring a movie franchise?
Chris Warner: It feels great, and I'd like to think Dark Horse was really the first comic book publisher to accomplish that. When we licensed Predator, the film franchise was in limbo, since Predator was seen as a Schwarzenegger vehicle, and Arnold doing a sequel wasn't considered likely. Our take was that the monster was the star, and you could plug in a different lead and situation and just carry on. And with AVP, once the words "Aliens vs. Predator" were spoken (by me, as luck would have it), the film potential was pretty obvious.
As I recall, our Fox contact's reaction when we first pitched it was something to the effect of, "Like King Kong vs. Godzilla. Let's do it!" That said, I'd also like to think that this kind of early comics/film cross-pollination helped open the doors to comics being seen as more viable source material, and not just for characters, but for ideas and stories. Hollywood has seen that when you take the source material seriously, you not only get a better movie, but you can get a great movie. And everyone has Dark Horse to thank [cough].
NRAMA: On that note, how do you feel about the movies made so far? And with your new comic book plans, any ambitions to inspire a third?
CW: The first two Aliens films and the first Predator film were mind-blowing. Even though I have them on tape or disc, I'll still stop whatever I'm doing if I happen to stumble across them while channel surfing. I've seen them all at least thirty times, and I could still watch them any day of the week. I mean, every time the Predator pulls of his helmet and roars at Arnold, I'm still just totally "Yeah! Kill Arnold!"
The other films don't quite measure up, but there are still some incredible moments. I enjoyed the first AVP movie quite a bit, thought it hit the right notes for a big monster-fight free-for-all. I didn't quite get Requiem, to be honest, since it mostly discarded the story elements of the previous film, but it had its moments.
I certainly hope there's a third AVP film, and it would be a kick to see story elements we develop in the new books somehow get in there.
I remember how much fun it was to see stuff in Predator 2 that was directly inspired by the comics. I remember specifically the subway scene, which is an idea I threw out with Mark Verheiden, Randy Stradley, Mike Richardson, and I were jamming on ideas for the first series over a few beers. Monsters, comics, beer - that's some good stuff right there.
NRAMA: Either separately or together, Aliens and Predators are two of the most unusual enduring media properties because neither features sympathetic, hero protagonists, much less even human ones. Perhaps the only “comparables” are the classic monsters like Dracula, the Mummy, or as you mentioned Godzilla, etc, and maybe the more contemporary “slashers” like Jason and Freddy, and even most of those have something of a relatable human element to them.
CW: You have to give a lot of credit to the creators of these creatures and to the storytellers who put them in context. A thousand other monsters have come and gone, but not many have hit the sweet spot like Aliens and Predators in terms of the non-relatable creatures that somehow capture the imagination.
image from Dark Horse's Free Comic Book Day 2009 edition
image from Dark Horse's Free Comic Book Day 2009 editio
I think it's possibly that the types of fear they provoke are just so visceral and the creatures themselves are somehow believable. I can't imagine looking up and seeing Gamera looming over me, but I can envision wandering into an alley and being confronted with these things. The designs of the creatures have a lot to do with this. I think both are the best-designed monsters since the Creature from the Black Lagoon, which I felt as a kid really set the bar for realism in a movie monster.
NRAMA: Can you expand upon you thoughts on the power behind the enduring nature of Aliens and Predators? Is it simple as them being visceral and believable, or is there something more nuanced about their appeal?
CW: There's just something so elemental and primal about these creatures. Aliens to me conjure up the horrors of the natural world, scary because no matter how mankind tries to tame nature, nature doesn't care about us. Storms, viruses, bulldog ants -- they just don't care. I've always thought that being killed and eaten by a spider has to be about the creepiest thing imaginable, and to Aliens we're essentially just something that flew into their web. When you add the fear of the unknown of space, you've got a pretty potent mix.
The Predators are different, but just as frightening, because they represent power without compassion. We're nothing to them, they don't give a damn about us. We exist for their amusement. Considering how often mankind reacts in exactly the same way toward other species, and even our own species, it's no surprise that we're frightened when the tables are turned, because we're forced to look into the mirror and see our own predatory, violent nature.
All that said, Aliens and Predators are really cool, so all this coffee-house flapdoodle is pretty academic.
NRAMA: Well, I wouldn't have a job if not for coffee-house flapdoodle…. So real quickly – the crossovers… Is being caught in the path of this blood feud simply just a "really cool" concept, or is there something more than under the surface that’s key to the appeal?
CW: The being-caught-in-the-middle story is a classic archetype, and AVP ramps it up, since both sides are more than happy to murder us. And there's also the humans/Predators "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" angle, since Aliens are pretty much their own team. Again, our rationality makes us want to believe that if our enemies just got to know us better under duress, fighting together when we have no choice, maybe we could get along.
Then the Predators kill us and use our skulls as goblets or something. Seems fair.
NRAMA: Just for the fun of it, if you could choose any other fictional property to crossover with Aliens and Predators (separately), what would they be?
CW: Well, they're not exactly fictional, but I'd go for Aliens vs. New York Yankees (Yankees lose) and Predator vs. Ted Nugent (Predator wins). Seriously, I think Aliens vs. Alien Legion (which I drew way back in the day) would be a perfect fit, and Predator vs. Conan would be a lot of fun and actually sort of makes sense.
NRAMA: Okay, to wraps things up, what can you tell us about your upcoming new plans for the properties, separately and together?
CW: I don't want to get too much into the stories, since we're throwing in some new angles to the mythos that we hope will be surprising and fun. John Arcudi will be writing all three series, which will give them a nice sense of cohesion, and he's a terrific writer. The art that's coming in from Zach Howard on Aliens and Javier Saltares on Predator is kicking major ass, so I'm confident the fans are going to dig it. As a huge fan myself, to whom these books have played a large part in my career, it's important to me that we do this stuff right. Let the games begin!
Dark Horse's new Aliens series starts in May 2009, Predator in June, and AVP in late 2009/early 2010.Related:
Dark Horse Prepares the Star Wars Universe for an InvasionNew York Comic Con 2009 - Dark Horse Comics PanelNew York Comic Con 2009 - Dark Horse's Star War Panel