“In space no one can hear you scream.”
But in comics, they sure can show it.
Earlier this month Dark Horse Comics unveiled plans for a comics line based on the Aliens, Predator and Prometheus movies. It all starts with four miniseries – Predator, Aliens, Prometheus and Aliens Vs. Predator – under the banner of “Fire & Stone” and launches what the publisher is calling “a new universe of terror.” Earlier we spoke with AvP writer Christopher Sebela, and now we turn to one of the men behind the big picture: Dark Horse Editor-In-Chief Scott Allie.
Newsarama talked with Allie about coalescing these two franchises and the recent Prometheusfilm into one larger cohesive universe, comparing it to Dark Horse’s other major space line Star Wars, as well as Joss Whedon’s influence on the behind-the-scenes planning of the larger story.
Newsarama: This is a bold new line – four titles, spinning out of the interconnected Predator/Alien universe. You’ve published Aliens and Predator titles before, famously creating the idea of Aliens Vs. Predator, but what led to Dark Horse jumping to not just do an not just one series but four?
Scott Allie: Mike Richardson had been talking to Ridley Scott and his company about doing Prometheus comics since around the time the movie was first announced. We were also interested in bringing our Aliens and Predator comics back strong, so putting it all together seemed to serve our needs, serve the stories, and really service the fans as well, giving them some of the connectedness that they were hoping to see in the Prometheus film. Mike came up with the idea of taking all four titles to tell one story. It allows us to do something with a complexity and density we couldn't necessarily do in a monthly series, have these overlapping threads and interconnected characters.
Nrama: These are just miniseries at this point, right?
Allie: Just miniseries, and then the fifth book is a one-shot titled Prometheus: Omega.
Nrama: How would you describe this overall story you're telling with the these five series?
Allie: A lot of terrible things are drawn to the moon where Prometheus took place on, leading to a great deal of suffering. A salvage crew goes out looking for answers to some simple questions, they face some bigger questions, and are sucked into a very high-pitched horror adventure story that wrestles with some of the same questions as Prometheus, and the themes the best of these films tackled.
Nrama: Prometheus came out two years ago, and this seemed like it would be ideal to come out around them – you touched on this briefly, but I have to ask: why is now the right time to do it?
Allie: I am told Ridley wasn't ready at the time. He didn't want anything that would go beyond the story of the film at the same time as the film, which makes a lot of sense. It's the same reason there were no Firefly comics at the time the TV show launched. Joss Whedon wanted to wait until Season 2 or so … At the time of the Prometheus film, we did have a deal in place to do comics, but Mr. Scott wanted the film to have the room to breathe. Now, as they work on the screenplay for the next film, there's room to take some pieces of the story into some other directions.
Nrama: You mention "screenplay for the next film;" I won't ask about the plot of that as I know you couldn't say anything even if you knew, but will this work in tandem with the second Prometheus movie?
Allie: Short answer is yes. I haven't read anything for the next film, and I've been told relatively little, but the guys at Ridley's office are making sure what we're doing works with what they're doing.
Nrama: What are you calling this shared line/universe?
Allie: The New 52! Space Monsters Now! No, we don't have the kind of name you mean, in that way, but the story is called Fire and Stone. You'll see that on the covers of all the books.
Nrama: Dark Horse has made a lot of money and earned a lot of fans with another space sci-fi drama in that of Star Wars, but this is very, very different. How would you compare the two franchises, especially in comics?
Allie: Oh, this is so much darker, and really, it's more sci-fi—especially with the advent of Prometheus, which adds some more sci-fi elements to the universe. But Star Wars has those amazing characters, and these worlds, particularly AvP, are defined by their monsters. So the thing I personally am most focused on in this project is creating a cast of great characters, iconic, bold, excellent comic book characters that you'll want to follow from book to book, and onward … And the way the writers are writing together, they each have a stake in the characters, they each help to define the characters, unlike how it sometimes works in comics where a writer will have his or her characters, and doesn't want to have to bother with the other guys. These writers are creating the Luke, the Vader, of the Dark Horse version of Prometheus, et al, and they're really pushing to make the characters special.
Nrama: And also, Predator and Alien are space horror movies – with numerous character deaths in each story. Will we see any characters from previous Alien and Predator comics and movies?
Allie: No, they keep dying! Hopefully some of our guys will live, or we're making all this stuff up for nothing.
Nrama: Are you working with any of the screenwriters or people involved in the Aliens or Predator movies for this comic book line?
Allie: Nope! Well, one of Ridley's main guys, Steve Asbell, has been really hands on and helpful, but no … the writers here are all comics folks. I thought about bringing in some writers from other fields, but we really wanted to define a comic book universe for these titles, and getting hardcore comics creators involved seemed like the way to go.
Nrama: An interesting creative facet to this line is that all the writers happen to live in Dark Horse’s home base, Portland. How’d that come about, and what’s it like having them all available to bring in in person to develop the story?
Allie: Right. All the writers are Portland based, which has allowed us to have a very face to face collaboration without buying a lot of plane tickets, and also to meet repeatedly over what now seems like many, many months … Fortunately, Portland is Comics Mecca, so we had a considerable roster to work from, but it has allowed me to work with a number of folks I hadn't worked with before. Anyway, when Mike initially came up with the idea of these interlocking stories, he suggested having one writer write it all. That could have been great, but we also wanted the books to come sooner than later, and one writer tackling seventeen issues could have been a real crunch.
Nrama: So how'd you go about picking the people you did for each series?
Allie: We knew we wanted Paul Tobin writing Prometheus, in part because we wanted him and Juan, the creative team from Colder, to do that book together. That was decided fairly early on. Then we hired everyone else without knowing which editors or writers would do which books. We had that first meeting at my house, and everyone pitched ideas, the process took on a life of its own, and by the end of the night we had a basic picture of what we were doing story wise. Knowing what each series was sort of about led to assigning the specific writers. For instance, AvP is a big Frankensteinian monster mash, and it felt like the right fit for Christopher Sebela. From there we went about hiring interior and cover artists appropriate to those stories. But one of the things I really wanted to do was wait and assign books to the writers best suited to them, or at least to whom we thought were best suited.
Nrama: You mentioned on io9 about how you’re doing this “writers room” style, borrowing on your experience with Buffy and Joss Whedon. Can you talk about that?
Allie: Yeah, I understand that some would scoff at using a term from the world of TV when you're talking about comics—I actually scoff at that sort of thing quite often. But when we did Buffy, we literally were working with the writers from the show, in a forum much like how they did it on the show, with Joss running it, like he did during the show … it was those really significant similarities that made us feel justified in calling it Season 8, etc.—we were doing it like the show. And I found I loved that model—all of us in the room together, food, talking through the story, the characters, everyone pitching ideas, some terrible, some great, seeing how the room responded, leaving ego at the door. Joss would run the room, so to speak, but he wasn't keeping track of whose ideas were whose, making sure more of his stuck than anyone else's. We'd stick with the ideas that got the best response from the people in that room—who we of course consider to be a savvy crew with good taste. I loved the experience, and when we launched Season 10, Joss showed up to the meeting a little late, so I ran the room for a while, and I enjoyed that. I thought it would be a good experience for all involved if we did a similar thing, gather at my house, talk through the stories with the five writers, the three editors plus me and Randy—me, because I think I have an idea of how to run this process, and Randy Stradley because he knows the legacy of the titles. We even had one of the artists, Patric Reynolds, at every meeting, so he's helped with a lot of the designs, with an intimate understanding of where the ideas come from. I'm really proud of what we came up with, and I've really gotten a lot out of working with these writers.