If you're a comics fan, you've probably played the game: "who would win"? You pick two characters and pit them against each other. They can be from the same universe or two different companies: Batman vs. Spider-Man, Thor vs. Superman. Pitting two formidable characters who will never meet except in the minds of their fans is an exercise most every fan has done at some point.
But what if that penchant for unlikely battles in the comics' medium is pitted against franchise movie characters that have their own comic series? We're not talking about Mickey Mouse versus Kermit (although I would buy it), I'm talking about Aliens versus Predators.
The idea of two separate movie franchises teaming up – or in this case, going head-to-head – was surprising for its time. Back in 1990, Dark Horse had been publishing both Predator and Aliens comics separately, and threw in a tease of a possible crossover with a Predator story in Dark Horse Presents #36 that incidentally featured an Alien skull. The fans reacted, and a proper Aliens vs. Predator was quickly published – and well received, by fans. It prompted several sequels, and even tie-ins with prose novels and action figures.
And then in 2004, the concept came full circle when the movie AvP was released. It spawned a sequel, as well as a revitalization of the franchise mash-up in its original comics' home. And now, original series writer Randy Stradley returns to this extraterrestrial monster mash-up with AvP: Three World War beginning in January.
This new miniseries is both a continuation of the AvP saga, as well as including recent developments in the companion comic book series Predator and Aliens, also from Dark Horse. For more, we talked with the writer Randy Stradley.
Newsarama: So Randy, how is it coming back to do a new Aliens vs. Predator with all the success it's had?
Randy Stradley: To be honest (you do want me to be honest, don’t you?), I really tried to avoid returning to this series. It’s not that I dislike the characters, I just felt that I had said all I had to say about Aliens and Predators twenty years ago when I wrote the first series. But my best efforts at dodging this series failed, and here I am. Editor Chris Warner is a persuasive guy.
Interestingly, as I’ve gotten into the series, I’ve discovered that I do have some new ideas for the characters and situations. Maybe the long break was just what I needed!
Nrama: Sounds like it! According to the solicits, this mini will feature a “long-lost Predator clan”. Can you tell us about them, how they were lost and what makes them unique?
Stradley: The “lost” Predator clan has been introduced – in the current Predator series written by John Arcudi. The culture of this clan diverged from that of the Predators we know at some point in the distant past. This splinter culture’s raison d´etre mutated from the thrill of the hunt to the joy of conquest. Rather than pitting their skills against the galaxy’s most dangerous game, these guys are bent on conquering and killing everyone they meet. So, being meek and mild is no protection against these “bad” Predators. If they find you, you’re dead.
To make matters worse, they’ve discovered a way to control the Aliens – the other Predators’ worst enemy. You know how in the movie Aliens the corporation wanted a specimen so they could figure out a way to “weaponize” the Aliens? Well, these “bad” Predators have that technology.
Nrama: This seems to force the humans of Earth to align with the Predators who’ve they’ve been at odds with. Is that even possible?
Stradley: There will be an alliance, but it won’t come about in the way you might expect, and it’s going to be an uneasy coalition at best.
This is turning out to be, for me, one of the most interesting “problems” in the story, because you’re right – an alliance between humans and Predators seems impossible. It’s kinda like wolves and bears teaming up to take on other bears. It can only make sense under very specific circumstances, and the alliance can only last so long. When it breaks down, look out.
Nrama: The comic series AvP has established the human Machiko Noguchi as the only one to be accepted into the ritualistic and tight-knit Predator culture. She's had her own story, which seemingly ended with her on the outs with them. According to the solicits, she's returning in AvP: Three World War so what’s her role in this?
Stradley: Well, as the only human being ever to be (temporarily) accepted within Predator culture, Machiko is tapped to play the part of ambassador and mediator. But she doesn’t want the job. Since her violent departure from the Predator clan (at the end of AvP: War), she has built her own life. She’s happy, she’s thriving, and she wants nothing to do with the Predators – and even less to do with the Colonial Marines who press her into service. She’s got to walk the knife’s edge between both sides.
Nrama: Although there are three sides to this war, the creative team is all together on this one. For this new miniseries, you’re joined by artist Rick Leonardi – how’s he acclimating to the book?
Stradley: I’m in love with what Rick’s doing. I write pretty specific descriptions about what I envision for each panel. It’s not because I want to control what the artist draws, but because I want the artist to know why they’re being asked to draw things a certain way. Sometimes it’s because a character or object will become important at a later point in the story, and it needs to be established in the readers’ minds. Other times it’s so the artist understands what affect the panel or the scene is supposed to have on the readers. Rick seems to have picked up on that. Instead of slavishly staging the action exactly as I describe, he takes what I ask for and runs it through his own design and storytelling sense. He’s hitting all of the notes I’m requesting, but the arrangement is all his.
Nrama: I'm not letting you off the hook too easy. I got some questions for you – part as the writer, but also as a fan.
First off, what’s more scary for you – Predators or Aliens?
Stradley: Probably writing both of them. The Aliens are definitely scarier. At least the Predator you can look in the eye and maybe see some spark of reason. With the Aliens, there’s nothing. Just teeth, claws, and a spiky tail. Go on, reason with that. I dare you.
Nrama: And lastly – which would you rather be?
Stradley: I guess I’d rather be a Predator. I like my free will. My impression of the Aliens is that they’re all extensions of a hive mind. If you think I’m comparing the two to Democrats and Republicans, that’s on you. Probably.