In an attempt to explore every nook and cranny of the Alien movie universe, my quest has now led me to a new, strange land — The realm of comic crossovers.
First, a brief history. Dark Horse Comics has made the most of its licensing rights to Alien since the late-eighties, when the first Aliens tie-in was published. A sequel to James Cameron’s 1986 entry, the story picked up with Newt and Hicks battling xenomorphs on far-off planetoids. It was considered canon… until Alien 3 opened in 1992 and completely ignored it, forcing a retcon onto future reprints of the series; Newt and Hicks became Billie and Wilks. Their stories drove the Alien comics into new terrain, now freed from the shackles of cinematic mythology with a new Predator series tumbling out of the presses in tandem. A couple of years later the two beasties met in Alien vs. Predator.
A success at the time, and partly why fans of the series remained optimistic when the film adaptations were announced, the AvP brand spawned a wave of expansive crossover stories. With many properties at their disposal, Dark Horse plotted out intricate non-canonical stories connecting seemingly unrelated characters. There’s a stockpile of titles stretching back nearly two decades pitting the acid-blooded monsters against a range of foes; Green Lantern vs. Aliens, Judge Dredd vs. Aliens, and even Buffy vs. Aliens. Here’s a look at two that joined together some of the most iconic characters in sci-fi history.
Superman and Batman versus Aliens and Predator
A pretty ambitious effort required a bit of set up beforehand, and so, Batman and Superman fought both of the creatures in their own separate series. The Batman/Aliens two-parter pits Bruce Wayne against the Aliens when he yomps to a jungle to rescue two missing employees. His encounter involves a xenocroc, the result of a crocodile being implanted by an alien embryo, and concludes with a power-hungry army scientist infusing the residents of Arkham Asylum with alien DNA. Batman is forced into battle with xenomorph-hybrid versions of the Joker, Poison Ivy, and Two-Face.
Superman discovers a lost Kryptonian city overrun with xenomorphs in his alien-centric series. The argument of whether or not a chestburster is able to gnaw, claw, and bite its way through the Man Of Steel is settled — they can’t. He spits the tiny alien out like a heavily- chewed piece of tobacco. Lois Lane goes all Ripley and torches a load of eggs.
Their ultimate showdown in Superman and Batman versus Alien and Predator plays like the Alien vs. Predator movie, with the two costumed superheroes replacing the team of scientists and explorers. The pair venture to a volcano in the Andes, where it turns out a Predator ship crash landed thousands of years earlier. Their cargo? A ton of alien eggs to ensure their race can continue its rite-of-passage hunts. Superman and Batman forge an alliance with the Predators and vow to save them from the hordes of xenomorphs.
Within the Alien saga — the movies, that is — the audience always empathizes with the human protagonists. The crew of the Nostromo, the Colonial Marines, the inmates on Fiorina. Now, that POV shifts slightly with another alien thrown into the mix: Superman. While Batman responds to the aliens much like Ripley and co. in wanting to destroy them, Superman is a far more considerate participant in the fight. He rescues the Yautja — the proper name for Predators — from the unstable volcano, and much to the surprise of Batman and Lois, returns to help the aliens. “I know what they can do,” he tells them, “but they’re living beings. They have a purpose even if we don’t know what that is.” Of course, it’s since been revealed that the xenomorphs were created by the Engineers as bioweapons, but how was he to know that? He even freezes their eggs.
One of the final panels even includes a glimpse of the alien queen, still nestled beneath the volcano, curled around a clutch of unhatched eggs. Previous sightings of the queen have never displayed her mothering instincts with such tenderness.
Aliens vs. Predator vs. The Terminator
This gargantuan story takes place on Earth sometime after Alien Resurrection. Call (Winona Ryder’s character) tracks down the cloned Ripley and tells her of a bio-engineering project that’s harvested xenomorph DNA to create a super-soldier. They venture to the science station Typhoon and all hell breaks loose.
Here’s something to chew on: no one in the comic ever refers to the beast as a xenomorph. In fact, the usage of that term has been incorrect since 1986. Gorman drops the word in Aliens to his squad of grunts during Ripley’s brief. Translated it means strange or foreign shape, and has since been erroneously welcomed into Alien lore. On supplemental Blu-ray features concept art lists them as internecivus raptus (aka murderous thief). Aliens vs. Predator vs. The Terminator calls them lingua foeda acheronsis. That roughly translates to ‘foul tongue from Acheron’. Acheron is an alternate name for LV-426: the planetoid where the Nostromo sets down in Alien.
As fascinating as taxonomy and nomenclature is, the meat of the matter is in the story. At four issues and three brands it’s a rush to follow all of the intermingling variations. Call hacks into an android scientist’s skull (he’s actually a Terminator) and stimulates a dormant virus within that operating system planted by John Connor. An interactive message from the future about Skynet. It’s then that all becomes clear; Skynet’s “crypto-Terminators”, described similarly to the T-800 infiltration units, were designed to last for centuries. Integrated into the general population disguised as humans they worked their way into influential research positions. Waiting for a major technological advancement in order to create deadlier Terminators. Because Arnie wasn’t destructive enough.
Ripley gets snatched by Predators right off the Typhoon. Oh yeah, they fly in in the midst of everything to try and hunt this new alien-terminator hybrid, and take Ripley instead. Unafraid of her, she assumes that they want her for their collection, a specimen to be studied in order to wipe out the alien-terminator threat. Call surmises that the Predators want to harness Ripley’s DNA — during the cloning in Resurrection hers becomes enmeshed with that of the alien — to locate the source of the aliens so the Terminators can’t create any further Terminator-alien hybrids.
It gets a bit baffling in places, but that’s beside the point. This is a fangirl’s dream. Ellen Ripley and John Connor fighting side-by-side in a battle against both of their life-long nemeses? An idea of such magnitude is only ever likely to take place on the page. Marvel and DC’s cinematic empires have started to make inroads for the crossover, the likes of which cost hundreds of millions to produce and generally feature PG-13 characters.
These hard-edged sci-fi flights of fancy are still a joy to revel in regardless, soaking up all the ‘what-ifs’ with each turn of the page. As for a big screen outing, there are too many rights issues in play for it to ever be a possibility. Besides, Alien, Predator, and Terminator require a hard R.