When Disney bought Twentieth Century Fox last year, they were able to get their hands on a lot of franchises that slid right into the Disney line-up. X-Men and Fantastic Four completed the Marvel Universe (as long as Sony continues sharing custody of Spider-Man), Avatar is another blockbuster franchise that Disney can use for merchandise, and the original Star Wars trilogy gives Disney full control of the massive blockbuster franchise. But there came some other franchises and IP, ones that would not fit on Disney Plus, with the two most outstanding examples of this being Alien and Predator. However, after decades under the Dark Horse banner, their comic book rights are coming to Marvel. Can these two iconic franchises work under the House of the Mouse? Let’s dive a little deeper and see if we can find a way…
Before discussing comics of these franchises, I think it’s important to describe what these two IPs are actually about. Alien is a sci-fi horror/sci-fi action series set in space in the future, where Ellen Ripley faces off against a species of ultimate killers known as the Xenomorphs and the future evil corporation Weyland-Yutani, which seeks to exploit the alien lifeform for profit. Predator is a sci-fi action franchise usually featuring a team of warriors as they are hunted by an alien species born and bred to kill the best of the best, and takes place primarily in the present day on Earth. There were crossovers films and comics between the two (read the comics, don’t watch the movies), and definitely some movies in both franchises that are best not discussed.
So what exactly do these two franchises have in common? Well, both feature a race of killer aliens as the antagonists, with both the Xenomorphs and the Predators being designed to kill. They both have sci-fi roots and, following Aliens, are both action-heavy franchises. They both even have the same amount of good movies, with Alien having three (Alien, Aliens, and most of Alien: Covenant) and Predator also having three (Predator, Predator 2, and most of Predators). But the differences between the two are pretty vast, and what will be needed to make them good comics is also going to be different. Here are six ideas I have (three for Alien, three for Predator) about how to successfully turn these franchises into successful, faithful comics.
Alien: Lean Into the Horror
Unless Marvel tries to pull another Conan and integrate these franchises into the Marvel Universe (please God don’t do that), it’s important that they really dive into what made the Alien series so special in the first place. Yes, James Cameron made Aliens a really cool action film, but without Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking horror film we never would’ve gotten there. The Xenomorph is one of the most uniquely designed creatures in the history of cinema (shout-out H.R. Giger), and the combination of Scott’s direction, the well-made suit, and the actor behind the Alien made it something incredibly unnerving and downright scary at times. It is because the Xenomorph is so scary that each of the good films is actually good, as any time they tried to diverge from it or add too much weird nonsense to the creature it often helped tank the movie.
I think the only way to truly bring the Alien experience to the comics is to amplify the terror and dread Ripley always felt when dealing with the Xenomorphs. You don’t have to sacrifice action for this, as Aliens balanced that and horror pretty well, but the reader can never lose the sense that the threat here is incredibly dangerous and nigh-unstoppable. It makes the situations more intense, adds more weight to the decisions the characters make, and in the right hands could make for some anxiety-inducing stories. Without the added benefit of motion and CGI magic, it is crucial that an artist on this title captures what makes the Xenomorph such a threat, lest the entire story loses all suspense and danger.
Predator: Add Menace Back to the Predator
One of the many reasons that Predator is such a great action movie is because you do not see the Predator himself until the very end. The opening sets us up to believe we’re watching a traditional 80’s action flick where bulletproof mercenaries blow through a group of bad guys, but then somebody drops dead. The mercenaries we were convinced were invincible, that a decade of tropes taught us could survive anything are the targets of an invisible enemy. And against all our expectations, one by one they fall to the Predator. When these guys start freaking out and realizing how screwed they are, the audience begins to feel that same dread, and we feel that sense of accomplishment when Dutch finally takes down the alien menace. Unfortunately, the more we have seen the Predator, the less intimidating and frightening he becomes, with the good movies adding cool aspects to keep the race interesting and the bad ones just making bigger versions and passing it off as “new and cool.”
The reason the Predator is such a dangerous opponent is that when he first showed up in the ’87 film, we literally had zero clues of what he was capable of. Though it’ll be fun to see the old favorites like the shoulder cannon and wrist blades in action, we need to see what else these ultimate hunters have in their arsenals. Predators did a good job showing off different types of Predators, as the three primary antagonists all had different looks and seemed to have different approaches to combat, adding some variety to the mix. The comics could do even more with this, showing Predators hunting other aliens or using new types of weaponry, or just not showing up so often that they lose their mystique! There are lots of ways to go about it, and I hope Marvel finds an approach that works!
Alien: Don’t Make the Xenomorph the Only Threat
While Ridley Scott hinted at the darkness lurking behind the corporations in Alien, it was James Cameron who really explored the true evil behind Weyland-Yutani in Aliens. While Cameron has never been a fan of corporations and seems to throw one corporate villain into all of his films, the ones in Aliens are complete slime and very easy to hate. And to be honest, is a corporation so dedicated to profit that it would willingly send people to die to capture the Xenomorphs rather than just annihilate them really all that unrealistic? Besides that, let’s also remember that in Alien 3, which is godawful, Ripley had to face a prison planet full of dangerous criminals, implying that there are more out there that could show up in the future. Space is dangerous, especially in the future, and I’d love to see more of it explored.
After looking into things like William Gibson’s script for Alien 3 and Neil Blomkamp’s Alien 5 concept art, I’d really like to see more dangers coming from this universe. Alien 5 seemed to revolve around the idea that Weyland-Yutani had finally been able to tame the Xenomorphs and use them for profit, which is an excellent idea and could prove to be a good first arc or two if we’re continuing the story of Ripley and ignoring Alien 3 and Resurrection. However, space is a big place and I want to see other threats that could exist in this future. Criminals, rogue androids (remember that Alien is connected to Blade Runner), space empires, whatever they can come up with that they could make cool. I want to see it all, but without overshadowing the true threat of the series.
Predator: Explore the Warrior Code of the Predator
One of the most interesting things about Predator is something that sets it apart from other monsters: the warrior code. Predators never attack people who cannot defend themselves, often refusing to attack the unarmed even when they are ripe for the killing. It’s like the alien hunters are hunting to test not only their mettle but the mettle of their prey, and what point is there to kill someone who can’t fight back? The Predator isn’t Jason or Freddy or Michael Myers, and that makes him far more interesting than the average slasher or creature our heroes have to fight. Hell, when Danny Glover defeated the Predator in Predator 2 he was rewarded with a gift! How often do you see that in movies like these?
For any comics to work, I think that this has to remain in place and it should probably be explored a bit more. What happens when a random bystander stumbles upon a Predator, or when one of the Predator’s targets throws down their weapons and surrenders? Better yet, what happens to someone who has defeated a Predator? Maybe that could be our key to their homeworld, where a true warrior is inducted into their ranks, perhaps? There are lots of possibilities here and most of them could be very exciting, and they keep one of the most interesting parts of this franchise alive.
Alien: David From Prometheus Needs to Return
Spoilers for Prometheus and Alien: Covenant follow
Arguably the most fascinating character in either of these franchises is David, a Synthetic android created by Peter Weyland that appeared in Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. As portrayed by Michael Fassbender, David is a really interesting character, a machine that appears to have no emotion but for some reason watches Lawrence of Arabia on repeat and styles himself after Peter O’Toole. He seems at first to be acting on the orders of Weyland but shows a certain fascination and malevolence as he experiments with the crew of the Prometheus. And during Covenant it is revealed that he is actually the creator of the Xenomorphs, viciously killing and dissecting both Elizabeth Shaw and the remains of the Engineers to perfect his creations. When that film ends, David is left alone on a colony ship of thousands, with nothing but time to continue his experiments, and no one to stop him from perfecting his work of art: the titular Alien.
While we have yet to see how David’s story ends in Ridley Scott’s prequel series, I think that he deserves his own comic book series, if not allowed to be kept alive to menace Ripley in the future. There are just so many fascinating questions about this character and why he acts the way that he does. Is he trying to show his humanity ala Blade Runner’s Replicants, or is he attempting to strike back at mankind by creating a new weapon to kill his old masters? Prometheus and Covenant provide a lot of clues, but it would be nice to see these mysteries answered, especially his whereabouts and thoughts as the Xenomorphs were seeded on the planets seen in Alien and Aliens. And it may just be me, but a genocidal and megalomaniacal android with a direct line to the Xenomorphs could just be the ultimate foe for our favorite gun-toting, Alien-killing badass heroine.
Predator: Really Emphasize the Action
While Alien has always been more about horror and recently the questions of humanity’s origins and human nature and the like, Predator has never had such illusions about itself. Every single film in this franchise, good and bad, has always been an action movie first and foremost. The first Predator is a classic of the genre, exemplifying the 80’s action movie but with a sci-fi twist to it. Predator 2 and The Predator follow this formula as well, while Predators is the only one that attempts to expand the franchise into slightly different territory. Despite putting the series on a new world, adding some new mythology, and changing the time period, Predators still has the “team of badasses picked off one by one by Predators” formula intact.
I say all of this to say that depending on how Marvel wants to handle this franchise in comics, Predator could either be the easiest to adapt or the most difficult. Comic books from the Big Two are usually about fun, action, and adventure, but doing these in a way that is memorable and of some quality is a lot harder than you might think. The Predator model is also a very popular one and has been done in comics a lot of times, so how do you make that unique? Marvel needs to dig into what makes Predator special among action franchises, that sci-fi edge with a truly terrifying foe and interesting set-up, along with memorable and quotable characters to face the ultimate hunters. Get that right, and anything else on top of that is just icing on the cake!
Despite all my suggestions here, it all comes down to the talent that Marvel puts on these books. While saying DC currently has the lead on talent is a massive understatement, Marvel has a few good writers I’d like to see tackle these properties. I think Jonathan Hickman would be an excellent choice for Alien, as his high-minded writing matches the heavy sci-fi, philosophical bent the series has taken as of late. For Predator, I think the choice is between either Donny Cates, Jason Aaron, and Kyle Higgins. Aaron and Cates have both shown themselves to be masters of character-driven action, while Higgins has a knack for taking older properties, getting down to their base elements, and crafting something new and exciting from them.
As far as artists go, Marvel has more than a few good ones that could work with either title. Who wouldn’t see Jerome Opeña with Hickman again on a sci-fi title? Or Russell Dauterman drawing some killer Predator action? David Finch drew the teaser covers for these titles, why not let him take a crack at the regular series! With the artists, I think it’s fair game and harder to choose, but I’m hoping Marvel doesn’t do what they like to do and pair sub-par art with a great writer. For Alien and Predator, two of the best IPs in their respective genres, they deserve the absolute best! But if we’re all being honest, the correct answer is another Alien vs. Predator vs. The Terminator, right? Am I right?