The room was packed at New York Comic Con as Dark Horse Comics publicist Aub Driver moderated a panel celebrating the 35th Anniversary of "Alien," featuring Alex de Campi ("Grindhouse"), Paul Tobin ("Prometheus"), Joshua Williamson ("Predator: Fire and Stone"), Chris Roberson ("Aliens: Fire and Stone") and Randy Stradley (editor and Dark Horse co-founder). The panel kicked off with a trailer for the recently released Sega video game "Alien: Isolation" before turning to a review of Dark Horse's history with the franchise.
Stradley recalled taking the afternoon off work in 1979 to go see the original Ridley Scott film with Dark Horse co-founder Mike Richardson. Immediately after seeing the film, they began to discuss licensing the franchise: "After our heads stopped exploding, we came back and started talking about all the things we could do if we were to create a sequel for it." Dark Horse published its first series in the franchise, "Aliens," written by Mark Verheiden and drawn by Mark A. Nelson, in 1988.
1989 brought Dark Horse's first "Predator" book. "It was so obvious what to do with it," Stradley recalled. "You had Predator in the jungle, so let's bring him to the concrete jungle." Throughout his history with Alien/Predator, Stradley emphasized the collaboration between Dark Horse and the film studios. "Shortly after our ["Predator"] series came out, which was also written by Mark Verheiden, [producer] Joel Silver called Verheiden into our office in Los Angeles. He brought in the Thomas brothers, who had written the original "Predator" screenplay. He said, you guys sit down and look to this guy; take notes on everything he says."
The collaboration continued with the 1990 series, "Alien vs. Predator," which Stradley called, "the shortest licensing negotiation in history." When Richardson pitched the idea, originated by Chris Warner, to 20th Century Fox, the response was, "Rock and roll."
1991 brought another crossover, "Batman vs. Predator," written by Dave Gibbons and drawn by Andy Kubert. Williamson called the title his favorite crossover of the franchise. Stradley revealed that Jeff Darrow had been the planned artist for the series: "he had done conceptual sketches of Bruce Wayne's armored Batman suit, which was about 20 feet tall, and the Batmobile looked like a locomotive. It would have been wild."
Throughout the '90s the franchise continued at Dark Horse, with series like "Aliens vs. Predator: War" (1995) and "Aliens: Alchemy" (1997), as well as crossovers including "Superman vs. Aliens" (1995), "Aliens Vs Predator Vs Terminator" (2000), and "Green Lantern Vs Aliens" (2000). 2003 brought the "Judge Dredd Vs Aliens" series, collected with "Predator vs. Judge Dredd" (1997) into a 184-page hardcover due out from Dark Horse on October 28. De Campi called the volume "definitely one to get."
The current iteration of the franchise at Dark Horse, "Fire and Stone," includes four individual series: "Aliens," "Predator," "Prometheus" and "Alien vs. Predator." All of the series have already launched except "Predator: Fire and Stone," the first issue of which arrives October 22.
Tobin said that in writing "Prometheus," he wants to get back to the feeling of the 1979 movie. "It had two stages: fear of the unknown, and then when you found out, you went, 'Oh, really, that's actually worse than I was hoping.'" Juan Ferreyra, who also draws Tobin's horror series "Colder," is the artist for the series. About the plot, Tobin revealed, "Things go wrong and it's a whole different world than they were expecting." For the upcoming "Predator" series, Williamson described Issue #4 as "one long, long fight scene" ending with a reveal of the Predator's prey. DeConnick has written an oversized final issue for the crossover, due out in February.
The writers discussed the process of collaborating on a four-series crossover, which has been made easier by the fact that they all live in Portland. They had regular meetings at editor Scott Allie's house to share ideas and plan out the series. "It's kinda fun because it's like when you're young and you and your friends joke around about what you would do -- and we actually get to do that," Williamson said. "We sit at Scott's house and talk for hours, and argue and fight."
"It's kind of an amazing process, because it didn't break down," Stradley said. Tobin said that he was surprised that the process has worked so well because of personality differences between the writers. "I'm really a 'go home and work by myself' type," he said, "while writers like Josh here just throw ideas out there." Williamson and Tobin both pointed to Stradley as an amazing resource for the writers. Tobin said, "We'd come up with an idea and go, 'I don't think that's ever been done before,' and there would be silence and we'd all pivot and turn towards Randy."
De Campi was excited to share news about her upcoming Archie crossover, announced on the first day of the show. "Archie Meets Predator" is due out in April 2015. She described the plot as akin to "Final Destination," saying that it was "full of twists and turns" in the style of a teen slasher drama, "slaughtering all of its characters, one by one, with prejudice." De Campi is working to include as many Easter egg references to the 1987 film as possible.
Unlike other Archie horror-verse titles, Archie artist Fernando Ruiz will draw "Archie Meets Predator" in the classic Riverdale style. De Campi said that it has been a great experience working with the Archie team. She recalled their feedback on an Eric Powell cover depicting Predator holding Jughead's skull: "I think the only note they gave us was, 'You can't have Jughead's spinal column swinging in the wind.'"