The merciless alien hunters that have thrilled moviegoers for more than twenty years return to the silver screen this summer when the Robert Rodriguez-produced "Predators" opens in cinemas July 9. Dark Horse, which has long published comics based on the characters including "Aliens vs. Predator," which originated the crossover franchise--is set to publish a raft of projects tying-in with the new film. The first, a weekly series titled "Predators," ships in June with the main story written by Marc Andreyko and illustrated by Guilherme Balbi and backups by David Lapham and Gabriel Guzman. Writer Paul Tobin and artist Victor Drujiniu's comic book adaptation of the film arrives in stores in July. Finally, a direct-to-comics sequel written by Lapham completes the slate.
In conjunction with WonderCon, where the projects were officially announced at Friday's Dark Horse panel, CBR News spoke with writers Andreyko, Lapham and Tobin about their contributions to the "Predators" mythos.
"Manhunter" scribe Marc Andreyko is responsible for the lead story in the prelude "Predators" series, a challenge he was more than eager to take up. "I remember seeing the original at the local theatre when I was a kid," Andreyko told CBR. "It was the first summer I had my driver's license and I piled all my buddies in my Cutlass and we hit the arcade, grabbed a slice at Sbarro's, and watched the Governator put on a mud mask and fight the ugliest alien ever. To be playing in the 'real' continuity of the franchise these 23 (really?!) years later is a kick, indeed."
Beyond what has been revealed through June solicitations--that a group of Navy Seals are plucked from the heat of battle and placed on alien world to be hunted by Predators--Andreyko could not say much about the plot of his story or the ways in which the new film will reboot the franchise. "I'm a little hamstrung by Fox as to what I can reveal," Andreyko said, "but this much I can say: there are Predators, a jungle, and people trying to stay alive. The story I'm writing does contain a few characters who appear in the feature film -- which isn't really a reboot per se, but in my humble opinion, more of a cool, updated continuation."
With all four issues shipping weekly in June, the solicitations also reveal, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the human cast gets narrowed down pretty quickly. "The cast of every 'Predator' tale gets whittled down fairly quickly, doesn't it?" Andreyko said. "The prelude story I'm telling takes place a few weeks before the feature. Other than that, mum's the word. But if you like gruesome demises, then this is the book for you!
"Suffice it to say, there is definitely a 'Most Dangerous Game' vibe going on," Andreyko continued, referring to the famous short story by Richard Connell in which humans are hunted for sport. "Don't grow too attached to any of the characters."
As to why the Predators are abducting humans to a hunting world rather than stalking men on their own territory of Earth, Andreyko said, "Good question, but you'd have to ask the Predators about that."
Joining Andreyko, "Stray Bullets" and "Sparta U.S.A." creator David Lapham is writing backup stories in the prelude series and then following that up with a comic book sequel to the film, a fact the writer said was not mere coincidence. "They're absolutely related," Lapham told CBR of the back-up and sequel stories. "Everyone's stories are related in that it really all adds up to one epic story. But my two stories, in particular, bookend the experience. One of the characters in both stories we see at the beginning and then at the end of the whole story. So we get to watch how they've evolved."
Beginning with the backup tales, Lapham said, "The four-issue prelude tells the tale of the - ahem -- coolest of the film's protagonists. It's basically the tale of what he was doing before getting mixed up with the Predators and a big reason why he comes into contact with them. He's not a nice man. In fact, he's a pretty bad dude--and I mean that both ways. We put him through his paces, but in this first story he's the bad guy in many ways. He's the predator. Then the tables turn."
Lapham's works --notably the recent "Young Liars"-- often have a chaotic intensity which may suggest the Predators will rise to new and unpredictable horrors in his stories. But the writer said his focus is somewhat elsewhere. "For my interest and the character stories I'm telling, it's less about some new twist on the Predators and more about the people fighting them," Lapham explained. "What gives them the spark and smarts to survive this...or not? I'm always looking for the left turn. How can I do this differently than we've seen? How can this character react that's different than the usual formula and why are they like that? Can I make that believable? We're so programed to expect certain reactions and to a large degree we are all human and have a common base of emotion, but it's always interesting that guy who does something different.
"As far as the actual Predators, Robert Rodriguez creates a few twists for the film that I do get to play with that are really very cool and fun."
With the film slated for a July 9 release, details on Lapham's sequel will have to wait. "I can tell you that I get to pick up right where the movie leaves off, and from there it was left up to my imagination -- with Robert's approval of course," Lapham told CBR. "I get to go out into uncharted territory. I only wish I had more issues."
As to his own history with the Predator franchise as a fan, Lapham said, "That's right in my generation's sweet spot. 'Terminator,' 'Aliens,' 'Predator.' It's kind of strange accepting these movies you saw as a teen--y'know, last week--are modern myths. But they are. The Predators are one of the great creations. 'The Most Dangerous Game' taken to its ultimate incarnation."
Rounding out the roster of "Predators" writers is Paul Tobin, who is writing the film adaptation -- one which, if his take on the franchise to date is any indication, should have plenty of kick-ass action. "I remember watching 'Predator' when it originally came out in the theatre, and then later again with a group of high school friends and an assortment of beer," Tobin told CBR. "So my initial encounter with the movie was with kick-ass action, and then my second encounter came with a lot of drunken whining that we all needed girlfriends and also kick-ass action. And yes, I've read some of the other Dark Horse comics. They have kick-ass action."
Tobin is known primarily for writing all-ages-friendly material, including Marvel Adventures titles "Spider-Man" and "Super Heroes," perhaps making him a curious fit for adapting the more grim fare of "Predators." "My work in the Marvel Adventures line might be listed as all-ages, but I primarily write it for adults. I tend to think of it as non-exclusionary, the same way I see projects such as the 'Banana Sunday' graphic novel my wife (Colleen Coover) and I did for Oni Press," Tobin explained. "But I have a lot of other works, such as the upcoming 'Gingerbread Girl' OGN for Top Shelf and a wealth of upcoming projects for Marvel and elsewhere. This 'Predators' work, for instance, should hopefully be just the first of many Dark Horse projects.
"As far as how this particular job came around, editor Scott Allie and I had been batting around the idea of me working with him and Dark Horse, and one day we had lunch together, and he put a screenplay down on the table, and I looked and saw the name of Robert Rodriguez on the title page, and I said, 'I'm in. Let's do this,' and then we went to work."
Given that he is adapting for comics what is expected to be one of this summer's blockbuster films, Tobin cannot divulge too much about what readers might see in the story. "As part of my agreement with Dark Horse, I have to wear an explosive collar around my neck and it goes off if I speak too much about the storyline. I can, without blowing up, say that my own project is the actual movie adaptation, but we wanted to keep away from a straight (and therefore boring) translation of what's going to be seen on screen," Tobin said. "Straight adaptations either ruin the movie, or the adaptation, depending which you encounter first.
"My 'adaptation' focuses on one character, running the movie through her eyes and only her eyes, and also developing a lot of her background -- what she's thinking, why she's thinking it, etc. It was a really fun writing experience. And artist Victor Drujiniu is really taking my script and making it live. The cool thing about my approach is that I was able to develop what my character was doing off-screen and also that parts of the story remain a mystery to her. If she wasn't present for an on-screen sequence, I didn't put it in my adaptation. She just didn't see it. But the real fun part was developing her story, getting deeper into her mind. I love delving into character, that's sort of my thing."
Tobin's adaptation draws from the "Predators" screenplay, with updated versions arriving as the studio developed the story. "It was fun seeing their own creative process develop," Tobin said. "Beyond that, it was just a matter of choosing what scenes were important to the story and important to the character I'm focused on and then using the comic book medium to best serve that story. Some scenes, such as those where sound plays a major part, don't work as well in comics. Other scenes, such as those where you can really delve into a character through use of inner monologues, work much better in comics."
Dark Horse's new Predator titles begin with "Predators", debuting in June.