The prospect of an Alien vs. Predator film has been anticipated by fans for so long, it’s not hard to see why so many people forget where the whole thing started. And if you are like me, you believe that the idea originated in the film Predator 2, and you and I would be wrong.
To set the record staight, we went to the man who first put pen to paper and wrote the now familiar title: “Alien vs. Predator “- Dark Horse Publishing’s editor of all things “Star Wars” (and many other titles) Randy Stradley.
1. For the uninitiated comic-book/graphic novel reader; could you give us a little bit of your background?
I started in comics in 1983, writing for Marvel and DC. Mine was not a stellar career, but I got my foot in the door. In the summer of ’85, Mike Richardson called me and asked if I wanted to help him start a comics company. Everybody was doing it at the time, and it seemed like a good thing. So far, it has been.
Over the years, I’ve continued to write comics (sometimes under various pseudonyms), but the meat-and-potatoes of my life is editing comics. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing talents in the business, and I’ve written everything from Superman to obscure short comics stories. and, I got to write Aliens vs. Predator.
2. Most people (myself included) believe that the first hint or idea for AVP came from the movie Predator 2. Could you enlighten us as to its true origin?
It started in a brainstorming meeting at Dark Horse, in 1989. At the time, we were publishing comics based on the films Aliens and Predator — both of which were big sellers for us. Editor (and writer/artist) Chris Warner was the first one to put it together. From there, it went like wild-fire. We called Twentieth Century Fox (from whom we licensed Aliens and Predator) and said to our rep, “Aliens vs. Predator.” Without missing a beat she said, “You mean like King Kong vs. Godzilla? Cool! Let’s rock ‘n’ roll!”
Nowadays, everything is paired with everything else, and licenses are grabbed up long before a film is released. It’d be pretty hard to find really popular characters sitting around gathering dust, but that was the case back then.
I can’t know when they actually filmed the scene with the Alien’s skull in the Predator trophy case for Predator 2, but I’m pretty sure the idea was sparked by our comics.
3. Was AVP the “break-through” for Dark Horse?
In sales, yeah. The first issue sold more than a half-million copies. I have no idea how many copies of the collection (graphic novel, if you prefer) we sold, but it was plenty.
4. How many subsequent AVP, AV ? or ? VP titles have there been, and how many have you been involved with?
Well, lessee… Beside the initial Aliens vs. Predator, there was AvP: Deadliest of the Species, by Chris Claremont, AvP: Duel and AvP: War (both of which I was also lucky enough to write), and there may have been a couple of others. Then there were all of the Superman vs Aliens, Batman vs Predator, Judge Dredd vs Aliens, Magnus, Robot Fighter vs. Predator, and on and on and on. There were also two novelizations based on the AvP comics. Then the toys. Then the video games. Then more toys. Now the movie. If I was to hazard a guess, I’d bet there will be more toys in the future. And possibly more comics — but I don’t want to get to far ahead of myself.
5. Have you read the script for the new movie? If so, what can you tell us about it? How close is it to the comic?
I haven’t seen it. All I know is what I’ve seen on the “trailer” that’s on the web. They mention a rite of passage for the young Predators in which they have to hunt Aliens which have been “seeded” into a particular hunting ground. That’s right out of the comic.
6. I know you made your decision as to who would win in a fight – A or P, but do you have any second thoughts on that?
I did? I think the winner would really depend on the situation. In my story, all of the aliens die, and all of the Predators die, and a handful of humans (who had no idea they were about to end up in the middle of the whole thing) survived. But you gotta root for the Predators. They at least look like you could reason with them. Trying to get anywhere with the Aliens would be like trying to have a conversation with an ant colony.
7. For all the completists out there, can people still buy the original AVP graphic novel? Where?
I’m sure it’s still available somewhere, but it’s officially out of print. Try amazon.com or eBay. I think it’s well worth seeking out — not necessarily for my story, but for the amazing artwork of film designer Phill Norwood, Karl Story, and Chris Warner.
8. Did you add anything to either mythos that has been carried through to the films?
I tried consciously to NOT add anything new. The one thing that the Dark Horse Aliens series established was that, every so often, the Queen Alien lays an egg from which can hatch a new Queen. Nothing had been established in the films to suggest how a Queen comes into being, and we needed a Queen for a story. I used that same mechanism in my AvP story: the Predators accidentally include a Queen egg in the batch of Alien eggs they use to “seed” a new hunting ground. Consequently, when the small group of Predators arrives to hunt a supposedly small group of Aliens, they are confronted by HUNDREDS of the critters.
Beyond that, both sets of characters seemed to have lots of room for story possibilities, and I couldn’t see the point of establishing new “facts” that would, in all likelihood, be contradicted by the next film.
9. What are you currently working on?
I’m currently editing the bulk of Dark Horse’s line of Star Wars comics.
10. Does Dark Horse have any plans to do the comic adaptation of AVP? If so, will you do it?
We’re talking about it, but if we do one I can’t see myself raising my hand to write it. Film-to-comics adaptations are hard to write — and even harder to write well. I’m old and lazy now. Seriously, there’s a been there, done that component to the project that makes me think I’d rather see what somebody else could do with it.
11. Do you have a favorite – A or P? Why?
Uh, see question 6.
12. Any parting words for aspiring comic artist/writers?
Run fast, run far.
Seriously, writing for comics is a tough job — with GETTING a job being the hardest part of it. And, once you get a job, you need to get another, and probably another. Writing for comics isn’t the most lucrative job in the world, and writing one comic book a month probably won’t cover the bills.
Interestingly, there are probably more good writers (and artists) working in comics today than any other time in the industry’s history — but there are also more comics being published than at any other time (to be read by an ever smaller audience — but that’s the subject of another interview!). So, there aren’t enough good writers to go around.
That said, getting your work noticed by, and proving yourself to an editor, is extremely tough. Writing for the comics medium requires a skill set that writing for any other medium will not prepare you for. It’s part screenplay, part short story, and you have to be the director giving instructions to the cameraman and the actors, at the same time. The learning curve can be long, and monthly deadlines provide editors with few opportunities to nurture new talent. It’s often a case of, if you can’t hit a home run on the first swing of your first time at bat, you may never get another chance.
Jeez, what a depressing note on which to end the interview!
Below is a capsule history of AvP at Dark Horse that Randy Stradley wrote previously:
“Aliens versus Predator.
Three little words. Editor Chris Warner said them first. It was early 1989, and the Dark Horse crew was hashing over new projects and story lines in a company “bull session.” Publisher Mike Richardson brought up a co-publishing venture proposed by another company. The teaming of the two proffered characters was something we couldn’t quite visualize, but the proposal opened the door for a flood of “character versus character” suggestions-some less serious than others. After a short break, Chris Warner said “Aliens versus Predator.” Something resembling a stunned silence followed. The pairing was such a natural one, it was a wonder it hadn’t been the first idea to occur to us. Dark Horse was already publishing comics based on the films Aliens and Predator, both licensed from Twentieth Century Fox. Why not combine the two properties?
Within minutes Mike was on the phone to Fox’s licensing department for what he anticipated would be a long negotiating session. Their response, however, was immediate. “Aliens versus Predator? You mean like King Kong versus Godzilla? Great, let’s rock ‘n’ roll!” (Almost a year later, Capital City Distributors noted the team-up under “Deal of the Year” in their annual industry awards, saying, “Putting together the licensing deal for this combination was no small feat,” an assumption we somehow neglected to correct.)
A deal for a “guaranteed seller” such as Aliens Vs. Predator could have been seen merely as a license to print money (and, in fact, the series was successful beyond our wildest expectations), but Dark Horse has always believed that an interesting story is the only possible starting point for any project.
One of the first concepts we came up with was that of the Predators seeding life-bearing worlds with Alien eggs in order to produce the quarry for their hunt. The Predators would carefully screen out those eggs holding larval Queens. A limited number of eggs would make for an exciting, but controlled hunt-a rite of passage for young predators. Slip an Alien Queen into the equation, and you had the makings for an even more exciting uncontrolled hunt.
We figured that the Predators might have an Alien Queen captive, forcing her to pump out eggs-her children-for slaughter. Having the captive Queen is instrumental in bypassing the Predators’ safeguards and inserting one of her larval Queens into the eggs headed to the next hunting ground provided a nice twist.
But we knew there would have to be more to the story than just Aliens and Predators beating the crap out of each other. To make the series entertaining as well as successful, there would have to be some kind of emotional hook-a character, or characters, with whom readers could identify. For obvious reasons, a lead Alien character was out, and it was felt that making the lead character a Predator would not only be difficult, but would too greatly demystify the Predators. That left finding a way to introduce humans into the mix.
Enter the ranchers and support people at the tiny outpost of Prosperity Wells. They were just trying to eke out a living raising herd animals for hungry customers back on Earth. they had no idea that the two most dangerous species in the galaxy were about to land in their backyards. With that, the stage was set, and we were off and running…”