This is my fifty second weekly column which means I’ve been doing this nearly a year so I thought I’d do a little bit of a throwback review to one of my earliest columns.
Way back in 1979, Heavy Metal published a comic book adaptation of Alien, which as regular readers know, is one of my favorite films of all time. Earlier this year, Titan Books republished it with updated coloring (well in one edition. They also did a black and white original art edition). Adapted by Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson, two talents I respect enormously, I picked up this book with a little bit of hesitation.
This wasn’t due to the creative team. Goodwin and Simonson always worked really well together. Manhunter is a perfect example of their creative powers. My trepidation was about… well… nine times out of ten, comic book adaptations of movies suck.
I don’t mean spin offs like the various Aliens, Predator or Star Wars comics. I mean the adaptations of the actual original films. At their best, they tend to be bland, by the numbers versions of the movie you’ve already seen. Nothing bad but just usually okay art and the story that you already know. At their worst, sub par art and writing meant to cash in on a film property while it’s hot.
Alien: The Illustrated Story is neither of those things.
It is awesome!
Goodwin and Simonson not only made a great adaptation but it really stands as an alternate version of the film.
The story is relatively unchanged as are the characters. While I was unable to find the details, I imagine due to the character images and general dialogue, the comic is probably based off the final shooting draft of the script. So we don’t get any deleted scenes per say or drastic character changes but what we do get is the same scenes we’ve seen in the film but from different angles. Different shots. The pacing seems a little different but never in a bad way. It’s very much like Ridley Scott shot his film and then Goodwin and Simonson came in and re-shot the entire film with the same actors and sets and without seeing Scott’s version. And it works really well.
Especially Simonson’s art.
I’m a big fan of Walt Simonson. His work on Thor is probably my favorite (but I must add, after starting to read them this year, his work on Orion and Elric is criminally overlooked) and as numerous members of Fan Expo’s staff can tell you, I’ve bugged them the last few years to try and bring him up for the convention (if you happen to be reading this Mr. Simonson, please do. I promise, us Canadians are nice). As it turns out, he was a perfect choice as an artist for Alien. Simonson manages to mix the style of the film with it’s Moebius and Giger influence as well as his own style to create some really wonderful images. I love the giant two page spread of the alien ship as well as the reveal of the xenomorph. It’s just incredibly well done and has me really thinking about picking up the original art edition.
If I had the money, I would definitely buy pages from this.
If you like Alien, please do yourself a favor and pick up Alien: The Illustrated Story. You will be rewarded the minute you crack it open.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!
Doing my due deligence, I sent this column to Walter Simonson. To my surprise, Mr. Simonson wrote me back to fill in a few of the gaps I had in regards to what version of the film and script was used in it’s creation. Take it away Walter!
“… I had a chance to see a rough cut of the film in December, 1978. Most of the principal photography with the actors had been done; the model work was still being created. So that version was missing most of the ‘outside’ shots but the interiors were there. And the version I drew of Bret’s death in the comic was based on what I had seen ( a very short version of the rough cut’s scene), and when the movie came out, it was rather different. There were a few other differences between the rough cut and final edit, some of which is also reflected in the graphic novel, as the book had to be finished before the film was released. So I didn’t see the final edit until I saw it in a theater.
The other note is that Archie and I had three script revisions to work from, and 20th Century wasn’t concerned about how we did it. So we basically tried to do the best graphic novel we could from the materials we had. The comic is the result of that freedom. There’s a longish interview with John Workman and me at the end of the Original Art Edition. It’s available (without the signature plate but in all other respects identical to the signed volume) through Amazon for about $45 last time I looked.”
So there you have it folks, straight from the horse’s mouth… HOLY CRAP! I finished the year with a correspondence from Walt Simonson!