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SBTU – Expanded Universe: Aliens and Predator

sbtu_expanded_universe_aliens_and_predator_header

It’s Super-Blog Team-Up time again!

This time around, the group is tackling the notion of the "Expanded Universe"–with many different topics, as always!

Please check out the list of links at the bottom of this piece for the other entries in this team-up of blog-posts…or skip on down their now, as my piece here is rather lengthy, rambly, and not exactly what I’d had in mind when I began!

With a big thanks to Chris Bailey (@Charlton_Hero) for the graphic below:

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In recent years, the terms "Extended Universe" and "Expanded Universe" have meant a couple different things to me. They also tie in to the term "Cinematic Universe," in terms of movies. Namely, the Marvel "Cinematic Universe" and the DC "Extended Universe." (Or "Expanded," I’m rarely clear on what’s (semi-)"official" with the "MCU" and "DCEU.") I’ve never liked the "EU" in reference to the DC movies when used alongside Marvel‘s "MCU," because to me it should be "DCU" same as we have the "DCAU" (DC Animated Universe) and such.

What? I’m getting critical and negative and that’s DC and Marvel when you’re expecting Aliens and Predators?

Ok.

Outside the aforementioned DC and Marvel movies, I see the terms Expanded Universe and Extended Universe as fairly interchangeable/synonymous and I don’t expect to be 100% consistent in my use throughout this piece. (So please take them as interchangeable and synonymous within my writing here.)

DEFINING "EXPANDED UNIVERSE"

To me, an EU is a property that begins in a fairly-specifically limited (if not one-off) format. For example: you have an original movie (singular)…it universe-builds, it sets a context, it tells you a story…and that’s that. Beginning, middle, end. In and out and done. Look at The Terminator, before any sequels. Or Highlander, before any sequels. And so on.

Perhaps we don’t start with a movie…perhaps we start with a novel. Emphasis on "a." Singular. You get this self-contained story, and that’s that. The whoooooole thing is that one book. It’s a good book, an enjoyable book, a memorable book…but still AAAAAAAA book. (For example: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay)

Where "EU" comes in is with that singular thing cropping up in another medium with new content sharing elements from the original…building on or (you guessed it!) expanding and extending what was found in the original. The Terminator got a movie sequel as well as comics. Then other comics, even a tv series, along with multiple sequels. Highlander had sequels, a tv series, original novels, an animated series, comics, etc. Kavalier and Clay had Escapist comics, and a comic sequel of sorts (The Escapists) where present-day creators got the rights to the old Escapist character and the story followed their journey. I’m not sure if there’s a tv show in the works, but it’d certainly be ripe for an HBO miniseries or such at the least, which would be further expanding.


In today’s case, I’d figured I’d look at Aliens. But that really necessitates bringing Predator into the conversation. Both properties started as singular films…got a sequel…were continued into comics, then video games, further sequels, novels and novelizations, more videogames, toys, and so on. Both universes expanded and intermingled, even sharing universes ahead of more famous and/or contrived attempts at cinematic shared universes that would follow.

As I’ve tried to figure out how I want to cover this, I finally decided that there are Wiki articles out there that’ll tell you plenty about the properties and the expanded stuff. (Alien, Predator, Prometheus, and so on.)

But this being a personal blog, maintained by me (just one random guy)…why not my personal journey into the franchises? After all…it’s what I know. Recounting stuff is from my own memory, my own experiences, and it’s ME. You want clinical facts about the properties? Use those Wikipedia links. If you’re willing to indulge my rambling on the topic, you’ll get my conscious experience, my conscious memories of Alien(s) and Predator that began with Alien3 and expanded to where I am today.

And if you’re still with me some 500+ words into this thing…here’s where we get more to the point.

PROLOGUE

As a kid, I loved to read, and read every chance I could, and would read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. So much so that I’d read many books within a day, and was constantly getting books from the library (and losing many, which is a topic for some other time). I especially remember stuff like The Boxcar Children and The Hardy Boys Casefiles (I’ve yet to read original Hardy Boys stuff…the Casefiles series had the characters a bit older and more action-oriented. Again, a topic for some other time). I’d read plenty of fiction–most I can’t even remember. I also read a fair bit of sci-fi from early-on before I truly knew what a "genre" was. I also read plenty of comic books and whatever comic-related prose I could get my hands on. I recently was fondly recalling high school and how much time I’d squeeze in for reading, especially freshman year–from reading on the bus to/from school to reading in homeroom, squeezing in a minute or two of reading between classes when able; reading at lunch, reading in study hall (preferring to read than work on homework).

Somewhere in the earliest days of middle school, perhaps, I’d read Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of Alien as just any other sci-fi novel and nothing about it really stuck out to me at the time. Separately, Dad had fallen asleep with the tv on and I’d wandered out–at this point I remember it as during the day, but could have been late at night; I’m not really sure. What matters is, I was curious about what was going on in whatever was on, and I wound up watching to its end, whatever it was. The horrors I saw included some monster ripping a guy in half (and he bled white instead of red!) as well as the lady fighting the monster and saving her daughter.

I wouldn’t make the connection on these–That they were Alien and Aliens–until I finally saw the films intentionally.

THE BEGINNING

alien3_bookSome time in 1993 or 1994, I ended up finding/reading the novelization of Alien3. Having read this book that was clearly based on a movie, I wanted to see said movie, and eventually convinced my parents to rent it/let me see it. Then, since that was the 3rd film, of course I "had to" see the others. I vaguely recall there being some delay to getting to see Alien and that I wound up seeing the films in reverse order, that Alien was the big finish for me.

It was in finally seeing Alien that I recognized the story–particularly the scene with Kane exploring the pit of eggs–and realized I’d read the book some time before.

I’m not sure if I have yet ever re-read that novelization; if I did, I know I haven’t in the last 20+ years! I just recently–June 2020–learned via a YouTube video purporting to reveal X # of "things you didn’t know about ALIEN" that the creature itself was apparently kept secret from all…including Foster, who wrote the novel of the film! So in possibly-faulty memory and that new "fact learned," I could see not immediately having linked that novel(ization) with the film by title and such…there probably was not a detailed enough description of the creature itself to lock in my memory initially. And, as said earlier in this piece, at the time I was a voracious reader and wouldn’t begin to be able to recall by title everything I’ve read. (It took me ages a few years ago to finally discover an old sci-fi novel I’d enjoyed as a kid, that I’d thought was called The Manhattan Project but turned out to be The Manhattan Transfer). hero_illustrated_002_predator_came_with_ashcanI have other "mini-memories" of "moments" from books I’d read that I’m certain I’d ONLY be able to positively link to their source by somehow managing to find AND re-read in near-entirety the same novel(s) again.

I very clearly remember a cover to a magazine–Hero Illustrated–that featured a Predator cover, the creature fighting a bunch of Aliens. The issue had come with an "ashcan" for a then-upcoming or recently-begun series involving both the Aliens and the Predator.

Somewhere around this time, I came across Aliens: Earth Hive by Steve Perry. I read it, and it fascinated me. I recall–among many other things–noticing some parallels in a couple of the main characters…particularly Billie and Wilks. Their story seemed similar to that of ALIENS. This eventually wound up making perfect sense when I learned that in the original comics, these WERE Hicks and Newt!

aliens_novels_trilogy

One of the key things I took away from the movie novelizations was that sense that if even ONE Alien made it to Earth, that was it. It could not be allowed to happen, or that’d be the end. And with no Ripley, the story of Earth Hive played out where that happened–the Aliens overran Earth.

A second novel picked up from there, following Wilks and Billie to a space station where some guy thought he was training Aliens to help him take back the Earth. By the third novel, Ripley had come back into the picture and led the characters to a distant world to catch a super-queen, possibly the source of the Aliens. They ultimately got it to Earth where they left it in a valley to draw the majority of Earth’s infestation to it at which point bombs put on a months-long timer would go off and eradicate the majority of the creatures. One of the subplots of The Female War involved us coming to find out that Ripley is herself a "synthetic," though she initially did not know that (Someone not knowing they were synthetic was established as possible in the first novel of the ‘trilogy’ in Bueller). As Ripley had died in Alien3 and yet appeared here, that seemed a reasonable explanation to me. As I think about it now, that was probably one of my earliest real experiences with a "retcon" or "retroactive continuity."

aliens_on_top_of_shelves

Somewhere in that mid-’90s time, I came across some Aliens toys at a store while out with Mom; if it was not Kmart, I have no conscious idea what store it was, as I know it was not Hills, and I don’t think Target or Walmart were in this part of Ohio yet. While possibly just deja-vu, I’d also swear I’d seen at least one commercial for these toys around then. Regardless, despite finding these toys, Mom was unwilling to let me get any of them; so it’d be a good 20-some years until I’d start my foray into Aliens toys. Despite not getting any of the toys as current things, I do recall noticing later that I’d seen them, and realizing there were several toy lines for kids that were based on "kid-ified" animated things, themselves based on hard R-rated films! (Several examples offhand including the likes of Terminator, Robocop, Highlander, Toxic Avenger, and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes…and I’m sure there are plenty of others I’m not thinking of!).

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I was vaguely aware that there were comic books with the Aliens as well as another creature–the Predator. There was that August-1993-cover-dated Hero Illustrated #2 (see earlier image) featuring a Predator on the cover and the issue having come bagged with a mini-comic featuring Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species–a then-new series beginning soon.

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Flipping through that issue and not finding any prominent article on either property–but a bit of info about the comics and an ad for the home version of an Aliens vs. Predator videogame–I suspect it was just a "given" to me that Aliens went with Predator. Add to that an arcade machine at the local skating rink and I just don’t think I really ever took the properties as being completely separate things. (Much likeStar Trek: Generations was my main intro into Star Trek and to me there’s never been an either/or on TOS vs. TNG–they’ve "always" been a single continuity).

I’m pretty sure my first experience with Aliens in comics was the Superman vs. Aliens prestige-format mini-series. I was already deeply into the Superman comics at the time, and loved that even as a random inter-company crossover, the miniseries seemed to have consequences on the Superman side at least, including giving us an in-continuity Argo City or such and a "Kara."

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Despite always simply accepting Predator and Alien(s) as existing in the same universe, I was never all that into the Predator side in and of itself. I have some memory of a friend describing a scene from Predator in which the titular character had skinned someone (and that you saw the skinned body on screen) from awhile before seeing the film myself. I’m pretty sure I saw the films–Predator and Predator 2–prior to college, but I’m not absolutely sure. They never stuck with me quite the same way (especially Predator 2 that I hardly remember except knowing that I saw it at least once). Predator came back a bit to me during grad school and has stuck with me since for some of the cheesey "Arnold stuff" (particularly the "Get to the CHOPPAH!" line).

By the time I saw the films, I’d read at least two Aliens vs. Predator novels. I was most interested in them for being Aliens stories; that they were Aliens vs. Predator/included Predators was incidental to me at the time.

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As pertains to our topic at hand…they continued to EXPAND the universe, to me.

SETTLING IN AND MOVING FORWARD

By the time Alien Resurrection came out in late 1997, I was pretty well steeped in stuff. I was very disappointed in the film, though, for jumping some 200(?) years into the future after Alien3 rather than using the Ripley-as-Synthetic plot point from the books. While I still didn’t take it as such at the time, I now (in 2020) realize that was my first real experience with the difference between "the films" and an "Expanded Universe." Great stories from the books that had expanded my knowledge and understanding and the appeal of the property to me…but they weren’t even acknowledged by the movies!

During college, much of my "main" reading of a "universe" had gone to Magic: The Gathering, as well as continuing with Dragonlance from the mid-’90s and Aliens had kind of fallen off for me.

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alien_novelizations_oldBut then in 2004 while I was working the overnight stocking shift at Meijer (think a Walmart/Target hybrid) when I was browsing the books section, I came across a novelization of AVP…there was a new movie, this time featuring the Aliens AND Predator(s) in one film! I bought the book immediately…though to this day, I don’t actually recall if I ever got around to reading it. Those few months working overnights were part of an interesting period of my life as I struggled to make sense of being out of college and yet still being absolutely clueless about what life was supposed to be. As with many things…a topic for some other time.

I remember the makers of Heroclix giving us a new game–Horrorclix–and the line included several things with Aliens and Predators with the AVP branding. Though interested–in particular to have Aliens in scale with Superman–I never got any (and a June 2020 internet search shows them as being well outside any reasonable price range for me now!)

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In 2005 or so, DH Press (DH for Dark Horse as in the comics publisher) began publishing new Aliens and Predator novels. I was thrilled to get new Aliens novels (though sadly, I passed on the Predator ones at the time, and those are absolutely stupid-ridiculous prices online now in 2020, which is highly frustrating). I suspect this was probably around the time that I finally made the connection or otherwise learned that Earth Hive, Nightmare Asylum, The Female War, Genocide, and so on–those novels I loved as a "kid" that really got me into the property(ies)–were novelIZATIONS. Of Dark Horse comics.

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In 2007 I learned that Dark Horse Comics would be publishing a collection of some of those original comics. A friend actually gifted that volume to me; and thus, I got to read the comics version of the stories I remembered reading as novels. That year also brought the second AVP film, Requiem.

2009 or so brought some new Aliens and Predator comics, led off by a shared Free Comic Book Day issue.

2010 brought AVP: Three World War which once again had the creatures in one series. That year also brought us a new Predator film that took a cue from Aliens and simply added the "s" to pluralize the title: Predators.

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2012 brought the film Prometheus. I recall seeing a movie poster for it, at the theater I frequented in Kent; as well as a couple different trailers for the film. Rumor had it that the film would somehow tie in with Alien or be a "prequel" or some such. It was also when I think I consciously began to recognize Ridley Scott as a specific name, as well. That said, once I saw the film myself, I was NOT particularly impressed by it the first time through…but it’s grown on me on repeat viewings.

In 2014, Dark Horse gave us a huge "event" of sorts…a massive-seeming story involving four different 4-issue mini-series that linked into an overall story: Fire and Stone. This encompassed a Prometheus series, a Predator series, an AVP series, and an Aliens series. Each 4-issue mini-series was technically its own thing, but with a larger story to be gleaned by reading all the minis and a one-shot that followed.

There were also new novels from Titan; though they were branded on the Alien (singular) name rather than Aliens plural…which has always felt a bit "odd" to me, though admittedly distinctive, if only to be separate from the plural branding of the Dark Horse stuff. Alien: Out of the Shadows, Alien: Sea of Sorrows, and Alien: River of Pain kicked things off.

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2015 brought us Aliens/Vampirella which marked the first time I’d ever bought anything Vampirella.

2016 brought a lot of new material. Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens; another 4-series event in Life and Death (Prometheus/Predator/Aliens/AVP); The Rage War (new novels, each branded under Predator, Alien, and Alien vs. Predator, respectively, from Titan). Along with the multi-series Life and Death event, we also got the start of one of the largest series for the Aliens comics in Defiance; matched in length (I believe) only by the 13-issue Colonial Marines story in the ’90s and the 12-issue Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species by Christopher Claremont in 1993-1995).

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2017 gave us the first new "solo" Alien film in 20 years with Alien: Covenant as a follow-up to Prometheus and again by Ridley Scott

2018 gave us a new Predator film with The Predator.

There were also a couple of anthologies of short stories published–Bug Hunt for the Alien franchise, If It Bleeds for the Predator franchise.

There have also been several more comics mini-series for both franchises over the last couple years.

IN THE END

What started out as just another sci-fi/random book for me in the early 1990s "expanded" as I discovered the expandING universe of Aliens/Predator. One novelization…(actually three novelizations in the end). Multiple original novels. More movies. Comics. Toys. Videogames. Audiobooks.

Alien and Predator seem to be things that originally "ought" to have begun and ended with their original singular-titled films. But they expanded into larger universes with books, toys, videogames expanding stuff. They blended, further expanding both franchises’ scope.

Both of the "shared universe" films AVP and AVP: Requiem were out before Iron Man–the first film of Marvel’s "Cinematic Universe"–saw release.

Even though this post took on a different shape than what I think I must’ve thought or planned it to…my own personal collection has expanded quite a bit in the last few weeks as I’ve made a point of tracking down other collected volumes I didn’t have, and a definite focus on single issues.

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I’m learning of comics I didn’t even know existed for either property, both singularly and as crossovers.

I look forward to some imminent expanding of my firsthand knowledge of Predator comics in reading single issues as well as a couple of collected volumes of recent minis. I plan to finally read the original Aliens vs. Predator mini-series…and several weeks ago spent a lot of time finally reading Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species. I’d known THAT was a 12-issue series begun in 1993. Though I did not realize it took two years to get all 12 issues out and that it wrapped in 1995. I remember the initial marketing for the first issue in 1993, but not much beyond that.

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I also neglected to get into much about the toys other than their existence in the ’90s. THOSE were the Kenner toys and included a bunch of different types of aliens, based on various hosts. A gorilla alien, a rhino alien, a snake alien, a scorpion alien, etc. In recent years, NECA has been producing a bunch of high-quality "adult collectible" figures based on the Aliens stuff–movies, comics, etc–and same for Predator.

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Lanard has even gotten in on the toys with some basic figures for kids. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover these back at the beginning of 2020!

My personal Aliens library is one of the more significant subcollections of my overall collection, particularly as toys, graphic novels, and novels.

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As it stands now, the Aliens and Predator comics have become a key "focus" for me, boosting my collection and pulling various comics together from the scattered abyss that is the bulk of my comics collection at present. With this eventual post in mind, and amidst boosting the collection, I acquired and read Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species as well as re-reading the original trilogy of Aliens mini-series; I have a collected volume of the original mini, and single issues for the 2nd and third. I also decided somewhere amidst it all that I’m interested in the various books, even in multiple editions…where I’d once thought to merely "upgrade" or keep to a single edition.

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I also have several volumes set to come eventually but they haven’t been shipped…apparently being held up (as of this writing) by Archie vs. Predator and Archie vs. Predator II.

Though I’d already long realized this stuff was important to me, it’s been interesting recalling just how much so that is, as well as how much more I’ve yet to track down and actually read!

THE END (FOR NOW)

I’m never good at ending these huge, lengthy posts. And even in this final typing, I keep thinking of stuff to add or that I forgot to get into/go over…and eventually a writing project like this just has to be put to bed.

I welcome any comments, thoughts, shared stories, etc. relating to what I’ve shared above. It’s possible that I’ll do some posts in the future covering individual issues or minis as I get to reading them…but I’ve got some other projects that’ve been on the back burner for awhile that are ahead in the queue, so who knows.

If you’ve made it this far, I do thank you for your patience and indulgence.

And I encourage you to check out the rest of the Super-Blog Team-Up by considering any of the links below!


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Super-Blog Team-Up: Expanded Universe

Super-Hero Satellite: M.A.S.K.: The Road To Revolution

Between The Pages Blog: Fantastic Forgotten Star Wars Characters
Comics Comics Comics – The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones
Comic Reviews By Walt: SBTU – Expanded Universe: Aliens and Predator
Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog: Logan’s Run Marvel Movie Adaptation
The Telltale Mind: Archie Andrews – Superstar
Radulich In Broadcasting: Flash Gordon Universe
The Source Material Comics Podcast: TMNT/Ghostbusters
Unspoken Issues: Mad-Dog (Marvel Comics, 1992)
Bronze Age Babies: Seven Decades of Apes-mania, and We’re Afflicted!
Echoes from the Satellite – Tales from the Forbidden Zone – The Pacing Place
Black & White and Bronze Comics – Beast on the Planet of the Apes Review
The Daily Rios – Little Shop of Horrors
Lost N Comics Youtube – Expanding the Medium: Motion/Audio Comics
Pop Culture Retrorama: The Phantom Universe
Cavalcade of Awesome – Jumper Universe
MichaelMay.Online: Treasure Island Universe
DC In The 80s: The TSR Universe

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Aliens On My Shelf

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With the new Alien novel comes a revisiting of my collection. I’ve been “collecting” the Aliens novels since my high school years, if not a bit before. Unfortunately I’m still missing some, but still quite enjoy the run I do have of these…

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The original trilogy of novelizations, all by Alan Dean Foster.

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These novels are based on the various comics published by Dark Horse, though I didn’t learn that until years later, having never paid attention to the indicia–or it never “registered” with me. I simply enjoyed them for what they were…especially the initial trilogy.

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A few years ago, I caught up on these–a newer series of novels, again from Dark Horse, but I don’t think they were adaptations.

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My introduction to Predator was through these novels. It was a number of years later before I finally saw the Predator films, though. I recall looking forward to the initial AVP film, but being quite disappointed In the result.

And now some new novels are out, and I’m intending to get back into reading Aliens for 2015.

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