Dark Horse is remaking the universe. Aliens, Predators, and Engineers will come together in 2014 when the Aliens, Predators, and Alien Vs. Predator comics get completely rebooted, along with the first Prometheus comic series, and joined together in a single continuity next year. We spoke with all four writers — Chris Roberson, Paul Tobin , Joshua Williamson and Chris Sebela — to get all the details.
Io9: Are you keeping all of the original four movies as canon? Is there anything you’re dropping?
Roberson: Definitely, everything in the original movies is “canon” as far as I’m concerned. We won’t be directly referencing anything that happened with Ripley and company, but nothing that we’ll be doing will contradict or conflict with anything we’ve seen before, either.
So that means the charcters are all new, right?
Roberson: This will be an entirely original cast of characters. We might well have the occasional reference to someone that we’ve seen on screen before, but they won’t be appearing “on stage,” as it were.
Are there any major changes that will surprise readers of the previous Alien comics?
Roberson: One thing that [editor] Scott Allie and I discussed when I was first brought onto the project was his desire to get away from the more militaristic tone of the franchise from the second film onwards, and push back closer to the “horror” vibe of the original film. So we’re taking a similar approach here. These aren’t soldiers trained for combat, but regular people whose lives are thrown into chaos when they encounter the unknown.
How much are you collaborating with the other writers to make a unified universe?
Roberson: The level of collaboration here between the writers is pretty phenomenal, actually. Chris, Paul, and Joshua are all friends of mine who I hang out with on a regular basis, but it was an interesting experience getting to sit together in one room with them and hash out the intricacies of these various characters and their individual stories, and how they would sync up and interact. When Scott brought me onboard, he described it as a “writer’s room,” which is something that I hadn’t really been a part of before. And when you factor in that we also had Patric Reynolds and the editorial geniuses from Dark Horse in the room, there was a lot of brainpower at work putting these stories together.
What opportunity is the reboot providing that you’re most excited about?
Roberson: There isn’t any aspect of this that I’m NOT excited about! I’ve wanted to work with Dark Horse since the company launched back in the ‘80s, I’ve been a fan of the Alien films since I first saw the original movie when I was in middle school a few years before that, and I’ve been hoping to collaborate with Patric Reynolds on something since I first saw his work. Factor in the fact that I’m also collaborating with some of my favorite writers, who are all pals of mine, this is nothing but win for me!
Io9: Are you focussing on new characters too, or will th this be the further adventures of Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender’s head?
Tobin: We're definitely focusing on original characters. I think the Prometheus movie opened a wealth of questions about the nature of the Engineers, and the aliens, and the universe as a whole. It's interesting how some people watch the movie with a feeling of, "Oh, well, THAT answered some questions!" and others have a different reaction, seeing the work as a springboard for even further mysteries to be answered, for more to be explored. Myself, I love to focus on what's still out there, both in the glory of exploration, and the horror of finding out answers you're not ready for. New characters fit us best for those purposes.
Will the Engineers be returning?
Tobin: They'll have a strong presence throughout the entire project, because the nature of the Engineers and the theme of creation is a strong one throughout the whole of our project. Just what KIND of presence the Engineers will have... that I can't reveal at this time. But they're too enigmatic a race to stay away from, and the way that the various species interact... THAT'S very fascinating to me. How do humans see Engineers? How do Predators see Engineers? Where do we clash? Find common ground? When we first started having meetings to work out the overall story structure, these were some of the questions we were asking each other, so we knew that the questions needed to be addressed in the story.
Have you been working with Ridley Scott or gotten any movie materials to help write the comic?
Tobin: No direct interactions. That's too bad, in some ways, because it would have been interesting to all grab a beer together and hash out a story in some bar, probably ultimately ending in a drunken brawl that Sebela would definitely win, owing to how he's the only one of us with a beard. On the flip side, it's been fantastic that we've all been trusted to come up with the stories we want to tell, to work out our own skeletons and flesh them out as we see fit. It really gives us a chance to showcase what we can do.
What can you tell us about the creating this new world together?
Tobin: This project is a huge collaboration, and I'm happily finding myself at the nexus of it, as some of the overall key points and characters will stem from the Prometheus comic. This means that we all have to work together constantly, making sure our own storylines meld, and that I'm not destroying plot points that others are trying to build. We've had ongoing summit meetings, apartment meetings, party meetings, emails, texts, phone calls, and I wouldn't doubt that editor Scott Allie will contact us all with sky-writing at some point.
Will you be exploring the same theme of meeting your creator in the comic?
Tobin: Definitely. The creator / creation theme was a huge part of Prometheus, but it's such a huge topic that no movie can do more than tantalize the subject, unless it's ten hours long and requires brain implants. So... here in our overall project we get to explore it a bit more. Still no brain implants, though. Maybe for the collected editions?
Aliens, Predators and AvP are reboots, but the Prometheus comic is all new. Are you jealous that the other writers are getting to reboot their series but you have to start from scratch?
Tobin: I'm both not-at-all jealous, and completely-totally jealous. Starting from scratch is actually easier than rebooting, because you get to decide not only where the puzzle pieces go, but what they are in the first place. And the project is intertwined enough that no one writer is standing alone... we're writing this in tandem with each other, which means we're all up in each others' sandboxes. That's fine with me, because each of us LOVES playing with character, and when characters are solid, solid stories take shape. These guys are doing some of the best comics out there right now, with Chris Sebela on High Crimes, and Josh Williamson on Ghosted, and Chris Roberson on Edison Rex... all projects that rely on strong characters. So... jealousy deleted, because it's too much fun to work with these guys to think otherwise. On the other hand, having helped to build their stories (as they helped build mine) means I know what they get to play with, and damn... that would be some fun stuff to take further. I'm also jealous of Roberson for getting to work with Patric Reynolds, one of my favorite artists, but even there I can say, "But... I get to work with Juan Ferreyra. So take THAT, suckahs!"
Prometheus was met with some criticism with fans — are you at all worried to be taking it on with a comic?
Tobin: Nahh. That stuff doesn't bother me. I actually like the strong debates that stemmed from Prometheus, because it shows how much people care about this grand overall universe that's been created. People are always passionate about movies like Prometheus, because mysteries lead to mysteries, and people want to KNOW. So, we're here to give them some more answers. And a few more mysteries, too.
Do you plan on addressing any of the many mysteries the movie presented, such as the similar but different “eggs” between Prometheus and the first Alien movie?
Tobin: Definitely going to be exploring several mysteries of that nature. The fun is in the surprise of HOW those mysteries are going to be explored. Josh had a moment at one of our summit meetings, something he mumbled while we were all jabbering at the same time and eating home-made cookies (we're freelancers, meaning we devour all free food in the manner of the Sarlacc Pit devouring Boba Fett) when he said an offhand comment about an approach to a couple of these mysteries, and the whole room went silent, and then we all started nodding, writing down the notes, so pleased with ourselves that we decided to reward our collective brilliance by having a few more cookies.
io9: Does an AvP comic mean that Aliens and Predators will never meet in their solo titles?
Sebela: Right now nothing is off the table as far as how big or crazy we're going to get on any of these books, but if you're looking for the most Alien and Predator interaction bang for your buck, then AvP is going to be a very wise investment.
Are both AvP movies going to be canon, or just the solo movies?
Sebela: I'm just sticking with the solo movies, because I think they build up an interesting mythology of their own that fits in well with the world we're building. I think the AvP movies have a lot of interesting things going on, but they seem to exist in their own little bubble, one that's very far away from ours, and, personally, I want to keep myself as free of all past AvP encounters, to start from a clean slate and build my own take on this mythical face-off.
Can you say anything about the protagonists?
Sebela: I hate to be the "I wish I could tell you this super cool thing but I can't" guy, but I wish I could tell you this super cool thing, but I can't. What I can say is that the protagonists are going to be just as important as the titular battling creatures, they're not there just to be monster fodder or to serve as threats we have to reactively deal with. They stand on their own, and they have a past that makes their present even more fraught with danger. Putting it another way, we could do a book just about these protagonists and it would still be an amazingly cool book that fit perfectly well within this world of aliens and predators and engineers.
How will AvP differ from the Aliens and Predators comics? What sets it apart?
Sebela: AvP, at its core, is a revenge story. It just happens that it's a revenge story wrapped up in a brutal, nonstop monster movie, but a monster movie where you're never sure who to root for. There'll be lots of ultra violence, lots of bloodshed, lots of terror. While there's a lot of similarities in theme across all the books, Chris' Aliens book and Josh's Predators book will be very different in tone and approach from AvP and from one another, which is what excites me most about the way the books are coming out and everyone bringing their individual tastes and tics to each title, where we can tell all kinds of different stories in one mutual sandbox.
Will any aspects of Prometheus creep in, or is this strictly Aliens and Predators?
Sebela: Yeah, there will be Prometheus-adjacent things in AvP, but, wah wah, I can't tell you what. Prometheus is the warm, beating heart of all these books, everything spins out from the Prometheus book that Paul is writing, so AvP can't help but contain aspects of it just by dint of being part of the line-up, coming from the same hive-mind of our writer's room. But there'll be some other, less touched on aspects from Prometheus that do show up, because I'd be foolish not to try and get my fingers in all the pies.
What’s the best and worst part of having AvP versus one of the solo titles?
Sebela: The best part is I get to play with all the big pieces on the board. I get some Aliens, I get some Predators, I get some Prometheus and I get to lock them in a room and figure out the best way to make them do terrible things to each other. After the first few writer's room meetings, we all went off to write the outlines of our books based on stuff we'd agreed on in the room and when I sat down, I had this moment of Christmas morning childlike overload where I couldn't pick what I wanted to play with first because I want to play with
The worst part? Having been in the writer's room, and seeing what everyone else is going to be doing, it's hard not to be a little envious when I know what sort of things they're getting to do. It's that little voice in your head whining "I wanna do that too." So if I had to pick a worst part, that would be it. That and the enormous amount of internal pressure I feel from previous, younger iterations of myself who were raised on these movies to get this book absolutely right, to please Aliens fans, Predator fans, Prometheus fans and casual fans who aren't total nerds like me.
Any chance of an Alien versus Predator versus Engineer brawl?
Sebela: I think the best analogy I can use here instead of actually answering this question is that each of these books is like throwing a deck of playing cards up in the air. When the dust settles, some cards will be touching others just on the corners, some will be laying right on top of others, some will be stranded all by themselves on the other side of the room, some are inexplicably wedged in the blinds. We have a lot of cards we're playing with in these books and some of them fall like you'd expect and some end up on the other side of the room, we're not discarding any possibilities.
Io9: There’s Predator, Predator 2, and Predators. Are they all canon?
Williamson: It’s all canon to me. I love all three movies. I remember seeing Predator at home on video and then seeing Predator 2 in the theaters at the tender young age of 9. I’m pretty sure it was the most violent movie I’d seen to date and I loved it!
If you look at how the continuity works in the original films they each work alone, but still acknowledge the ones before it. That’s the same attitude I’ve had with my Predator story. Listen, I’m a continuity junkie, to toss anything would be sacrilege, but I don’t want it to overpower what I’m trying to do here.
I don’t suppose there’s any chance of Dutch or Danny Glover making an appearance, is there?
Williamson: Again in keeping with the theme of the originals, we’ve created a great cast of characters to battle our Predator. One thing I’m personally excited with our take is that there are no good guys in our Predator comic. Not really. Closer to anti-heroes, who are out to survive at all costs. The main guy will be a bad ass dude named Galgo, who would stab anyone in the back to get what he wanted. His interactions with the Predator have been… interesting.
Will the Predators be the main characters or the antagonists?
Williamson: Both? I don’t want to give too much away but we have a Predator who os an older Predator past his prime and [looking for] one last great hunt. It’s our version of Moby Dick, with a Predator obsessed with hunting the impossible. A few humans get in his way and a few… well, you’ll need to read to find out.
Are there any major changes that will surprise readers of the previous Predator comics?
Williamson: Not so much, no. I’ve made it a point to keep the heart of those stories and just tell the best story possible and honor what has come before me. If they liked those Predator comics, and are a fan of the Predator franchise, then they’ll like what were doing.
What was making this new universe with your fellow writers like?
Williamson: We’ve been meeting at Scott Allie’s house and breaking the story together. At first I wasn’t even writing Predator. That came out of the meetings. There has been some arguing, some yelling, some fist fights, but in the end we all came together with the best ideas to move forward with. A little bit of blood spilled never hurt anyone, and it only helped out story take shape. We wanted to make sure that it all flowed and worked together like a well oiled machine and that took a lot of putting egos aside and finding what worked and what didn’t. It’s easily been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in working in comics. A highlight of my career.
What are you most excited about?
Williamson: The ability to tell a stand-alone Predator story that has its own emotional core. That has a theme that speaks to me personally. Sometimes when you write licensed books your personal voice as a writer can get a bit lost. But with this reboot and the way Dark Horse has approached this massive project has allowed me to keep the “ME” in my writing.