Written by: Bryant Dillon, Special to CC2K
Fanboy Comics‘ Bryant Dillon reviews the rerelease of the comic book adaptation.
Every geek has his or her holy grail. That one item, autograph, or collectible they’ve heard about, seen on the internet, but never viewed in person. Somehow, it’s always been just out of reach, out of price range, and, more often than not, out of print. My geek holy grail was, for a long time, Alien: The Illustrated Story by Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson. In my early comic collecting years, I was a fanatic for Dark Horse’s Aliens comic line. While Dark Horse published adaptations of Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien: Resurrection, they never tackled the first film. At some point, this fact was discussed in a fan letter column and through the editor’s response, I discovered that in 1979 there was a comic adaptation of Alien featured in Heavy Metal. The editor made it clear that it was a rare find, and in the years before the internet, I considered it my holy grail – the item I would continuously search for but most likely never find. Years later, via the miracle of the internet, I was able to view the comic from pages that had been scanned and assembled as a PDF online. It was exciting to finally see the story and art I had hoped to view for so long, but, as a collector, it still lacked that tangibility of owning my own copy and seeing it fit in that space on the Aliens comic shelf that was so rightly set aside for it.
Well, my fellow comic book sniffers, I’ve not only seen the grail, I now hold it in my hands! After thirty years of being out of print, Titan Books and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products are releasing a brand new edition of Alien: The Illustrated Story that has been completely and meticulously restored using the original artwork from Walt Simonson’s studio! I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this gorgeous book (must be the close relationship I have with my local Weyland-Yutani rep), and I’m happy to let you know that it is a masterpiece and easily worth twice the amount of the $14.95 price tag.
Comic book movie adaptations can be an odd beast. In my experience, they often leave the reader feeling like something magical is missing from the pages. And, it’s a rough task to create a movie adaptation that must compete with the original film version. The film always receives more finances, more time, and more promotional support and will always be the definitive version in the public’s mind. While Alien: The Illustrated Story doesn’t surpass the film, it is one of the best translations of film story to sequential art that I’ve ever read. The tone and horror of the film are deftly captured in Goodwin’s writing, and Simonson’s art is absolutely stellar. I have no doubt that the unsuspecting souls who experienced this story first in the pages of Heavy Metal instead of on film were sure to have been just as disturbed and petrified by the tale as those in the theater. The book’s large-scale format only enhances this feeling by lending a cosmic epicness to Simonson’s breathtaking splash pages.
While being a successful adaptation (Frank Miller actually called it “ . . . the only successful movie adaptation ever done in comics . . . ”), the book also has just enough unique content to make it interesting for a hard-core Alien fanatic like myself. There are several scenes containing cut material from Alien’s original script, variations of the death scenes of major characters, and the beautiful addition of a Joseph Conrad quote to start the book: “We live as we dream – alone.” Conrad is well known for writing his novel, The Nostromo, which also happens to share its name with Ellen Ripley’s ill-fated ship.
I do have one complaint, and it’s an extremely small one: with a book this beautiful, why isn’t it a hardcover? I promise to forgive Titan Books for this oversight, as long as they publish a hardcover version down the road, perhaps with some excellent bonus content from Goodwin or Simonson. No, I don’t have any problem paying for an additional hardcover copy, even though I have the soft cover, as well. Trust me, neither will you!
That’s the end of my transmission, gang!
This is Bryant the Comic Book Slayer . . . last surviving comic book sniffer of the Nostromo . . . signing off.
Bryant Dillon is the President of Fanboy Comics, an online conglomerate of geek media, providing its readers with daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts that span the pop culture spectrum. For more interviews, blogs, and reviews by Bryant and the FBC staff, check out the Fanboy Comics website at www.fanboycomics.net.