Fundamental Comics: Back to Earth for Ripley, Newt, and Hicks in the Alternate ‘Aliens’ Trilogy: ‘Outbreak,’ ‘Nightmare Asylum,’ and ‘Earth War’ and the Study of Humanity

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Despite being a continuation from the Aliens movie storyline, once Alien 3 was released in 1992, the comic-created world became distinctly non-canon. In the films, Newt and Hicks had died, so to make things fit more neatly, the comic was expected to retroactively ditch them. More recently, Gearbox Software’s much-maligned video game, Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013), resurrected Corporal Hicks again for its own official continuation of the Aliens world, but on the page for the 1996 reprints onwards, Hicks became Wilks and Newt became Billy. Interestingly, these changes in the comic re-prints were first made in the novelization of Outbreak, which was released as a tie-in for Alien 3. Yet, Ripley is always Ripley, even when she’s being cloned as she is in Alien Resurrection or is a synthetic, which is how she has been retconned for the comic series (as explained in the novelization of Earth War).

In the 2016 publication of Aliens 30th Anniversary: The Original Comics Series, the original names returned. The 2016 edition also saw another key change: iIt reverted back to the black-and-white artwork of its first six issue publication. When viewed without color, Mark A. Nelson’s panels occasionally invite comparisons to the monochromatic biomechanical illustrations of H. R. Giger, who also provided conceptual design work for Alien. Some of the lingering nightmare imagery, the claustrophobic alien attacks, and the cover art he provided reinforce the connection that comics can have to Giger and horror in a way that is different to that attainable within movies.

Nelson has since adapted the stories of Clive Barker and H. P Lovecraft, but instead of erring on the side of the “unknowable,” his style in Outbreak is clean and exactly detailed, also with strong echoes of Sid Mead’s future-utilitarian concept designs for the Aliens film. Here, the uprising of the Xenomorph zealots is just as disturbing as the operating room and the alien hive, because they all feel so palpably real.

However, while Nelson’s representation of the Xenomorph and human technology cling closely to Giger and Mead’s designs within the movies, his design for the “Space Jockey” is also notably different to that made flesh within Prometheus. In his preface to Aliens 30th Anniversary, Nelson explains that he had to “make some educated guesses regarding some of the Aliens movie mythology,” one of which being that the engineering extra-terrestrial in Outbreak should be depicted as a bipedal space-elephant with the power of telepathy…


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