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ALIENS VS PREDATOR VS TERMINATOR: Dark Horse Comics
Writer Mark Schultz on melding the franchises into a 4-part mini-series.
By Edward Gross
February 04, 2000
Writer Mark Schultz cannot emphasize enough that his four-issue ALIEN VS. PREDATOR VS. TERMINATOR miniseries from Dark Horse Comics is, first and foremost, an exciting action-adventure that should appeal to fans of all three franchises. The reason for his concern is that, as he discusses the project, he references things like character development and the sociological underpinnings of each represented species.
'It sounds so boring,' he says, 'but I swear to you, it's more visually exciting than that. I have to admit, though, that when Dark Horse asked me to write it, the first thing that came into my mind was, 'This is ridiculous. What can you do with it? It's just a pure sales gimmick; there's nothing you can do with it that would be at all interesting. It's just going to be like WWF Smackdown in outer space.' We had to sit down and figure out a context to make all of this work together so it wasn't totally disrespectful to the audience. It's not like you have to buy it because they're all together. We wanted to put a good story together, and from something I was very leery and cynical about in the beginning, I'm very excited about now.'
The scenario of the miniseries has the android Call (Winona Ryder in ALIEN RESURRECTION) locating Ripley's clone, who is still trying to figure out where she fits in the universe, and attempting to recruit her into an anti-government unit that has learned about a new super soldier that utilizes Alien physiology. Initially, Ripley refuses, until Call threatens to expose her location to the authorities who are desperate to get their hands on her again. With no choice, Ripley accompanies Call to a space station on which the horrible experiments are supposedly taking place. At the same time, the Predators, aware that the universe is about to be thrown out of whack by events on this station, step in. Finally, it is revealed that a scientist named Trollenberg, who has been heavily involved with the study of the Aliens, is actually a new breed of Terminator, who is in the midst of initiating a new form of itself that combines cyborg technology with Alien physiology. The plan is to use this new form of Terminator to re-establish Skynet and exterminate all inferior life forms. Ripley and Call find themselves in an uneasy alliance with the Predators to put an end to this plan...if they can.
'The thing that's kept me awake at night is trying to capture what the fans of each specific property want to see and keep them in balance throughout a four-issue miniseries, which is essentially 88-pages of story. That doesn't give you a lot of room to satisfy the different constituencies of the different properties. That's the problem, trying to balance it out. I'm a fan of all three concepts, and I'm trying to take the elements that I found the most interesting and entertaining from each and make it work.
'When I first got the project,' adds Schultz, creator of CADILLACS AND DINOSAURS and current writer of the Superman title, MAN OF STEEL, 'it was a purely technical problem. It seemed overwhelming. As it evolved, it actually became much more of a Ripley story. Within the context of all this happening, it was a chance for me to develop a character who I feel in the last couple of movies was turned into a cartoon. She had been a character with such rich possibilities and who evolved so well through the first two movies, but she was left to flounder in the last two. This was my chance to say, 'How am I going to give Ripley some meaning and some justification?' That sounds terribly boring and pretentious, but I wanted to evolve her character and give her a better understanding of who or what she is. She's a clone that is part Alien and part human. It's a great notion, but they took this wonderful character, who was a poignant character and someone you cared about a lot, and she was someone with this horrible tragedy hanging over her head, and they just made her into this tough-talking Barb Wire-kind of character. It was hard to really care about her anymore. In ALIEN RESURRECTION they also had this great relationship they could have played up with Call, an android who wishes she was human, and they just wasted it. The director who did it is very visual, but he's never shown in any of his previous films that he understands character. It all adds up. The suits at Fox probably say, 'We have to go with people with a visually stunning style, because we don't have any faith in this as a story.'
'That's the other thing,' he continues, 'I get to play with how I would like to see things play out in the ALIEN movies if it was up to me insofar as showing Ripley the kind of respect she should get. You can't keep beating up on her, which the movies have been doing. You have to, at some point, give her something back. Even though what's happening to her might be tragic, there has to be some compensation. There's a certain transcendence that should come. If you suffer enough, you gain an amount of wisdom or understanding or peace of mind that exceeds the fear of death or whatever you're going through, and they haven't done that.'
Using an examination of what exactly Ripley is human or alien appeals to him as well, because he has never viewed the Aliens as evil, despite being presented that way to movie audiences. 'They just happen to be higher on the food chain than us, which makes them evil,' he muses. 'Just the way our ancestors thought of wolves as evil because they were a threat to us. They're not a threat anymore, so anyone who sees a wolf as evil now has some sort of issues to deal with. The Aliens regularly snack on us so we look at them as evil, but they're really not, and they just do what they do to survive. I have Ripley realizing that these things that have changed her life aren't the real evil at work. She realizes throughout this miniseries more and more that the true evil is the Industrial Military Complex men, in other words, who take the Aliens out of context and put them in collision with human beings.'
Schultz also has his own feelings about the Predators. 'I like them because they're a hunting culture,' he details. 'That has been explored a little bit in other Dark Horse books. They're a hunting culture with a rich tradition of hunting Aliens. I'm hypothesizing that it's more than just a hunter-prey relationship. The Predators have a very specific understanding of how the ecology of the universe works and the place of the Aliens in that ecology is very important to them. It's almost like an American Indian's relationship with their prey: it's part of the earth; it's part of the bigger picture. As the story unfolds, the Predators become a very important catalyst for having Ripley understand who she is, where her loyalties lie, what the bigger issues are in her life. In other words, the Predators and Ripley, including Ripley's camp Call and all become unwitting allies in this battle against the real evil in this, as represented by the Terminators, which are an extension of man's greed for power and whatnot. They've grown out of man and completely go out on their own agenda, which is to wipe out all life period. In the future time, we see a new generation of Terminators which are incorporating Alien physiology into their structures to give them powers and capabilities far beyond what we've seen before in Terminators. It also means they have the power to wipe out life beyond Earth; to become a threat to the entire balance of the cosmos, which draws in the Predators. The Terminator represents the Military Industrial Complex. They ARE the bad guys.'
The impression is that the human revolution against Skynet as depicted in the TERMINATOR features was successful, paving the way for the creation of Earth as seen in the ALIEN films. 'This story [of the miniseries] essentially happens in the Aliens universe timeframe,' says Schultz. 'The Predators will fit in to just about anything; they're no problem. The problem was fitting in the Skynet/Terminator war universe with the Alien universe. What I'm postulating is that it did happen a couple of centuries before the Alien stories, but this is history that has been suppressed by the powers that be in the Aliens timeframe. Skynet happened in the past in the Aliens universe, but the people we deal with in the Aliens stories wouldn't have any clue that this had happened unless they had special access to government or military information that the average guy on the street doesn't have.
'If you think about it,' he continues, 'what we're talking about is several hundred years from when the Skynet wars would have happened; and when this story would have happened, which is right after Alien Resurrection, I postulate that Skynet always has an extra card up its sleeve. Even though it knew it was going to be defeated by the humans led by John Connor in the 21st Century, it sent these sleeper Terminators to outlast the centuries and wait until they could develop a new army of Terminators to bring back Skynet on some unspecified date in the future. The catalyst that allows this all to happen is the discovery of the Aliens and military experiments on the Aliens that allows them to take certain physical characteristics from the Aliens and graft them on to a cyborg technology.'
Given their success rate, the odds are stacked in Dark Horse's favor that readers will be exposed to numerous additional miniseries featuring the ALIENS, PREDATOR and TERMINATOR universes. Schultz has his own theories as to why they in film and comic book form have struck such a visceral chord with the audience.
'They're the Frankensteins, Draculas and Wolfmans of today,' he says. 'They're the monsters that we all seem to be attracted to, but they're cast in a context that we're able to believe in a little more today. They're not supernatural monsters anymore; they're monsters of a scientific bent. I guess we all like the fear and safe release of fear we get from confronting something that is more powerful than us.'