Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen! The Godfather of Cyberpunk gives us his original vision for Alien 3 and the biggest crime since Burke’s betrayal on LV-426 is reversed…mostly!
Aliens fans have so much to celebrate of late it seems. With the recent revelation of a possible TV series being discussed by Fox, the uncertain future of the franchise, not helped by the lukewarm response to Alien: Covenant, may soon be behind us. And now there is even more great news for Xenofans, as one of the most divisive decisions within Aliens lore and possibly the biggest betrayal since Carter J. Burke sold out Ripley and Newt for a percentage may finally be reversed. Yes, folks, that’s right, the legendary sci-fi author William Gibson’s original unused screenplay treatment for the movie Alien 3 is to be adapted into comic form for Dark Horse, the home of the chitinous xenomorph, by writer and artist Johnnie Christmas (Angel Catbird, Firebug, and Sheltered). Gibson is considered a cult figure in sci-fi and cyberpunk literature and as the creator of such sci-fi classics as Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and Sprawl Trilogy. He also brought attention to the nascent Steampunk genre with his novel The Difference Engine. And he has contributed much to sci-fi movies and TV over the years, with two works from within his Sprawl Trilogy being loosely adapted into the movies Johnny Mnemonic and New Rose Hotel as well as writing key episodes of The X-Files, entitled Kill Switch and First Person Shooter and is a heavy influence for the TV miniseries Wild Palms and Wachowski movie The Matrix, which draws heavily from his work Neromancer in both use of the terminology and the very name of the movie itself…Not bad, for a human.
Before the David Fincher version of the movie was released, Gibson had been approached to create a script based on early treatments already devised. Gibson’s script was to directly follow the events of Aliens, as Ripley, Hicks, Newt and synthetic Bishop, the sole survivors of the confrontation on LV-426, the settler colony planet also known as Acheron, limp home on the USS Sulaco and stray into the territory of the Union of Progressive Peoples. As its soldiers board the ship they encounter a facehugger, before a planned departure to the space station Anchorpoint, where all hell breaks loose and is infested by the xenomorphs. But the project was pulled and we never saw his vision for the third instalment in the franchise. In the words of Burke himself “It was a bad call, Ripley. A bad call…”
Previously Dark Horse had been producing comic narratives for such classic movie characters as Predator, Terminator, The Thing From Another World and also Aliens. From 1988 to 1990 the first and second volume of the comic series, named Aliens and Aliens: Nightmare Asylum respectively had, like Gibson’s treatment, also originally followed on from James Cameron’s Aliens movie and told the tale of the survivors of the Nostromo incident. However, all that changed with the 1992 David Fincher release, the third in the movie franchise. Now the plot instead revolved around the Saluco’s escape pod crashing onto prison colony Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161, populated by all-male inmates with the double Y chromosome, a genetic mutation which predisposes them to violence. With only the android Bishop putting in ‘half’ an appearance the other survivors, marine Hicks and sole survivor of the settler colony Newt, both integral characters and the raison d’etre and part of Ripley’s whole redemption/mother scenario, were killed off. Because of this, the film courted much controversy among fans, especially to those who held the belief that the whole premise of the second film was completely wasted. Even Bishop knew this. He may be synthetic, but he’s not stupid.
Thus further reprints of the comic series, now called Outbreak, went on to rewrite history, replacing the characters Newt and Hicks with nondescript characters Billie and Wilks. Not since Aliens: Earth Angel in 1994, where John Byrne gave us Ellen Ripley’s ancestor Doctor Ripley go up against the xenomorph in an earthfall infestation in 1950’s America, had there been such a huge retcon in the Aliens comic history. But this one was nowhere near as welcome. Much of the emotional impetus and the new characters connection to Ripley was torn out of the original and this made them unrelatable to the continued plot in a jarring way, as shown in this Sunday Classics review by our very own John Jack, which also compares the original and re-imagined Nightmare Asylum and goes into far greater detail on the story of the miniseries. This also had the knock-on effect that the third instalment to the comic series entitled Earth War became a dead end and Ripley and her two allies (and also their ersatz replacements in the renamed Female War) became defunct and disappeared forever from the comics. Game over man, GAME OVER!
But now fans of the original Aliens comic can, at last, breathe easy and those curious as to the original intent of Gibson for Ellen Ripley and the survivors will surely be treated to a new perspective on the tale and will finally share his vision. We can also assume by the preview images shown, that the plot will involve the resurgence of the underlying themes of the first two movies, that of the vast difference between the “substantial dollar value” of corporate greed and the all too human struggle to survive, which can be seen with the introduction of some government meddling in the dilemma and the Union of Progressive Peoples, as well as the return of some much beloved characters. As the preview images show, it isn’t going to be plain sailing for our android friend and the story will be wildly different from what we have seen before in the movies. We can only hope it will also bode well for the other two lost characters. Can I dream? Yes, honey. I think we both can.
As Gibson himself affirms, almost nothing from his original script made it into the released version as we can devise from his interview with CBR. “When your first contracted screenplay (or screenplay of any kind, in my case) isn’t produced, but the film is eventually made with a different screenplay, retaining nothing of yours but a barcode tattoo on the back of a character’s neck, the last thing you ever expect is to see yours beautifully adapted and realized, decades later, in a different medium, by an artist of Johnnie Christmas’ caliber,” He also confided “It’s a wonderful experience, and I have no doubt that Johnnie’s version, which adheres almost entirely to the script, delivers more of my material to the audience than any feature film would have been likely to do. As for my screenplay, I’d like to point out that I worked from a treatment provide by the film’s three producers, so it wasn’t my idea, at all, to jettison Ripley,” Gibson said. “Unhappy with that, as a fan of the previous two films, I went for a multiple helping of Bishop, my second favorite human character in the first film.” I prefer the term “Artificial Person” myself.
Variant covers by Paolo Rivera & Daniel Warren Johnson
ALIEN 3 #1
Written by William Gibson
Art by Johnnie Christmas
Colors by Tamra Bonvillain
Variant covers by James Harren, Daniel Warren Johnson, Paolo Rivera, Tradd Moore and Christian Ward
On Sale 7th November 2018.
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