Alien: The Illustrated Story (Titan Books)

The long out-of-print adaptation of Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi film (by comics masters Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson) finally returns to the comic shelf.


64 pgs. color; $14.95
(W: Archie Goodwin; A: Walter Simonson)
As is often the case with franchises, the first Alien film was the best—in fact, I’d rate it one of the top sci-fi films of all time. Ridley Scott’s 1979 film has another distinction that I only recently became aware of (although something that apparently people who were reading comics back in the day already knew): it was also the basis for one of the all-time great film-to-comic adaptations. In fact, Frank Miller says Alien: The Illustrated Story might be the only successful film-to-comic adaptation, and he should know.
Alien: The Illustrated Story was originally published in 1979 by Heavy Metal, and is being re-released this September by Titan Books. If you want to see how to turn a 117-minute film into a 64-page comic book, retaining the feel and feel of the film while creating something that absolutely works as a comic as well, this is the book for you.
This adaptation works because it captures the diverse elements that made the film such a classic. First, you have the creep factor—it’s one of the most unsettling stories ever, playing on our most primitive fears while ratcheting up the tension frame by frame. Then there’s the rich cast of characters and their realistic interactions, and a dissection of how the best of human qualities can sometimes prove destructive. Finally, you have the amazing visual creation of a world, and a monster, that is utterly fantastic yet feels realer than real.
The collaborators on Alien: The Illustrated Story were both industry veterans working at the top of their game. Writer Archie Goodwin’s (and yes, that is his real name) many accomplishments include writing and editing Creepy and Eerie for Warren Publishing and adapting Star Wars for Marvel Comics as well as editing Marvel’s Epic line; his work on Alien demonstrates his ability to capture the essence of a story without getting lost in the details. Artist Walter Simonson has worked on, among other things, Manhunter (with Goodwin), the Fantastic Four, Thor, and Superman, and his beautifully detailed art perfectly echoes the handmade look of the film. He’s also a master at drawing people—capturing the personality of every character as well as the likeness of the actors—something you can’t always count on with a sci-fi comic.
Really, I don’t have anything bad to say about Alien: The Illustrated Story, except that there are no extras (for that, you will have to wait for the “original art” edition to be released in October. You can see a preview of the art here, although the 2012 release has a different cover. | Sarah Boslaugh

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