In 1979, moviegoers were introduced to a vicious race of face-hugging, chest-bursting aliens in Ridley Scott's "Alien." Nearly a decade later, "Predator" kept viewers on the edge of their seats watching the mysterious headhunters from another world decimate Arnold Schwarzenegger's commando unit. But the idea to pit the cinematic monsters against each other came from the offices of Dark Horse Comics, which held (and still holds) the comic book rights to both properties, before finally coming full circle and appearing on film. After a hiatus of nearly ten years, both "Aliens" and "Predator" returned to comics this year in two series written by John Arcudi and illustrated by Zach Howard and Javier Saltares, respectively. Now, "Aliens vs. Predator" marks its return in "Three World War," a six-issue miniseries penned by Dark Horse editor Randy Stradley with art by Rick Leonardi. CBR News spoke with Stradley about the new title, its links to the current "Aliens" and "Predator" books, and his own history with the franchise.
"Aliens vs. Predator: Three World War" may the first "AVP" series since the relaunch of both "Aliens" and "Predator" at Dark Horse, but Stradley said longtime readers should feel right at home. "The story I'm telling includes Machiko Noguchi, the protagonist from the first 'AVP' series (back in 1990!), and one or two of the characters from 'AVP: War.' It takes place about ten years after 'War,' and also works in a character from the current 'Aliens' series," he said. "I even figured out a way for a character from the current 'Predator' series to make an appearance! I'm really trying to weave together old story and character threads with new ones to create a seamless whole out of what began as a piecemeal process. It's a challenge, but it should be fun for continuity buffs to see all of these characters coming together.
"Of course, we're taking pains to make sure new readers have a smooth entrance into the series."
The story of "Three World War" centers on the return to Earth of a lost tribe of Predators, a group more concerned with conquest than the thrill of the hunt. They come armed with advanced technology and weaponized Aliens, and are looking to eradicate their more sporting brethren - and the human race is caught right in the middle. Machiko Noguchi is called upon to strike a tenuous human-Predator alliance, but their team-up is far from friendly.
"Machiko and her human companions are motivated purely by the necessities of survival - the bad Predators are wiping out human settlements out in the galaxy, and the Colonial Marines aren't equipped to defeat them without help from the good Predators," Stradley said.
"The hunter-based Predator clans are the hereditary enemies of the conquest-based Predator clans. They hate each other for cultural reasons which are so ingrained they probably couldn't explain it to use even if we could speak their language. Their antipathy is almost religious in its fervor. So, for the hunter Predators, it's a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. They'll align with humans for this mission, but don't expect that relationship to last forever. And even within the alliance, there are degrees of cooperation. Machiko, who was previously - and somewhat grudgingly - accepted into a hunter clan, is given considerably more respect than her Colonial Marine companions. Look for a lot of friction."
As to the "Three Worlds" of the title, Stradley suggested that this would be revealed over the course of the series. "I think the readers' interpretation of the title, 'AVP: Three World War,' may change between the beginning and the end of the series," he said. "At the outset, it definitely plays out as humans versus Aliens versus Predators, but by the end of the story it's clearly a three-way battle between the 'good' Predators (the hunting Predators we know from the films), the 'bad' Predators (the warlike, live-for-conquest clan introduced in the current 'Predator' series), and the Aliens.
"There are humans in the story, but their function is mostly to provide, well, human interest."
The Aliens and the Predator species are two very distinct extraterrestrial races, neither of which gets along especially well with Earthmen. As to what makes the rivalry and the interaction between these two species so compelling, Stradley said, "I have to chalk that up to the films. Both of the characters are visually compelling, and both were expertly established as truly "alien" entities - something that hadn't really been done in mainstream motion pictures before then."
He continued, "the Aliens are primal and pitiless - all teeth and claws - but with a level of 'intellect' that makes them more than mere animals. They're able to figure out things about us. They can anticipate us and, to a certain extent, our technology. Yet, as smart as they can be, there's no point of entry to their thought processes. You could never reason with them."
The Predators, by contrast, are "more like us," Stradley said. "We can find ground (small, small ground) for mutual understanding and acknowledgement. But it would be a mistake to think of them as just strange-looking humans. While they recognize that we're fellow sentient beings, that fact holds no fascination for them. It just means we're more of a challenge to hunt. Life isn't sacred to them, the thrill of the hunt and the kill is. They possess a certain appealing nobility, but we shouldn't forget that they really only want us for our skulls."
"Aliens vs. Predator: Three World War" finds Stradley bringing back the crossover franchise he helped create, having originated the "AVP" brand with the first comic miniseries after a brainstorming session that included fellow Dark Horse editor Chris Warner. "To give credit where credit is due, Chris Warner is the one who first said the words 'Aliens versus Predator,' setting off small electrical storms in the brains of everybody present," Stradley said. "But I got to write the first story." Nevertheless, returning to the characters at this time presented an unexpected challenge for the writer.
"I have to admit, this story took me a while to crack," Stradley continued. "I was pretty certain that I had used up the last of my 'AVP' ideas fourteen years ago when I wrote 'AVP: War,' so going into this new story, I was concerned about simply covering old ground. Fortunately, I've come up with some new ideas - and some new ideas have been provided by the current 'Aliens' and 'Predator' series.
"Coming back to the series wasn't something I ever planned on, but now that I'm required to come up with new material, yeah, I have found a few story ideas that I'd never previously considered. I'm telling you, though, it helps to have truly great raw material like Aliens and Predators to work with."