Earlier this week I was able to read an advance copy of Dark Horse Comics’ latest entry in their long running Aliens
comics saga – “Aliens: Defiance.”
Written by Brian Wood (Rebels
); we’re all big fans and supporters of his work. Me being a huge Aliens
fan (and a big Ellen Ripley fan), I jumped at the opportunity to review this issue and speak with Mr. Brian Wood in regards to “Aliens: Defiance” issue 1.
It’s a big year for Aliens
fans as we near closer to its 30th anniversary and this month’s #AlienDay426
. What perfect timing then to kick off the month with an interview with the talented creator behind “Aliens: Defiance” and talk about our love of the films, the new series, and of the dream opportunity it would be to write an Ellen Ripley comic series… for Dark Horse Comics, of course.
Steven Biscotti: Hi Brian. This is a big year for Aliens with the 30th Anniversary. It’s great seeing Dark Horse Comics still publishing titles based off of this saga all this time after. I grew up with DHC’s comics and “Aliens: Defiance” fits right into the comic book history. How much of an Aliens fan were you and how familiar were you with the DHC series? I know you have a great relationship with them and was that a series you had read?
Brian Wood: Most of my exposure to Aliens over the years has been the films, but I did read, pretty randomly at the time, the Dave Gibbons/Mignola ALIENS: SALVATION back when it was new, which has stuck with me over the years and kept me aware of the fact Dark Horse has been adding to the Aliens universe in meaningful ways over the years. I’m happy to be a part of that, to be adding to it. I’m also happy they put that SALVATION book back into print, as my original copy was in tatters.
SB: There were several aspects that really struck me as an Aliens fan while reading issue 1 of “Defiance.” Chief among them was of how much attention you paid to the overall saga with mentions of the usual staples like Weyland Yutani and what not. But Amanda Ripley? That was really special, especially considering her world was introduced in proper in the video game “Isolation” some time ago. Was that organic to your storytelling? Or is there a much larger “bible” of sorts that you and the team refer to as you are essentially playing in a much larger sandbox?
BW: Well, we set out on this project both knowing that what we were doing was canon, and also with a mandate amongst ourselves to make it count, make it “matter” in the comic book sense of the word. To set it firmly and specifically in the Aliens timeline that Josh Izzo at FOX laid out for us. “Us” meaning, of course, Tristan Jones, Dan Jackson, and Nate Peikos. Both Tristan and I love the Isolation video game, and the places in the timelines matched up, so why not? And as we go forward, we’ll be looking for other way to link this story to the overall story, when it makes sense.
I’d love to hear a little bit about the creation of Zula and Hendricks. They seem like you approached the world and characters of Aliens
and then flipped it in a really inspired way, especially with the revelation regarding Hendricks near the end. Really surprising considering how many stories present the synthetics as “bad.”
In the case of these specific synthetics, they are ‘bad’ in the sense that they are corporate mercenaries, “drones” as Zula calls them, not proper soldiers but something sort of like Blackwater guns for hire. So as a Marine, she has an immediate distrust and dislike for them, and to them, she’s something that is tagging along on this mission and getting in the way. That’s their relationship as we are introduced to them.
Early on, I wanted to write a Colonial Marine. The Marines in the film ALIENS are a little overblown in a gung ho 80’s action movie kind of way. And I didn’t want to write them like that, since, for one, it feels dated, and secondly I know real life Marines, as people and not caricatures. So this is why Zula is who she is, young and personable and very human. Very flawed, too, which is a character trait I always like writing. How she develops and evolves over the next few issues, as well as how Davis evolves, I think, will surprise people.
Brian, you always seem to work with some of the best artists. Be it Andrea Mutti on “Rebels” and now Tristan Jones and Dan Jackson on “Aliens: Defiance.” The work Jones and Jackson have done on issue 1 is incredible and the story feels alive. Especially the credits page near the opening. Has there been more of an effort to pay homage to the film legacy with this being the 30th Anniversary? Or was it just ‘we’re going to make the best comic we can and this is one way we’re going to do it.’
BW: Our overall goal has always been to do our best to evoke the vibe of the original films. My part of that is obviously in the writing, and suggesting things like the credits page. Tristan Jones is a huge Aliens nerd, and he’s pouring everything he has into drawing period-specific pressure suits, control panels, ship design, and so on. Dan’s working to both evoke the palette of the films while making sure the comic feels modern and vibrant. Dark Horse is watching over us all, and Fox is advising on every script, so we’re definitely set up to succeed and I think we are. I’m really happy with the book.
And yeah, the Anniversary was always the target we were aiming for, way back a year or two when I was first asked to take a crack at this. But not in an event driven way or anything like that. What I was asked to pitch was a standalone Aliens book that could function as – if not literally than in spirit – as a tentpole title for the Aliens at Dark Horse. So what we have is a classic Aliens story with strong character development and a story that can unfold and expand as long as the title runs.
SB: Brian, I could talk to you all day regarding your work, especially right now concerning “Aliens: Defiance.” I’d like to conclude with asking what we could expect from the series going forward? And out of the Aliens Quadrilogy, which film was your favorite?
So, without giving too much away, at the end of the first issue Zula and Davis have a mission to carry out. So as they do that, as they travel and take on the xenomorphs as per that mission, the character arcs progress as well: Zula’s injuries, her sense of isolation, the fact she’s AWOL from her squad… Davis’ own coming to grips with his programming vs what his logic centers tell him, and how these two figure out how to work together. I also want to add that this story comes pretty early in the overall Aliens timeline. Basically no one knows about the Aliens, so that’s a cool aspect of discovery in the story as well, as Zula and Davis realize just what these things are capable of.
And I prefer Alien, the first film, for the artistry of it, for the groundbreaking nature of it. Aliens 4, Resurrection, has a great cast and a great director, and its gorgeous to look at. But I am one of the few who really loves 3, the prison planet one. Don’t ask me to defend it, I just like it!
SB: …also, we’ve never actually gotten a full Ripley comic from Dark Horse Comics. Would you be up to writing one if the project came about?
BW: That would be a dream come true. For me and probably a few thousand other comics creators, honestly…
SB: Thank you so much Brian for your time. Can’t wait to read issue 2!
Please make sure to pick up Dark Horse Comics’ Aliens: Defiance
issue 1 on April 27th! There’s still time to make sure your local comic shop
gets it too. The Final Order Cutoff (FOC) is this Monday, April 4th and the PREVIEWS order number is FEB160010.
And remember, while no one can hear you scream in space, your friends and family will if you don’t head to your local comic shop today to reserve your copy!
*Steven Biscotti and What’cha Reading would like to thank Mr. Brian Wood for his time speaking with us; Mr. David Hyde of Superfan Promotions for graciously setting up this interview; and as always, Dark Horse Comics.
You could follow Brian Wood on Twitter at @brianwood
Aliens: Defiance #1 – FEB160010
Brian Wood (W), Tristan “T-Rex” Jones (A), Mark A. Nelson (Variant)
On April 27, 2016, Dark Horse Comics is launching a riveting new ALIENS ongoing comic book series, just in time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Aliens film. The two issues of ALIENS DEFIANCE will be written by NEW YORK TIMES bestselling writer Brian Wood (THE MASSIVE; REBELS), illustrated by rising star Tristan Jones (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD; TMNT) and colored by Dan Jackson (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) with bestselling artist Riccardo Burchielli (DMZ) illustrating issues three and four. Acclaimed cover artist Massimo Carnevale (Y THE LAST MAN) will provide stunning covers for the series’ first storyline.
ALIENS DEFIANCE charts the dangerous journey of Colonial Marine Private First Class Zula Hendricks, who goes AWOL to protect Earth from an unknown alien species that’s been discovered on on a derelict hauler. Accompanied by Weyland-Yutani synthetics, HENDRICKS must battle demons from her past while fighting for her life.
“The first thing you need to know about ALIENS: DEFIANCE is that the illustrations of the xenomorphs are truly terrifying,” said Dark Horse Comics Associate Editor Spencer Cushing. “And like all the great stories in the ALIENS franchise, so much of the story’s horror is psychological. Zula Hendricks is an unforgettable addition to the world of ALIENS.”