Whoever Wins, We Win: A Brief History of Aliens vs Predator
Ruthlessly efficient biological killing machines. Fascinatingly grotesque and bizarre extraterrestrial monsters. More than a match for an entire cast of human characters. And, most importantly, stars of 1980s 20th Century Fox-distributed films and licensed to Dark Horse Comics. These are the similarities that forged a decades-long bond between the Aliens and Predator franchises, linking them into a symbiotic relationship that has infested medium after medium, and lasted over 25 years now.
In fact, the only creatures that the Aliens-with-a-capital-A, the so-called "Xenomorphs" of the now 30-year-old Aliens, come into conflict more often with the than the mysterious humanoid hunters of the Predator franchise are humans, which stands to reason. We're the ones making the movies and comics and video games, after all.
By 1990, the H.R. Giger-designed Aliens had starred in two films, 1979's Alien and 1986's Aliens. That was the same year that the film Predator 2, a sequel to the 1987 Predator film, saw release, and its climax helped fan the flames of Alien vs. Predator conflict. When Danny Glover's sweaty Los Angeles police detective snuck aboard the Predator's ship and examined the wall of skull trophies, among them was the head of one of the Xenomorphs from Aliens. It seemed to promise a franchise vs. franchise fight film --- not unlike the appearance of Freddy Krueger's gloved hand at the end of Jason Goes To Hell a few years later --- but it would be years before that happened.
In the meantime, Dark Horse had already begun mixing that metaphorical peanut butter and metaphorical chocolate. The publisher started making Aliens comics in 1988 and launched its first Predator series in 1989. The following year, Dark Horse first combined the two in an issue of Dark Horse Presents, and then launched the four-issue Aliens vs. Predator miniseries, by Randy Stradley and pencil artist Phil Norwood.
At the time, these comics offered the deepest and fullest understanding of the Predator aliens and their culture, which was kept purposely mysterious in the films (and preceding comics). Set in the far-flung future of the Aliens franchise, Stradley's story originated the idea that the Predators used semi-domesticated Aliens as part of a tribal, rite of passage for young hunters; seeding worlds with Xeno eggs and then hunting that actual deadliest game.
In the original series, the Predators find one of their traditional hunting ground planets has been turned into a farming colony by Earthlings, leading to the first Aliens vs. Predators vs. humans conflict. True to the films, Stradley had a single survivor, but unlike those in Predator films, she gains the respect of the Predators and is given a place in their society.
Dozens of other Dark Horse comics followed, from 1993's Deadliest of The Species to last year's Fire and Stone, with some particularly weird crossovers adding still more franchises into the mix in between, like Aliens vs. Predator vs. The Terminator (not anywhere near as awesome as it sounds, sadly), Superman and Batman Versus Aliens and Predator and, my personal favorite for its apparently unironic title, Aliens vs. Predator/Witchblade/Darkness: Overkill.
The next big year for Aliens and Predator relations was 1994, which was when two new fronts opened in the inter-species war: Prose novels and video games.
The former came in the form of Aliens vs. Predator: Prey, written by Stephen Perry and Stephani Perry. Based on the original Dark Horse miniseries, it was similarly set on the farming colony and starred human CEO-turned-honorary Predator Machiko Noguchi. The Bantam-published novel was then followed by two more, 1994's Hunter's Planet by David Bischoff and 1998's War, by Stephani Perry, both of which also starred Noguchi.
As for the video game, it was a Capcom-created beat 'em up arcade game in which two-to-three players could choose from four playable characters --- two Predators and two human cyborgs (one of which was named "Dutch" and loosely based on Arnold Schwarzenegger's character from the original Predator). Their enemies? Hordes and hordes of Aliens, of course. It was awesome.
That same year Atari released a Rebellion-developed first-person shooter with the same title, in which the player could choose to play as an Alien, a Predator or a human Colonial Marine. Rebellion developed two other, updated versions of the game in following years, one in 1999 and another in 2010. These versions similarly allowed players to pick among the three species to play as, and gave each a different campaign to complete, consistent with the goals of the species chosen.
While the Aliens vs. Predator movie was something that was rumored and/or hoped for since 1990 --- and something Dark Horse provided a perfectly good template for in their original miniseries --- it didn't come into fruition until 2004, well over a decade after entering the development process (a process often described as "development hell," although since this emerged from that process, perhaps it was more of a "development purgatory").
The final Paul W.S. Anderson-directed product was an awkward mash-up of the rite of passage hunts from the original comics with rather forced Erich von Daniken "ancient aliens" theories. Here, the ancient aliens who brought civilization to Earth and were worshiped as gods were the Predators. They stocked a hidden pyramid with a cryogenically frozen Alien queen, and when investigating humans blunder in, the Predators begin hunting, with the humans caught in the middle. Somewhat unfortunately, it was both the most widely-seen Aliens vs. Predator story and one of the poorest.
That didn't stop a 2007 sequel from getting greenlit, of course. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, directed by special effects experts The Brothers Strause from a script by Shane Salerno, built off of the goofy ending of the previous film, in which an alien baby bursts from the chest of a Predator corpse, evidencing traits of both creatures.
This hybrid, referred to as a "Predalien," and a bunch of Aliens crash land in a populated area of modern day Earth (Something the previous film avoided, so as to keep the proceedings to a relatively "alien" part of Earth). A lone Predator comes to Earth to try and destroy the Aliens, the Predalien and all evidence of both before they could be too-widely discovered by humanity, but of course the film's cast of characters are obviously well aware that their town is being over run by creatures from outer space. One of the weirdest iterations of the franchise in any medium, Requiem has the dubious distinction of bringing the two alien species down to Earth and into a traditional alien invasion/horror movie plotline that doesn't serve either particularly well.
While conflict is, of course, inherent in the relationship between these two species --- and how could it not be, given that their shared franchise is defined by the "vs." between their names --- it doesn't have to be that way. In the greatest, and most unofficial, iteration of the franchise, web cartoonist Bernie Hou found at least one member of each race that get along pretty well: Abe and Preston.
They are the titular characters in Hou's 2004-2011 web comic Alien Loves Predator. In the surreal series, Abe and Preston are two typical New York roommates, going about their daily lives of situational humor. Think Seinfeld, basically, except it stars an Alien and a Predator... represented not through drawing, but through photographs of Alien and Predator toys. The title, and the stars, present Hou's stories with an inherent absurdist subversion of the joint-franchise and, more directly, the sitcom-ic strip format, which is only emphasized by the fact that the strip rarely ever acknowledges that its stars are, you know, an Alien and a Predator.
Whether arguing about baseball in Hou's web comic or trying to destroy one another, Aliens and Predator just kind of go together. They're not inextricably linked, but they are certainly established partners. Maybe not Batman and Robin, but definitely Batman and Superman; the Galaxy's Finest... alien monsters. What the future holds for these two franchises is anyone's guess, but based on the successes of both, we can expect many more appearances of the Aliens/Predator combination franchise over the course of the next 30 years.