The Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor and designer best known for his astonishing work on the original Alien, H.R. Giger passed away this week from injuries sustained during an accidental fall. An indelible influence in the realm of conceptual art and genre cinema, Giger won an Academy Award for his work.

Giger was a true visionary, introducing the previously unimagined biomechanical aesthetic that synthesized organic, often distinctly sexualized flesh with the qualities of machines. He employed his training as an architect to create worlds so uniquely horrifying and fully realized that the viewer could believe the artist had seen them firsthand through some kind of portal to Hell. Describing this approach as the "transplanting of human skin on our surroundings," Giger's influence reached out from the catacombs of Ridley Scott's 1979 film Alien to touch countless examples of fantastical horror and scary sci-fi for decades to come (he even designed a version of the Batmobile for Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher). Giger eventually came full circle to Scott's 2012 Alien prequel Prometheus, which took place almost entirely within an environment descended directly from Giger's unsettlingly beautiful imagination and featured all-new work by the artist.


Image from 'Cinefex' #1


Of course, even more than his unmistakable environmental designs, Giger will be remembered for Alien's iconic xenomorph, surely cinema's most perfect nightmare. A grotesque and impossibly violent extraterrestrial life form covered in shiny black armor and possessing a thrashing tail of spikes, acid blood, pharyngeal jaws and an enormous, eyeless skull, the xenomorph exists only to reproduce and kill every living thing in the universe. The creature's final form was inspired by Giger's piece Necronom IV, a highly sexualized work of surrealist horror that contained not just the prototypical xenomorph but also the visual direction for all the alien material in Scott's original film. Along with its hideous "accessories", the alien egg and "face-hugger", the monster Giger created with Scott and their collaborators remains one of mainstream sci-fi and horror's most compelling subjects, inspiring a media empire of seven feature films and countless books, comics, games, toys, statues and other tie-ins.

Many of those come from Dark Horse Comics, whose Alien library is vast and includes, weirdly enough, one of the coolest Superman stories of all time, Superman Vs. Aliens by Dan Jurgens and Kevin Nowlan. The publisher is preparing to launch a brand new line of Alien and Prometheus (and Predator) comics this year.


Giger's 'Necronom IV' inspired the final 'Alien' creature design


Giger himself contributed to the comic book medium in the form of illustrations for Heavy Metal, the American version of the European science fiction, fantasy and horror comics magazine Métal Hurlant co-founded by Jean "Moebius" Giraud, with whom Giger worked alongside on the production of Alien as well as Alejandro Jodorowsky's ultimately unfinished but similarly influential adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune.

Giger was 74.