Alien: The Illustrated Story is a graphic novel adaptation of film of the same name that was first published by Heavy Metal Communications in June 1979. It was written by Archie Goodwin, based on the original screenplay by Dan O'Bannon, illustrated by Walt Simonson, colored by Polly Law, Bob K. LeRose, Deb Pedlar and Louise Simonson, lettered by John Workman, and edited by Charles Lippincott, with cover art by Simonson.

Following the original publication, the next Alien franchise-related comic book to be released would be the 1988 series Aliens: Outbreak, a sequel to James Cameron's Aliens, by the then-recently formed Dark Horse Comics. This would go on to spawn an entire line of Aliens comics by Dark Horse that continues until the present. As Dark Horse had no involvement with the original Alien adaptation (and do not hold the rights to it), it is not considered a part of the company's Aliens line and has never been collected in any form with the later Dark Horse releases.

Publisher's Summary

Two space helmets resting on chairs.
Electrical hum.
Lights on the helmets begin to signal one another.
Moments of silence.
A yellow light goes on.
Electronic hum.
A green light goes on in front of one helmet.
Electronic pulsing sounds.
A red light goes on in front of the other helmet.
An electronic conversation ensues.
Reaches a crescendo.
Then silence.

And when the silence is broken... the crew of the Nostromo must grapple with a terrifying life force they cannot leash, nor even comprehend — the Alien!

Differences from the Film

The graphic novel generally follows the plot and visuals of the feature film, although in a condensed form owing to the nature of the format. It also includes several deleted scenes that were cut from the movie, as well as others that were later reinstated in the Director's Cut. Notable differences include:

  • When the crew wakes from hypersleep, Kane is the first to rise and begins preparing breakfast for the others. This sequence was partially filmed for the movie, but was never completed and dropped from the final cut.
  • Before landing on the planetoid, the crew listen to the transmission on the bridge. This scene is included in the novelization and was later added to the Director's Cut.
  • When exploring the derelict, Dallas deactivates the beacon that brought the Nostromo to the moon by flicking a switch on the Pilot's chair.
  • Lambert punches Ripley when back aboard the Nostromo for her refusal to let them back on board. This scene was later added to the Director' Cut.
  • An added scene has Ripley interrupting Parker and Brett over the intercom as they make repairs, and Parker and Ripley trade insults. Parker hangs up and calls her a bitch before continuing with his work. This footage was shot but not included in the film. It also appears in the novelization.
  • While discussing the last-minute replacement of the ship's regular science officer with Ash, Dallas points out that Ripley was also a last-minute addition to the crew. This added dialogue is also included in the novelization.
  • Kane's funeral goes unseen in the comic, happening "off-screen".
  • Following Kane's funeral, Dallas questions Ash in the medical bay, his suspicions raised by the fact he allowed the alien organism back on board the ship. A much longer version of this scene was planned for the film, and appears in the novelization.
  • The fully-grown Alien in the comic is huge, towering over its victims at anything between fifteen and twenty feet in height, although this size may just be for artistic impression.
  • Before killing Brett, the Alien stabs him in the back with its tail and lifts him up to deliver the killing Headbite.
  • Before he is taken by the Alien, Dallas passes by Lambert and Parker as he crawls through the vents, briefly acknowledging their presence. In the film, Dallas never encounters any of the crew again after entering the vents.
  • After assuming command, Ripley asks Lambert if she has ever slept with Ash, to which she responds in the negative, further fueling Ripley's suspicions. This footage was filmed for the movie but cut. It is, however, featured in the novelization.
  • When Ash confronts Ripley, instead of talking to her, he immediately knocks her unconscious inside the Mother interface room, before dragging her out to the mess to kill her with the rolled-up magazine. The following fight is also slightly different — Parker beheads Ash with one of the motion detectors, not a fire extinguisher as in the film, and it is Ripley, not Lambert, who finally "kills" his beheaded body with one of the cattle prods. This version of Ash's demise also features in the novelization.
  • Ash's Special Order 937 is said to come from "Mil/Sci" (presumably some military/science research entity or division) rather than the company that operates the ship.
  • Ripley activates the Nostromo's self destruct system before Parker and Lambert are killed, not after as in the movie.
  • As she attempts to flee to the Narcissus, Ripley encounters a strange box in a corridor, which unfolds and reveals itself to be the Alien. This scene was supposedly shot, but in the final film Ripley merely encounters the Alien around a corner.
  • After failing to abort the self destruct, Ripley incinerates one of Mother's computer banks in frustration.
  • After discovering the Alien has stowed away aboard the Narcissus, Ripley theorizes that the Alien refrains from killing her immediately because it knows she is trapped, and is simply going to leave her alone until it requires her for food, at which point it will turn hostile.
  • Ripley appears notably less afraid around the Alien when killing the creature aboard the Narcissus, saying things like, "Good-bye you bastard," and "Guess again you son of a bitch," when flushing the creature outside and before activating the engines to blast it into space.

Reprint History

Cover to Alien: The Illustrated Story reissue by Walt Simonson.

The comic adaptation of Alien was reprinted and re-released by Titan Comics in September 2012. This edition featured a different cover, using art of the Alien taken from the scene where it attacks Brett by Walt Simonson.

In October 2012, a hardcover, "oversized" (13 × 17) format edition was released under the title The Original Art Edition, containing a black and white version of the comic scanned directly from Simonson's original art boards; the only alterations made to the scanned images was to add the comic's lettering, as this was originally added later. Even signs of corrections and stains on the original art that were cleaned up for previous printings of the comic were retained in this release. As well as the comic, the hardback also included the comic's script (by Goodwin), coloring examples and an interview with the creators revealing how the comic came to be, the writing process and Simonson's trip to England to see the film being made at Shepperton Studios. The Original Art Edition reused Simonson's cover from the original graphic novel, rendered in black and white.

In October 2014, a miniature version of the comic was released exclusively with the Alien: 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray.

Behind the Scenes

The adaptation of Alien was released almost a decade prior to Dark Horse Comics acquiring the license to produce Aliens comic books following the release of the film of the same name in 1986; indeed, Alien: The Illustrated Story pre-dates the existence of Dark Horse Comics itself. The film adaptation was created by comics legends Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson for the equally acclaimed Heavy Metal magazine, which had been started in 1974 as an American version of the French science fiction/fantasy/erotica magazine Métal Hurlant (literally "Howling Metal").

Of the creative team that worked on the comic, only two have gone on to work on the later Dark Horse comic books — artist Walt Simonson and letterer John Workman. Of their later work for Dark Horse, perhaps most noteworthy is Simonson's contribution of alternate cover art for Alien: The Original Screenplay, another adaptation of Alien (this time based on Dan O'Bannon's original screenplay) released some 40 years after The Illustrated Story.

Prior to release, the comic was partially serialized in Heavy Metal — two eight-page segments from the beginning of the graphic novel, serving as a teaser for the full release,[1] were published in Heavy Metal, Vol. III #1-2 from May-June 1979.[2] Due to an editing oversight, the title used at the start of the second of these preview segments was erroneously retained in the original full release, although this was edited out for the 2012 reissue.[1]

Goodwin is also well known for being a former editor at Marvel Comics and long-time Star Wars comics writer/editor in comic book, daily strip, and movie adaptation forms. Simonson also worked on Marvel's Star Wars Comics, but would become renowned for his work on Marvel's Thor. His future wife, Louise Jones, also served as an editor on Marvel's Star Wars, on which the two worked together for a time.


Unusually for a comic book adaptation of a feature film, Alien: The Illustrated Story was critically acclaimed and it became the first graphic novel ever to make the New York Times Best Seller list.[3] Some have even labelled the comic superior to the movie upon which it is based.[1] Simonson later commented that 20th Century Fox themselves expressed a reservation for the distinctive cover artwork, as they considered it to be superior to the posters that had been created for the film itself.[1]




See Also

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