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Building A Universe Of Terror, An Interview with Aliens Comic Writer Mark Verheiden! – AvPGalaxy Podcast #106

We have just uploaded the 106th episode of the Alien vs. Predator Galaxy Podcast (right-click and save as to download)!  It’s Alien Day! And that means I wanted to treat our community to a special podcast episode with someone involved in truly making their mark on the Alien series, and the writer of the original Alien 3, Alien 4 and Alien 5 – Mr Mark Verheiden himself – was kind enough to join us for a chat!

 Building A Universe Of Terror, An Interview with Aliens Comic Writer Mark Verheiden! – AvPGalaxy Podcast #106

We talked about the process that went into developing the iconic first series that not only laid the foundation for the Aliens expanded universe, but redefined how seriously tie-ins were taken. And with Mark’s history in television, we were sure to ask him about if and how to make Aliens work as a TV series, and plenty more!

What did you think of our latest episode? Be sure to let us know down below! You can also listen to any of our previous episodes in the Podcast section under the News tab on the main menu. The Alien vs. Predator Galaxy Podcast is also available via iTunes, PodBean, GooglePlay Stitcher, and Spotify! Our podcasts are now available in webcam form on our YouTube channel too! Please be sure to leave a review on whichever platform you’re using!

For Alien Day last year we had the pleasure of chatting to Aliens’ very own Newt – aka Carrie Henn – about her experiences working on Aliens. If you’re still jonesing for more Alien discussion after listening to Mark recall the impact he made on the series, why don’t you travel back in time and listen to a great discussion with Carrie?!

Keep a close eye on Alien vs. Predator Galaxy for the latest on Alien and Predator! You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get the latest on your social media walls. You can also join in with fellow Alien and Predator fans on our forums!



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Comments: 43
  1. Corporal Hicks
    just wanted to say I really enjoyed listening to this podcast. these stories were my first entry into the EU (albeit originally in the novelised versions rather than the original comics)

    Thanks, Gemini! Glad you enjoyed this episode. We really enjoyed having Mark on the show. It was so nice to speak to someone who had such a massive impact.

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    interesting that my opinions of these comics seem to be pretty much in line with the consensus coming through in the podcast.

    I don't think you'll find many arguing with that consensus!

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    but having said that, seeing the original black and white version posted above.. it's like night and day!  I don't know how colour can somehow detract from an image.. but in this case it totally does.

    That's something that took me a little time to come to grips with. More often than not, with the older Alien (and Predator) comics, when I don't like the art, it's normally the colouring choices. The funny thing is, the same colourist who did Female War/Earth War, also did the original colouring on Aliens vs. Predator which is the one I actually prefer.
  2. Gemini
    just wanted to say I really enjoyed listening to this podcast. these stories were my first entry into the EU (albeit originally in the novelised versions rather than the original comics)

    interesting that my opinions of these comics seem to be pretty much in line with the consensus coming through in the podcast.

    the first story is probably overall the best, as it packs so much in. I mean, the whole earth war story is actually pretty goofy and over the top when you compare it to the rest of the franchise. which is often about claustrophobia and enclosed spaces. but it somehow pulls it off.

    the artwork in Nightmare Asylum is totally the best. it just nails it.

    the artwork in Female War did always seem a little.. off to me. too cartoony, not enough detail. something just didn't seem right.
    but having said that, seeing the original black and white version posted above.. it's like night and day!  I don't know how colour can somehow detract from an image.. but in this case it totally does.
  3. Russ840
    Thanks for the heads-up, Russ. I've let Darkness know. It has pushed out to the other services though, and the direct download is available. http://www.avpgalaxy.net/files/podcasts/avpg_pc_episode106.mp3

    Cheers bud. Looking forward to listening to it

    Give it 24 hours and try again. D had to change something.

    Thanks Hicks. Will do
  4. Xiggz456
    I don’t see an Alien film ever crossing into billion dollar territory. If we’re lucky and everything aligned perfectly (story, visuals, actors, director, and marketing) then there’s a solid possibility of hitting the half a billion mark. If we got extremely lucky we’d see numbers like “It” which pulled in $700 million. But a safe bet would be somewhere between $250-350 million and the budget should reflect that in order to make a profit which ensures future films get green lit.
  5. AVP-CAPCOM
    The only argument I'm hearing is that people don't really like these films and that you basically need to be a PG-13 crowd pleaser to get over a billion dollars (with one exception, ever).

    I didn't say that. Which is why I said how do you explain an R rated, relatively low budget, Joker making a billion dollars worldwide?

    Again the "assuming no audience, so therefore no need to go big or go home" doesn't explain Fast and Furious* (*dismissed as an esoteric movie for petrol heads upon release) expanding its scope, budget and more importantly audience.
    If you said "this Friday night, Point Break knock-off popcorn will beat James Bond" in 2001 you'd be laughed at.

    One Race and studio Universal took a gamble and won.

    I'm not hearing anything that shows any realistic expectations the franchise would ever be popular enough to expect it.

    That's because the ALIEN movies haven't taken any risks in terms of scale or threat of alien. I blame David Giler, Brandywine and his naysaying attitude.

    We're not bored of alien, we're bored of the upteenth remake of alien.

    Getting Ridley Scott to do an Alien movie again and explain the jockeys was something people wanted.

    Said no-one ever. That's like saying Jaws...........who were his parents?

    Trying to "explain" the Space Jockey chair, the whole fun was we didn't actually know what it was. Plus the design and script choices have ruined the continuity of ALIEN and ALIENS. They are just so far removed from the classics you're expecting me to believe
    a- no-one would find the Space Jockey base despite it being in the same star system as LV-426?
    b- why is the fossiled Space Jockey corpse bigger than in Prometheus and it didn't have any legs
    c- how could there be alien eggs on the derelict for thousands of years, if David created the aliens?

    The point of the podcast is that the comics would've made better sequels to ALIENS.
  6. SiL
    The only argument I'm hearing is that people don't really like these films and that you basically need to be a PG-13 crowd pleaser to get over a billion dollars (with one exception, ever).

    I'm not hearing anything that shows any realistic expectations the franchise would ever be popular enough to expect it. Getting Ridley Scott to do an Alien movie again and explain the jockeys was something people wanted -- which showed in the box office, but it still didn't gross half a billion.
  7. AVP-CAPCOM
    Sil given the covid-19 situation and even talk of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics being cancelled despite being pushed back to August of 2021 we're probably crying over spilt milk.

    But at least acknowledge my points.

    They're (marvel movies) also PG and specifically designed to appeal to as many people as possible. Last time they did that to Aliens it didn't go well.

    That's films in general, every studio is a box office counter but again audience feedback is just as important. You may not like the fact Prometheus got negative audience feedback on YouTube and this is somehow a conspiracy to slate a suppoesly "good" movies in your books.

    Audience feedback is why ALIEN Covenant 2 (Prometheus 3) got cancelled as per a studio statement. Ridley Scott failed to pick up people weren't happy with the Space Jockey being protrayed as a pale, bald bodybuilder in a suit or a mysterious creature being the pet project of a disillusioned android on an "ancient Rome in space".

    That's not the audiences or critics fault it was Ridley Scott's doing. People initially jumped on Prometheus with hype and excitement as "the Director of ALIEN had returned". Even though retrospectively he had people who were willing to say no and even veto Scott back in 1978. Whereas in 2011 he was surrounded by "yes men".

    I'm also talking about the fact people, even fans, would seem to rather shit on these movies than enjoy them.

    Nothing wrong with "shitting on a movie" if your argument is strong. People say ALIEN and ALIENS are classics which I'll go with.

    People say the AVP movies (guilty pleasures of mine) are trash and their reasoning is justified. Won't change my enjoyment but I acknowledge the rules of evaluating art. "Taste" and "beauty" are two different things.

    When I watch a negative review of Alien Resurrection or ALIEN 3, 9 times out of 10 the criticism is justified.

    These films won't make a billion dollars because the audience for them just isn't that large. Sci fi horror does not attract those crowds.

    They said the same thing about Titanic, Avatar and, again, The Fast and the Furious movies. Granted they all got the 12a- PG-13 certificate which you'll all know is the most profitable film rating than PG or R rating (UK 15 age rating).

    That said both Joker (2019) crossed the billion dollar mark for a violent arthouse movie, only somewhat tentatively tied to batman. Although there was some inference Joaquin Phoenix wasn't even the Joker. So we can't say taking risks was the sole cause of ALIEN sequel box office failure or the law of diminishing returns.
  8. SiL
    Without you being specific, I assume you mean pining for the action, scale and expansive universes of marvel films. Films that have cross the billion dolar mark multiple times on individual outings, whereas Prometheus made a lowly $400 million worldwide- despite an aggressive marketing campaign.
    They're also PG and specifically designed to appeal to as many people as possible. Last time they did that to Aliens it didn't go well.

    I'm also talking about the fact people, even fans, would seem to rather shit on these movies than enjoy them. Even when they are successful, as you're continually pointing out the audience will just end up narrowing in on the negative. When all of your word of mouth is "These films are shit, why are they even making them?" It's hard to gather interest for sequels.

    These films won't make a billion dollars because the audience for them just isn't that large. Sci fi horror does not attract those crowds.

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    f you just keep churning out fakeouts and predictably false movie endings with a stowaway alien the audience are beyond bored.
    Every Marvel film follows the same formula. They are so repetitive and uninspired it's not funny. Turns out people just like Marvel movies.
  9. AVP-CAPCOM
    And again, the rest of your post really reads like a perfect explanation for why these movies will never cross the billion dollar line.

    Without you being specific, I assume you mean pining for the action, scale and expansive universes of marvel films. Films that have cross the billion dolar mark multiple times on individual outings, whereas Prometheus made a lowly $400 million worldwide- despite an aggressive marketing campaign.

    If you just keep churning out fakeouts and predictably false movie endings with a stowaway alien the audience are beyond bored.
  10. SiL
    Quote
    20th Century Fox made no attempt to apply this to the alien franchise.
    Except that part where they put an Alien back into the movies because some people complained about there not being any Aliens.

    And again, the rest of your post really reads like a perfect explanation for why these movies will never cross the billion dollar line.
  11. SM
    This  'forum' doesn't have to retrospectively say Prometheus was rubbish when the evidence is generally to the contrary.

    And YouTubers have a vested interest in complaining since that gets more clicks.

    Covenant didn't do as well because the audience just isn't  there. Younger horror fans want something different these days. And since it's a horror franchise that's why it's never going to crack Marvel or Fast and Furious box office.
  12. AVP-CAPCOM
    I put that down to inflation, modern marketing, cost of a cinema ticket.
    Even with almost 40 years of inflation, Prometheus earned more than Alien.

    Quote
    And how many times has Prometheus been retrospectively called an "audience flop" and featured in notable YouTubers worst sequel or remake reivews. The slating gaining approval and ratings by social media and media pundits alike?
    Not making a convincing argument that people are chomping at the bit to spend over a billion in ticket sales on the franchise ???

    Wait I didn't say "it was only inflation" why Prometheus earned more, so very selective in your mis-quoting me. Also Prometheus is still an alien film.

    Why does this forum ignore a film's post release feedback and assume box office = "happy audience willing to return"? Then assume Covenant's reduced box office was because the ALIEN was back in the fold. Maybe casual cinema goers thought Prometheus sucked?
    How can you ignore YouTube reviewers getting more likes and comments on disliking Prometheus in hindsight? Ever heard of consumer relationship marketing?

    Other studios take in and address negative feedback even if the film was box office smash. The Fast and the Furious is another case of tweaking the genre untl audiences, critics and the box office align before, during and after release going from petrol head porn to mainstream action flick outgrossing James Bond. 20th Century Fox made no attempt to apply this to the alien franchise.
  13. SiL
    I put that down to inflation, modern marketing, cost of a cinema ticket.
    Even with almost 40 years of inflation, Prometheus earned more than Alien.

    Quote
    And how many times has Prometheus been retrospectively called an "audience flop" and featured in notable YouTubers worst sequel or remake reivews. The slating gaining approval and ratings by social media and media pundits alike?
    Not making a convincing argument that people are chomping at the bit to spend over a billion in ticket sales on the franchise ???
  14. AVP-CAPCOM
    I still think there is an ALIEN idea that could break $1 billion at the box office,
    The highest grossing film in the franchise was the one that didn't even have Alien in the name.

    I put that down to inflation, modern marketing, cost of a cinema ticket.

    And how many times has Prometheus been retrospectively called an "audience flop" and featured in notable YouTubers worst sequel or remake reivews. The slating gaining approval and ratings by social media and media pundits alike?

     
  15. AVP-CAPCOM
    Marvel had decades of individual comic IPs and comic audiences to draw from. Alien does not.

    I still think there is an ALIEN idea that could break $1 billion at the box office, if only 20th Century stopped rehashing the same tired story from the first ALIEN movie, sans ALIENS.

    The point of the podcast very little was drawn from Mark Verheiden's expansive comic universe.

    Marvel didn't just make bank on comic book collectors, I'm sure Avenger's Endgame beating avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time weren't all comic collectors. Marvel earned its audience with a portfolio of critically acclaimed films, slowly overtaking DC with batman after some so-so films like X-men and Daredevil.

    The point I'm trying to make is the movie going audience is larger than the comic fanbase. Don't produce films the public likes, long-term, without invoking buyer's remorse or "bad movie beatdown" retrospectives you all wonder why nothing, TV or movie, gets greenlit by studios for ALIENS?
  16. AVP-CAPCOM
    Quote
    It wasn't Earth War or Sam Kieth's, imo, "pulp 50s-60s sci-fi style" comic artwork that was a faux-pas for the aliens extended universe, it was the alien 3 movie that was the final nail in the coffin of the franchise.

    Are we also dead then?  :laugh:

    Merchandise, best selling videogames, board gamers, comics, the internet, conventions and dvd/blu-ray re-releases are what kept us going. Also the lingering rumours of Ridley Scott's "ALIEN 5" but by then AVP-G became a portal for merchandise and conventions.
    Amazing considering we haven't had any decent film reboots since...........well aliens 1986.

    As I said holistically 20th Century Films needs to up its game in movies. If Marvel could bash out an enitre EU out of obscurity since 2008 then why can't aliens?
  17. SM
    Quote
    It wasn't Earth War or Sam Kieth's, imo, "pulp 50s-60s sci-fi style" comic artwork that was a faux-pas for the aliens extended universe, it was the alien 3 movie that was the final nail in the coffin of the franchise.

    Are we also dead then?  :laugh:

    Yes, literally zombies.  ...especially when it comes to this subject.

    Thiiis franchiiiise is deeaaad.... decades laterrr we're talking about itttt.... braaaiiinnnnss....
  18. SpaceKase
    Great podcast guys! Very fun listen! Now we need a part 2 for his predator trilogy!

    He was very graceful to grant the interview and you guys did a hell of a good job getting it. It's a shame he couldn't really remember more, but I guess that's the weird dichotomy at the heart of stuff like this, for us the material is beloved and ever green, but for the creators this stuff was a lifetime ago. I often feel similarly glitched whenever I see contemporary pictures of footage of Star Trek actors, in my brain they're always the same age, or I guess ages, but even those multiple iterations feel, in a way like totally different people. Which, I guess technically they are.
  19. SM
    Quote
    It wasn't Earth War or Sam Kieth's, imo, "pulp 50s-60s sci-fi style" comic artwork that was a faux-pas for the aliens extended universe, it was the alien 3 movie that was the final nail in the coffin of the franchise.

    Are we also dead then?  :laugh:
  20. AVP-CAPCOM
    We definitely need another Beauvais Aliens series.

    Listening to the Verheiden interview, you can't help but have the feeling of a train derailing once the Alien 3 subject is brought up.  While I've grown to love the film, it is still the moment when the franchise took a downward turn from which it never quite recovered.

    Alien 3 definately derailed the alien franchise correct, which is why I get defensive when fans try to re-write it as some misunderstood gem. From a  holistic point of view alien 3 was trash and killed the franchise. Want the allegory fan mail from the time of the film's release and a scramble from the then 20th century fox executives to green light a mooted aliens vs predator film to try to save it?

    Although people never saw the connection, Jurassic Park would cannibalise the creature feature market the following year and for years to come.
    Want proof? Stan Winston studio worked on Spielberg's film, the top cutting edge CGI effects people from industrial light and magic worked on it too.
    Looking at effects "making ofs" milestones its usually terminator (1984) > aliens (1986) > terminator 2 (1991) > jurassic park (1993)

    As for Sam Kieth here is a panel from alien's earth war without any colouring. This is why he is still in employment today, the panel looks amazing imo.

    https://cafans.b-cdn.net/images/Category_33048/subcat_131471/Sam%20Keith.jpg
  21. Perfect-Organism
    I'm going to check-mate Aaron Percival by saying "I also still have the oversized "Dark Horse UK" ALIENS comics (reprints) from the early 90s" which also had a readers section. In addition to the USA single comics and "book one, book two" Dark Horse collections.

    It wasn't Earth War or Sam Kieth's, imo, "pulp 50s-60s sci-fi style" comic artwork that was a faux-pas for the aliens extended universe, it was the alien 3 movie that was the final nail in the coffin of the franchise.
    A bitter pill alien 3 fans have to swallow and realise if they weren't there at the time. Even Carrie Henn said her memory of aliens was only stoked by "alien war" at the trocadero in London, and this is the girl who attended the alien 3 premier in London!

    Ironically earth war issue #1, with photo-real cover artwork by John Bolton, was the first comic I purchased from a comic bookstore (no really). I wasn't disappointed with the internal artwork or story and it made me want to read more! But granted I was blown away by eventually discovering  Den Beauvais artwork in "book two". That said all other story archs post earth war also took a cartoon artwork style of Earth War (ALIENS VS PREDATOR, ALIENS HIVE or GENOCIDE). So I put Beauvais work down as an anomaly only repeated in his aliens trading card series or artwork for kenner toy boxes.

    We definitely need another Beauvais Aliens series.

    Listening to the Verheiden interview, you can't help but have the feeling of a train derailing once the Alien 3 subject is brought up.  While I've grown to love the film, it is still the moment when the franchise took a downward turn from which it never quite recovered.
  22. AVP-CAPCOM
    I'm going to check-mate Aaron Percival by saying "I also still have the oversized "Dark Horse UK" ALIENS comics (reprints) from the early 90s" which also had a readers section. In addition to the USA single comics and "book one, book two" Dark Horse collections.

    It wasn't Earth War or Sam Kieth's, imo, "pulp 50s-60s sci-fi style" comic artwork that was a faux-pas for the aliens extended universe, it was the alien 3 movie that was the final nail in the coffin of the franchise.
    A bitter pill alien 3 fans have to swallow and realise if they weren't there at the time. Even Carrie Henn said her memory of aliens was only stoked by "alien war" at the trocadero in London, and this is the girl who attended the alien 3 premier in London!

    Ironically earth war issue #1, with photo-real cover artwork by John Bolton, was the first comic I purchased from a comic bookstore (no really). I wasn't disappointed with the internal artwork or story and it made me want to read more! But granted I was blown away by eventually discovering  Den Beauvais artwork in "book two". That said all other story archs post earth war also took a cartoon artwork style of Earth War (ALIENS VS PREDATOR, ALIENS HIVE or GENOCIDE). So I put Beauvais work down as an anomaly only repeated in his aliens trading card series or artwork for kenner toy boxes.

  23. Perfect-Organism
    Halfway through.  This is fantastic work.  A revelation.  It gives insightful closure to many loose threads from one of the best period of the Aliens franchise.

    Just finished listening.  Really terrific.  I think this really underpins the idea that multiple canons could exist.  The idea for an Aliens TV series really makes sense.  It would be terrific if a continuation from where Aliens left off took place and continued forward, largely in the same vein as Verheiden's story.  Perhaps Engineers could replace the Space Jockey, or not...

    Verheiden was also right about doing the series on earth.  There is a good way to do this, and there is a bad way.  AVP:R showed us the bad way, whereas the things that Verheiden spoke of made more sense.  Imagine a world where everyone was told to stay home and to only communicate over the internet.  Then stories of the Aliens begin to surface.  It's about the impending dread rather than seeing the non-stop action.  (Also, it would help if it was a sort of Blade-Runner reality)
  24. StrangeShape
    Great stuff and a very interesting guest. Im glad hardcore fans got a hold of him for a podcast. I had a pleasure of interviewing him briefly for JamesCameronOnline but theres no interview as meaty and full as podcast. Kudos. Im halfway through and really enjoying it. Great sound quaulity too
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