Category ArchiveInterviews

Steve Perry, Author, Alien-AVP Novels

Alien Experience: Hello and thank you for taking time out to do this interview with us. Greatly appreciated.

For those unfamiliar with who you are or what you do, would you care to tell us a little about yourself? What your involvement with the Alien and Predator franchises is?

Steve Perry: Well, I’m a full-time writer, have a bunch of books, short stories, and some animation for the tube to my credit. I wrote the first few Aliens novels (based on the Dark Horse graphic novels), and with my daughter, Danelle, the first AvP novel. Currently, I’m working on another Predator novel, tentatively entitled Turnabout.

AXP: How long have you been an author? Was it something you always wanted to do, or something that presented itself late in the day, so to speak?

SP: I wrote my first short story to try to impress my eleventh grade English teacher, Mary Ann Brown, who was drop-dead gorgeous. It did, and I knew then that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up.

It was while after that that I started trying to write and sell the stuff; I was pushing thirty.

AXP: When and how did you get into the Alien and Predator franchises?

SP: Before there was a Dark Horse Comics, the guy who would eventually found the company, Mike Richardson, owned a comic book store. I used to take my son there when he was young. Mike and I would talk, he was a writer and artist, so we had things in common. A few years later, when he got the rights to novelized the graphic novels, he remembered me and gave me a call.

AXP: Firstly, the Aliens series. How did you get the job of adapting the first Aliens comic series?

SP: Richardson and I sat down, worked out some names and things — there was some kind of legal thing with the franchise, so that’s how we came up with Billie and Wilks, and it went from there.

AXP: Did its success land you your subsequent Aliens adaptations, or was there some other process involved?

SP: I think because the first one did pretty well, saleswise, DH and Bantam decided to keep going.

AXP: Yours was the first Aliens novel to be written outside of Alan Dean Foster’s film tie-ins. Had you read them at all prior to doing your own work?

SP: Nope, actually I hadn’t. Seen the movies, of course.

AXP: What were you given to adapt? Just the comics, or extra material, like notes and scripts?

SP: Pretty much they came right out of the graphic novels, which is why I gave the writer of those credit on the title page.

AXP: What did you think of the original Aliens comics when you were given them to turn into novels? Generally positive, or were there a few things you thought could’ve been done better?

SP: I thought they were great comics. The book form is slightly different. Lot of stuff you can tell with pictures, you have to explain in a novel, so there is some stuff that has to be changed to make it work.

AXP: Novelisations always have a tendency to pad out the source material. Were you given relatively free rein for adding content?

SP: I mostly stuck to the storyline, but as I said, the nature of the medium is that some material that looks good doesn’t always play quite as well in prose form. There was a scene in one of the comics where the futuristic version of the Coast Guard went up to blow a derelict ship up in Earth-orbit. That’s very visual, but you don’t want to do that — it leaves a lot of really dangerous debris zipping by at ten miles a second and if it hits your ship, can punch holes in it. So I had them kick the dead ship hard enough so it would eventually fall into the sun. Like that.

AXP: Seeing as Alien 3 came out after the comics and contradicted most, if not all, of what was laid down a lot of retconning was done to try and keep the novels in line with the movie. This is especially obvious in Earth/Female War, in which Ripley’s whole reason for not being in the first two stories was changed from being in hiding, to being an android. Were you free to fix the continuity errors, or were there specific changes written down for you?

SP: I fixed some of them. I confess that I wasn’t a fan of A3 — I thought the writer/directer screwed-up big-time. All of A2 is made moot by the opening of A3, and I thought that was a mistake.

AXP: What’s it like writing a novel with another author, especially your own daughter?

SP: It’s an interesting process. Doesn’t come out exactly as you would have written it alone, but it is less work, and you get a different hit, things you sometimes wouldn’t have thought up on your own.

AXP: Of the Aliens novels you did, which do you think is the best written? Or which do you just plain like best?

SP: That would be hard to say. The first one was new and exciting; I was getting a handle on the characters in the second one; my daughter was learning how to write novel-length material on them.

AXP: If you could go back and change anything from each of the novels, what would they be?

SP: I think I’d fix the names so that they went back to the originals. Other than that, I’m pretty pleased with how they came out.

AXP: Now for AvPAvP: Prey is undoubtedly your best known foray into the world of Aliens and Predators. What are your own thoughts on it?

SP: It was great fun. My daughter and I were on a roll by then, and she was ready to go off and start on her own.

AXP: The “yautja” Predator mythology and language you created has fans of the series split. Some absolutely love it and have created expansive websites about it, others think it was unnecessary and makes the Predators too human. What convinced you to get into the heads of the Predators? What did you base them on, if anything?

SP: In the movies and comics, you can see how the Predators behave, and given the reasons they come to Earth, to hunt, and the artifacts they use, you can’t help but see major signs of their martial philosophy. I always thought that the Aliens were war-toys, nothing else makes any sense, given their physiology.

Why would you need acid for blood? What kind of monster eats Aliens?

If you are going to a viewpoint character, and I felt we needed that in Predators or what was the point? then you have to get inside their heads. Pretty much nobody gets to do that these days — and people were skeptical about us doing it. I think it worked out okay — that book sold really well.

And making the Predators warriors seems natural.

AXP: In the novel the main Predator figures that Noguchi is female because she has breasts, like female Predators. In an interview, Randy Stradley says that in the information he was given while writing the comic it stated it’s impossible to tell the genders just by appearance. Was there some sort of communication breakdown, or were you simply never given this information?

SP: I cheated it. If female Predators are mammals — and despite the faces, they otherwise appear to be mammalian, then they’d suckle their young. Muscular women tend to have small breasts, but I’m guessing a male could certainly tell a female when he saw one, even if a human couldn’t.

AXP: Looking back, is there anything you’d like to change about Prey?

SP: Nope.

AXP: In general, when doing adaptations, do you try to keep in contact with the original authors?

SP: Usually that doesn’t happen, we’re all over the place. The graphic novel is a good blueprint.

AXP: Have you ever read the other tie-ins in either series, or met any of the authors?

SP: Yes, to both. I knew the late Bob Sheckley fairly well; Dave Bischoff; John Shirley and I go way back, though he’s down in Hollywood these days, I think.

AXP: Recently you announced on your blog that you were signed up to write a Predator-only novel, this time an original piece tentatively tiled Predator: Turnabout. How far into it are you at the moment? Just the planning stages?

SP: Just got started. The outline is approved and it’s supposed to be done this summer.

AXP: Which do you prefer: Writing original material, or doing novelisations? Which do you find easier?

SP: Original material is less confining — you can write anything you want, nobody looks over your shoulder. But novelizations allow you to get into somebody else’s universe, and some of those are very interesting. AliensPredatorsConanBatmanStar WarsSpider-Man, fun places to play.

AXP: And now for the fans: Favourite Alien movie and why?

SP: A2, no question. Because it was classic science fictions. Because Ripley went back for Newt. Because it was the best-written and acted.

AXP: Favourite Predator movie and why?

SP: P1, even though I like Danny Glover.

AXP: Thoughts on the AvP movie?

SP: I wish they’d used the AvP comic and our novel as the basis. I thought our story was better.

AXP: And, ultimately, which do you prefer? Alien or Predator?

SP: Predators, because they are intelligent. Outside of the Alien Queen, the hard meat isn’t too smart…

AXP: Thanks again for your time.

SP: You are welcome.

Gary Giller, Co-Creator, Alien War

Back in 1992 Gary Gillies and John Gorman launched what has been dubbed as a total reality experience called Alien War in Glasgow, UK. This immersive tourist attraction allowed the public to actively participate in escaping from an alien research facility alongside armed Colonial Marines, while escaping facehuggers and alien warriors. The massively popular attraction closed in 1996, but it has recently been announced that it will be brought back for another run in Europe, and there are even plans for a world tour! Luckily I had the opportunity to catch up with Gary to talk about the attraction and its relaunch in Glasgow, the place where it all started, this summer.

Let’s get to it:

Alien Experience: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Gary Gillies: I am a musician, I play trumpet, also a producer and I have been getting side-tracked over the years with various projects, film, videos, exhibitions, and of course…Alien War.

AXP: What inspired you to start such an ambitious project?

GG: My friend John Gorman and I loved the Alien movies and we had a mini-exhibition at a cinema here in Glasgow with some props and photos from the first two films and at the end of the exhibition we thought “lets take it a stage further rather than looking at objects in glass cases lets have them up and walking about!”.

AXP: How did it first get off the ground?

GG: We got the money from 3 local business men to start with and I approached “Fox” in LA to obtain a licence to use material from the Alien movies.

AXP: When and how did the two of you meet, and subsequently decide to begin work on Alien War?

GG: We met at a boring film meeting when someone wanted to put together a crew to film political films about the state of council houses!! John and I met, looked at each other and said let get out of here and make something interesting!

AXP: What sort of involvement does 20th Century Fox have with the project? And what did it take to gain their blessing to use their copyright material?

GG: “Fox” thought it was a crazy idea that had never been done, yes there was rides etc at some of the theme parks but not something that put the public on foot so they left us alone as the first Alien War was to open in Glasgow so if it failed it would not matter to “Fox” different if it was in London or LA so they left us to it, we had nothing from “Fox” no costumes of any kind, props nothing so we put on a basic show but made sure we targeted the most terrifying thing which is always overlooked by the theme parks, they hand you everything on a plate and miss out to target the imagination, hit the people where it hurts, dark rooms, enclosed spaces etc! As for their blessing to use their material it came from the top the President of “Fox” who I spoke to on the phone and loved the whole concept and a deal was done!

AXP: What sort of financing did the project require?

GG: The first AW cost around £25,000 to build, London was £500,000 which we got from a business man in California who ran a construction company, we had to go to the USA as the businessmen in the UK have no imagination when it comes to getting new ideas off the ground.

AXP: Why did the attraction close back in 1996?

GG: We sold the company on and the new owners were about to open it when all the pipes burst inside the base and ruined the whole set, they got a nice cheque from the insurance company and thought why bother opening the attraction, let’s retire!

AXP: What motivated you to re-launch it now?

GG: Apart from it’s the 15th anniversary (Glasgow 1992) we are working on a documentary all about Alien War and all the memories came back and we though lets do it again and this time make it the most terrifying experience anyone could go into!

AXP: What is the schedule shaping up like, you are starting in the UK, then hitting other places in Europe, Japan and the States, correct?

GG: Yes, Glasgow this Summer, London Christmas and then Europe, Japan and by this time we hope to build another one and take it to the USA for a tour so we will have two moving around the world.

AXP: Do you have a tentative launch date?

GG: June 30th.

AXP: What will be different about the features of the attraction since it’s first inception?

GG: Much more intense, more tension more scares!

AXP: will any of the other films in the franchise have a bearing on the attraction this time around?

GG: Talking to “Fox” they want AVP brought in at some point when the new movie comes out although that’s not new to us as sometimes we would put the Predator in sometimes at Alien War(back in 1992 long before the movie) and not tell anyone, our marines, the public no one and the reactions were great to see one of our actors ( marines) expecting an attack from an Alien and out of the darkness comes a laser beam followed by the Predator!!

AXP: Can you give us a brief walkthrough of the attraction?

GG: The new one will have a briefing area, long tunnel into the complex, a med- lab, more corridors that are blocked at the end and the group have to go through the Queen and egg room, followed by more dark tunnels and into a lift and hopefully?? Out!

AXP. Are the roles of the Marines scripted, or is there much improvisation?

GG: All scripted, but I encourage each marine to be an individual and add lib a lot of the time giving the attraction a more real quality.

AXP: Are they based on any of the characters from Aliens, or are they purely fictitious?

GG: All fictitious.

AXP. Exactly how immersive is the experience for the visitor?

GG: Very! A lot of things have happened in the past, people fainting, wetting themselves, also the other bodily function as well!

AXP: How true to the film are aspects like the environment, weapons, Marine costumes and creature designs?

GG: All taken from the original moulds which John and I found in a warehouse outside London that “Fox” did not know they had! A lot of the set is from Pinewood, right down to stickers on the wall.

AXP: Can you explain a little of what it takes to set-up, operate, take down and relocate the attraction? How long does it take?

GG: I will let you know once we have dismantled this new touring unit.

AXP: How many personnel does the operation require?

GG: 6 marines, 3 Aliens also back up staff, box office, shop etc.

AXP: Who designs and fabricates your sets, costumes and props?

GG: John Gorman designs the look of the set, myself and my son Sean do the layout and The Quickening Workshop in Glasgow do all the costumes and props and have been doing that since day one, look them up and interview them, they have lots of stories to tell??

AXP: The announcement to bring back Alien War has made a lot of excitement in the fan base, what sort of reaction have you encountered so far?

GG: Massive amount of email and comments all of them very positive!

AXP: And what do you anticipate in terms of numbers through the turnstile once you reopen?

GG: 50,000 Glasgow, 350,000 London.

AXP: Sigourney Weaver was present to launch the attraction in 1993, have any other film alumni visited?

GG: Yes look at the MySpace site to see photos of everybody.

AXP: Any plans for a full official website? If so, when?

GG: Yes it will be under and will be up and running in the next month in the meantime look at MySpace and

AXP: Where do I sign up for a job?!

GG: Audition will be up on all the websites so “Good Luck”.

AXP: Before we close, is there anything else you’d like the fans to know?

GG: The AW documentary is looking great with interviews never before seen with Sigourney, Lance and all the gang, the full making off story with great footage of us starting at Glasgow with the basic show, then London, us at Pinewood, Bapty (the weapon’s dealers), the auditions for London and more! This time it’s…War!

Juan Riedinger, Actor, AVP-R

With Alien vs. Predator 2 set for release some time late this fall or early winter there has been very little so far in the way of details surrounding the cast, characters or storyline, but recently I had the chance to chat with Juan Riedinger who plays the character of Scotty. We talk about acting, his career and, of course, the film.

Let’s get to it:

Alien Experience: You’ve got an impressive educational background, what made you decide to pursue acting as career?

Juan Riedinger: It was a bit of a fluke. I took a Drama class as an elective in my third year at the University of Calgary (Canada), where I was actually completing degrees in Biology and English. At the time, I had never acted before in my life. Since then, I’ve pretty much devoted everything to the craft. No looking back now.

AXP: And how did you get the role in AVP 2?

JR: Like most other parts…I went in for the audition and got the good news a while later.

AXP: Did working with Heike Brandstatter and Coreen Mayrs on previous projects (ie. FallenThe L WordBlack Christmas) help seal the deal?

JR: Actually, I booked AVP 2 before any of these other projects, so maybe it was vice-versa!

AXP: This is also the second time you team up with Gina Holden (who plays Carrie Adams), how’s that been?

JR: It’s funny, I played Gina’s boyfriend on the vampire series “Bloodties,” but we have never actually met in person. You’ll have to watch that show to see how that worked out.

AXP: It seems like there was a lot of Canadiana in the production from cast to crew to filming location; being a Vancouver-area native, did that make the role more comfortable for you?

JR: Actually, I grew up in the Banff/Calgary area, but I’ve been in Vancouver for almost three years, so I guess it’s home now. It was definitely nice to see some familiar faces in both the cast and the crew around the set. Helps take the edge off.

AXP: What was the camaraderie between the cast members like, especially considering so many of the actors were fellow Canadians (ie. Ty Olsson, David Paetkau, Gina Holden, Meshach Peters, Rainbow Francks)?

JR: I didn’t really get to know most of the cast members you mention. However, the people I did meet were easy to get along with, and I think there was definitely good ‘camaraderie’ between the cast-members on set, which makes filming a WHOLE LOT easier.

AXP: Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little about your character ‘Scotty’? Like his relationship with the other characters for example?

JR: He’s a bit of a half-wit who works at a sporting-goods store with his buddy Earl (Rainbow Francks). The two are caught off guard by some commotion, and crazy things happen. I think that’s about all I can say.

AXP: There’s been some criticism around the AVP community that the cast is mostly ‘unknown’ television actors; how would you gauge the strength of the performances in the film?

JR: I think there’s a misconception that ‘unknown=untalented.’ 100% of today’s ‘A-list’ stars were ‘unknown’ at one time or another. To answer your question, I think AVP 2 was cast exceptionally, and it shows that casting directors and production studios are willing to take chances on talented fresh faces. I think that’s a good thing. Of course I’m gonna say that, though, since most people haven’t heard of me yet.

AXP: I’ve noticed that there are a lot of veteran theatre actors (or at least actors who have some stage experience), to me that would indicate a disciplined and well trained cast?

JR: I believe the best actors in the world emerge from the stage (or at least have some background in it). I’m not aware of the stage experience of the actors in AVP 2, but if they’re as experienced on stage as you say, then I think that makes the quality of performances in this film that much more promising.

AXP: What was it like working with Greg and Colin Strause?

JR: They were great! Really cool, laid back, professional, and talented guys. Although this is their directorial debut (of a major production), I’m sure there’ll be more on the horizon…and their visual effects resume speaks for itself.

AXP: And what did Dan Pearl (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) bring to the project?

JR: Great cinematography in a film genre he has proven to be comfortable in.

AXP: How familiar were you with the Alien and Predator franchises prior to this role?

JR: I’ve seen a couple of the Alien and Predator films. It’s funny, Rainbow (who played Earl) and I were watching the original Predator in his trailer while we were on set…partly to kill time, and partly to get in the right headspace right before shooting. As for AVP…unfortunately I never got a chance to see it! To be honest, I haven’t heard too many positive things about the first one. Don’t worry, from what I could gather, I think the sequel will redeem the series. I really don’t think the fans will be disappointed.

AXP: Was it intimidating at all knowing you would be playing opposite such iconic science-fiction monsters?

JR: Not really intimidating, but quite incredible actually. I really wanted to snap a picture with the monsters on set, but for obvious reasons…I wasn’t able to. But yes…definitely an exhilarating experience to actually see one in person.

AXP: What was your impression of the Alien and Predator designs?

JR: Gotta give the art and costume departments some credit. Definitely some scary and convincing designs.

AXP: If you could choose the victor who would it be, Alien or Predator?

JR: I couldn’t tell you who takes in the end, but I have a soft spot for Predator.

AXP: Before we wrap, are there any other interesting projects for you on the horizon?

JR: You should see my face in the next few months on The L WordBlood Ties, and Fallen. Other than that…like most actors, I’m just waiting for the next job!

Syd Mead, Conceptual Designer, Aliens

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the most influential visualist from this century, none other than the legend, Syd Mead. For those who aren’t familiar (and shame on you), Syd was one of the conceptual designers for films like Blade Runner2010Tron and, of course, Aliens. Syd and I sat down to discuss his contributions to the production of Aliens, to clear up some common rumours about the film, and to talk about some of the concepts that didn’t make it onto the big screen.

Let’s get to it:

Alien Experience: How did you first get involved with Aliens?

Syd Mead: I was one of twelve judges for the 19xx Miss Universe contest. That year, the judging was located in Florida. Each of the judges were housed in a new condo, courtesy of one of the local developers. The condos were not yet on the market. I returned to the condo one evening after one of the endless sequence of dinners, photo ops, interview, etc. and there was a Federal Express package addressed to me. I opened it. Inside was the script for ALIENS, sent by James Cameron himself. A short note indicated that he wanted me to design the SULACO. I stayed up all night reading that script and after the televised judging ceremony was finished, completed about six or seven sketches of my first impressions of the SULACO on the plane on the way back to Hollywood.

AXP: And, originally, how much of the story were you asked to conceptualize?

SM: Originally, I was hired to design the SULACO. As the involvement progressed (after I got back to Hollywood and my media attorney had made a deal), I was given the challenge of designing the launch bay, the tractor and the drop ship.

AXP: Can you describe the conceptualization process for films, from the spark of the first idea, to the final design?

SM: Conceptualization starts with the script, and a meeting with the director. This is critical. I am part of the production group for the duration of pre-production, but am not part of the ‘on lot’ staff. I am a visual consultant directly answerable to the director. Believe me, that simplifies the process greatly.

AXP: What do you think it is about your designs that caught the interest of James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd? What made them say ‘we’ve got to get this guy!’?

SM: Well, prior to being selected to work on ALIENS, I had worked on STAR TREK, the motion picture, BLADERUNNER, of course and TRON over at Disney. The industry is very close knit. I suppose that my ‘reputation’ supported the selection.

AXP: Since you were responsible for the lion’s share of the designs for films like Blade RunnerTron, and 2010, it must have been a relatively easy transition to work on specific concepts for Aliens?

SM: Working on a film, designing often the ‘hero’ prop or props, or views, is always a challenge. You must never think of it as ‘easy.’ This is not an invitation to angst or hand wringing. It is just that you have to forget everything you’ve ever done before and, guided by the script’s story, the director’s comments and a general trust of your creative instinct, produce something that is really different.

AXP: Since you design anything from vehicles, to structures, to landscapes, who decided what you would design, and what Ron Cobb would design?

SM: As far as I know, Ron Cobb was assigned to design the off planet colony; the exterior pressure doors, the outpost’s various above ground enclosures, and the interiors. He left the movie rather abruptly, from what I was told. I don’t know why, and I don’t know what he actually designed, for that matter. I was assigned to do what I did by Jim. What he assigned to others I didn’t know, or was I particularly interested.

AXP: And how close was your working relationship with Ron? Did you bounce ideas off each other?

SM: I never had any contact with Rob whatsoever. I would drive up to Jim’s house on Mullholland Drive and have an very casual review of the sketches I had brought. Then, I’d drive back to my Hollywood house and go to work, preparing for the next review.

AXP: Considering the design benchmark that he and H.R. Giger set on Alien, did you feel any extra pressure to set the bar even higher for Aliens?

SM: To be frank, no. ‘Raising the bar’ is what I do each time I’m engaged by a client, whether it’s a manufacturing corporation or a movie production company. I’m never really concerned about competing with others, even in professional fields that I’ve never worked in before. I’ve always managed to come up on top.

AXP: Were you at all surprised Giger wasn’t back for Aliens?

SM: No. Giger is who he is; enigmatic, quirky, weird. The fact that he wasn’t on ALIENS had nothing to do with me. Besides, his designs were owned by the studio, not by him anyway. That’s why Cameron could take the liberty of designing the queen ALIEN based on the same morphological scheme as Giger’s ALIEN, which, in turn, was a variation on his extensive exploration of the penis, a kind of fixation of his.

AXP: Apart from Cameron’s script, how did you visualize your designs?

SM: I imagined that the SULACO was essentially a heavily armed cargo ship, outfitted to transport material, men, equipment between earth orbit (perhaps) and outlying worlds. That, and the comment by Cameron on my original spherical sketches that the model had to move past the lens. A spherical design would have meant variable focus, something he didn’t want to deal with.

AXP: In terms of design specifics, how much direction did you receive from James Cameron?

SM: The SULACO was a huge ship. As I said, on the way back from Florida, I sketched several designs cued by the script’s description of ‘a forest of antennae enters frame, followed by the enormous bulk of the SULACO’…or words to that effect. Cameron cautioned about making the SULACO design flatter, side to side to facilitate camera focus. That suggestion was made quite specific by a quick sketch he made.

AXP: How important was it that Cameron is a talented artist in his own right, and could show you sketches of his own concepts as a basis for your designs?

SM: Bingo! [See answer above]

AXP: What was the biggest design challenge you faced?

SM: The biggest design challenge working on ALIENS actually was never used. Toward the end (?) of the story, Ripley is hospitalized in the ‘moon orbit’ space hospital. I designed a modular system for the rooms, based on hexagonal panels that could alternately become screens, fold out amenity fixtures and storage compartments. The set was never built. On to the drop ship. I did a very complete design job for the DROP SHIP design; longitudinal section fitting the assault tractor into the hold, the articulation of the armament pods and the landing posture; tracks at the rear and skids at the front. I liked it and I guess Cameroon liked it too, but my design was a casualty of the movie’s fast paced production. The drop ship was first built as a camera angle prop in the drop bay set, and then a model was made to link visually with the partial drop ship set piece. The assault tractor became a dressed 747 plane tow truck, ‘de-leaded’ and covered with appliqués.

AXP: Is it true that the final design for the dropship was partially based off some toying James Cameron did with an Apache AH-64 helicopter model?

SM: That I don’t know. Gale Ann Hurd was producer and de facto line producer for the show. Everything had to be approved by her office, down to the cost of sending faxes. The whole production went to Pinewood soon after I’d submitted my designs for the SULACO, and the other transport items. The rest of the props and vehicles, etc. were all done there. I had no further involvement.

AXP: Are the Vietnam War undertones overexaggerated, or did that period of history infact influence the designs for the film?

SM: I don’t think the Viet Nam war had anything to do with the production of ALIENS whatsoever. Remember, Cameron had worked on RAMBO, and could write a dynamite action story. The edgy bantering between the male and female crew members was really raw, very ‘in your face.’ This gave it a very military feeling, but I don’t think it had any reference to the war.

AXP: For your first design for the Sulaco, why did you choose a round structure for the spacecraft? Did it have anything to do with the ship rotating to create it’s own gravity (which is a concept based in science-fact), or was it a purely aesthetic approach?

SM: The spherical configuration was purely in first interpretation of the script. [Read a previous answer.] The gravity field aspect was not part of the rationale, as this film was so far off in future that the whole gravity field problem was assumed to be solved as a locally generated phenomenon. (read, the ‘STAR TREK’ effect!)

AXP: Is it true that some of the design for the Sulaco was based off actual scientific research conducted into how a spaceship might infact work?

SM: That I don’t know. I designed the SULACO to be an immense, heavily armed freighter. Look at the row of ‘doors’ along the side just aft of the nose. These were loading bay doors, each with it’s lift frame folded down over the closed door.

AXP: How closely did you work with Peter Lamont (the Production Designer on Aliens) to get a futuristic, yet practical, concept that could actually be fabricated on set, and within budget?

SM: As I mentioned, I was here in Hollywood, the movie production crew were at Pinewood in England. I never met Peter Lamont. I submitted my designs to James Cameron. If he liked them, he would have the production designer make them like my sketch.

AXP: Of your designs – the Sulaco (interior and exterior), the dropship, Ripley’s apartment and the APC – which were you most pleased with?

SM: I was very pleased with the SULACO. I was mildly disappointed with the way the drop ship turned out…I thought it had a flimsy look to it. The assault tractor was okay. Remember, ALIENS was made on a remarkably conservative budget.

AXP: Were there any of your designs that didn’t make it into the film?

SM: Ha! Read some of the answers above. But to repeat. Designs that were used was the design of the hero ship, the SULACO, the interior set design for the drop ship bay, a sort of close cafeteria sketch. Not used were the designs for the DROP SHIP, THE HOSPITAL CABINET, THE ASSAULT TRACTOR.

AXP: Looking back, would you have approached any of the designs differently?

SM: No, I don’t think so. Remember, I’d been working in corporate design and promotion for twenty years before I got involved in the movie business. I’d had many, many go-rounds with advertising agencies, corporate executives and their wacky motivations…when I get accurate information from the client, I do it once, and it’s done.

AXP: You are often referred to as a futurist, in fact I believe you coined the phrase ‘visual futurist’, and have proven over your career that your design concepts stand the test of time; comparing Aliens to the last 20 years worth of science-fiction, would you say those designs have enjoyed the same longevity?

SM: Well, BLADERUNNER will celebrate it’s twenty fifth year since release in 1981. Hey, that’s longevity! It is ensconced in the national film archives along with GONE WITH THE WIND, CITIZEN KANE and CASA BLANCA. Quite a remarkable fact. The TRON bike I designed was featured in the ‘review’ part of the game release, TRON 2.O, and I was asked to design the ‘new’ light cycle.

AXP: Did you ever consider sneaking a chrome bumper onto the APC when James Cameron wasn’t looking?

SM: No. We don’t want specular highlights on a military vehicle.

AXP: Just recently Sega has announced that it will be developing both first-person-shooter, and real-time-strategy, video game titles for next generation platforms; if you had the opportunity, would you be interested in working on those games?

SM: Of course. I’ve worked on many electronic games of all types: first person, rail, etc. I am hired to create the ambience, the vehicles and the visual technological gimmick for the story. Once that’s done, I’m not really concerned about either the technology or the editorial slant of the game. I used to get involved in understanding the image generation frame-by-frame screen image of my stuff. Now, with resolution approaching that of theatrical release, I conceive, make the artwork and hand it over the client. They take my design ideas and interpret them into the games sequence and technology.

AXP: I understand you did some design work for a Japanese video game this year, any other interesting projects that you are currently working on?

SM: I’m getting ready. We have two game client sources that are supposed to get back to us after the first of the year, and several other non-game projects. The project you refer to was BOUNTY HOUNDS, now in release.

AXP: Before we wrap up, is there anything else the world should know about Syd Mead?

SM: Syd Mead absolutely has enormous respect for the designers who entertain with their concepts, their professional expertise and their dedication to keeping us all enthralled with adventure. I have the opportunity to work with these younger people and that is exhilarating for me.

Many, many thanks to Syd for sparing us his time. As an Aliens, and general science-fiction, fan it has been an honour to have this opportunity. Hats off to one of the masters, who still makes himself available to his fans. And thanks also goes out to Roger Servick, Manager of Business Affairs at Syd Mead Inc. for setting all this up.

Mark Schultz, Author, SB vs. AP

Wrapping up the second part of our Superman & Batman vs. Aliens & Predators interview series I had the pleasure of sitting down with the author of the two-issue mini-series, and veteran Alien and Predator writer, Mark Schultz.

Let’s get to it:

Alien Experience: A staple for an AvP interview – who’s your favourite, Alien or Predator? Why?

Mark Schultz: Alien. The first movie is a bona fide classic. The alien is the very heart of darkness–H.P.Lovecraft’s inhumanly vast, incomprehensible, devouring universe personified. A truly magnificent SF/horror concept. The aliens became increasingly devalued as the movie series continued, but in Ridley Scott’s initial vision, the creature is the Eye of Chaos, His Satanic Majesty. Don’t get me wrong–I love that first Predator movies, too. But Alien is existential.

AXP: Since you’re also a talented artist, how do you make the decision as to which stories you will illustrate, and which you will soley write?

MS: I am so slow drawing sequential art that I must limit myself to drawing only my own stories–specifically, Xenozoic Tales. I can do covers and other single image illustrations for various other projects, but I’d go financially belly up taking on comic art jobs! I’m largely a writer and single image illustrator these days.

AXP: And how did you come to work on this series?

MS: DC editor Joey Cavalieri and I had worked together on Superman years ago–he was the editor who had brought me on board at DC–and he was aware of my work on previous Alien and Predator series at Dark Horse. So he asked if I’d be interested and it seemed like a good challenge. When he told me that Ariel Olivetti would be drawing the story, that cemented the deal.

AXP: I understand this project was completed over three years ago, but shelved due to copyright issues, what exactly was the hold up?

MS: You tell me! I was never given an explanation. Apparently some one, or some party, that has copyright control of either the DC or 20th Century Fox properties involved had a problem. As this series was originally scheduled to come out at about the same time as the Aliens Vs. Predators movie, that may have been a factor. I don’t know…

AXP: With a title like Superman & Batman vs. Aliens & Predators it’s obvious what the general idea for the plot is, but there isn’t much on the Net about the specifics of the storyline, what can you tells us about the series?

MS: Well, let me try to construct a press release blurb here: When Superman and Batman both become aware of Alien and Predator activity on Earth, their investigations lead them to the same volcano in Andes Mountains of South America. Deep inside, they find an ancient culture of spacewrecked Predators–and their ritual prey, the Aliens–trapped in isolation since prehistoric times. But now the volcano is about to erupt, a multinational defense initiative wants to nuke the newly-discovered extraterrestrial threats and Batman and Superman have their hands full trying to contain the situation. And that’s BEFORE the Predators and an Alien Queen get loose inside Superman’s Fortress of Solitude!

AXP: Tell us a little more about the backstory of the Aliens and Predators being ‘sealed away’ from humans for centuries?

MS: The idea is that a Predator ark, carrying Alien eggs, crashed here on Earth duiring an Ice Age. The cold climate was absolutely not to the Predators liking, so they set up shop in a warmer environment: the interior of a volcano. Over millennia they became trapped there, with their ancient culture remaining static. So this Predator/Alien culture is something that existed hundreds of thousands of years ago–its a relic. The most dangerous critters in the known universe have been sitting in our backyard for longer than we’ve been around, but completely isolated by environmental conditions from the rest of the world.

AXP: Futher to that, and without giving too much away, how do Superman and Batman get wrapped up in the conflict?

MS: The environmental conditions are changing–the volcano is going active, to be exact. That forces the Predators out of their shell–they need to find new habitation and that brings them to the world of humans, today. And to the notice of Batman and Superman, who have previously had frightening experiences with them.

AXP: Are the Aliens and Predators teaming up against Superman and Batman, or is it a free-for-all, WWE-style?

MS: I see Aliens as agents of pure chaos. They are extremely effective at what they are designed by nature to do–and that is to tear things apart, to start the process of entrophy. So they are always a wild card, in league with no one. The Predators have enough trouble keeping them barely under control, let alone dealing with Superman, Batman, and the erupting volcano. Batman and Superman, however, do sort of reluctantly work together.

AXP: Does the story (or backstory) take into account that Batman has fought the Predators before (in Batman vs. Predator) and Superman has fought the Aliens before (in Superman/Aliens: God War)?

MS: Yep. Both Batman and Superman have previous experiences that inform their actions in this series.

AXP: With Superman, Batman, Aliens, and Predators, there’s something for every comic fan in this mini-series;, but how do you write the story in a way that balances both the story you want to tell, while allotting equal attention to each character? In other words, how do you make the fans of each franchise equally happy? Or is that even attainable?

MS: Ha! That IS the trick, and what makes a series like this such a challenge. I’m always concerned that a fan of one particular character or another will feel their guy is being slighted. Still, in my mind, the bottom line is the story, and while I try hard to give equal time to all, I won’t shoehorn in a scene that gives someone something to do but doesn’t advance the story.

AXP: DC and Dark Horse have teamed up in the past with Judge Dredd vs. Aliens and Green Lantern vs. Aliens, now this mini-series, any chance we’ll see more crossovers pitting DC heros against the Aliens or Predators in the future?

MS: That decision will probably come down to sales. Or the advent of new Alien and Predator movies.

AXP: What was it like working with Ariel Olivetti? Especially considering his geographical location?

MS: I had no direct contact with Ariel whatsoever. Joey Cavalieri took the script I delivered and dealt with that and Ariel himself. I think they both did a fantastic job with what I gave them, so this arrangement worked out very well for me!

AXP: You’ve worked with AliensPredator and Aliens vs. Predator titles in the past at Dark Horse; where does this story, compared to that body of work, rank for you?

MS: That’s tough. Actually, I sort of think of this series as a “what if…” story, as I don’t consider the Aliens or Predator universes as containing superheroes. It stands apart from the Aliens and Predator stories I’ve written, and belongs more with the Aliens Vs. Predator Vs.Terminator series as a alternate universe sort of thing. I certainly wouldn’t rank it as better or worse than any other story I’ve written–that’s up to the reader to decide. But, no matter how the readers relate to my story, I’d say that Ariel’s extraordinary artwork absolutely elevates this.

AXP: How much different has it been working with the Alien and Predator licenses compared to your work on the Star Wars series?

MS: 20th Century Fox–the owner of the Aliens and Predator Properties–has never given me any negative comments or requests for changes. Lucasfilm, on the other hand, is much more “hands on.” Personally, I enjoy the freedom allowed me by 20th Century Fox.

AXP: Alright, now that you’ve passed the short answer portion of the interview, we’re going to enter the Lightning Round: Shoulder Cannon or Wrist-Blade?

MS: Shoulder Cannon. Greater range, greater flexibility in almost any hostile situation, I would think.

AXP: Facehug or chestburst?

MS: Can’t have one without the other, can you? From a artist’s viewpoint, the facehugger is such an inventive, elegant design–so I’ll go with that.

AXP: Newt screaming or nails down a chalkboard?

MS: Is there a difference? Great prerformance, however.

AXP: Skull cracked open like a coconut by an Alien’s inner jaw, or spine removed and used for a belt by a Predator?

MS: As the skull cracking implies a quicker, surer route to a loss of consciousness, and thus an end to the pain, I’ll take that queasy choice.

AXP: Paul Anderson or Uwe Boll?

MS: Ummm–sorry, these guys are both off my radar screen. Way off, I suspect.

AXP: Reuben with extra kraut, or Montreal-style smoked meat on marble rye?

MS: I’m sure I’m leaving myself open for a lesson in Canadian deli cuisine, but as I have never had Montreal-style smoked meat, I must go with the Reuben. It’s hard to imagine a tastier sandwich.

AXP: Paris Hilton or Jessica Simpson?

MS: Yeesh. Can I have two other choices, please? I guess I’d have to pick Simpson, for purely hygienic reasons.

AXP: Okay, okay, I’m just getting carried away now. Thanks for this Mark, it was a blast!

MS: Your welcome, Pete!

Superman & Batman vs. Aliens & Predators is slated to hit store shelves next month.