It’s the last Monday of the month, which means two things: 1.) make sure you have enough money for rent, and 2.) aww fuck it’s another edition of the Annotated Aliens versus Predator: The Story. Sit back and crack open a bottle of Thunderbird while we take a look at my grade school stab at the art of adaptation. This month’s chapter takes place minutes after the last, when the worst security system ever designed shut down the defences around Weyland-Yutani’s main lab complex on LV-1201.
A lone figure stands on a dead planet, gazing solemnly at the spacecraft which brought him here, now flying away. As the mothership soars into the stratosphere, the being—a tall, hairless biped with chalk-white skin and uncannily human features—removes his cloak and drinks an oozing, shifting black liquid. In seconds, the compound brings him to his knees, painfully rending him apart at the molecular level until the humanoid tumbles down the adjacent waterfall and dissolves among the rocks below. But from this individual’s agonizing death comes a glimpse of something new. Decayed DNA strands reanimate, one cell splits into another, then another. Like seeds cast into the wind, life spreads.
So begins Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s semiprequel to his 1979 blockbuster—and my all time favourite movie—Alien. I specify “semiprequel” because Scott himself has been wishy-washy about where it sits in the Alien continuum. While it’s set in the same fictional universe, it focuses not on the series’ eponymous monsters but on a species only glimpsed in the original film. It’s a much grander movie, featuring a more cosmic and existential brand of horror than that of its darkly sexual proto-slasher progenitor. It’s 2001: A Space Odyssey by way of Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing, and with a touch of H.P. Lovecraft to boot; in other words, everything I could ever ask for, give or take some concerns I have with the finished product.
The other day I purchased perhaps the heaviest tome that will ever sit upon my bookshelf: a Marvel Comics omnibus containing the entirety of Walter Simonson’s run on The Mighty Thor. A hardcover with over a thousand glossy pages, the compendium collects Simonson’s nearly four year run writing the Mighty Avenger, the bulk of which was also drawn by him (Sal Buscema pencilled 18 of the 45 collected issues).
With the exception of a few high profile scribes, Grant Morrison and Brian Michael Bendis chief among them, it’s rare nowadays to see a single writer dictate the course of a character and the surrounding universe for so long. And after reading most of the omnibus—I still have yet to read the final two fifths or so—I want to see more of these auteur efforts, because Simonson’s run contains some of the best superhero comics I have ever read.
One of my favourite things about the Batman universe is its malleability. As has been demonstrated by the Silver Age comics, the 1960s Adam West TV series and the recent Christopher Nolan movies, Gotham City and its denizens can be modified to suit any particular tone and theme, all the while maintaining the core traits of the setting and characters. Bob Haney’s excitable 1970s globetrotter is as true to the character as Frank Miller’s hardened libertarian crime fighter. Likewise, the Joker maintains his glee and twisted sense of humour whether he is harmless (Cesar Romero) or malicious (Heath Ledger).
But there’s no better example of this thematic pliability than Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, Gotham’s physically—and psychologically—scarred former district attorney and one of Batman’s most iconic villains. Two-Face has been depicted in nearly every media adaptation of Batman, most recently Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and in each one of those instances the character’s origin and personality has been changed to fit the themes at play. The following are three of the best, in chronological order: