The visionary artist H.R. Giger passed away this week at age 74, days away from the 35th anniversary of the work he’ll probably be remembered for best, Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien.
After hearing the news this morning I hopped online to show my son Sid pictures of Giger’s creation, and talk about this strange man and his work. “Alien like in Aliens versus Predator?” he asked. I’m not ready to show my nine-year-old the movies, especially the first and best of them, but he’s seen pictures of the monster. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s son Henry, younger than Sid, has recently gotten obsessed with Giger’s creature, also without seeing any of the films. The creature really speaks for itself, and I bet it always will. Do we look at it differently now than we did in 1979? Sure. But we’re different. And we’re different, in part, because of what people like Giger put into the world.
I reminded Sid of the dinner parties in the form of writers’ summits (or vice versa) we’ve been holding at our house for the last year, where we’re creating a big story tying together the worlds of Alien with Predator and Prometheus.
Sid said, “To honor Giger?”
It was a funny question. I explained that we’d been doing this for a while, and didn’t know Giger was going to pass away, of course. “But yes,” I said. “To honor him. We always try to do something he’d be proud of.” We have succeeded at least once, with Kilian Plunkett and Jim Woodring’s Aliens: Labyrinth series. I was an assistant editor at Dark Horse at the time, and I was the one who caught the incoming fax from Giger, telling us he liked that book. It was the only time, to my knowledge, that we heard directly from him, and I took a lot of pleasure passing that note on to Kilian.
I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some real visionaries. Today, in fact, Mike Mignola is working on an Alien piece for us. Often, in the licensing game, you don’t work with the people behind the vision. Still, you strive to do something worthy of them. I was the editor on Conan for a while. I never got to meet Robert E. Howard, or even Frazetta, but their work guided us as Kurt Busiek, Cary Nord, Richard Starkings, Dave Stewart, and I tried to figure out the best way to do that comic—to do the comic we thought Howard and Frazetta might have done had they been so inclined.
When we were first laying the ground work for what has become Fire and Stone, this fall’s Alien/Predator/Prometheus project, the first challenge was to succeed where Prometheus itself had succeeded so well—creating a visual world worthy of H.R. Giger. The first people we lined up for the project were Juan Ferreyra and Paul Tobin, because of their work on the wildly original, Bram Stoker and Eisner Award-nominated Colder series. With those two, I thought, lay our best chance at creating images that delivered on the promise of Giger’s original work. They’d both aim high to achieve that.
We’re lucky we get to do this work. We get to create new things, invent whole worlds, and sometimes play with the worlds created by the geniuses that inspired us. I’ll never forget watching Alien for the first time—at my step-sister’s house when babysitting my nephew. I’ll never forget that fax from Giger. Both experiences remind me of the duty we have, whether you’re telling the next chapter in the Star Wars saga, or telling something original inspired by the heroes of your youth, or cutting a completely new trail. Great artists have come before us, and they’ve handed us a legacy, in many different forms. It’s something we need to prove ourselves worthy of every day.
I’m grateful to H.R. Giger, for going somewhere others were afraid to go, for creating images that will eternally be all his own, and giving artists for generations something to shoot for.
Scott Allie is the Editor in Chief at Dark Horse Comics. The latest issue of his monthly Abe Sapien series with Mike Mignola is on sale May 14.