Review by C.J. Bunce
Forty years of Alien. It’s worth celebrating. Ridley Scott blended science fiction and horror in a way never seen before, and it’s in large part due to the uniquely dark imagination of H.R. Giger, who we’ve discussed for years here at borg. Plus he gave us one of sci-fi’s greatest heroines (in Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley) and cats (in the ginger crewmember Jonesy). We’ve taken a look at multi-artist tribute concept books before at borg, including the massive The Thing Artbook, Star Trek: 50 Artists/50 Years, and The Mike Wieringo Tellos Tribute books. Anytime we showcase a major benchmark in comic book titles, like Detective Comics 1000th issue, Wonder Woman’s 750th issue, and The Amazing Spider-Man Issue #800, or charity projects like the Wonder Woman 100 showcase, we’re seeing the same thing: a variety of artists interpreting an icon of popular culture. In Alien: 40 Years/40 Artists, we’re seeing another artist challenge, and the result is among the best of the bunch. The new tribute arrives at bookstores tomorrow, so you have one more day to pre-order it at a discount here at Amazon.
A scientific illustrator, concept artists (like Star Wars’ Terryl Whitlatch), studio creators, an anatomical artist, movie poster artists, comics artists (like Dave Dorman), even filmmakers, including Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve and Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Robert–this is a great mix of creators. Some of the artwork by inspired contributors is great fun–comical, emblematic, poster worthy stuff. Other artists really seem to have been able to live in H.R. Giger’s head, conveying pieces you might mistake for his own concepts. Just check out contributions by Dorman, RJ “Arvalis” Palmer, Matt Hatton, Dane Hallett (an Alien: Covenant concept artist), and Gonzalo Arias.
A repeated theme from the younger end of the spectrum of artists selected for the project is the claim they watched Alien for the first time most likely when they were too young. Many watched it for the first time when parents brought home rented VHS cassettes and didn’t notice that no-joking R rating. Alien affected–make that infected–these artists early on.
Juan Ortiz is the current master of the medium of reinterpreting modern classics in poster style (just browse his prior works discussed here at borg). His posters are just as his fans would hope for. My own favorite interpretations in Alien: 40 Years/40 Artists center on Ripley and Jonesy (Katherine Kuehne and Joey Spiotto give great whimsical interpretations here).
When I started borg ten years ago, I didn’t expect how immersed I’d get in this franchise. I believe anyone who feels a tug to the images from the film (behind the scenes, concept art, or final presentation in theaters) can also become experts if you only read the tie-ins I’ve reviewed and recommended here over the years. For me, H.R. Giger’s inspiration is scary stuff, but it has a firm niche at the outer recesses of fine modern art. It’s a place you probably don’t want to dwell too long, but fascinating and worthy of commentary.
One appendix in the book includes original concept art from the film. Another showcases the original movie posters. And still another provides brief CV data for the contributors.
With a foreword by Alien concept artist Chris Foss, this high-quality, 112-page hardcover over-sized (10.5 x 14.8 inch) poster edition is the coffee table book for the ultimate Alien fan. Pre-order Alien: 40 Years/40 Artists here at Amazon, from Titan Books.