Q&A WITH MARK VERHEIDEN
Mark Verheiden is an American television and movie writer, as well as a producer. He wrote for the Battlestar Galactica TV-series, Bruce Campbell project called My Name is Bruce, Heroes and more, and produced such shows like Falling Skies and Smallville. Verheiden has also contributed to scripts for The Mask, Timecop and the Smallville television-show. He is currently writing/executive producing a horror series for Netflix called Hemlock Grove. On top of it all, he was also the writer of the very first Aliens comic books, which not only launched The Dark Horse into stardom and started a very successful comic book series, but was also the very first continuation of the 'Aliens' story. JamesCameronOnline.com had a great pleasure in conducting a short Q&A with Mark
JCO: How did you get involved in Dark Horse's Aliens and were you a fan of the movie before getting involved?
MV: I had done an original comic series for Dark Horse called “The American” and had known publisher Mike Richardson and editor Randy Stradley socially since my college days in Oregon. It’s been 25 years (!) since we first started talking about ALIENS the comic, but as I recall Mike mentioned getting the Aliens license during a call dealing with something else, and I said “give that book to anyone else to write and there will be consequences!” or something equally ridiculous .But it worked! And I very much liked the first ALIEN film and totally loved ALIENS, so it was a no-brainer from my POV. Getting the chance to continue the ALIENS story was a dream come true.
JCO: You were the first one to continue Aliens' storyline. What was your approach and how much of a free hand did you have?
MV: As I recall Dark Horse had a couple ideas going in – placing the Aliens on Earth being one of them. I can’t remember who came up with picking up the Newt/Hicks story years later, but either way it felt like a rich direction, and I really enjoyed imagining where those characters might have gone post ALIENS. After that, I basically developed a story that intrigued me and seemed to feel “right” in the ALIENS universe, like the Alien “religion”.
JCO: Aliens Book I focuses very much on characters and their inner struggles and demons. It feels very much like an actual movie with its pacing, character approach and long and engaging buildup. Was that something that you planned, to have the story structured like a motion picture script, or just something that naturally came out?
MV: I wasn’t really thinking about it in movie terms, though I was your classic struggling screenwriter back then so some of the filmic pacing was probably in my DNA. If you mean, did I want to construct a story with a beginning, middle and end, the answer is yes. And I was fortunate to have six issues for the first series, which left plenty of room to explore the emotional stories of the characters.
JCO: What happened to Bishop within the storyline and why wasn't he included?
MV: I don’t remember now. Sorry!
JCO: You introduced the idea that the Alien Queen is luring its victims telepathically with nightmares. Nightmares also occur when aliens are present nearby. Was that inspired by Ripleys nightmares in Aliens and Kane's bad dream in Alien?
MV: I also don’t remember… but maybe/probably.
JCO: The first Aliens stories were very successful and launched the company and the Alien comic series to a new level. Movie based comic books became more popular and flooded the market. Were you surprised by this success?
MV: I think we were all surprised by the magnitude of the success. The books sold crazy numbers when they first came out and 25 years later they’re still in print. Licensed books had generally (but not always!) been given short shrift by the big two comic companies, and often felt like quick knock-offs done without much enthusiasm. I think the fact that we approached this as a chance to do really cool comics as opposed to banging out a promotional item made a big difference. Also, our contact person at Fox was almost totally hands off re: the stories, so we had a (more or less) free hand in creating the story. That’s almost unheard of these days, and even back then I remember thinking that this level of creative freedom was probably a fluke.
JCO: Aliens: Earth War feels very different tonally from other two, and more action oriented. How did you approach this conclusion of the storyline? And what happened to Butler?
MV: Again it’s been a long time, but the germane thing that happened with the third comic series is that we finally got the rights to use the Ripley character. (We had been prohibited from using her before.) So that dictated some of the story changes.
JCO: Lastly, what were your initial thoughts on Alien 3?
MV: I’m a big David Fincher fan, but ALIEN 3 was a real miss. I was stunned to see the filmmakers kill off Newt and Hicks in the credits. I can appreciate the creative impulse, to show us that no one is safe and to kick off an entirely different story – but this was such a kick in the teeth to the folks that had fallen in love with those characters. It didn’t help that the new characters were relatively colorless and not much fun to be around. So “A” for effort but I was really disappointed.
JCO wants to thank Mr. Verheiden for taking his time during such busy schedule and wish him all the best with future projects