In the year and a half since Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States (and even prior, during his presidential campaign), fascism and racism under a variety of monikers (alt-right, neo-Nazism, neo-fascism, white supremacy, and so on) have become emboldened in America. While politicians and news agencies have either been slow or negligent in their response to this crisis, pop culture has taken up the mantle to criticize the Trump administration and the ensuing rise of the extreme right wing, from Saturday Night Live skits to promotional materials for a Purge prequel to comedians at correspondence dinners.

The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, often referred to simply as “the Eisners,” are generally accepted as the most prestigious recognition one can receive in the comic book field. The awards are named in honor of comic book pioneer Will Eisner, the creator of The Spirit and the man who helped to popularize the term "graphic novel," and span over two dozen categories. (Those wishing to learn more about the meaning and importance of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards should check out our previous article on the awards.)

Hi gang!  It’s been two years.  Two whole years since HBO’s Westworld showed up to delight, confuse, and intrigue.  So, the sophomore year started this past Sunday evening with a lengthy “Previously on…” recap of the first season, which is good, because there is a lot you need to remember from freshman year in order to make sophomore year work.

What are my chances?

Does not compute.

There's really no decent reason or excuse as to why, in the age of the Hollywood cinematic universes, fans of the Alien franchise don't have an ACU (or Alien Cinematic Universe) to call our own. If the rumor mill is to be believed, the blame may lie at the feet of Ridley Scott and his supposed decree that no one else play in the Alien sandbox until he's done with it. No matter who's to blame, it's a glaring miscalculation in regards to a series that's already connected to the Predator film series through Paul W.S. Anderson's forgettable AvP: Alien vs. Predator picture. Much like LucasFilm's decision with Star Wars to clean up the cannon and mine the franchise's extended universe for diamonds in the rough, Twentieth Century Fox could be building an interstellar epic story of horror and sci-fi brilliance with some of the best creative talent available.

The 1979 story of Alien begins with a quote from Joseph Conrad. Not the mining ship Nostromo, named after one of Conrad’s novels, but the other direct quote, from his Heart of Darkness: “We live as we dream – alone.” Then, we see the unmistakable Alien title font: an H. R. Giger-inspired melange of indeterminate limbs, gnashing teeth, curvaceous techno-pipes, and shadowy apertures. This is followed by the omniscient narrator offering in fragments that “It starts with a ship… The ship… And the silence… Then… …The silence ends…” The USCSS Nostromo whirs into life through a series of repetitive clicks and concussive binary metres; the fateful crew wake up for the last time. Chattering, clattering, and complaining about full shares.

During the final climactic moments of Alien 3, the franchise’s hero, Ellen Ripley (tragically impregnated with the larva of an alien Queen) is approached by a mysterious figure, offering to surgically remedy her fatal condition and give her a chance at the peaceful domestic life she never had. This individual, referred to simply as “Bishop II” in the film’s credits, is portrayed by the enigmatic Lance Henriksen (who also plays the role of the heroic android Bishop). The finale of Alien 3 gives little explanation as to the true nature of Bishop II, allowing, in a massively cinematic fashion, for those questions to be pushed aside in service to Ripley’s final, ultimate sacrifice: the taking of her own life in order to eliminate the alien threat inside her and thwart the Company’s attempts to acquire the species.

Italian genre cinema has a rich history built on imitating other successful films. In the heyday of Italian cinema during the late '50s and '60s, the studio production machine of Italy cranked out cycles upon cycles of derivative films: Hercules (1958, Pietro Francisci) setting off a wave of sword and sandal films; Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton) starting the Eurospy trend; the spaghetti westerns were based off the success of Leone’s work; and so on. With the advent of the big budget, summer blockbuster films from America in the '70s, such as Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg), the Italians followed suit as best as possible: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg) led to Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982, Antonio Margheriti); Jaws became The Last Shark (Enzo G. Castellari); Escape from New York (1981, John Carpenter) became 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982, Enzo G. Castellari); and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985, George P. Cosmatos) became Strike Commando (1987, Bruno Mattei). If there was a blockbuster or a hit film, the Italians had an answer for it.

The trading cards were what did it.  Almost everything else made sense, but why the cards?  Why market stuff for an R-rated movie to kids who are not actually allowed to see it?

“Fundamental Comics,” a monthly editorial series that introduces readers to comics, graphic novels, and manga that have been impactful to the sequential art medium and the comic book industry on a foundational level.  Each month, a new essay will examine a familiar or lesser-known title through an in-depth analysis, exploring the history of the title, significant themes, and context for the title’s popularity since it was first released.

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