No, Alien comics are not canon to the Alien film franchise (which officially originated Alien lore as we know it). Or more accurately, not all of them.
But it needs to be said that even for the Alien mythology in general, it is sometimes tricky to determine exactly which is canon and which is not, especially if you include various video game and novel adaptations.
But if you are wondering about Alien comic books specifically, you can pretty much consider these five Dark Horse Comics adaptations as canon:
- Aliens: Defiance (limited series with 12 issues published from April 2016 through June 2017)
- Aliens: Dead Orbit (limited series with four issues, published from April 2017 to December 2017)
- Aliens: Dust To Dust (limited series with four issues, published from April 2018 to January 2019)
- Aliens: Resistance (limited series with four issues, published from January 2019 to April 2019)
- Aliens: Rescue (limited series with four issues, published from July 2019 to October 2019)
The reason that these titles can be safely treated as canon is that they tie directly to at least one of the six Alien film franchise releases (we are talking about 1979’s Alien, 1986’s Aliens, 1992’s Alien 3, 1997’s Alien Resurrection, 2012’s Prometheus, and 2017’s Alien: Covenant), as well as any of their official spin-off short films, plus 2014’s Alien: Isolation video game and its 2019 animated adaptation web series.
For instance, the Alien: Rescue and Alien: Resistance comic books as well as the Alien: Isolation game and web series all feature Amanda Ripley (the daughter of certified kick-ass lady Ellen Ripley), as she tries to search for her missing mom.
Meanwhile, the Alien: Dead Orbit, Alien: Defiance, and Alien: Dust To Dust limited runs follow characters who are directly or indirectly employed by Weyland-Yutani, the greedy corporation that is willing to sacrifice countless human lives to capture xenomorphs and turn them into biological weapons to be sold for profit.
Still, it bears mentioning that Dark Horse Comics has published lots of other comic books that might be semi-canon.
These comic books, after all, heavily borrow story elements from the Alien theatrical releases, like space marines fighting against xenomorphs, characters who died in the films but somehow survived in the comics (here’s looking at you, Rebecca Jorden), and Queen aliens just trying to protect their eggs and children.
But wait – why are they considered semi-canon instead of full-canon?
It is mainly because you can’t be sure if the events in their stories really happened (read: aligned with the continuity of the core Alien film franchise mythology).
But credit should go to the creators for crafting these engaging and often irresistible stories. They might not have happened in canon terms, but they sure could have.
When Was The First Appearance Of Aliens In Comics?
Technically speaking, the first appearance of aliens (also known as xenomorphs, to differentiate them from other alien beings in pop culture) in comics was through the highly acclaimed 1979 graphic novel Alien: The Illustrated Story.
This is the comic book adaptation of Ridley Scott’s Alien film, published by Heavy Metal magazine and featuring Archie Goodwin (writer) and Walt Simonson (art).
But on Dark Horse Comics, the aliens first appeared in Aliens, the limited comic book series that ran for half a dozen issues from May 1988 to July 1989.
Also known as Aliens: Outbreak, this initial Aliens run (which is now being referred to as Volume 1) was written by Mark Verheiden and illustrated by Mark A. Nelson.
It was a direct sequel to James Cameron’s film Aliens and thus featured Sergeant Dwayne Hicks (promoted from his Corporal military rank in the 1986 movie) and Newt (now 17 years old – she was just six in the film) battling xenomorphs anew.
Interestingly, the release of David Fincher's Alien 3 in 1992 would complicate things.
Some may remember that at the beginning of the third Alien movie, Ripley survives – but unfortunately, not Corporal Hicks and Newt.
To Dark Horse Comics’ credit, they were able to make a course correction by changing Hicks’ name to Wilks and Newt’s to Billie in subsequent releases (and re-releases), implying that they were completely different characters all along.
Both Hicks and Newt – err, Wilks and Billie, sorry – would continue their adventures (or misadventures) in Aliens Volume 2 (also known as Aliens: Nightmare Asylum), published by Dark Horse Comics in August 1989 through May 1990.
Is Alien Owned By Marvel?
The Alien film franchise, however, is owned by 20th Century Studios (formerly known as 20th Century Fox).
But note that 20th Century Studios is currently being operated by The Walt Disney Company as a film production arm.
Interestingly, Disney also was able to get the comic book rights to the Alien Vs Predator (AVP) property, so it would not be a total surprise to see Marvel (its parent company is Marvel Entertainment, which now operates as a subsidiary under Disney) take full advantage of the AVP universe real soon.
We will talk more about AVP stuff later, but now let us go back to Alien comic books, especially Marvel Comics’ handling of them.
Before Marvel was handed the reins, Dark Horse Comics had a great and extended run with its comic book rights.
It published loads of Alien titles for more than a decade (from 1988 to 1999). While it is true that it did stop its publishing streak during most of the 2000s, it managed to revive the Alien comics brand by 2009 and then had another productive run in the early 2010s through 2020.
Of course, that prolific turn (with close to 50 titles published, not counting dozens of other xenomorph stories featured in various anthologies) would eventually end with Marvel Comics taking over at the start of the 2020s.
As for Marvel – to its credit, so far it already has published a couple of one-shot Alien comic books (2021’s Aliens: Aftermath and 2022’s Alien: Annual), plus an ongoing series (neatly broken up into six-issue chapters) since 2021.
The most recent chapter is the Alien: Thaw storyline, which started its run in April 2023. It ties up with the continuity in Alien: Bloodlines (aka Alien issues #1 to #6), Alien: Revival (aka Alien issues #7 to #12), and Alien: Icarus (aka Alien issues #13 to #18).
Have Aliens Fought Marvel Characters?
No, aliens or xenomorphs have not fought any Marvel Comics characters yet. But these nasty creatures have indeed gone up against a number of DC Comics characters on several occasions (we will get to that in the next section).
But wait – didn’t the X-Men battle vicious alien critters before?
Yes, they did! Our favorite mutant superheroes did have a few close encounters of the unfriendly kind with the alien race known as the Brood.
It first happened in the early 1980s through the publication of Uncanny X-Men issue #155 (which was written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Dave Cockrum).
Apart from the X-Men, other popular Marvel Comics characters would later battle the Brood in comics pages. They include Hawkeye (Clint Barton), Iron Man, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers), and members of the Fantastic Four.
Of course, the Brood are not exactly xenomorphs. But they do have similarities. For one, they are both parasitic – they “impregnate” other organisms, basically condemning their host to a death sentence once their implanted egg hatches.
Both alien species follow a hive structure wherein each individual serves its colony’s Queen and even performs its role as either a drone or a warrior.
But the similarities just about end there. Xenomorphs can’t talk, while the Brood can.
Xenomorphs can’t copy their host’s powers and memories, while the Brood has been shown to be capable of doing so.
It might be easy to say that Marvel was inspired by the concept of xenomorphs in coming up with the Brood character.
After all, xenomorphs were created first (the first Alien film was released in 1979, while the Brood debuted in the comics pages in 1982).
But to Marvel’s credit, it did create an alien species mythology that can differentiate itself from the Alien film franchise’s massively popular lore.
Besides – what sight can be as awesomely cool as a squad of space marines squaring off against rabid xenomorphs?
How about Iceman (Bobby Drake) piercing an individual Brood warrior’s skull with the use of sharp ice spikes?
Maybe in the near future, Marvel could deliver an Aliens Vs Brood crossover, perhaps? Let us keep our fingers crossed on that one.
Have Aliens Fought DC Characters?
Yes, aliens have definitely fought DC Comics characters, thanks to some creative license from both Dark Horse and DC writers and artists.
Of course, one of the most popular and legendary of these characters is the Caped Crusader himself.
By way of a pair of issues in the Batman/Aliens crossover limited series, Batman (Bruce Wayne) found himself dealing with more than the usual colorful Gotham City villains.
He is not even in his home city. This time around, he goes to the tropical jungles near the Mexican and Guatemalan border to look for a scientist working for Wayne Enterprises who went missing.
Instead, he stumbles upon a suspicious Special Ops team and plenty of xenomorphs, including one that is half-crocodile.
So what does the world’s greatest detective do? Well, he ties up the croc-alien’s legs and throws it into a volcano (because you just don’t frickin' mess with the Batman).
This series was popular enough to spawn a sequel via Batman/Aliens II, a three-issue run released in 2003.
The action, however, is transported to Gotham City, which is on the verge of being overrun by xenomorph hybrids that borrowed the DNA of popular bad guys like Joker, Killer Croc, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Two-Face.
Another popular DC Comics character who goes toe to toe with aliens is none other than Superman himself.
During the mid-1990s, the Man of Steel battles xenomorphs through the three-issue Superman/Aliens limited series.
Responding to a Kryptonian distress call from outer space, Supes travels across the cosmos in search of a city somehow housing surviving Kryptonians.
He does find survivors, but some of them have been impregnated by facehuggers. Amazingly, Superman himself gets impregnated with an egg containing a xenomorph Queen.
Luckily for the guy, he manages to use his superpowers to crush the embryo still inside his body and then expel it before it could burst through his chest (Super-alien Queen averted).
A sequel, Superman/Aliens 2: God War, would later get published in 2002. In this story, Darkseid gets a hold of a few xenomorph eggs and plants them on several planets across the galaxy.
As he always does, Superman saves the day. But in the series' ending, it is revealed that Darkseid is still keeping several facehugger-impregnated victims for future use.
These aliens sure do look like they have something against members of the Justice League.
We say that because in 2000, they also managed to pick a fight with Green Lantern (actually, several Green Lanterns).
In the four-issue Green Lantern Versus Aliens limited series, a Green Lantern (Barin Char of Sector 1522) gets impregnated with a xenomorph embryo.
A team of Green Lanterns (including Hal Jordan and Kilowog) attempt a rescue, but alas – they were a tad too late in preventing dear Char’s chest from bursting.
They end up encountering the aliens, of course, but interestingly, Jordan decides not to exterminate the creatures (the way he sees it, they are not evil – they are just wild animals, he reasons).
So he concocts a plan to transport these wild animals to the planet Mogo, where they won’t be able to cause any more trouble (hopefully).
Not surprisingly, the plan backfires. And it is up to Jordan’s successor to the Green Lantern mantle, Kyle Rayner, to do the cleaning up ten years later, including taking care of an alien Queen that is looking to transform Mogo into a xenomorph colony.
How Many Alien Comics Are There?
Oh boy, there is a lot.
With Dark Horse Comics’ run alone from 1988 to 2009, we count 49 separate titles. Note that this number does not include comic book anthologies that feature xenomorphs in their stories.
As for crossover events with other popular comics characters, you got eight, including the Batman and Superman crossovers, plus the guest appearances in Judge Dredd, WildC.A.T.S., and Vampirella comic books.
Also, you should not forget about Marvel Comics’ recent run – with two one-shot titles and four six-issue limited series releases from 2021 to the present.
Based on all of the above, the running total is already at around 63 titles (give or take).
And we have not even mentioned the Alien Vs Predator comic books yet (but do not worry, we are tackling that exact subject in the next section).
Are Alien Vs Predator Canon?
No, the Alien Vs Predator comic books are not canon to the Alien film franchise.
Actually, the same can apply to any comics, movie, video game, or novel that pits xenomorphs against any known property (like superheroes or other alien beings like the Predator).
Not one of them can be considered canon to the Alien movies.
But here is the thing: There actually exists a separate universe for the AVP mythology itself. And you can thank Dark Horse Comics for this.
Back in 1989, Dark Horse Comics had this cool idea of bringing two of the fiercest alien species in all of science fiction to fight each other in comics pages.
However, it took more than a decade for Hollywood to follow in Dark Horse’s footsteps.
Indeed, the first Alien Vs. Predator movie only came out in 2004, and got a sequel via 2007’s Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem.
But it should be noted that both films do not tie in with the events, places, or characters of the Dark Horse AVP titles. So you can argue that the AVP comic books and AVP films are not necessarily connected to each other in terms of continuity.
Canon discussions notwithstanding, the AVP comic books do offer up immense entertainment value, not only for comic book readers but also for movie enthusiasts, especially those who consider themselves fans of the Alien or Predator film franchise (or both).
If you have not read any AVP comic book yet and absolutely have no idea where to begin, we can wholeheartedly recommend treating yourself with an appetizer by checking out any one of the AVP crossover comics.
If you are into DC Comics, make sure to read Superman and Batman Versus Aliens and Predator, which was published in 2007 by Dark Horse Comics.
Are you a fan of James Cameron? Then you ought to check out 2000’s Aliens Versus Predator Versus The Terminator (also published by Dark Horse Comics) and discover what might happen when a pair of Cameron-directed franchises collide with each other (hint: 100 percent chaos).
One other AVP crossover that might interest you is Predator Vs. Judge Dredd Vs Aliens: Splice and Dice, which Dark Horse Comics released from 2016 to 2017.
If you are done with the appetizers, then you should try any of the dozens of AVP titles published by Dark Horse Comics over the years.
And as we mentioned earlier, the AVP property is now owned by Disney (which owns Marvel Entertainment, which owns Marvel Comics).
So who knows? Marvel Comics just might be releasing new AVP material in the near future.