Happy Alien Day everybody! I wanted to give you all one of these cool looking Alien eggs I picked up during my vacation on LV-426, but my Den of Geek editors said their insurance wouldn’t cover such generosity and took all the treasures away from me (oddly enough, a few minutes later I recieved a memo from my boss saying that we landed the Weyland-Utani Corporation was a new sponsor).
Anyhow, as far as arbitrarily created internet holidays go, today is a doozy as it celebrates the Alien franchise — easily the greatest melding of horror and science fiction in pop culture history.
When you think about it, though, the fact that Alien merchandise existed as far back as 1979 is rather extraordinary. Back then, the thought of toys based on an R-rated film was unheard of. However, after Star Wars became a blockbuster at the movie theaters and stores everywhere, Kenner Toys’ search for their next huge sensation resulted in them snatching up the merchandising rights (with the rumor being that they did so unaware how dark the film would be). Their product line consisted of a board game, hand-cranked motion picture viewer featuring, presumably, less gruesome footage of the movie, and the legendary 18′ action figure that still fills toy collectors everywhere with desire.
These were the first wave of products, but hardly the last. To this day, new products based on the franchise continue to be released, and with a sequel to Prometheus (I know, I know) plus Sigourney Weaver/Neil Blomkamp’s long-rumored Alien 5 supposedly in the works this terrifying trend will continue.
So grab your wallets and get ready to spend a whole bunch of disposable cash on eBay, because here are my picks for the greatest Alien products ever.
10. Nostromo, “Alien” 45
In the 1970s, pretty much every science fiction film had an accompanying disco version of its theme released thanks to Meco — whose “Star Wars Title Theme/Cantina Band” topped the charts and created a new musical genre that nobody knew we needed but for which lovers of oddball cash-in products are forever grateful.
As for the song itself, it’s wonderfully atmospheric…although somehow I doubt this made much of an impact in nightclubs. And if they did, please tell me where as I have a time machine and would definitely like to visit such an establishment.
9. Aliens Limited Edition Vinyl Soundtrack
While on the topic of Alien-related vinyl, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this exclusive limited edition re-release of James Horner’s score for Aliens that Mondo has released today to commemorate Alien Day. Limited to just 75 copies — you can try to score one here, good luck — this features liquid splashing around inside the record. Insert joke about it not harming your record player so much as eroding your bank account here.
8. Aliens Bop Bag
Bop bags are consistently underrated toys because they give kids the opportunity to beat the shit out of inflatable replicas of TV and movie characters instead of each other. They’re downright therapeutic. This Aliens-themed version of the plaything included a neon-heavy image of the Alien Queen for children to take their frustrations out on.
Appropriate for youngsters? Eh, probably not. But definitely fun.
8. Aliens Commodore 64 Videogame
Laugh though you may at its crude from a 2016 point-of-view graphics, 30 years ago the above Aliens game from Activision/Electric Dreams was cutting edge. Its heavy reliance on following the action of the film combined with cut scenes is downright cinematic and seemed revolutionary to players at the time and resulted in a gaming experience that was both authentic and satisfying.
Jump to the 25:00 mark for the Commodore 64’s take on the infamous “get away from her you bitch” scene. It still gives me chills.
7. Reebok Alien Stomper
As a lover of strange sci-fi movie tie-ins (the best-ever still being Kraft’s Star Trek V marshmallow dispenser), I have a soft spot in my heart for Reebok’s so-called Aliens Fighter Shoe. I had no idea these were even a thing until a few years ago, and upon my discovery of their existence I became determined to somehow own a pair of these.
Just when all hope seemed lost came word that Reebok will be reissuing them today. Again, good luck.
6. Alien: The Illustrated Story
The Alien franchise’s long relationship with comics began with this fantastic adaptation, that was released by the publishers of Heavy Metal magazine and features, er, stellar work from comics industry greats Archie Goodwin (Marvel’s Star Wars) and Walter Simonson (Thor). It effectively recreates the atmosphere of dread that flows through the original, making this one of the best comic remakes of a movie ever.
It has been re-released several times over the years, most recently from Titan Books. Meaning that used copies are cheap and abundant.
5. Alien Halloween Costume
Can you even wrap your head around the fact that this was something that was marketed to children? Who was leading product development at Ben Cooper that year? John Wayne Gacy?
4. Alien Funko Re-Action Figures
Funko kicked off their popular line of ReAction Figures by bringing collectors a series of five figures that were originally announced by Kenner in 1979 but never produced due to the fact that Alien was hardly a kid-friendly property. Fortunately, Funko made long-gestating toy dreams come true and gave these figures a second life in 2014.
Toy designer Brian Flynn spoke with Den about the creation of the figures here.
3. Alien Movie Viewer
No batteries needed. Therapy for any child who watched this however, is a must.
2. Kenner Alien Figure
Let’s pretend for a second that this isn’t the greatest action figure ever made for a second, okay? Now with that bit of knowledge safely tucked away in the portion of your brain where you keep negative thoughts about subjects like your own mortality and the very real possibility of a Trump presidency, watch this commercial. It is very difficult to believe that this is a real thing, and not some Adult Swim creation that everyone will tell you is funny but it will just make you feel unnerved again.
The best part of this is how the kids let the Alien get away so they can make a snack. I hope they enjoyed that peanut butter on celery, or whatever it is that 1970s kids ate, because everyone they know will soon be murdered in the most brutal way possible.
“Another triumph for Alien?” More like another pair of soiled underwear.
1. Alien Board Games
Spoiler alert: The last two items on this list are games based on the Alien films. However, they are as far removed from each other as Zack Snyder is from understanding Superman. Timely!
The above 1979 Kenner release was billed as “an exciting game of elimination and escape.” I can’t really speak to that, as this item has long been my board game Holy Grail and I have yet to have the pleasure of making its acquaintance. What I can say is that everything about the aesthetic of the game is spot on, and in a perfect world I would be getting invited to gaming parties where this is the main attraction instead of Settlers of Cataan. Always with the Settlers of Cataan.
But as great as this clearly is, it is only an appetizer to the gaming main course that is…
Made by Mark Co LTD for the Asian market in the late 1980s, this copyright-defying piece of gaming genius is equal parts Perfection and snake nut can in which a spring-loaded Alien projectiles out of a Giger-esque game and across the room (with the very obvious goal of the game to be not have this happen during your turn). The only thing missing is Veronica Cartwright screaming and several hundred dollars from your wallet, as you’d be hard-pressed to find one of these anywhere.
This writer did have the opportunity to play this last year and is astonished at how much fun it is and how easily the projectile ability of the Alien in this game could be weaponized, and absolutely baffled while we never got a U.S. counterpart of this in the States. Man, the Company really are bastards. Happy Alien Day everyone!
(Ailianshock pictures courtesy of BenLikesRetro).
Chris Cummins is a writer/comics and science-fiction historian who will be hosting Sci-Fi Explosion at Videology in Brooklyn this Friday night from 6-7:30pm. For tickets, visit here. You can follow him on Twitter @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion. He met Lance Henriksen once, who was super nice.