Alien 3: How Comics Finally Brought William Gibson's Sequel to Life

Alien 3 almost didn’t get made. The version released in theaters back in the early ’90s was directed by David Fincher, but by the time he stepped in to finish the project, Alien 3 had traded hands an absurd number of times. Of all the scripts, the first script written by William Gibson proved the most notorious of all — and now it exists as a Dark Horse comic series.

Gibson is a titan in the field of sci-fi writing. His novel Neuromancer and his collection of short fiction, Burning Chrome, became the central source of inspiration for the cyberpunk genre, while Gibson’s later collaboration with Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine, created modern-day steampunk. If anyone was going to bring the sci-fi masterpiece to the next era, it was Gibson. His script was ultimately unused for Alien 3 and most of his ideas were scrapped. However, in 2019, Dark Horse revived his script into a comic book, William Gibson’s Alien 3, which revealed what could have been.

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The filmed Alien 3 and William Gibson’s Alien 3 exist are complete opposites. In Alien 3 the film, after escaping on the Sulaco onto a prison planet, Ripley is rescued by the prisoners, being the only survivor. While a facehugger is on-board, she doesn’t realize yet that it’s impregnated her. Hicks and Newt are dead, while Bishop is broken beyond repair. Ripley continues as the only survivor when a new alien impregnates either a bull or dog — depending on the cut — and starts solo killing the humans in the prison camp. Weyland-Yutani comes to collect Ripley and the new Queen Alien growing within her.

William Gibson’s Alien 3 opens with a team of commandos boarding the Sulaco, only to be attacked by facehuggers, much like how Ripley and Newt were in Alien. These commandos are from the Union of Progressive Peoples. Unlike the isolated prison planet in the last film, they hail from a pseudo-Soviet Union at war with Ripley and Hicks’s inter-planetary nation. The facehugger has apparently grown from Bishop’s biomatter, which motivates the UPP to take Bishop’s torso with them, leaving the ship to drift through space to Colonial territory at a colony called Ancherpoint.

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Colonial Marines find Newt and Hicks alive, but Ripley has had her cryotube severely damaged. While she lives, she’s put in a coma. The comic follows Hicks and Newt as they try to figure out what’s happening, completely reversing the plot of the filmed feature. Both Hicks and Newt try to return to their lives on Earth, but the UPP returns Bishop to the Marines and Weyland-Yutani, all the while having used Bishop’s biomatter to create aliens.

It turns out the xenomorph biomatter has become something like a virus, capable of corrupting people into xenomorph beings on contact. Hicks and the now recovered Bishop try to stop the biomatter from spreading, but it’s already too late. Ancherpoint is entirely overrun with Alien biomatter, resulting in an outbreak of xenomorphs emerging from machine and flesh alike, mutating and corrupting all they touch in a bizarre, nightmarish narrative.

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While Alien: Covenant featured airborne alien impregnation, nothing is quite like this in any Alien film before or since. The comic brings that narrative to life. This was accompanied by the audio-drama released over Audible, featuring the voice talents of both Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen reprising their roles as Hicks and Bishop, respectfully.

Alien 3 is often criticized for being a film assembled by a committee. Gibson turned down a third rewrite on his script, allowing other writers to craft what would ultimately be the foundation of Alien 3, with future screenwriters going back and forth on whether to set the film on a wooden planet reserved for religious meditation or a prison planet, electing to combine all the ideas into one core script.

However, little of what Gibson wrote became the film, making it one of the most bewildering films never made. The Dark Horse comics series finally brings his vision to life.

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Alien 3 is a film made by committee, but William Gibson's sequel came to life years later thanks to the Dark Horse comics.

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