alien

All posts tagged alien

A couple of months ago I was worried that this blog had become too Aliens-centric; now I’m worried that it’s become too Prometheus-focused. Oh wait, Prometheus is in the same extended universe as Aliens, so I guess the blog is still caught in an Aliens loop. Oh well, with a name like Xenomorphosis, you really can’t fault me for spreading too much Aliens love. Today’s product review was way too enticing to pass up. We’re talking about a giant tentacle alien action figure that comes with a detachable “appendage” that’s expressly meant to orally rape a second action figure. Sorry if that sentence was a bit of a mouthful. Seriously though, the fact that this exists baffles me. This figure set would be right at home in some sleazy back alley erotic figure shop in Akihabara. Erotic figure shops: they probably exist.

Alien rape. In space.

Alien love. In space.

Perhaps even more baffling than the fact that this exists, is that it was a Toys”R”Us exclusive. Yeah, you read that right. While shopping for baby clothes at Babies”R”Us, you might as well pick up an alien rape toy before making your way to the cash. The second I saw this set announced, I knew I had to have it, and that it needed a write-up on this site. Because it was an American-only exclusive, it took some clever planning and some help from a few friends to get this exotic import delivered to my apartment in the far North (Canada). A friend of mine’s girlfriend happened to be planning a visit to Ottawa from the States. She was gracious enough to allow me to have this monstrosity shipped to her dorm, and to then risk bringing it across the border. This thing is basically a creepy sex toy, so it must have taken some real bravery on her part to involve herself in my scheme. To add insult to injury, she lives in an all-girl dorm, and apparently the set got its fair share of creeped out stares as it lingered in her room before her visit North.

In all seriousness, this is a pretty cool set. I just couldn’t resist poking some fun at the nature of it. I tease because I love. As I mentioned earlier, this set comes with two figures: a “battle damaged” engineer, and a trilobite. Just to refresh your memory, the trilobite was the large tentacle alien that impregnated the engineer at the end of the film. This set was specifically created to reenact that scene. As far as I can remember, the term trilobite isn’t actually mentioned in the film. According to Prometheus: The Art of the Film, the name trilobite was coined because the creature was partly influenced by the appearance of actual trilobites.

Trilobite vs. Engineer (Battle Damaged)
Manufacturer: NECA
Release Date: November, 2012
Height: 8.5″ (Engineer), 17″ (Trilobite)

As with NECA‘s pressure suit engineer figure, these figures are incredibly detailed. Aside from some minor changes, the engineer is nearly identical to the aforementioned pressure suit engineer figure that was released in September. The hands are flexed differently, there’s some burn damage on the upper chest and face, the mouth is open rather than closed, and the paint job is slightly darker. Other than that, you’re looking at the same figure. For whatever reason, the engineer feels sturdier this time around, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why. Perhaps it’s because the joints seem less stiff. As with last time, the figure isn’t very posable, but in its defense, it’s really only meant to assume one position. The burn damage and open mouth serve to accentuate NECA‘s craftmanship: each individual tooth is independently sculpted, and the scar tissue is rendered in minute detail. As I’ll explain shortly, the mouth is open for a reason…

Here you can see the feelers and "petals".

Here you can see the feelers and “petals”.

The trilobite figure is pretty interesting. From a distance it looks like a giant spider, but it has 7 large tentacles rather than 8 arms. The top of its body looks somewhat like an actual trilobite fossil. The underside of its body is the most interesting part. There are 6 petal-like protrusions that give the impression of the opening of a flower. Jutting from the petals are 6 whisker-like feelers. Although the figure looks like it’s fairly posable, in practice it really isn’t. The large tentacles are bendable, but they can’t be permanently bent into a new position. This seems like a big missed opportunity, because the figure could have been infinitely posable. In addition, the large tentacles are prone to dislodging from their sockets when you attempt to bend them. Luckily they fit back into place with ease. The overall detail is adequate, but not as impressive as the engineer. That being said, I’m probably just being  nit picky, because the trilobite is inherently less detailed than the engineer.

I’ve saved the best for last. When looking at the packaging for this set, there are three separate parts: the engineer, the trilobite, and a long detachable “member”. This member/penis can easily be bent into any shape. No curve is too nimble for this knob. If only the tentacles had been fashioned from the same material. One end of the penis fits into a groove in the underside of the trilobite. I can only imagine that it comes separately to avoid potential outrage from the parents of the one or two kids who chose to buy this sex trap from Toys”R”Us. Fear not, the head of the member fits snugly into the mouth of the engineer. Remember how I mentioned that the mouth is open for a reason? Yeah… To be fair, this set does re-enact an actual scene from the movie, so it’s not as if NECA was responsible for imagining this exotic display of affection between man and alien. That being said, I don’t specifically remember the penis looking so much like a penis in the film. Call it creative license, but the detachable sex object actually has a circumcised tip. As my roommate put it: “I don’t remember that level of detail in the movie…”

The trilobite looks sort of like an actual trilobite, but with large tentacle appendages.

The trilobite looks sort of like an actual trilobite, but with large tentacle appendages.

So, should you buy this perverse package? There are a probably a couple other people on the planet who will find this set as funny and appealing as I do. Like I said, the moment I saw this advertised, I knew I had to have it. Anyone who buys this will know exactly what they’re in for. You get a near perfect re-creation of the trilobite/engineer scene from the movie, so if that sounds interesting, don’t hesitate to make this purchase. As with anything from NECA, the figures aren’t flawless, but they’re pretty decent. Plus, I’m sure this will become extremely collectible, so if you’re smart, you’ll buy several copies and keep them in the packaging. Personally, I sacrificed my retirement income by opening the box to take some photos for you, my readers. Oh well.

As promised, I will one day return to Alien Rip-Offs in Film. Until then, please join the facebook page. I try to post a fair bit of sci-fi horror/sci-fi military news items, so it’s really the go-to place for random news posts that don’t merit a blog post.

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Being the art scholar that I am, I figure I’ll try my hand at another artbook review. Prometheus: The Art of the Film is my latest piece of acquired merchandise from the Prometheus/Alien universe. Thanks to Titan Books, we received a surge of Alien-related books in 2012. The re-releases of The Book of Alien and Alien: An Illustrated Story, as well as Prometheus: The Art of the Film all hit store shelves throughout the summer and fall months of last year.

Prometheus The Art of the Film Cover

The Cover. Nice and spooky.

Prometheus: The Art of the Film
Author: Mark Salisbury
Country: United Kingdom
Featured Edition: Titan Books, June 2012

Prometheus The Art of the Film 1

The alien ship, which was actually slightly re-designed for Prometheus.

Prometheus: The Art of the Film was written and compiled by Mark Salisbury, who was an editor of Empire, and seems to have a rich history of writing visual companions to movies. Clocking in at 186 pages, this book is actually deceptively beefy. The pages are much wider than they are long, which seems to lend itself nicely to the art inside (but was a pain in the ass to scan). The result is that the art within appears in a “widescreen format”, so to speak. The book is hardcover, and one of the nicest features is that when you open it, it stays open without any need to weigh the edges down! This sounds like a minor perk, but trust me, it’s nice to be able to read a book while eating cereal without having to hold the pages open with one hand.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 2

The evolution of the cryobeds.

So what’s inside? The book is filled with a combination of film stills, photographs, storyboards (ridleygrams, for those in the know) and concept art. The content is divided into sections that mimic each feature of the film, and follow roughly the same chronological order of appearance. Each element from the film is present. The Prometheus, the engineers, the pyramid, the trilobite, etc… Along with an assortment of imagery, each section has at least a paragraph of text that explains the creative process that crafted a particular element. The sections flow nicely, and it was really nice to have a textual companion to the images.  Although the information is sparse in parts, the advantage is that it never distracts from the imagery. The book is never at risk of becoming a full-on making-of, but it has enough tidbits to satiate a bit of that desire.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 4

The bridge of the Prometheus.

The almighty Ridley Scott wrote a 100-something word forward for the book, but it’s pretty worthless. It has something to do with “fantasy intersecting with reality”, or something to that effect. Basically, don’t get your hopes up about the forward, it doesn’t tell you anything about the movie, or even the book. Oh well. Much more interesting is a 5-page segment focusing on the thoughts of production designer Arthur Max. As you may remember, I wrote about Arthur Max in the Pressure Suit figure review. Along with Ridley Scott, Arthur Max was the mastermind behind Prometheus’ look and feel. He was responsible for organizing the incredible team of concept artists that were locked away in a room for several months and tasked with designing a new world from the ground up. As I’ll explain shortly, this book doesn’t do a good job of introducing you to those concept artists, which is pretty disappointing. Anyways, the segment with Arthur Max is really interesting, and explains the various influences and design choices that were considered along the creative process. A fair amount of emphasis is placed on how they struggled with how strongly they were willing to mimic Giger. In the end, they spliced more Giger into the design than they originally intended.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 14

We all know how this ended…

The various photographs, storyboards and concept art are all arranged really seamlessly and attractively. Seen together, they create a visual dialogue that extends from concept to finished product. Personally, I would have preferred to see more concept art as opposed to photos, but I guess without the photos you wouldn’t get the aforementioned comparison between concept and finished product. There’s also a noticeable lack of concept sketches, which are usually my favorite part of the design process.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 8

A massive landing strut.

The concept art almost all takes the form of digital art, but some 3D models and real-life sculptures can also be found. The detail in each painting is incredible! Each piece could easily serve as the cover of a sci-fi book or an album cover. The texture and lighting are so convincing sometimes that it’s hard to tell if you’re looking at a painting or a photograph. After having watched the making-of the film on the collector’s edition Blu-ray, I know that many of these pieces were produced almost overnight, which is mind-boggling. It takes me like a month to come up with a small drawing, and these guys were producing photo-real digital art overnight.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 12

One of my favorite pieces.

Perhaps the biggest let-down is that the concept art isn’t credited… I ranted majorly about this last week. How can you release an artbook that doesn’t credit the artists!? Alien’s concept artists, H.R. Giger, Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, and Moebius are all household names, but artists like Gutalin are only mentioned once in this book! I couldn’t begin to tell you who Arthur Max’s team consisted of, let alone who was responsible for each design element. It’s really disappointing, and I’d be pissed if I were them. Having recently watched the Prometheus making-of on the collector’s edition Blu-ray, I can tell you that it gives you a much better feel for the concept artists and the creative process.

Prometheus The Art of the Film 13

The space jockey, re-designed.

So should you buy this book? That’s a good question. At the end of the day, anyone who’s interested in learning about the making of Prometheus’ design elements will be much better served with the Prometheus making-of on the collector’s edition Blu-ray. In fact, the text in this book sometimes feels like it was ripped straight from the making-of. That being said, I wouldn’t bet my life on that statement, because this book was released months earlier. If you’re like me, and you enjoy having a physical copy of artwork at your fingertips, than this book will still serve you well. It’s a high quality product, but will probably only interest a small niche of people who’ve already bought it.

I have another Prometheus product review coming at you sometime in the near-future; expect it! As always, please join the xenomorphosis facebook page, and leave me some replies!

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of my favorite pieces from Prometheus: The Art of the Film

I shot and edited these photos your enjoyment

Unsurprisingly, Prometheus was my favorite movie of 2012. It was what I referred to as my “most anticipated movie of the decade”. How could it not be? Ridley Scott, the master of science fiction movie direction, returning to the genre after a 20 year absence. And more importantly, returning to my favorite series of all time. I must have watched the trailers dozens of times before lining up to see the movie on day 1.  I went with a friend who also happens to be an Alien super fan, and to put it simply, we weren’t disappointed. You know you’ve seen a good movie when you can spend the remainder of the night debating every subtle detail and nuance. As far as I’m concerned, the art direction, screenplay, atmosphere, and performances were near perfect. And as an Alien fan, I love the connections between Prometheus and the Alien series. Establishing the alien as a bioweapon was ingenious, because it allows for near infinite variations of the xenomorph and its life-cycle. Truly the epitome of infinite horror in space.

Engineer (Pressure Suit)
Manufacturer: NECA
Release Date: September, 2012
Height: 8.5″

A nice shot from the film for comparison

A nice shot from the film for comparison

I love that external rib cage

Anyways, enough gushing about Prometheus; the purpose of this post is to give my impressions of NECA’s Engineer (Pressure Suit) figure. Before I begin, I’d like to stress that I am by no means an action figure connoisseur. I sometimes indulge in figures from my favorite movies or video games, but I am far from an expert on the finer details. That being said, I really want to see every form of media covered on this site, and I can’t pass up the chance to write my first action figure review. So let’s get this show on the road.

As I mentioned previously, Prometheus has gorgeous art design. The conceptual designers, led by Arthur Max, did an incredible job with the creation of the Engineers. The pressure suit they wear is a perfect blend between sleek, modern sci-fi design, and Giger’s original vision. Giger’s familiar ribbed shapes are present, and the chest is actually enveloped by an exoskeleton-like rib cage. As a quick piece of background information, the purpose of a pressure suit is to counteract the damaging effect of exposing the human body to a low pressure environment, like you might find in Earth’s upper atmosphere, or in space. When exposed to a low pressure environment, the human body expands, thus damaging sensitive muscles and tissues. Pressure suits counteract this expansion by mechanically contracting (exerting a counter pressure). There, you’ve now learned a science lesson from an action figure review; pat yourself on the back.

I love this bit of imagery. The mask is killer.

I love this bit of imagery. The mask is killer.

Prometheus Engineer (Pressure Suit) — The bum is made of a rubbery material

Released in September along with a chair suit engineer figure, the pressure suit figure is fairly tall, standing at 8.5″. I did a quick calculation, and if the engineers are approximately 7-foot tall, the scale on this figure is 1:10. Like the other NECA figures that I’m familiar with, the detail is superb. There are indentations in the neck that are a shorter than a millimeter apart. Similarly, there are tiny painted dots on the irises that are teeny tiny. Most importantly, the detail is on par with the models from the movie. Nearly every shape, curvature, and indent is represented. In this regard, NECA has done a great job. Taking the hands as an example, every fingernail, knuckle, and vein is perfectly sculpted.

My first minor gripe is with the body proportions. The abdomen seems to be slightly more elongated than it should be. The discrepancy is ever so slight, but the added height gives the impression of the engineer being skinnier than expected. My more major concern is something that seems to be somewhat universal among NECA’s figures. The toy is difficult to articulate, and as a result feels fragile. There are 14 points of articulation, but most of these points are fairly rigid. Although I doubt any of them would snap, some degree of caution is warranted. My engineer’s left hand, in particular, keeps falling off. Luckily it snaps back on easily enough… Essentially, this probably wouldn’t be a great toy for young kids, but then again it’s not exactly marketed towards kids.

The dressing room

The dressing room

More photoshopped goodness. If you intend to use these images, please just make sure to credit me. Thanks.

The final element I’d like to emphasize is the paint job. In short, the paint job is quite good. Because the model only consists of two tones, it would be fairly difficult to have screwed this up. If I was forced at gunpoint to paint it myself, I’d be relieved, because the job could easily be done with a dark primer and several layers of simple drybrushing. Nevertheless, every detail is appropriately shaded, and as I pointed out earlier, the paint job on the eyes is particularly impressive. If I were to point out one flaw, it’s that the underlying dark tones aren’t as dark as they could be. Had they been darker, the details would pop out even more prominently.

In summary, this figure is highly recommended for any Prometheus or Alien fans. There are several flaws, but overall they’re quite minor, and shouldn’t negate a purchase. NECA makes figures that are great for my desk, but maybe not so great for kids. Either way, I’m satisfied. If you liked this review, please send me an email at xenomorphosis@gmail.com, or on the facebook page. I plan to do more figure reviews, so any suggestions are much appreciated. Until next time, keep it classy space cadets!

Clicking this link will bring you to this product’s Amazon page. Should you choose to purchase it, I will get a small commission, which will then be reinvested into the site. Although I’m including this link, my review’s and opinions will never be influenced by the opportunity to make a commission. This site is a labor of love, but costs money to maintain, so think of any commissions as a donation to the site.

Wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that glare

Wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that glare

Forbidden World (1982)

Forbidden World (1982) — Very reminiscent of Harry Dean Stanton’s solo scene in Alien

As I’ve stated several times on this blog, I’m a pretty big Alien fan. As far as movie franchises go, the Alien universe is fairly expansive, meaning that the various spin-off comics, books, toys, and video games will keep you entertained for a while. However, I’m someone who loves to explore a franchise’s entire sphere of influence. For example, I can’t watch just one cyberpunk anime whithout wanting to know everything about cyberpunk anime. In practice, this almost never pans out; I start out with the loftiest of intentions, but then I quickly burn out or lose interest. Nevertheless, this desire to consume everything has led me on a journey into the darkest depths of Alien‘s influence.

Inseminoid (1982)

Inseminoid (1982) — The perfect atmosphere

Although there are a number of  movies that ripped off Alien, there was really only one that was even remotely as influential: John Carpenter’s The Thing. Even then, The Thing only became a cult hit way after its cinematic release, whereas Alien was instantly popular. Every other imitator falls strongly into the B-grade of cinema history. I don’t mean that in a demeaning way; as you will soon see, I love many of the imitators, but they were almost all made on incredibly limited budgets. Also, just as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I use the term rip-off in the kindest way possible. I have nothing against rip-offs; I’ll take any half-decent Alien clone over most other movies anyday.

The Terror Within (1989)

The Terror Within (1989) — Seconds before chestbursting

So, which ingredients are necessary to brew an Alien rip-off? First, you need a tightly confined or secluded space; usually this is a ship or a space station, but contemporary settings like submarines or military bunkers are also appropriate. Second, a sci-fi setting is ideal, but not necessary. Although the obvious imitators take place in a futuristic setting, plenty of Alien clones are set in the present day. Next, you need one or more creatures that slowly pick off a human contingent one-by-one. Best case scenario, the creature is an alien; even better case scenario: an alien that looks like a xenomorph. That being said, mutants, robots, infected organisms, and the like are all equally acceptable. Continuing onwards, the human prey is usually composed of a small crew. We’re not talking large scale alien invasion here; the smaller the crew, the more we sympathize with them before they die (and the cheaper the budget). Finally, the keenest imitators replicate the chestbursting element. Nothing screams Alien harder than alien impregnation. Again, this element is reserved for only the most die hard clones.

To recap, Alien rip-offs usually contain the following elements, which I’ve ranked in terms of importance:

  1. Tighly confined or secluded space
  2. One or more creatures that kill humans one-by-one
  3. Small cast of humans
  4. Science fiction setting
  5. Chestbursting
Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Galaxy of Terror (1981) — One of my favorite locales in any sci-fi horror movie

Now that I’ve set the ground rules, I plan for this series to be the definitive source for Alien rip-offs. Several blog posts and forum threads have been dedicated to this topic, but they’re either limited in scope, or consist of lists that don’t delve into any details. Through intense scientific research using only the most peer-reviewed sources, I’ve compiled my own personal list of over thirty movies that I plan to cover. I’ll admit, I’ve only seen roughly half these movies, so this series is a strong incentive for me to actually watch the other half. It goes without saying that I’ll only cover movies that I’ve actually watched (duh). Also, I’d like the coverage to be done in a somewhat chronological fashion, with approximately five movies covered per post. I’m pretty excited, so you should be too! If you have any suggestions for this series, please contact me at the Xenomorphosis facebook page, or by email at xenomorphosis@gmail.com.

Dead Space (1990)

Dead Space (1990) — The hydralisk’s long-lost brother

Necronomiclones: Gigeresque Imagery in Video Games is an ongoing series that covers Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s influence on video game art design.

Contents:
Introduction
Contra

In continuing the theme of covering Contra games, this post will explore the gigeresque imagery in Super Contra and Super C. The popularity of the original Contra led to a bevy of sequels, each of which drew more liberally from Giger’s vision. The first of these was Super Contra, which was released for arcades in 1988.

Super Contra -- Promotional Art

Super Contra — Promotional Art — Alien reference: check, Predator reference: double-check

Super Contra
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Featured Platform: Arcade
Release Date: 1988

Super Contra -- Opening Cinematic

Super Contra — Opening Cinematic — Red eye

The aliens from the original have returned, and this time they’re possessing human bodies. If there’s one thing (get it, human possession, The Thing) aliens are terrible at, it’s staying dead. Bill and Lance are sent to an infected military base to eradicate the alien menace once and for all!  This one’s a real tear-jerker, because our heroes are forced to kill their former comrades. Comrades be damned, we’ll burn the aliens out of them if we have to!

Super Contra -- Opening Cinematic

Super Contra — Opening Cinematic — Gas mask skulls

The game starts with an opening cinematic that features a one-eyed xenomorph. It’s lucky that Konami had the license to produce Aliens games, because otherwise they’d have had good cause to fear a lawsuit. Then again, in the wild west days of 80s arcade games, lawsuits probably weren’t much of a concern. Continuing the opening cinematic, Bill and Lance are seen running down a hive-like corridor. Jutting from the corridor are, for lack of a better term, the “gas mask skulls” that are commonplace in Giger’s artwork. An obvious example is the space jockey head from Alien, which was later revealed to be a helmet in Prometheus.

Super Contra -- Stage 3 Boss

Super Contra — Stage 3 Boss — Strange…

Super Contra commences with what would later become a trope in Contra games: our hero is dropped into the enemy base from a helicopter. He proceeds to fight his way to an assault helicopter boss, and then enters an Ikari Warriors-esque overhead stage where he destroys a large enemy tank that looks as if it was teleported in from the G.I. Joe universe. Continuing onward, he traverses a jungle, and encounters the first real Giger moment. Fixed to a wall is an alien head that fires red homing lasers. I’m really at odds with describing this boss. Even for a Japanese creation, he’s pretty strange-looking. He has an incredibly happy grimace, sort of like a really content alien cat. Scuttling across a platform below are several octopus cyclops that vomit pink goo. This boss is all kinds of weird.

Super Contra -- Stage 4

Super Contra — Stage 4 — That xenomorph is about to get sucked into the vagina door

Proceeding onwards, our hero enters the real meat of the game: the alien hive. This time around, the hive is fairly different looking from the arcade version of the first game. The color pallet is considerably grayer; in fact I think the mix of grey with purple in the original game’s hive is significantly more attractive than Super Contra’s abundance of grey on grey.

I’d like to take this time to point out one of my major criticisms with the arcade Contras. Man, the colors are ugly. The contrast is totally off; instead of any strong colors, the screen is dominated with muted grays. I’ve never seen any other arcade games that suffer from this problem. Because of the overabundance of grey, any time there’s a hint of colour, it looks incredibly jarring. Enough ranting, back to the game…

The floor of the hive consists of a skeletal webbing, and the ceiling is a network of what are best described as intestines. For the first time in a contra game, regular-sized xenomorphs are featured as enemies. They attack in droves; literally running at the hero. They’re in such a hurry that they’ll run offscreen should you jump over them. Even real xenomorphs aren’t this persistent. After killing dozens of xenomorphs, you’re confronted with one of the coolest bosses in video games: a giant winged xenomorph! The xenomorph has one eye, and a massive inner jaw that extends to at least eight feet (judging by the height of the protagonist). Coincidentally, one of Giger’s paintings features what looks like a winged xenomorph.

Super Contra Stage 4 Boss vs. H.R. Giger's winged xenomorph

Super Contra Stage 4 Boss vs. H.R. Giger’s winged xenomorph

Super Contra -- Stage 5 Final Boss

Super Contra — Stage 5 Final Boss — The creepiest eyes ever

After defeating the boss, you then negotiate a second portion of the hive, this time from an overhead perspective. The floor is bisected by gigeresque ribbed walls that curl offscreen. At the back of the chamber is the final boss. This guy is ugly, but in the best possible way. His giant head envelopes the center of the screen, and three smaller arms with faces worm their way out of adjacent tunnels. His headpiece has the familiar alien queen triceratops shape, and his arms are ribbed. After pummeling his exposed brain (that can’t be healthy), he does what all good video game enemies do after being shot up with bullets: explodes. And so concludes Super Contra. The world is saved, again.

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.

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Super C -- Box Art

Super C — Box Art — Fantastic cover; nearly every boss is represented.

Super C
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Featured Platform: NES
Release Date: 1990 (Japan and USA), 1992 (Europe and Australia)
Alternative Titles: Super Contra (Japanese Famicom), Probotector II: Return of the Evil Forces (European and Australian NES)

Super C -- Area 6

Super C — Area 5 — Into the hive

Following the success of Contra for NES, an NES port of Super Contra was a sure bet. And thus, Super C was born in 1990. Unlike Super Contra, Super C has two additional levels spliced between the jungle and hive: a green techno base, and an uphill mountain climb. Following the mountainous level, we’re presented with a short cinematic of our hero entering the hive.

Super C -- Area 6

Super C — Area 6 — More gas mask skulls

To its credit, the NES version’s hive is considerably more attractive than its arcade counterpart, thanks in no small part to a much better defined, and more lush color palette. The floor of the hive is composed of a blue spiral texture, and grey gas mask skulls adorn the walls. Lethal red balls are released from chasms and proceed to home in on the protagonist. Balls and chasms: we’re in Giger territory.

At the far end of the chamber is the final boss from the arcade version. His first form has the familiar triceratops head that we know and love. This time around, his eyes are especially creepy; they follow you as you manoeuvre the screen. Adding to the spooky atmosphere, the walls of the chamber are ribbed, Giger-style. You know what, from now on I’ll just call this style of wall a Giger Wall. After you destroy the boss’ first form, he morphs into a conjoined three-headed monstrosity.

Super C -- Area 6

Super C — Area 6 — Creepiest eyes ever x3

Super C -- Area 7

Super C — Area 7 — Kangaroomorphs

After felling triceratops head (I know, he probably has a real name), you continue onwards to the final hive level. This is an attractive stage; the floor is ribbed, vagina doors and gas mask skulls litter the walls, and xenomorphs run at you in packs. Aliens galore. In an interesting video game gimmick, the final segment before the end boss forces you to maneuver an area where the ceiling continuously drops down on you. Should you survive, you’re greeted with an final boss that looks as if it was spawned from a lovecraftian nightmare. To be honest, this looks nothing like anything from Giger. The creature scuttles around on crab legs, has a giant muscled appendage protruding from its abdomen, and has two connected heads, one is a female face, and the other looks kind of like… Alf. After defeating this hideously awesome creature, you ride off into the sunset in your trusty helicopter.

As I promised, Super C and Super Contra delivered even more gigeresque goodness. The next post may or may not cover Contra III: The Alien Wars and Contra 4. Kind of like eating too much candy, I feel like I’ve consumed an unhealthy amount of Contra. We’ll see if the sugar rush fades before I sit down to write the next installment. Until then, please Like the Xenomorphosis facebook page! Later folks.

Super C -- Stage 7 & Final Boss

Super C — Area 7 & Final Boss

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of Super C and Super Contra-related images

Necronomiclones: Gigeresque Imagery in Video Games is an ongoing series that covers Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s influence on video game art design.

Contents:
Introduction

“It’s time for revenge… Let’s attack aggressively!”

For this first installment of Necronomiclones I’ve decided to cover a series that’s especially fresh in my mind. Namely, the infamous Contra series. Does a better old-school co-op series exist? The answer is no. Everyone worth talking to has a great Contra story to tell. The first time I beat Contra III: The Alien Wars on normal difficulty, it was 3 in the morning and my co-op partner was high on shrooms. Needless to say, Contra is the stuff of basement legends. This entry will explore the gigeresque art design in Contra for arcade and Contra for NES.

Contra (NES) Box Art — I would pay so much money to see this movie.

Contra
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Featured Platforms: Arcade, NES
Release Dates: 1987 (Arcade), 1988 (NES)
Alternative Titles: Gryzor (PAL Arcade), Probotector (PAL NES)

Contra (Arcade) — Stage 1: Jungle — Is it just me, or does that look identical to the pulse rifle from Aliens?

Contra follows the tale of two army commandos, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean, as they take on the Red Falcon Organization. The original japanese version is said to be set in the year 2663 on an island off the coast of New Zealand, whereas the American NES port’s manual establishes the events as taking place in the present day. Because we all know that American NES manuals are about as official as that Star Wars fanfic you wrote in high school, we’ll assume the Japanese version is the more accurate of the two. To put it candidly, Contra is big love letter to American 80s cinema. If Rambo, Predator, and Aliens had a japanese baby, its name would be Contra. In fact, the American NES cover features Schwarzenegger and Stallone posing with a xenomorph.

Contra (Arcade) — Stage 3: Waterfall — Alien boss at top of waterfall

I’ve chosen to cover both the arcade and NES version in tandem because despite having fairly different visual styles, they share nearly identical level layouts. Both games start with our hero flipping shirtless into the jungle. Real men don’t jump, they flip. He then proceeds to fight his way into a base, traverses to the far side of the base, and ends up at the foot of a waterfall. Funny story: after years of playing Contra, I only recently found out from a friend that you can duck the bullets in the base… The first Giger moment presents itself at the top of the waterfall, where a giant alien boss lies in wait. In the arcade version, the alien has two heads, four arms, and is protruding from a metallic structure. Although far from a blatant xenomorph clone, the basic ingredients are all there. In typical Giger fashion, the arms are ribbed, and the jaw is evocative of a xenomorph.

Contra (NES) — Stage 3: Waterfall — Alternative alien boss on top of waterfall

The NES version of the same boss is fairly different looking, but no less gigeresque. Instead of having two heads, its cranium has the same triceratops-like shape as the queen alien in Aliens. One thing’s for certain: its arms are also about as useless looking as the queen alien’s; they flop around in circles while shooting fireballs at the hero. The alien shares another similarity with a xenomorph: it has rod-shaped dorsal fins extending from its back.

Contra (NES) — Stage 8: Alien’s Lair

After killing the alien, our hero explores a second base, a snow field, an energy zone (?), a hangar. and finally, the alien’s lair. As the name would imply, the alien’s lair is essentially a large alien hive. In the NES version, the ceiling is composed of what look like skeletal shapes, and the floor is crisscrossed with red organic matter. Giger would be proud, very proud. Interspersed among the ceiling are pink protrusions that spew out white, fluffy balls that home in on our hero. The pink protrusions look like vaginas with teeth. As you’ll remember from the intro to this series, Giger loved to incorporate sexual imagery into his art. The arcade version of the lair is even more overtly gigeresque. The floor of the chamber consists of bone-like shapes, skulls, and gaping holes that look identical to the vagina doors in Alien’s derelict.

Contra (Arcade) — Stage 8: Alien’s Lair — Mid-boss

Mid-way through the alien chamber, our hero finds himself face-to-face with what can only be described as a massive xenomorph head. In breaking with tradition, the xenomorph has horns distending from its carapace. Spewing from its mouth are small xenos that look as if they’re curled into a fetal position. How cool is that? A massive alien that barfs out smaller aliens.

Contra (NES) — Stage 8: Alien’s Lair — Final Boss

Continuing onward, the hero encounters the final boss in the core of the alien hive. If video games have taught me anything, it’s that every good alien hive is controlled by a massive internal organ. In this case, the organ looks like a giant heart, and is attached to the ceiling and floor by a network of veins and arteries. Defending the heart are a collection of eggs that look identical to those in Alien. And what do these eggs release? Face-huggers. Dozens of face-huggers that pop out and lunge at the hero. Some people are bothered by such obvious plagiarism, but personally I love it. Being the big Aliens fan that I am, I love to see its influence whenever possible.

After killing the heart, our hero is whisked away in a helicopter and the world is saved. One thing I’m still not clear on: why are the terrorists aliens? Doesn’t it seem redundant that a malevolent alien be classified as a terrorist? Evil aliens kill people, that’s what they do. Anyways, the next installment of this series will explore Super Contra and Super C, which contain considerably more gigeresque content than the original Contra. Look forward to it, and enjoy the following gallery that I put together!

Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of Contra-related images

There’s something really heartwarming about trudging knee deep in alien goo as you cut your way to the core of an alien nest. Actually, that sounds pretty awful. This first series covers a topic that I’m especially fond of: gigeresque aliens and alien environments in video games. I’m going to assume that if you’ve found this blog, you’re probably well aware of what I mean by gigeresque imagery. In a nutshell, describing something as gigeresque means that you’re likening it to the style of the legendary swiss artist H.R. Giger. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Giger is basically my hero. As far as this blog is concerned, he’s a God.

Again, I’m going to assume that most of you are more than familiar with Giger, so instead of going into a longwinded account of his life history, I’ll just quickly outline the visual tropes that roughly define his style. First, Giger loves to incorporate ribbed shapes into his art. When I say ribbed shapes, I’m literally referring to the look of a human rib cage.

How about some coleslaw with those ribs?

This leads into another common element, which is the use of bone-like shapes. It isn’t uncommon to see skulls or spinal cord-like structures in Giger’s images.

Skulls and spines.

Next, Giger’s art wouldn’t be what it is without the abundant use of phallic or yonic imagery. As I write this, I’m staring at one of Giger’s airbrushed paintings, and it’s actually just a penis entering a vagina, repeated six times. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t let her within five miles of Giger…

I’d hit that.

The next common theme in gigaresque art is the concept of an organic/metallic synergy, which Giger himself coined with the term “biomechanics”. To many people, the word biomechanical is most commonly associated with the style of tattoo that Giger spawned. How many artists can be directly credited with instigating an entirely unique style of tattoo? One day I may write a post on how I think that biomechanical tattoos rarely look all that gigeresque too me. They often rely on dagger-like shapes, which I’ve never seen in Giger’s art, but that’s a topic for another day. Back to the point, the biomechanical nature of Giger’s art translates into imagery that looks somewhat mechanical, or industrial, but has a very organic shape and flow that you rarely see in actual mechanical objects.

Is it organic? Is it mechanical? Only Giger knows.

An important point to stress is that Giger’s art has a very organic feel. Every shape blends into the next, creating a structure that flows throughout the work of art. Finally, Giger’s artwork is almost always incredibly dark. It’s rare for him to use any color; meaning that the bulk of his work consists of various shades of grey (no, not those shades of grey…). So as a quick recap, gigeresque art often includes ribbed and bone-like shapes, relies on sexual imagery, has a biomechanical synergy, and is dark, like Giger’s heart. Giger’s a dark guy, and we like him that way.

Now that you’ve had a crash course on gigaresque aesthetics, let’s take a step back and see how this relates to the alien art design in the video games that this series will be covering. Giger’s real claim to fame were his designs for the movie Alien. As far as I’m concerned, the xenomorph is the most original and genuinely terrifying alien ever conceived by man. The dark aesthetics of Alien and its sequel Aliens influenced a generation of video game designers; not only in North America, but worldwide. Most importantly, from roughly the mid-eighties to early nineties, most alien designs in Japanese video games were directly influenced by these seminal films. Don’t believe me? This series will undoubtedly change your mind. The range of influence extends from almost blatant plagiarism, to subtle visual cues that evoke images of the hive from Aliens or the derelict’s corridors in Alien.

Super Turrican on SNES — No xenomorphs to see here.

I should probably point out that many of the games that I will cover in this series may seem only vaguely gigeresque. My reasoning is that every organic alien environment in a video game owes a debt of gratitude to Giger. The design of the Derelict in Alien and the hive in Aliens (yes, I know the hive wasn’t designed by Giger), are the main source of inspiration for these types of environments. Therefore, there may be times when I’ll cover environments that don’t seem particularly gigeresque, but by virtue of the fact that they’re somewhat hive-like, I feel they’re at least indirectly inspired by Giger.

So what can you expect from this series? My plan is to start with the classics: Contra, R-Type, Gradius, Turrican and Metroid. Next, I’m really looking forward to delving into more obscure games. Expect to see a lot of coverage of japanese shooters from the mid-eighties to the late ninteties. And as always, if you have any suggestions for games that I should cover, please email me at xenomorphosis@gmail.com. Stay tuned folks!

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Welcome to Xenomorphosis, a blog for those of us who crave the dark side of science fiction. Right about now you’re probably thinking: “the dark side of science fiction? He must mean sci-fi horror”. Well… You’re mostly right. This blog will certainly cover everything sci-fi horror, and more. This isn’t a pure sci-fi horror blog; we cover the dim, dank, twisted side of science fiction, in all its incarnations. The distinction is that we aren’t limiting ourselves to pure horror. Instead, we’ll explore any science fiction that’s thematically dark, but isn’t necessarily considered horror. For example, Blade Runner is a dark science fiction movie, but definitely not horror. Because it’s dark, we can still cover it. In the end, we all win, because Blade Runner is pretty damn awesome.

As you may have guessed, I’m kind of a big Aliens fan…

What can you expect from Xenomorphosis? Expect a lot of feature-rich content. The bread and butter of this blog will be an ever-growing selection of ongoing series that will cover all aspects of dark science fiction. Ever wondered about H.R. Giger’s influence on video games, chestbursting scenes in movies other than Alien, xenomorph variations in Aliens spinoffs, and underwater horror movies inspired by Alien? Well, for the 0.1% of the population who finds these topics as fascinating as I do, we have you covered. As much as possible, I’d like to cover topics that have never been extensively explored. Look at this blog as a journey into the deepest recesses of the genre. In addition, we’ll post the typical opinions and reviews that should be expected from a blog of this nature.

Exploding into Body Horror.

Which mediums will we cover? The short answer is: all of them. Movies and video games will be our primary focus, but we’re more than happy to explore books, comics, toys board games, etc… When dealing with a relatively niche subgenre like sci-fi horror, there’s no point in being picky with how you take your poison. Furthermore, this blog won’t be relegated to any one region. I’m a fairly big fan of Japan’s finer exports, namely video games, anime, and manga, so expect to see your fair share of content from the land of the rising sun.

Tabletop games? Sure why not.

What can we promise you? We promise that the writing quality will be fairly strong, and that our contributors will be at least decently knowledgeable. Furthermore, there will be a strong focus on aesthetics. Images and videos will be woven into the posts whenever possible. I’m a visually oriented guy, so one of my main goals is to capture the look of dark science fiction.

Who am I? I’m a twenty-something-year-old guy who’s been into science fiction since, well, forever. Science fiction is in my blood. My grandpa collected hundreds of sci-fi books, which he then passed on to my mom. In turn, she introduced me to movies like Star Wars, Alien, and Terminator at a young (probably too young) age. At five-years-old she bought me a Kenner xenomorph action figure. Science fiction books are what got me into reading in a big way. My memory of the classics is fairly fuzzy, mostly because I read them all before the age of fourteen. My love of horror started a little later – around the age of sixteen I became interested in zombie movies and slashers. Soon afterwards I was introduced to hardcore punk, and then metal. I now collect death metal albums, which are a great catalyst for my love of dark twisted imagery. I try to capture this look in another one of my hobbies: artwork. For those of you who are interested, you can see why more recent works here. Finally, my other love is video games, which I also collect. Basically, this blog is a culmination of years of ideas that have been brewing in my head as a result of my various hobbies.

So, what can you contribute to this blog? Please, send me your ideas for interesting topics or series! We’re all in this hobby together, so we may as well engage as much as possible! If you’re a decent writer, and you’d like to contribute content, please contact me at xenomorphosis@gmail.com. The more the merrier. Most importantly, please leave comments and suggestions as often as possible. I’d like this blog to evolve based on your feedback. Happy reading!

Ripley, is that you?