Saturday, October 2, 2010

1979: The lost Alien Movie Tie-In Cover

Alien Teaser One-Sheet
In the 70s, it was not uncommon for a movie tie-in to precede the release of the film on which it was based.  Tie-ins actually had shelf life in bookstores back in the day. Today, with such a small window between the theatrical and DVD releases, readers are lucky to get tie-ins at all. In some cases (such as the very famous first edition of Star Wars) the initial cover does not reflect the final marketing campaign.

Within the industry, it was common practice for mass market publishers to send around cover flats (i.e. a the entire cover, just not 'wrapped' around the paperback book block) to stores for promotional and ordering purposes.

In the case of the movie tie-in for Alien, written by Alan Dean Foster (80s Master of the Movie Tie-In), the initial Warner Books cover flat sent around to bookstores did not contain the iconic space egg that would adorn the film's release one-sheet.

The cover reproduces a photograph of Kane, Dallas and Lambert entering the derelict. Taking a cue from the original teaser poster, the logo is made of of cascading large block letters. The film's marketing team had not yet arrived at the film's classic tagline, "In space no one can hear you scream." In its place was the less effective, "A strange voyage to another world where man is visitor, victim—and host." It doesn't quite roll off the tongue like the former, but it is an interesting way to describe the story. The front cover also featured a sticker in the lower right hand corner that reads, "Now a space epic on film from Twentieth Century-Fox."

The back cover clearly states "TEMPORARY COVER - NOT FINAL" over a photo of the Space Jockey, indicating that they knew there would be changes prior to the book release. The text blurb used is identical to what would be on the finished paperback. Under the motion picture credits, there are a few key differences from what was ultimately used. First, there is no reference to Fox (the aforementioned sticker on the front is the single mention of the studio). Second, the film is specified as a Brandywine Ronald Shussett Production (instead of Twentieth Century-Fox Presents). Finally, Walter Hill is not listed amongst the films producers.

I don't imagine too many of these cover flats are still circulating. This particular one was rescued from eBay last year. Now for a little bookstore trivia. All cover flats will have a hole punch, like this one, or a clipped corner, to prevent booksellers from returning them for credit. Rather than paying the high cost of shipping paperbacks that didn't sell back to publishers, someone decided it made more sense for booksellers to 'strip' off the front covers and return only those. If you've ever seen anyone selling stacks of paperbacks sans-cover, now you'll know why that's illegal—those were reported as unsold and destroyed.

2 comments:

Ed Gorman said...

Very cool discovery. Thanks, guys.

Will Errickson said...

I read that "alien egg" Foster novelization plenty as a kid--great find on that alternate cover art, though.