My Misspent Youth: “Allien and How to Watch It” by John Severin

I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.

As even a casual perusal of this digital space probably suggests, I’ve long been a little obsessed with movies. That started when I was a little kid, but I didn’t have much opportunity to actually see movies. For several titles, including some that I now treasure, my initial impressions came not from sitting through them, but from parodies that were published in Mad magazine and the other periodicals that aped their style. In fact, it was more commonly the latter, as my contrarian tendencies kicked in early. Even when I was still in single digits, I knew that Mad was the institution, which somehow caused me to gravitate to knockoff options such as Crazy and especially Cracked.

Ridley Scott’s Alien was released just a few days shy of my ninth birthday. Though the newspaper ads made a strong impression on me, I certainly wasn’t seeing stuff like that in the theater, or even when it wended its way to pay cable. Instead, I have strong memories of reading the Cracked magazine parody, in large part because this was especially distinctive. Artist John Severin didn’t settle for straightforward spoofery. He took on the film’s goriness, undoubtedly inspired by a screening in which many of his fellow moviegoers were covering their eyes.


The whole structure was based around advance instructions on how to avoid the blasts of blood and guts. In many respects, the piece was filled with the same old gags, including meta-callouts to the flimsiest parts of the script and character names reworked into groan-worthy puns, such as Sigourney Weaver’s role changing from Ripley to Shapely.


The real fun starts when the parody pushes into the portion of the film that involve the antagonistic title extraterrestrial. Severin goes beyond making fun of the yucky bits, to directly suggested strategies for the squeamish to avoid them. For example, anyone likely to be grossed out by some nasty spaceship surgery might want to use Severin’s guide to plan their concession stand trip around it.


There’s also a good spot for a bathroom break, and Severin even helpfully notes a small stretch for which only covering the top half of one’s field of vision should suffice. When all else fails, there’s always the option of creative use of some of packaging obtained in that earlier goodie run.


It would be many years before I finally saw Alien. By then, that issue of Cracked was long gone, preventing me from fully taking advantage of the tips it provided. Truth is, it wasn’t as bad as they made it out to be. Still, I’d like to think there was enough residual knowledge left over from Severin’s guidance that helped guide me to wincing safety.

Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard
The Incredible Hulk #142 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Godzilla by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
Giant-Size Avengers #3 by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum
Alpha Flight by John Byrne
Hawkeye by Mark Gruenwald
Avengers by David Michelinie and George Perez
Justice League by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire
The Thing by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito
Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Marvel Premiere by David Kraft and George Perez
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck
Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
What If? by Mike W. Barr, Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Thor by Walt Simonson
Eightball by Dan Clowes
Cerebus: Jaka’s Story by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Iron Man #150 by by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Man of Steel by John Byrne
Fantastic Four by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz

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