Originally, the magazine served simply as a means to publish serialized reprints of existing Dark HorseAliens, Predator and Aliens vs. Predator comics for the UK market. However, after Dark Horse International took over the publication in mid-1992, the magazine's scope expanded to include additional new material created exclusively for it. This included text articles, interviews, news and even new comic book stories. Of particular note is the regular "Technical Readout" section, about the weapons and technology of the Alien franchise, which later evolved into the book Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual.
Financial troubles at Dark Horse International ultimately led to the company going out of business in 1994, and as a result Aliens magazine was cancelled after issue 22 of Volume 2. Several further issues were solicited but none ever saw print.
Although Dark Horse Comics' early Aliens and Predator comics proved hugely successful in North America, they were hard to obtain in Europe, where they were only available as expensive imports from a limited number of speciality comic shops. Eventually, several European publishers sought to change this situation by securing the rights to reprint American comics in their own territories. This led to publications such as Aliens magazine and Total Carnage in the United Kingdom and the Aliens and Predator anthology series in Germany.
Trident Comics: Volume 1 #1-16
Aliens magazine began in February 1991 as a 48-page publication from Trident Comics that consisted almost entirely of serialized reprints of comic books already released in America; the only original content was in the form of brief "The Story So Far" summaries before each installment to remind readers what had happened previously. Despite the publication's name, it included Predator and Aliens vs. Predator comics as well as Aliens stories.
Starting with issue 6, the magazine began incorporating a letter column, although this was infrequent at first. With issue 12, the magazine's design was overhauled and the length increased to 64 pages, allowing more comics and/or bigger installments to feature. The redesign was overseen by John Mould. The letter column — now under the name "Alien Contact" — became a more regular feature, while a single give-away competition was run in issue 9, offering readers the chance to win Aliens plastic model kits from Halcyon. The principle editor on the Trident Comics issues was Martin Skidmore.
The final issue published by Trident Comics was issue 16 in May 1992; when Dark Horse Comics started their UK-based Dark Horse International branch at that time, they took over the license for the magazine and began publishing issues themselves the following month. With a new publisher came an entirely new layout, and as a result Volume 1's reprint of Aliens: Book One ended in issue 16 before it was complete. Trident Comics went out of business later in the year.
Dark Horse International: Volume 1 #17 and Volume 2
The final issue of Volume 1, #17 (June 1992), sported an all-new, more professional design by Dark Horse and settled on a new length of 52 pages. This format would be adopted for all remaining issues. Vol. 1 #17 featured brand new cover artwork by Chris Halls created especially for the magazine, and for the first time included a significant amount of new, non-comic book content in the form of exclusive articles written by Dave Hughes. Following issue 17, Dark Horse restarted the series as Volume 2. The final issue of Volume 1 was edited by Michael W. Bennent.
Volume 2 of the magazine continued with serialized reprints of Dark Horse's existing Aliens, Predator and Aliens vs. Predator comic books from America, although as the magazine progressed the focus shifted to Aliens comics exclusively — the final Predator story featured was Predator: Rite of Passage, which concluded in issue 11, while the last Aliens vs. Predator title to appear was Aliens vs. Predator 2, which ended in issue 14. Serialized reprints of Predator and Aliens vs. Predator comics were instead moved to a new home in Dark Horse International's anthology magazine Total Carnage. Early issues of Volume 2 also included a number of bonus mini-comics unrelated to the Aliens/Predator/Aliens vs. Predator franchise, although these were likewise soon dropped in favor of focussing on the titular series. Similar to the Trident issues, each comic book episode in Volume 2 of Aliens magazine was preceded by a brief "What Has Gone Before" text summary of prior events, to help fans keep track of the story from month-to-month. However, unlike the Trident issues, in Volume 2 this text was often accompanied by exclusive, previously unseen artwork.
Volume 2 saw a marked increase in the amount of original material created for the publication. This included behind the scenes articles on the creation of the Alien and Predator films, news, interviews, competitions (now run in virtually every issue), the popular "Bug Hunt" letter column (overseen by Diana Schutz), artist's sketchbooks, in-universe technical schematics, exclusive cover artwork and even new Aliens comics. These original comics included Aliens: Sacrifice, the first and only compiling of the story Aliens: Countdown (which had previously only appeared in segments in the promotional Dark Horse Insider), Alien3: Terminal Addiction, Aliens: Crusade and Aliens: Matrix, the latter two of which were affected by the magazine's cancellation. While a handful of issues re-used cover art from existing Aliens comic books, most featured brand new cover artwork created especially for the magazine by leading British comics painters such as Chris Halls, John Bolton, Paul Johnson, Kilian Plunkett, Carl Critchlow and others.
Reviews, articles and background material for Volume 2 were primarily provided and compiled by Dave Hughes and writer/artist Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, both of whom had previously worked on the non-Dark Horse Aliens comic Do Aliens Dream? for Argus House. Hughes typically wrote articles and compiled the "Motion Tracker" news section, while Brimmicombe-Wood provided the "Technical Readout" section, which consisted of in-universe breakdowns of the weapons and technology of the Alien series. News and articles largely focussed on the Alien and Predator films, particularly Alien3 (released into British cinemas early in Volume 2's run), although other movies were also touched upon, often those that shared cast and/or crew with the Alien and Predator franchises. From issue 7 onwards, the Motion Tracker section also included a regular "Remote Sentry" segment (temporarily renamed "Rumour Control" in issue 9, in reference to Supt. Andrews in Alien3) that listed upcoming media releases featuring cast and crew from the Alien and Predator film series.
During the magazine's publication, Dark Horse developed plans to expand Brimmicombe-Wood's Technical Readouts into a six-issue American comic book, but the project fell through with the cancellation of the magazine. The Readouts were, however, later expanded upon and compiled as the book Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, written by Brimmicombe-Wood and edited by Hughes. Like Trident's Volume 1, the magazine underwent a redesign with issue 9, consisting mainly of updated interior graphics. Volume 2 of Aliens magazine was edited by Bennent (#1), Dick Hansom (#1-10) and Cefn Ridout (#6-22).
Volume 2 ran for 22 issues before being cancelled as a result of Dark Horse International going out of business. At least three further issues were solicited but never saw print. While Dark Horse International published several other similarly-styled comics magazines during its few years of operation (including The Terminator, Star Wars and Jurassic Park), Aliens magazine was in production from the company's beginning to its end and can therefore be viewed as its flagship title. The cancellation left the magazine's original serialized story Aliens: Crusade unfinished, and its planned graphic novella Aliens: Matrix unreleased. Also left incomplete by the cancellation were the magazine's reprints of Aliens: Colonial Marines, Aliens: Alien and Aliens: Rogue.
In late 1992, Dark Horse International also released a three-issue spin-off magazine entitled Alien3 Movie Special, to coincide with the release of Alien3 in the UK. This sister publication featured a serialized reprinting of the comic book adaptation of the third movie, together with articles about the film, including an Alien3 Technical Readout section. A reprint of the comic Aliens vs. Predator 2 was split across Alien3 Movie Special and the main Aliens magazine.
Issues 1-16 published by Trident Comics. Issue 17 published by Dark Horse International.
Aliens magazine shares its title with the similar Aliens magazine published by Titan Comics from 1997 to 1998. Despite being officially unrelated, both publications are remarkably similar in format, featuring comic book reprints for the UK market alongside exclusive articles and news on the Alien franchise. In a further coincidence, author Dave Hughes worked on both publications.
Trident Comics also planned to run a similar Predator magazine, which would have begun with a reprint of the comic book adaptation Predator 2, but the magazine never saw publication before the company went bankrupt.
It is unknown how many issues of Aliens magazine Dark Horse planned in total, but the introductory text in Vol. 2 #9 states that Aliens: Colonial Marines was to be serialized in 24 installments. Assuming the story would have run continuously, this would have meant Volume 2 of the magazine continuing to at least issue 32, which would have been published in February 1995. However, the stated 24 installments may be based on Colonial Marines' original projected run of 12 issues — this was later reduced to 10 partway through its publication.
The magazine's reprint of Aliens: Newt's Tale was originally supposed to begin in Vol. 2 #1, hence the use of John Bolton's Newt's Tale artwork on the issue's cover. However, delays in re-editing the comic for the magazine meant it had to be delayed until Vol. 2 #2.
The titles of the individual news pieces in the Motion Tracker section of Vol. 2 #7 are a parody of English football score reports, which used to be read out at the end of weekend news broadcasts in the UK and followed the same format (home team's name and their numerical score, visiting team's name and their numerical score).
The free Aliens postcard given away with Vol. 2 #17 is actually half of an image that could be completed with a free Predator postcard given away with issue 9 of Total Carnage magazine, published the following month by Dark Horse International.
The worsening financial situation at Dark Horse International towards the end of the magazine's run is perhaps evident in the number of typing errors that began to appear in later issues. For example, several issues list the incorrect month (or even the incorrect year) for the Dark Horse Comics Checklist they contain, while others feature erroneously repeated or otherwise apparently incorrect titles for various sections (such as the title "Last Word", originally referring to a news piece on Tip Tipping's death, being reused for a piece on Alien-themed hairstyles in the following issue).