The Tragedy of the Lava Planet Predator
In 1992, 20th Century Fox started work on an animated series based on the Alien franchise. The show, ‘Operation Aliens’, would have featured colourful, wildly different takes on many of the Space Marine characters featured in James Cameron’s Aliens.
But the show never made it into full scale production, and only a handful of stills of what is believed to be the pilot have ever seen the light of day. The seemingly last-minute cancelation of the show rocked worlds at Kenner, the toy company in charge of the action figure line intended to accompany the show all the way to the bank. The toys were rebranded, released under the generic ‘Aliens’ name.
As a kid I had the toys, and I often wondered why Bishop, Hicks and all my other favourites from the movies looked nothing like their on-screen portrayals. The back of each packet featured either pictures from the films modified to look more like the often bizarre toy redesigns, or badly costumed actors made up to look like the toys. Either way, it didn’t sit well.
In 1994, Kenner took my money and funnelled it into the creation of an accompanying ‘Predator’ toy line. But there were no cyber-arm Danny Glovers in this lineup, these were straight up Predators, all given the kind of generic theming that was so unmistakably 90s: Nightstorm, Stalker, Spiked Tail, Scavage.
I think for mine, Spiked Tail Predator was the worst-named Predator only because there is absolutely no effort involved. He’s a Predator, and he has a spiked tail. However generic he may be, though, STP pales in comparison to what would have to be the strangest, most ill-conceived Predator variant released – LAVA PLANET PREDATOR.
Lava Planet Predator. A simple, lazy repaint of the earlier Cracked Tusk Predator (“Just take one and make it RED”), LPP has haunted me ever since I first laid eyes on him in 1994. He was one of those unattainables, the ones on the back of the packet in all his glory, but could never be found at the shops. After a while, I began to wonder if I even wanted him. The more thought you give Lava Planet Predator, the more both his concept and your mind unravel to the point where you have to write (or read) a blog entry about him.
Let’s look at the facts. He’s a Predator, that cannot be denied. He does in fact come with a ‘blazing’ rocket launcher as the packet suggests… But the packet doesn’t suggest anything further. Normally, you’d get a brief bio of your newly purchased plaything on the back of the package, just a little taste cooked up in a New York copywriting cesspool designed to give an LPP or a STP a running start in a playground game.
But the concept of a Lava Planet Predator appears to have bested Kenner’s finest to the point where he comes with no back story, no context to speak of. He just is, and by paying the $10 he would have cost back in the day, you signify your acceptance of his being. In essence, Lava Planet Predator is what YOU make him.
Even in all the time I spent gazing at his little picture on the back of other packages, I assumed there’d be some kind of explanation as to what his go was once I had the real deal in my house. I didn’t give him the thought he requires, because I trusted there’d be that story waiting to make sense of him, to make the world alright.
Now, nearly 20 years later, it’s safe to say that story will never come (or will it?). His stark appearance raises more questions than answers – is he FROM the lava planet, or was he cleverly designed on the Predator homeworld to be an army of one, dedicated to rocket launching the denizens of the lava planet to what must be their extremely hot version of hell?
More puzzlingly, why is he red? Is that how he looks when he’s on the lava planet? Does the red signify his temperature, or is it a ruse, a red herring if you will? If so, why is his blazing rocket launcher red as well? Was it treated to withstand his intense temperatures, or was it purely an aesthetic choice?
Finally, what’s his weakness? A hose? A brisk day? The ice planet, from which there is no Predator? What is the prey on the lava planet? Without prey, can he truly be known as a Predator? Kenner as a corporate entity was absorbed by Hasbro in 1991 and the brand was discontinued in 2000, so it’s likely we’ll never know.
But somewhere out there, on a planet of lava, the Predator sits – his black and yellow chest heaving, his rocket launcher blazing and his yellow eyes burning behind his fearsome red mask. He sits…and thinks ‘I sure wish I didn’t have this heat vision’.