Tuesday, May 13, 2014

H.R. Giger, Dead by Tuesday

I was born on a Tuesday. So that means I’m so many weeks old today. I could calculate the exact number and make myself really depressed for all the time I’ve wasted. 

Hans Rudolf (“Ruedi”) Giger won’t celebrate any more birthdays. He died either yesterday or today (the accounts are maddeningly unspecific) as a result of a fall. He was 74 years old.

I expected him to be older. It’s a neat fact of life in A.D. 2014 that you don’t expect people to die in their 70s anymore. It seems young. Once you’ve made it to 80, sure, you’re a dead man walking. But to die at 74? Must have been an accident. And so it was.

I realize this still puts Mr. Giger in his early-to-mid 30s when he did the work I remember him most fondly for, the elaborately painted and die-cut cover for Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1973 masterpiece, Brain Salad Surgery.
The cover opened from the middle to expose more blue-metal bio-mechanical art. H.R. Giger’s design is one of the classics of the form once known as Album Cover Art, meant to be enjoyed while you listened to your LP.

Giger was nearly 40 when director Ridley Scott approved his design for the monster in Alien—a design that was one small part of a larger design called Necronom IV, which Giger had published as part of a book called Necronomicon in 1977. For better or worse, this would define the artist’s career for the rest of his life.

What’s left out in all the brief accounts of Giger’s life and death is how badly Giger ended up being treated, how he was denied royalties for use of his designs in later Alien movies (I remember the “Alien Insurrection” banner on Giger’s Web page when Alien Resurrection came out in 1997, urging viewers to boycott the film). 

By all rights, H.R. Giger should have been Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rich. He did okay; he didn’t die destitute. Still, when you consider all the outrages we’re supposed to be outraged about, it’s remarkable to note this outrage of theft which actually hurt a man and his family, denying them the remuneration that that is rightfully theirs, isn’t brought up. 

That sorta-kinda tells ya something, doesn’t it?

H.R. Giger is gone. He left behind a fair-sized body of work outside the Alien franchise that’s worth checking out. As of this writing, I couldn’t get on to HRGiger.com but maybe you can by the time you read this.

R.I.P., Hans Rudolf Giger.
This photo and the one at top of Giger with the Xenomorph egg were pinched from HorrorHomework.com