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Comic Book / Resident Alien

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Resident Alien is a mystery/science fiction comic book series written by Peter Hogan and drawn by Steve Parkhouse. The story stars Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, a benign alien stranded on Earth that assumes the identity of a semi-retired doctor and lives alone in a cabin in the small town of Patience, Washington. He uses a telepathic disguise to appear to the townspeople as a normal human, but the reader always sees him as an alien. After the town's only other physician is murdered, he ends up having to take up the job as town doctor, becoming more involved with the lives of the townspeople and enjoying their newfound company in the process. He solves local murder mysteries with the help of one of his nurse co-workers, Asta. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Harry, the government is suspicious of him and is trying to track him down.

The comic is published by Dark Horse Comics as a series of episodic mini-series, with approximately one mini-series released per year. Each mini-series is then compiled into a volume at its conclusion. Series include:

  • Welcome to Earth (2012-2013)
  • The Suicide Blonde (2014)
  • The Sam Hain Mystery (2015)
  • The Man With No Name (2016-2017)
  • An Alien in New York (2018)
  • Your Ride's Here (2020-2021)
  • The Book of Love (2022-2023)
  • The Book of Life (TBA)

It also includes one shot stories in the following:

  • Free Comic Book Day 2022 General (2022)

You can check it out on Dark Horse's website for print or digital copies or on Comixology for digital copies. The very first issue of the series, Welcome to Earth Issue #0, is also available as a free to view motion comic!

In 2018, Syfy announced they are developing a Resident Alien TV series adaptation of the comic book starring Alan Tudyk as Harry. It began airing in January 2021.

Resident Alien contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Asta seems to be one, considering she tackled a guy to get information and knows how to wield a gun.
  • Aerith and Bob: Common names like Ellen, Harry, and Sam contrast pretty starkly with relatively uncommon names like Cuthbert, Asta, Honey, and Download (Though the last one is a nickname).
  • Alien Among Us: The basic premise of the series.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: Harry's a big fan of crime shows and mystery books.
  • Alien Blood: When Harry is shot in the leg, his blood is pink.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Harry's people observe Earth to see what humanity will do to itself but don't interfere in any way, even sending Harry to destroy a downed probe to make sure we don't get ahold of their technology.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Harry. Justified in that he actually took the time to learn it.
  • All-Loving Hero: Harry reluctantly agreed to temporarily be Patience's doctor so the mayor and police chief wouldn't get suspicious. He stayed Patience's doctor because he genuinely loves people, even if they're not his people.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Harry solves mysteries with his great observational and interpersonal skills, but he has no formal training or license as a detective.
  • Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder: Harry uses his telepathic abilities in order to appear to others as a normal human. However, about 1 in a million people can see through this disguise. And apparently, cameras can see through it too.
  • Asshole Victim: Carter Blaine in the first volume. Also, Rebecca Matthewson's abusive ex-husband in The Sam Hain Mystery.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Numerous times, it looks like someone has stumbled onto Harry's secret...only to reveal they meant something else.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: The real reason Harry got seen in his true form by authorities was he stole money from an ATM but only as an emergency fund to afford food and clothing and he had intentions of paying it back.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Besides his external appearance and pink blood, Harry has a lower body temperature than a human and is implied to be unable to digest alcohol.
  • Bookworm: Harry is a huge one, as books comprise a great majority of his belongings. Asta even teases him about it.
  • Character Development: Harry first adamantly refused serving as the replacement doctor even for generous pay being so keen on leaving Earth altogether (to evade the FBI looking for him) but comes to enjoy the job and see it not so burdening after he grows attached to the town's residents after initially seeing them as nothing but potential risks to his security.
  • Close-Knit Community: The town of Patience, Washington.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover to The Sam Hain Mystery Issue #1 as well as the cover for the entire collected third volume both make Harry look like he's suddenly become a James Bond-style 1960s British spy. In actuality, the covers are only tangential references to the 60s spy books that Harry reads that are also involved in that volume's mystery.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Harry has his moments.
  • Death by Falling Over: Walter Mayhew's death, mentioned in the first volume, appeared to be this way. It was also the official story given by the police over his death, even though some still had suspicions that it may have been murder.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The Book of Love ends with Asta revealing to Harry that she's pregnant with Harry's child.
  • Divorce Requires Death: This is the opinion that Rebecca Matthewson's ex-husband held. The trope gets followed through when Rebecca ends up murdering him in self-defense.
  • Dramatic Irony: Ethan, who was going to be Patience's new doctor after Harry's temporary tenure ended, gets a job offer and leaves town. He thinks the party the nurses are throwing him is a "good-bye" party, but the reader knows the nurses (and patients) hate his guts, so it's actually a "good riddance" party. They bring out the good cake after he's gone.
  • Dream Walker: Asta and her dad are shown to be able to do this in issue #0 of The Suicide Blonde.
  • Driven to Suicide: Both Shannon and Karen in the second volume.
  • The Empath: Harry is able to sense others emotions and is very good at reading body language. He also seems to have some mild telepathic abilities.
  • Episode Zero: The Beginning: In an interesting use of this trope and Unusual Chapter Numbers, the first three volumes begins with an issue #0 normally, as if #0 were the actual #1. This idiosyncrasy has been fixed for the fourth volume.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Download knows, and is fine, with people who grow and sell weed, but draws the line on crystal meth.
  • Everybody Knew Already: Although Bert tries to keep his relationship with a local lawyer quiet, everyone already knows when they reveal it.
    • Similarly everyone can tell that Harry and Asta are dating in The Book of Love #1.
  • Everyone Can See It: Everyone in town can see that Harry and Asta have a connection, even before the two acknowledge it themselves.
  • Evil Overlooker: The cover to Welcome to Earth Issue #2 invokes this trope by showing a silhouette of Harry's face overlooking some government agents, except that Harry isn't a villain or even an antagonist.
  • Flashback: Harry's early days on Earth are shown through flashbacks.
  • Foreshadowing: Helping a young girl, Harry is thrown when she says "you look funny, are you a goodie or a baddie?" Assuming she means just an adult, he assures her a "goodie" and she accepts it. Later, the girl shows her grandmother a drawing of Harry... which is him in his alien form which the girl can somehow see.
  • Glamour Failure: In the issue #0 of The Suicide Blonde, it's revealed that cameras can see through Harry's telepathic disguise.
  • Goodbye, Cruel World!: Subverted in The Suicide Blonde. The suicide was real, but the suicide note was planted.
  • The Greys: Harry resembles one, albeit with more purplish skin.
  • Hero Antagonist: So far the worst thing you can say about the government agents is that they're rather cavalier with peoples' privacy. Considering how those sort of characters are usually portrayed in fiction, that's downright saintly.
  • Higher-Tech Species: With advanced technology and interstellar travel, Harry's species is definitely one.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: The society of Harry's species is stale and reserved, but living among humanity has taught Harry how to strive and dream as we do.
  • Humans Need Aliens: Harry gets pressured to do favors for his hometown starting in Issue #0 such as filling in for the town's only doctor who was murdered, being the only one qualified to practice medicine.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Another major premise of the series.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: In the first volume, Asta tries to shoot Ben Maxwell, whom Harry discovered to be a murderer. Ben goes to the clinic and, while Asta is there, tries to kill Harry in order to make sure the truth doesn't get out. Asta tries to shoot Ben to protect Harry. However, she misses and accidentally shoots Harry in the leg instead.
  • Improvised Weapon: In the first volume, Carter Blaine was murdered with a knitting needle.
  • Innate Night Vision: Harry has some sort of thermal vision.
  • Innocent Aliens: One of the major tropes that the series is built on. Harry's not interested in causing any trouble; he just wants to lie low and blend in until he can someday, maybe, return home.
  • Interrupted Suicide: In the second volume, Harry shows up Just in Time to save Karen's life after she attempts suicide.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Harry and Asta.
  • Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Harry and his staff wear ones when on-duty.
  • Let Off by the Detective: What Harry decides to do after hearing Rebecca's story in the third volume.
  • Magic Tool: Harry has a pen-sized alien laser tool that he's so far used to fix a car and unlock a door.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: In the first volume, Ben Maxwell made his first murder victim, Walter Mayhew, look like he had gotten drunk out of his mind and fallen on a scythe.
  • Million to One Chance: About 1 in a million people can see through Harry's disguise, which leaves about 6000 people on Earth total. The chances of Harry finding one are even less likely since he lives in a small town. Unbeknownst to Harry though, there are already three people in town that can see through his disguise — his coworker Asta, her father, and a six-year-old girl named Honey. However, Asta and her dad only see only glimpses or blurs of his real face; Honey seems to be the only one who can see through his disguise completely.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: As an empath, Harry has difficulty getting near Doctor Hodges's funeral due to the sheer volume of sorrow present.
  • Mind over Matter: It's not shown explicitly, but it's strongly implied that Harry uses his telekinesis to cheat at roulette in order to get some spending money after arriving on earth.
  • Monochrome Past: A handful of Harry's flashbacks are done in a sepia tone.
  • Monster of the Week: The story follows this format, with each mini-series covering a single self-contained mystery. However, there are some overarching plot threads, such as Harry's backstory and his being tracked by the government.
  • Mystery Magnet: Harry, as is par for the course for the mystery genre. Somewhat justified in that he seeks out mysteries since he likes to solve them, and that he is sometimes called to murder scenes for medical/forensic advice.
  • Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters: Download's had a number of shady activities going on, but he refuses to deal hard drugs, and won't stand for murder, particularly not of good people like Doc Hodges. He's an informant for the cops, too.
  • Never Suicide: After finding some suspicious items in a nearby dumpster, the police suspect that Shannon's suicide may actually be murder. Subverted in that it turns out to actually be a suicide. The items were planted by Shannon's roommate, Karen, in an attempt to not be found suspicious. It backfired.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor:
    • Technically, Harry's a biologist, but he's made such an intensive study of humanity that that he could easily pass a medical exam if he needed to, and is more than capable of handling the duties of a small-town doctor.
    • When asked to be the town doctor, he tries to beg off by claiming to be a specialist and not a general practitioner.
  • The One That Got Away: Harry had a woman he loved back on his home planet. He's unlikely to ever see her again as even if he does get back home, she might be dead from old age, since Harry had to travel to Earth via Sleeper Ship for an unknown amount of time.
  • Pen Name: In-Universe, Rex Monday for Rebecca Matthewson.
  • Perky Goth: For a goth, Asta is not particularly gloomy.
  • Perpetual Frowner: The one time we see Mike with something just a little bit less than a frown (even when he's joking) is when he's surrounded by friends during a poker game.
  • Posthumous Character: Shannon, the eponymous "Suicide Blonde" of the second volume.
  • Power Born of Madness: Harry speculated that this is the reason Ben Maxwell didn't register as guilty or untruthful to his empathy.
  • Product Placement: In issue 2, we see that Harry uses a MacBook in order to interact with society.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Averted. In the second volume, it turns out that Karen, the ex-girlfriend of Shannon (who had recently killed herself), planted Shannon's suicide note so as not to be suspected as the murderer of her girlfriend. Unfortunately, even though Shannon's suicide was genuine, Karen's actions massively backfired and instead cast even more suspicion on her once the police discovered the note was planted.
  • Pun-Based Title: Harry is a resident alien (as in a person living in a foreign country) on Earth while literally being an extraterrestrial alien. Bonus points for how "resident" can also refer to a stage in graduate medical training.
  • Punny Name: "Rex Monday" and "Sam Hain"
  • Really Gets Around: Shannon was hypersexed due to childhood abuse.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: Mike sometimes goes to Download, a local crook who knows a lot about the criminal element in town, when he is in need of information.
  • Revealing Injury: In the first volume, Harry doesn't want anyone else to look at his bullet wound besides himself because he fears that he'll be discovered as an alien.
  • Revenge by Proxy: In the first volume, it's revealed that Ben Maxwell was the one behind the three recent murders. He had committed the murders to take revenge on Lance Whitehead's behalf, as all three of the men Ben murdered had negatively impacted Lance's life in some way.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Played with. When Asta's seen in the picture of Harry that shows he's an alien, the government agent in charge of tracking him down talks to one of the agents working under him about how difficult it would be to find her. After all, how many Native girls of the right age could there be in the Pacific Northwest? That wasn't rhetorical. Get a census.
  • Rubber-Forehead Alien: In terms of general physique and body structure, Harry resembles a human, but has characteristics like purple skin and pointed ears to set him apart.
  • Scene Cover: Welcome to Earth Issue #0, The Suicide Blonde Issue #3, and The Sam Hain Mystery Issue #3.
  • Secret Identity: Harry's name, telepathic disguise, and doctor persona are all in place to hide his real identity as a stranded alien.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: By the beginning of The Suicide Blonde Issue #0, both Asta and her dad are aware that Harry is an alien, unbeknownst to Harry. They don't tell him that they know his secret so as not to scare him into fleeing, which would allow the government to track him down. By the third issue of The Man With No Name, they get upgraded to regular Secret Keepers to notify Harry about the upcoming trouble from the government and to try to help him.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: When Asta tells her dad about Harry, saying that "there's this guy", he jumps to the conclusion that she's dating Harry. Asta gets flustered and corrects him, as she actually wanted to discuss being able to see through Harry's disguise. Whether or not she actually has romantic feelings for Harry remains unclear.
    • Happens again in issue #2 of The Man With No Name, only to Harry this time. Harry tells Cuthbert that he's meeting Asta and her dad for lunch the next day, Cuthbert assumes that things between Harry and Asta are "getting serious", and Harry becomes flustered and says that he and Asta are Just Friends. Whether he is developing feelings for her also remains unclear.
    • Happens to Harry again later in the same volume when he's talking to Asta's dad, Dan:
      Dan: [teasing] You think I'm trying to unload my daughter on you?
      Harry: I mean, Asta and I aren't...that is, we're friends, but —
      Dan: Relax, Harry. I just wanted you to know that Asta and I are both your friends.
  • Sketchy Successor: Thanks to his youth and inexperience, Ethan, Doctor Hodges' official replacement, tends to switch between arrogant and uncertain of himself. This puts the patients and nurses off right away.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: Harry can be rather socially awkward, especially after living with little outside contact for three years, but he's slowly overcoming it.
  • Some Call Me "Tim": Harry tends to go by either "Harry" or "Doc" since either is easier to say than "Dr. Vanderspeigle"
  • Slain in Their Sleep: Carter Blaine in the first volume.
  • Sleeper Ship: The method of space travel Harry used to get to Earth.
  • Starting a New Life: Not knowing when or even if he'll get to go home again, Harry is forced to start a new life on Earth.
  • The Stoic: Nurse Marcie wears an expression of perpetual boredom in every panel she's in, no matter what's going on.
  • Symbol Swearing: Swear words in the series are presented in this format.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: With some overlap with Sympathetic Murder Backstory. Rebecca Matthewson murdered her abusive ex-husband in self-defense when he came back and attacked her.
  • The Teetotaler: Harry seems fine with Earth cuisine but won't touch alcohol, even getting annoyed when people continue to offer it to him after he explains he doesn't drink. Whether he's actually unable to consume it or just avoids it to avoid letting his guard down is unclear.
  • Trapped in Another World: Harry is stranded on Earth, and it's unknown if he'll ever get to go home again.
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: The first three volumes begin with an issue #0 acting as an issue #1, rather than as an expected backstory issue, for no particular reason. This has unfortunately confused several readers and reviewers. Thankfully, the fourth volume adopted normal issue numbers.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: See Trapped in Another World above.
  • Write Who You Know: In-Universe, Rebecca Matthewson's unpublished mystery novel draft was about her own violent run-in with her abusive ex-husband with some names changed.