RAISING HELLBOY: Mike Mignola on the development of Hellboy and his work past, present, and future.
by Christopher Irving
CHRIS IRVING: What should we expect from Hellboy in the coming year?
MIKE MIGNOLA: In the coming year, the big item will be Hellboy/Batman, assuming I ever do it. I’m waiting on the plot from James Robinson, I’ll be starting that, I would assume, in the next couple weeks. That’s the main thing, there’s also going to be a new short story collection. Actually, it’s mostly reprints, it’s called ”The Chained Coffin and Others.” It will have ”The Corpse in the Iron Shoes” and ”The Chained Coffin,” which I don’t think a lot of people saw..., ”The Wolves of Saint August” [and] ”Almost Colossus,” in a slightly revised version. It will have the ”Christmas Special” story and it will have one new story done specifically for the collection. It’s going to be a huge thing, it’ll end up being about 180 pages once it’s got pin-ups and everything else in it. Also a few little text pieces I do kind of explaining where these stories came from, and what I was ripping off.
CI: Will this be a trade paperback?
MM: Yeah, I’d love to have that thing come out late summer. I’d love to have it out for the San Diego Convention so what my hope [and] target would be is the first week in August. Hellboy/Batman I just have no idea when that’s going to come out. I have no idea how long it’s going to take me to do it, and all that stuff. DC is not telling me ”We want it out by this time.” I think DC is just saying ”Well, it’s been a long time since we worked with you, so we’re going to let you do it, so we’re going to see how fast it goes.” The only other Hellboy things...also I’m doing a Hellboy story for this year’s Dark Horse Presents Annual, which is way the hell down the line, I think in September. Then there’s this Abe Sapien one-shot in which I did a Hellboy back-up feature. So, that’s it for Hellboy for this year.
CI: What of the Hellboy/Starman crossover I’d heard of?
MM: It’s the Hellboy/Batman/Starman in one book. It’s two comics, one story, but the first issue is Hellboy/Batman, but the second issue is Hellboy/Starman. The way I understand it, the first issue is Hellboy in Gotham City with Batman, and then the second issue is Hellboy in the Amazon with Starman. So Starman and Batman are never in the same book, or they’re never really together. It’s Hellboy meeting this one guy and then going someplace else and meeting this other guy. But it’s the same, it’s Hellboy on some kind of case that I think involves Starman’s father.
CI: Yeah, I’d read that was Ted Knight, his father...
MM: He’s abducted?
CI: Yeah, he’s abducted in Gotham, and that leads Hellboy and Starman to the Amazon.
MM: It’s going to be fun for me. Here I am a couple of weeks from starting something, and I have no idea what I’m doing. I have no idea what I’m drawing except I’m doing Batman and Starman. One issue is Gotham City and one issue is the jungle. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be a nice break from writing this stuff.
CI: Hellboy himself seems pretty unique, especially compared to everything else that’s out there. Where did you draw inspiration from him?
MM: Hellboy is literally everything I’ve ever wanted to draw. Little by little, that’s becoming clear and is taking more shape. I just wanted to dot he kind of stories that no one else was doing, and the kind of things that I was kind of thinking about. I wanted to do a big monster/action kind of thing, but I also wanted to use all these folk tales, fairy tales and mythology things that I’ve always liked [and] wanted to do things with. It was really like taking everything I like and putting it into one bowl. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s been a lot of fun. I’m in a weird spot with Hellboy, because I’m getting ready after this year, to put Hellboy on the shelf for a little while, because I’ve got another thing I’m going to be doing. I’ve got Hellboy to a point after the ”Wake the Devil” mini series, I started trying out some big cosmic stuff, or started to hint at some big cosmic stuff, and I really didn’t know how I wanted to follow that up. I’m just starting to have an idea, it’s such a radical, giant thing at this point. I want to do something else, and then come back to Hellboy with a fresh perspective on it.
CI: Can you drop any hints as to what this upcoming other project might be?
MM: It’s along the same lines as Hellboy [and] will probably be at DC, we’re just starting negotiations fro this thing. It won’t be a big red guy fighting monsters: it will be a guy fighting monster stuff. It’s very similar to the Hellboy stuff [in that] it will deal with weird Victorian history. It’s really more of a detective story, it has a lot of the archetype characters from old pulp fiction which I really like.
CI: That leads into one question I had about your Victorian settings: you seem to have a real knack for drawing them. How heavily have you researched that? Is it just something you do on the side as a hobby and bring into your work?
MM: I’ve always loved the look of that stuff, I love the whole time period as far as fashions and room interiors. So much of that Victorian ghost literature, which I love, it’s steeped in that kind of atmosphere...it lends itself to that kind of story so well. Think about Jules Verne and HG Welles and Sherlock Holmes, the things that time period just brings up. Half your work is done if you set it in that time period, you know what to expect as soon as you see people wearing those clothes and things. I guess it’s fun to play with. Research-wise: I have a lot of books, and I love working form reference. I have a real good time digging around and finding that type of furniture and that kind of room interiors, those kind of clothes, and things like that.
CI: Looking back at your Hulk work from the ‘80’s, your art style has changed pretty dramatically. Was there on big catalyst for what your art has evolved into now?
MM: One thing about The Hulk, it’s kind of hard to say what I was doing there, I was just doing really rough layouts, and somebody else was inking my stuff. I’ve actually had people blame the inker for ruining my stuff. People have no idea how horrible I was then. Thank God the guy who inked it took pity on me and made me look better than I actually was then. I think this whole style thing was over a long number of years, it’s me starting to figure out what the hell I’m doing. It’s not one of these things where you wake up one day and say ”I’m tired of drawing like this, now I’m gonna draw like this!” It’s just day in, day out doing this stuff. Little by little you start to say ”Gee, I like the way this is looking.” Finding out, by accident in my case, just what worked and what I felt the most comfortable with. My stuff is still changing, hopefully it will continue to change.
CI: Just how involved with the Dracula movie were you?
MM: My involvement in Dracula was extremely minor. It’s one of these things where various people have exaggerated what my involvement in Dracula was, which was extremely minor. Because I was living in San Francisco, and was going to Zootrope Pictures to pick up reference on Dracula, I was called in occasionally to do some modifications on the model of Castle Dracula they had gotten in. Footage of that model [came in] and Coppola wasn’t real happy with it so he and I sat down...He told me what he wanted and I just did some drawings for the model builders so they could adjust the model to a little more what he wanted. Then there was one other incident where the Castle Dracula scene is in flashbacks, real briefly, hard to even notice. I, and someone else I never spoke to, designed this together. Through Roman Coppola, this drawing got faxed back and forth two or three times, and I would do something and somebody else would do something, and it would come back to me. That was in one afternoon and that thing showed up in the movie. That was pretty weird. Then I did some storyboards at the real last minute. The weirdest experience was one night when Coppola invited me to go see a rough cut of the picture and it was George Lucas and I and Francis watching the rough cut, and then the two of them, kind of with me there, discussed what worked, what didn’t work. Are there some scenes missing that should be there and the consensus was [to] see about adding a couple of scenes and changing the ending a little bit. Francis called me up and we went over it by the phone. I did [in] comic book page style four scenes that I faxed off to him. At least one of them showed up exactly the way I did it. There’s an opening shot in the movie where Dracula’s saying goodbye to Elizabeth and going off to war. That wasn’t in the original version of the film and was added at the last minute. That was pretty neat.
CI: Working with Coppola and Lucas, wow!
MM: That was weird, and that was around the time I made up Hellboy. I said ”My career has gotten so strange, what am I going to do now?” I was wrapping up Dracula, ”What am I going to do next? After things like this happen maybe I should go back to doing my own thing.” At that point, it felt like anything I did would be a step backwards, or repeating what I’d done in the past.
CI: You’ve also become very, very well known for your cover work as well. One series you did was the ”Death in the Family.” When you initially did these pieces, did you envision the storyline gaining as much media attention as it did?
MM: Concerning how much media attention it was, I wish I had done better covers. I remember the big deal buzzing around the office: Are they gonna kill Robin, are they not going to kill Robin? It was this phone-in vote thing. It just seemed like a silly gimmick to me. But it did mean that one of those covers was showed on Time and Newsweek. But, no that was pretty much another job.
CI: Are there any other characters you’d like to handle if you ever have any spare time?
MM: The trouble with doing my own stuff now is that I’ve gotten really spoiled. If I were to handle some other...established characters, you’d have to sit down and read this stuff. You have to figure this out. I’d rather do new stuff. There are characters like Batman who are fun to draw and really easy to make look good. Batman is fun for me to do. I can’t say I read [or know much about] Batman, but he’s fun to draw. Off-hand, I can’t think of anything out there where I’ve gone ”I haven’t drawn that guy.” One thing about doing a lot of covers: I got to draw a lot of characters. Like the Cosmic Odyssey I did for DC, I did a lot of characters in there, I checked off a lot of guys that maybe I wanted to draw. No, comic book character-wise, I don’t hink there’s anybody I’m dying to do.
CI: Okay, if the Madman, Mage, and Grendel figures from Graffiti do well, have you contemplated a Hellboy figure?
MM: Yeah, as soon as they showed the Madman figure at San Diego last year, a lot of people were coming up to Chapman and saying ”Do a Hellboy one.” Bob talked to me about it, and I think it’s something we’ve discussed. Things are a little complicated because there is a Hellboy movie option which ties up some of the rights to some of the stuff. As long as it’s a limited edition deal, there shouldn’t be a problem with doing a Hellboy one.
CI: A movie option? Would you care to tell me about that, or is it under wraps?
MM: I don’t worry about that. I know there’s a guy who, by now, has finished writing the screenplay. I like what he was going to do, but I haven’t read any of it. He came out here and we discussed it a little bit. He knows more about Hellboy than I do and he wants to squeeze stuff from the different mini-series into this one big thing. I’m 99% sure nothing will ever happen with it. I don’t want to be one of those guys who sits around and talks about how great his movie is going to be. Almost none of these things ever get made. The ones that do made are more often than not aren’t very good. So, I’m certainly not sitting around counting the money. If it happens, it happens, that’d be great.