Mike Mignola Interview
by Roger Ash, Westfield Comics
In his career in comics, Mike Mignola has worked on such diverse projects as DC’s Cosmic Odyssey, Marvel’s Incredible Hulk, and Topps Comics adaptation of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula movie. However, he is best known for his creator-owned character Hellboy, currently published by Dark Horse Maverick. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently spoke with Mignola about the new Hellboy mini-series, Conqueror Worm.
Roger Ash: For those unfamiliar with Hellboy, how would you describe the book?
Mike Mignola: It’s a supernatural, mystery, action thing.
RA: Who is Hellboy and who are some of his supporting cast?
MM: Hellboy is theoretically the world’s greatest occult detective. He’s actually sort of a demon who was brought to earth at the end of World War II, raised among humans, thinks of himself pretty much as a human, but he may actually be the Beast of the Apocalypse. Despite that, he’s a good guy and he fights monsters. The book’s full of other bizarre, inhuman monster kind of guys who are mostly good guys, a couple humans sprinkled here and there, Nazi mad scientists, and as many pulp cliches as I can possibly toss in there.
RA: Do people need to be familiar with past Hellboy stories to enjoy the new mini-series?
MM: No. This one is self-contained. I’m assuming a previous knowledge of Hellboy. Given the way the trade paperbacks sells, I assume that means people are going back and picking up the old stuff. This is very much a continuation of stuff that has gone on before, but it’s a self-contained story. You can read it and get the whole story, but you’ll get more out of it if you’re familiar with the older stuff.
RA: What can you tell us about the Conqueror Worm mini-series?
MM: I’m two pages short of being done. That’s good. Hellboy teams up with Roger the Homunculus to go to the top of a mountain to investigate a place where the Nazis were working on their space program. This previously unknown program involved shooting a guy into space and now that space capsule is returning to earth with dire consequences. And then all hell breaks loose.
RA: This story seems less supernatural and more odd science-like than previous stories. Was that intentional?
MM: Not really intentional. Very little in Hellboy is intentional. This one is actually not based on folklore at all. This is very much a mad scientist kind of a thing. Certainly, a lot of the short Hellboy stories are based directly on old folktales or folklore or mythology. The bigger mini-series tend to be kind of a hodge-podge of stuff, and this is definitely one of those. There is a lot of supernatural stuff in it. It’s full of ghosts and that kind of thing, but it’s a bit more mad scientist, alien creature kind of thing.
RA: Nazis figure big as villains in Hellboy. Why is that?
MM: My pat answer for that is that they’re so easy to use as villains because they don’t require any explanation. There are so many theories about what the Nazis were up to, you can pretty much say, “yes, the Nazis had a space program” and people go “well that could have been true. God knows they were working on everything else.” Hellboy’s origin ties in with Nazis, it’s been an easy thing to go back to, but I believe this is my last use of Nazis. They’re the direct bad guys in this one, which hasn’t really been the case in other mini-series. They are the main focus of this one, and then when this one’s over, I think we’re pretty much done. We’ll move on to other bad guys.
RA: How much research do you do for the various demons and monsters and such that pop up in Hellboy?
MM: On this one, I did pretty much none other than re-reading the Conqueror Worm poem by Edgar Allan Poe. This one was pretty much just coming up with stuff off the top of my head.
RA: How much research do you do in general for Hellboy?
MM: I do a lot. Again, it depends. Certain stories that I’ve done are directly adapted from folktales. The next Hellboy I’m going to do, which is Hellboy in Africa, that one, because I know nothing about African mythology and folklore, requires a lot of research because I do want it to be extremely regional. I want the flavor and the feel and the particulars of African folklore, so I will go and find it.
RA: Do you have an eventual end in mind for Hellboy?
MM: I don’t really have an end. I have a couple more big stories that certainly feel like an end, but I’ve got a lot of story stuff I still want to do. I imagine Hellboy being something I could do forever. There’s so much to do. There are stories I have in mind that are radically different from what I’m doing now, but they would still be Hellboy. Certainly different incarnations of Hellboy, redefining what Hellboy is, so I don’t see any limit to what I can do with this character. Even Hellboy in Africa is very different. It’s going to stretch what Hellboy can be.
RA: Another project you were involved with that’s coming this summer is Disney’s Atlantis. What did you do on the film?
MM: Well, it’s hard to put my finger on it. They called me because they were sort of doing the film in my style. They brought me in to design characters, but I was kind of a general consultant to the look of the film. My primary focus was designing the city of Atlantis; designing location kind of stuff. I did some character design stuff, but it’s very curious. They’d already designed a lot of stuff to look like I had designed it. So a lot of things that people would say, “oh, there’s a Mike Mignola character,” I actually had almost nothing to do with. It was a very bizarre experience. I also made some comments on story. There were a couple of scenes that kind of came out of conversations I had. The weirdest thing was to sit there at lunch and say “what about this, what about this, what about this?”, which only takes ten seconds to do, and then I’d come back a couple months later and, boom, that scene’s in the movie.
RA: Was it an enjoyable experience?
MM: Yeah. It was very interesting. I didn’t work on it that much. I would go down to Disney for, at most, maybe three days at a stretch and then I did some design work at home. But for the most part, I would go back down and check in and put my two cents in here and there. They were really doing a very thorough job of adapting my style without needing me to be there. When I got there, they had already done these big panels where they had enlarged panels from various comics and there were notes all over them explaining how to do what I do and why I do what I do. I looked at them and said “really? That’s what I do? I had no idea.” [laughter] So that was pretty bizarre. It was weird to walk into Disney and see Hellboy everyplace.
RA: Have you seen the finished film?
MM: I’ve seen it maybe half finished.
RA: Do you like what you’ve see?
MM: Yeah. Again, I have no objectivity with it. I know what isn’t there. I know the scenes that were discussed that were not used for one reason or another. So I can’t look at the movie objectively because I know too much about it. But it’s pretty impressive, let’s put it that way.
RA: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
MM: I’ve learned that it looks like we’ve been OK’d to do a second Hellboy novel. Again, Chris Golden will write and I will illustrate, so I’m excited about that. I just finished working on the movie Blade 2. After this Hellboy mini-series, I’m going to be doing a one-shot black and white comic that will be published by someone other that Dark Horse. It will be a small, little thing that I’m really excited about. A brand-new, very bizarre, little project.
RA: Any closing comments?
MM: I hope people buy this mini-series. Everything that’s been done with Hellboy, all the big Hellboy stories, pretty much comes to a conclusion here. So I view this mini-series as the end of the first cycle of Hellboy stories. In that respect, it’s actually kind of a big one.