Mike Mignola in the Playboy-Dark Horse Chat

 

March 12 1998

 

Moderator

 

 

Welcome, everyone, to the Playboy-Dark Horse Chat Series. We should be starting in a few minutes, so hang in there and chat amongst yourselves.

Moderator

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome author/illustrator Mike Mignola to the Playboy-Dark Horse Chat Series.

mikemignola

Hi!

mikemignola

waves at everyone.

McMurphy

Thanks for coming and chatting. How did you get your start in illustrating comics? Did you go to school or avoid that like the plague?

mikemignola

I didn't avoid school like the plague. I went to art school in California for a couple of years. Then I moved to NY and began working for Marvel Comics as an inker. I was terrible at that. One of the editors asked if I would take a stab at drawing instead of inking. That was about 15 years ago.

Poison13

Are you currently doing work in any other media (films, books, magazines, etc.)?

mikemignola

Right this very minute, I'm doing a book cover. I've also been doing design work for an upcoming Disney film. My primary focus is comics. I do the other stuff just because it's so strange that people ask me.

"Hellboy" has been optioned as a movie and I just read the movie script the other day. I don't believe it will ever be made, but it would be really cool if they made the movie that I just read the script for.

Poison13

How do you feel about being identified as a writer, after starting out as a hired-hand artist?

mikemignola

It's great because writing is a lot less physically demanding. It takes me so long to draw things. The only way for me to get all my ideas on paper is to have other people draw some of them.

guest11

I've been out of the comics game for a while now. What are the Legend artists doing these days? Is John Byrne still around? Has he drawn you in any more stories like he did in "Next Men"?

mikemignola

The Legend group from where I'm sitting doesn't really exist as a group. I no longer use the Legend symbol on my book. Frank Miller doesn't use that symbol, so I've really lost touch with what other people are doing except that I'm in touch with Frank and Art Adams. They're doing comics. John and I don't have the kind of relationship now like we had then. So, to my knowledge he hasn't drawn me, but I haven't really followed what he's been doing.

hellgirl

You look like a pretty mild-mannered guy in your photo. Is there anything about you that would make people guess what you do for a living -- your clothes, your apartment or whatever?

mikemignola

Every time we use a babysitter, my wife has to caution her that we're not Satanists because of the books on the bookshelf. My wife is always making the point that this is "just reference" because there's a lot of that stuff. Most of the weirder stuff is contained in my studio.

McMurphy

Where did you get the inspiration for "Hellboy"?

mikemignola

"Hellboy" is a combination of kind of everything I've ever liked and everything I ever wanted to draw. I knew the kind of stories I wanted to write and draw and it was just a matter of coming up with a character that would be fun to draw to base all the stories around.

When I do conventions, often people would ask me to draw things for them. When people didn't have something specific in mind, when they said, just draw whatever you want, I always ended up drawing something like Hellboy. Visually, it's very much inspired by old Jack Kirby comics.

guest11

There is a definite Jack Kirby influence (or is it an homage?) in "Hellboy." Can you tell us what you thought of Kirby and his work?

mikemignola

Very simply, Jack was the most influential comic book artist on my career because he created everything I grew up reading. It wasn't until just a few years ago that I began really looking at his work again with a more mature eye and analyzing what he did and why it works so well. I never sat down and said, "I want to draw like Jack Kirby." I'm very flattered when people see Jack Kirby in there somewhere.

Poison13

What are your current (and future) plans for "Hellboy"?

mikemignola

Right now I'm planning another "Hellboy" short story that will appear in black and white in a comic called "Dark Horse Presents." Then I'm off for a while to do a different book for D.C. Comics. I have plans for "Hellboy," but I'm just not exactly sure when they'll be done. There's also talk of another "Hellboy" novel. There was one last year and the second one would actually be written by me. There's also, in the planning phase, a prose short-story collection that's being put together by Fritz Golden, who wrote the first "Hellboy" novel. The only other "Hellboy" thing is there's a collection of my short "Hellboy" stories including "The Corpse," which is online. That collection will be coming out, I think, in August. There's one story in there that's never been published before.

jigen

I recently found a postcard with Hellboy at age 8(?). Are you considering writing any stories about him?

mikemignola

I don't have any plans to write stories about Little Hellboy, but I really like that picture I did of him as a little kid. I'd like to find ways to use images of him as a little kid. He's a very funny-looking little kid.

Alz

Is there a chance you might release a "Hellboy" "PULP" book, with B&W reprints of the stories?

mikemignola

I like the idea, but there's no plan to do that. It's a strange thing about B&W because a lot of people prefer my work in B&W, but so much of the storytelling I do relies on color. I think it would be an interesting book; so, send letters to Dark Horse.

Poison13

What are your feelings on the "Hellboy" presentation that Playboy has assembled here?

mikemignola

Quite frankly, I haven't seen it. We've had computer problems and we haven't been able to get past the first page. My editor saw it and described it in detail to me. It sounds great.

mikemignola

If I'd seen it maybe I would feel more threatened by it. If comics are going to change to this kind of format, maybe I have a head start.

The problem with it is that you can't see the whole page at once and my work is designed to be able to see the whole page. I think it would be very interesting to design something specifically for the Internet. I love the comic book format and as long as that exists, I want to do that. But it's a whole different opportunity to do the other. There's a world of possibilities there that I would have never thought of before this.

guest11

Have you ever heard the word Hellboy so many times in a short period of time that it ceases to sound like a real word?

mikemignola

I had that problem from the very beginning with Hellboy. I had done a drawing for a program book for a convention of just a generic monster and he had a belt buckle and at the last moment I wrote "Hellboy" on his belt. I thought that was so funny. I just thought it was the greatest name. Ten minutes later I didn't think it was funny anymore. It had lost its meaning, but it's the closest I'd ever come to coming up with a comic-book name, so I stuck with it.

I've always liked the name, but I didn't know if it was still funny. I find that to be the problem with all writing. Something sounds good, but after you read it two or three times it doesn't sound good anymore, so you have to trust your first impulse.

hellgirl

Hellboy and Ghost have co-starred in one of your comics. Has Hellboy encountered any other outside-comic-book characters in his career?

mikemignola

That kind of goes back to "Hellboy" things that I am working on. I entirely forgot, I'm currently drawing "Hellboy Meets Batman." How the hell did I forget that! Other than that, Hellboy appeared in two issues of Erik Larson's "Savage Dragon" comic.

TheShadow

When will "Hellboy/Batman/Starman" be out? Will you be providing the art? How long will it be and what format?

mikemignola

I will be providing the art. It's two issues, two 32-page comics. I don't know when exactly it will be out. I would love to have it done by summer, but I am going very slowly on it. By the end of this year is a safe bet. I could be wrong, but I think it's a 32-page comic with no ads.

Spanky

You've said before that certain books were dedicated to certain authors, such as H.P. Lovecraft. How do they influence your writing?

mikemignola

That goes back to the inspiration for "Hellboy." To mention someone like H.P. Lovecraft, one of my primary influences is the pulp era, pulp magazines, weird tales, Twenties/Thirties junk literature. I love that stuff. I think the first "Hellboy" trade paperback was sort of dedicated to Lovecraft and I borrowed a lot of imagery, a lot of devices from him.

guest11

Have you gotten much flak from the religious right about having a creature from Hell as a "hero"?

mikemignola

That's a good question. I haven't. We got fan mail from the Church of Satan and in the same week I got a letter from a minister who actually liked the comic. His one question was, would I deal with some kind of redemption theme. My feeling is, Hellboy has always been a good guy, despite his biological parents, so what do I have to redeem him for? But I'm actually going to deal with that a little in this next story I'm doing.
I've received several letters specifically from people saying, "Hi, I'm from the Religious Right." So I've had religious people saying they like the comics: I don't know if that means I'm doing something right or I'm doing something wrong. If the comic upset more people, it would probably sell better.

Alz

Do you find yourself spending most of your art time designing the page and researching, or do you quickly block things out and then fine-tune?

mikemignola

I think probably at this point most of the time is spent designing the page. My storytelling has become so odd, even to me, that quite often I'm left with no idea what the next panel is going to be. That is one of the strangest things about writing the book myself -- it's very easy to change it as I go along. And that can be a lot like wandering off the path and getting lost in the forest. That's actually a quality that I want in "Hellboy." I don't want the reader to see where it's going. And since I don't know where the hell it's going, I think it's easy to create that effect.

Spanky

What advice do you give aspiring pencilers, inkers and writers?

mikemignola

Good luck! The comic-book industry has gotten extremely scary, in that books are selling badly and a lot of people are out of work. I think it's especially bad for writers. Because so many people, like me, are writing their own books, and established comic-book writers are already in place at the major publishers. So I think it's very difficult to come in as a writer. I think it worked well for me to come in as an artist, become established as an artist, and then slowly turn into a writer.

As far as breaking in, so much depends on what kind of work you want to do. It seems to me that there are more opportunities for people who write and draw their own work, with odd, little, small publishers that are out there. I'm so out of touch with the mainstream now, I couldn't say what kind of work mainstream comic-book publishers are really looking for.

dem

Is your last name pronounced "mee nyol ah"?

mikemignola

I've never heard that. Wow. It's pronounced as if it were spelled "min yo la."

Alz

Do you have any convention trips planned in the future?

mikemignola

I will be at Wondercon in Oakland next month. And I'll be at the San Diego Comicon convention in August. I do tend to agree to do things and then I forget all about them.

mikemignola

{action} laughs

Spanky

Mike, where do you see yourself in five years?

mikemignola

Hopefully, doing what I'm doing now. I'm very spoiled because right now people, publishers want to publish things I write and draw myself. I have a lot of ideas for "Hellboy" and for some new books. So if the comic business doesn't go away, that's what I'll be doing.

guest17

Do you prefer the American-type comic or the European-type?

mikemignola

There are a few American guys who I love, but probably there are more European artists, French, artists from Belgium...there's more of that stuff that I'm interested in. Subject-wise, I'm more interested in that than in the stuff that's done in America. There's a large section in my studio that just has books all written in French. The beauty of the European market is that there's so much different subject matter. In America we're pretty much stuck in the superhero thing. In Europe they still do historical comics, mystery, fantasy, and there's a level of sophistication that just isn't here. They have an adult readership that we just don't have here.

Alz

Not really a question, just a big THANKS for putting out a damn fine book with some great imagery.

mikemignola

Well, thanks, Alz!

Spanky

Mike, could you describe your process of creating your pages?

mikemignola

I still haven't quite figured out the best way to do it. I'm always working on three or four stories in my head, moving things around, adding pieces, taking stuff out. When it comes time to do a new book, I pick the story that's most put together and try to wrestle it onto paper. That generally involves doing a lot of research, gathering references. Then I usually just start drawing rather than write the whole story first. After that, I usually do most of the writing as I'm drawing the pages.

hellgirl

Do you listen to music while you draw? What kind?

mikemignola

I generally don't listen to music. I generally watch TV because I have such a short attention span that I need something to keep me rooted to the drawing table, and a movie will usually do that. The only time I can't watch TV is the couple of days where I'm actually plotting out the story and figuring out the storytelling. I need quiet during that or music. And also when I write I need complete quiet. Which is hard with a three-year-old. I usually write in the middle of the night.

Moderator

We have only a few minutes left with Mike, so get in those last few questions.

Alz

How's your work on "Atlantis" and "Batman" been? Is it a totally different approach or the same as comic research?

mikemignola

Both cases are very different. On "Batman," I was told specifically what aspect of that show that they wanted me to design. And on "Atlantis," it was much more wide open.

I sat down with the directors and the producer and we talked about the whole story and then it was kind of left to me to work on whatever aspects of the movie that I liked.

Lately, my job has been to go back over designs that other people have done and apply my style to them. At this stage they're still talking about applying my style to the "Atlantis" film.

jigen

Have you had any interns in the past?

mikemignola

No. There's really nothing anyone else could do. Because I work at home, I need to go run and get donuts, I need to get outside. I also do half my writing -- when I'm not writing in the middle of the night -- out while I'm walking down the street. I'm one of those guys you see walking down the street talking to himself.

Moderator

Here come our final two questions....

TheShadow

I'd love to see a Hellboy action figure. Can we look forward to any new "Hellboy" merchandising in the future?

mikemignola

There's a Hellboy statue that should be available very soon. It's about 16 inches high. I helped sculpt it. I just got mine yesterday and it's really nice. There's talk of doing an action figure, but we're in a weird spot because so much of the merchandise is tied up in this "Hellboy" movie deal. I have to figure out if we can do an action figure and not violate the terms of the movie deal.

Alz

Do you ever plan to release an art book, like "The Art of Mignola," to include comic work as well as movie work?

mikemignola

I would love to do an "Art of Mignola." There are only two or three pieces of artwork that I've done that I think could be in such a book. People haven't seen the movie work, but they haven't missed anything. I'm not one of those guys who's doing elaborate preproduction painting. Most of my design work is very simple. It's very much like costume design.

Moderator

Thanks to Mike for chatting. We hope to see you back in the Playboy-Dark Horse chat rooms very soon.

mikemignola

I'm thrilled with the questions. I had a great time today.

Moderator

Everyone should feel free to hang out and chat for the next half hour in the Dark Horse lobby. See you all there!