Hellboy creator Mike Mignola talks about the cartoon adventure “Sword Of Storms”
By Billy Chainsaw
The demon seed of ink-slingin’ genius Mike Mignola, Hellboy started life courtesy of Dark Horse Comics in 1993. In 2004, Mignola teamed up with fantasy film maestro Guillermo Del Toro to breathe celluloid life into the beast. And now the darkside duo have been instrumental in transforming the wise-cracking hero into a cartoon feature, featuring the voice talents of the Hellboy movie (Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones). In Sword Of Storms, Hellboy finds a possessed samurai sword, and promptly gets whisked off to the spirit world for a demonic slamdown, the outcome of which will determine the future of the world. It’s a wild ride that combines action, adventure, humour and creepiness to killer effect. We talked to comics maestro Mignola about the red dude’s origin and his current relocation to ’toonville.
Billy Chainsaw: Where did the idea for Hellboy come from?
Mike Mignola. I’d been drawing comics for 10 years and I always wanted to draw monsters and the supernatural stuff, but I wasn’t getting the stories handed to me by other writers. So I finally decided to create my own guy. My first thought was to do an occult detective character, but I knew I’d be bored drawing a regular guy over and over again. So I created this monster character, simply because I thought he’d be fun to draw.
BG: Is it true that he is based on your father?
MM: As an inexperienced writer the only way I knew how to make the character talk was “What would I say?” But I wanted a tougher, working stiff model for the character, and that is very much my father – a tough, cabinet-maker guy who works with his hands, who’s very leathery and always covered in scars from machine work. He was of that World War II generation, and that’s why I set Hellboy’s origin back in the 40s, cos I wanted Hellboy to be a much tougher character than I would be. I didn’t want the kind of brooding intellectual you see so often with occult detectives.
BG: After the comic and the live-action movie, whose idea was it to take the ’toon route?
MM: Guillermo had talked about animation off and on over the years, but it was Revolution Studios who decided to do an animated thing. I’m not exactly sure why, but maybe it was to keep the thing alive between the movies. They didn’t want the film to look like my artistic style, which was fine by me, because then they were not second-guessing what I would do – which drives me crazy. Very early on I told them they should hire Tad Stones, a guy in animation who I’d worked with at Disney – because he’d wanted to animate Hellboy for years. He was brought in and we met repeatedly and figured out what the films were going to be.
BG: Why has Hellboy’s look changed in Sword Of Storms?
MM: I don’t really know, but I’m very happy that the studio did go with a different direction, because it gave us an opportunity to say, “OK, this isn’t the film version of Hellboy,” and we settled on a third incarnation. It gave us a chance to create a Hellboy universe that isn’t exactly the comic and it isn’t exactly the film – it’s its own thing. If you’re only familiar with any one incarnation of Hellboy, the others will still make sense to you. There are little differences, but you’ll get it. The personality of Hellboy is consistent.
BG: Are you responsible for the Japanese folklore aspects of the story?
MM: Coming off the Hellboy film, which didn’t have a folklore element, Tad suggested doing something with folklore, because it’s such a part of the Hellboy comic. Once we’d figured out not to do an adaptation of one of the comics but to do something original, we decided to look at different folklore. As Tad tells it, he said we could do Japanese or Norse mythology, but before he’d finished saying Norse mythology, I said Japanese – because I’d only done one story in the Hellboy comics [set] in Japan. It was a good one, but I had no plans to go back to it. [However] while we were working on the Hellboy movie, one day Guillermo said: “What we should do for the sequel is Hellboy in Japan,” because he had this image of Hellboy with a samurai sword. We had already kinda plotted our Hellboy II, so I knew we weren’t doing [that]. So when Tad brought up Japan, I had this image that Guillermo had put in my head. I decided it should be so radically different to anything out there, because I said, “We’re not just gonna borrow some creature from Japanese mythology, we’re gonna throw Hellboy into a truly insane world that’s full of supernatural creatures that are from Japanese folklore.” I saw so many possibilities for super-exaggerated visuals.
BG: The Hellboy universe is it all just a fantasy trip for you, or do you genuinely believe in the supernatural?
MM: I don’t really believe in the supernatural, but I’ve been fascinated with it since I was a little kid. It’s just this great world I’ve always loved. I like the idea of it so much, I guess on some level I wanna believe in it – although I don’t want it showing up on my doorstep.