NYCC: Hellboy Dominates 2008
by Andy Khouri, CBR News
April 19 2008
With a new film, two comic book miniseries, a comprehensive guide, prose novels, numerous spin-off titles and various other merchandise, 2008 may be the biggest year yet for the World's Greatest Paranormal Investigator. Hellboy returns to cinemas this July in director Guillermo Del Toro's Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and creator Mike Mignola continues to blaze the trail for Hellboy in Hellboy; The Crooked Man, a three-issue Dark Horse miniseries with art by Richard Corben (Punisher: The End, House On The Borderland), and later this year in Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, a Duncan Fegredo-illustrated sequel to his and Mignola's pivotal Hellboy: Darkness Calls, itself reissued in trade paperback in May. Completing 2008's round of major Hellboy releases is May's Hellboy: The Companion, an exhaustively researched timeline and encyclopedic handbook to the characters and world of Hellboy, featuring new material by Mignola.
Not too shabby a load for a demon originally sent from Hell to destroy us all. But fans know Hellboy's really an okay guy with a good heart, and it will be that quality on display in Hellboy: The Crooked Man, which tells a times past tale of the gruff adventurer in the 1950s, in the mountains of the American north east, where he will endeavor to help a man who seems to have sold his soul to the Devil and is feeling rather lousy about it.
CBR News spoke with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola about The Crooked Man, The Wild Hunt, Hellboy: The Companion, the future of his beloved character, and just how far into his story we really are.
Andy Khouri: The Crooked Man finds Hellboy roaming around the Appalachian Mountain region of North America.
Mike Mignola: It's something I've always wanted to do. I love that old American folklore, backwoods witchcraft kind of stuff and I've never done anything like it.
AK: In this story, Hellboy encounters an old man who seems to have lost his soul. What can you tell us about Tom?
MM: Tom is a guy who thinks he's lost his soul; you know, kind of sold his soul to the Devil. He's accepted his fate but before he goes out he wants to see if he can do one good thing and kind of redeem himself a little bit. If he thinks he's going to Hell, he at least wants to get a better seat. He's not all bad, he just made a mistake when he was young and he's trying to make amends and Hellboy's going to try and help him out.
AK: Hellboy of course has a history of helping out people who've been screwed over by people - or beings - like himself. But a man who's sold his soul wouldn't seem to be someone Hellboy would normally have a lot of sympathy for.
MM: The guy made a mistake. He was young and he was stupid and he made a mistake. Part of the idea of this miniseries is people make mistakes, and some stupid thing you did when you were a kid or having a really bad day shouldn't count against you completely. There should be a kind of redemption possible. I guess its very Catholic, now that I think about it. Through a lot of this book, Hellboy is a kind of observer. The Crooked Man is focused on the folklore of the region more than it's focused on Hellboy. It's really the beauty of doing these stories that take place way back when because they're not about Hellboy and Hellboy dealing with what he's dealing with. Things like The Crooked Man are Hellboy in simpler times.
AK: You worked with Richard Corben previously on the very well received Hellboy: Makoma, which saw Hellboy inserted into African folklore and is collected in The Troll Witch and Others. What can you tell us about Corben's work in The Crooked Man?
MM: Other than the fact that I haven't seen kuch of it yet, I'm really really looking forward to it! Richard's done the covers for the first two issues and he just hasn't sent in pagers on the rest of the book yet so I haven't seen much. I knew I wanted to do something else with Richard Corben, and I couldn't think of another artist that would so perfectly suit this subject matter. It was basically an excuse to see Richard draw old witches and crumbling old rotten cabins and skinny dogs and things like that. Makoma was a fun story that I had laying around and I made some adjustments to it; there were bits I added [for Richard]. "Oh I want to see Corben draw corpses full of singing insects!" That's just something you want to see Richard draw. Richard is ne of the best nature guys. He's one of the best tree guys and regional kind of nature artists, and I wanted the focus [of The Crooked Man] on that. A lot of the miniseries is leaned in that direction. I've seen the first page and I've seen the covers and I'm just thrilled. It's everything I hoped it would be.
AK: You're not drawing the covers this time?
MM: No. Part of the problem with drawing the covers on a miniseries in which Richard is designing everything is it's hard for me draw when I don't know what the characters are going to look like. And I just really wanted to see him do it. Coming out in May, also just in time for the film, is the Hellboy: Darkness Calls trade paperback, which is illustrated by Duncan Fegredo and a real turning point in the Hellboy saga and a good place for new readers to jump on. When Darkness Calls was originally released, the final issue came with a teaser for a future story called "The Wild Hunt." The Wild Hunt is the miniseries that Duncan Fegrado is drawing right now. Wild Hunt is the follow-up to Darkness Calls. There were things that were set in motion in Darkness Calls, and Wild Hunt focuses entirely on those and the folklore, that European-English folklore. Hellboy's in England and we're seeing him directly involved in this kind of supernatural war that's starting to kind of percolate. Wild Hunt will then lead in to another book that's kind of the climax of that war, then there's a follow-up book to that called "The Fall" that deals with the aftermath of that. We have this big, gigantic art. It's my Hellboy epic, these three or four books. Also coming out in May is the long-awaited Hellboy: The Companion. This comprehensive guide and timeline to the world of Hellboy is a book that's been mentioned several times throughout the last few years in the letter pages of various Mignola books. I believe it's actually done and I never thought I'd be able to say that. This thing just had a life of its own. And of course the longer the book takes, the more it has to be updated. So yeah, it's been a nightmare. But I think at the end of the day it's really cool. It's a very odd book because there's a lot of information about characters that have been mentioned in Hellboy just once. They'll be three pages about a character who's literally been mentioned in one panel. It's a really fun, interesting background on the Helboy world. There's a page and a half entry for a character that's never been mentioned in Hellboy.
AK: It sounds like The Companion is actually designed for longtime readers of Hellboy.
MM: I didn't want something that was just re-stating everything that had already been stated in the comics. My experience with people who read Hellboy is they read it pretty closely, so they don't need a book that tells them everything.
AK: What inspired you to undertake such an exhaustive project?
MM: One of the things that's always been frustrating with writing comics is coming up with so many characters with no way to put them in the story without stopping it cold. If it's about Hellboy, fine. But if it's back-story about a character that's been mentioned in one panel, there's no way to put it in there. So The Companion was fleshing out all those characters, so you'll get a lot more information about Lobster Johnson and Professor Broom. As I said, there's an entry about a character who's never appeared in Hellboy. It's just fleshing out that world. It's also a great tool not just for me, but for the people I work with on Hellboy, so we know what the hell we're dealing with. It's hard to keep track of all this stuff. There's a timeline in this book that goes back to the beginning of life on Earth through I guess 2007/08. So we can keep track of events. I wrote most of the new material that's in this book. A lot of it was just notes from me handed off to other writers and they expanded on my notes and we went back and forth. It was a long process.
AK: What's the nature of that new material?
MM: "Here's some tother things that happened in Hellboy's life." "Here is background to Professor Broom." "Here is background to Lobster Johnson." And Amelia Dunn, who's never appeared in the comics. There's s a page-long history of her life which has some bearing on Hellboy and may have some bearting on Hellboy in the future. It was just one of those related stories that needed to go into this book.
AK: In the compiling of all this information, did you find yourself inspired for future stories?
MM: Oh, yeah. Especially things like the timeline. When you start stringing these things together on a timeline, you realize, "Wow, there's this gigantic period of this guy's life that we don't know anything about." What was Hellboy doing from this year to that year? He went here or he went there. It does make you say, "Well, there's room for a giant story here." A few years ago, Hellboy was in Africa. He was only in Africa for a couple panels, but when we did the timeline, I realized he had to have been in Africa for at least a year. So there's a really good miniseries to do one of these days about that year Hellboy was in Africa. Or when he leaves this particular island a few years ago and he goes to England - oh you know what, look at the timeline! It took him a year-and-a-half to get from this little island to England! There's a miniseries right there. Why did it take him a year-and-a-half in a little leaky boat at sea? So, yeah, it makes you realize how much there is to do.
AK: Your fans are always asking, do you have plans to return to drawing Hellboy in a long-form story?
MM: I do not. Hellboy is in really, really good hands right now. I love writing Hellboy, and I do have plans to draw some short Hellboy stuff, but I do plan very soon to return to drawing comics and some of the comics I'm goin to draw are set in the Hellboy universe. But I don't have plans to take over the big Hellboy story. The main problem is the Hellboy miniseries are huge at thie point. If I were to commit to doing a Hellboy miniseries, it would just eat up all my time. I've got too many other things I want to do. The world of Hellboy has grown hugely in this decade, and not just in terms of the story. The whole Helboy enterprise seems to parallel in many respects that of Spawn and Todd McFarlane, in terms of the film, animation, toys and other merchandising. McFarlane's stepped away from Spawn. Do you envision Hellboy and the BPRD as something you will eventually hand off to somebody else to manage? The comics are the only thing I want to stay focused on. I shouldn't say that I have no interest [in those other avenues]. If Guillermo Del Toro wants me to work on Hellboy 3, I will work on Hellboy 3. If somebody else is going to do Hellboy 3 and they want my input, I'll give my input. But my main focus has been the comics. I've needed to be a little bit involved in all these other things because it's my baby. If you're doing an animated film and they want you to co-write it, you want to co-write it because you want to make sure it's done right. But at the end of the day, the more I do outside of comics, the more I just want to get back in my studio and control the comics. The comics to me are the real Helboy stuff. The films are Del Toro's domain. The animation was Tad Stone's domain. Merchandise, I mostly don't care about. There are a couple little merchandise things that I want to do, but for the most part that's not my focus. I don't want to be in the toy business. I want to be in the comic book business.
AK: So you will be the one to see Hellboy to his ultimate end?
MM: I don't know that the comics will end, but the story is finite. Hellboy is not designed to go forever. At this point, I am about halfway to the end of the Hellboy story. I can't imagine handing that stuff over. Right now, we have expanded a bit. I kind of co-plot BPRD with John Arcudi. I guess I am the "guiding force" for BPRD, but John is the main writer. I've got another writer I'm working with, Josh Dysart, who's writing these BPRD flashback miniseries and he's going to be writing a couple other things that we're talking about doing. I've got these two writers who are carrying a lot of the load. I just get to do the fun stuff and make up ideas for stories. I can't imagine ever handing them off completely because then, what the hell would I do?