It's hard to believe Hellboy has been around 20 years, since first appearing in SAN DIEGO COMIC CON COMICS #2, back in 1993. The character has literally been to Hell and back in that time and traveled the world. Since the character's inception, creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola, has expanded the world Hellboy lives in which has spawned several off-shoot books. We talked to Mike Mignola, over the phone, about one of his newest upcoming series, HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D., which tells the story of the first time Hellboy worked with the B.P.R.D.
COMIC VINE: Coming to stores on December 3rd, you, John Arcudi, and artist Alex Maleev are telling the story of Hellboy's first mission with the B.P.R.D. What can you tell us about the book?
MIKE MIGNOLA: Well, I don't want to give it all away. The team goes to South America and at the last minute, Broom says "take Hellboy." Hellboy's actually not an agent yet. This is the mission that begins Hellboy becoming a team member, so at the end of this, I believe he becomes an agent, so this is the event that makes the higher-ups say "yeah, ok. We don't need to leave this guy locked up in a room. He seems to function out there ok." Really, the exciting thing about this book, to me, it's Hellboy doing a lot of stuff for the first time, which made it very weird to write because I'm so used to Hellboy being the take-charge guy. Here, he is a junior member of a team that goes to South America thinking it's not that big a deal and it turns into a very big deal.
CV: How does it feel to go back and write a young and more immature character that you've been working with for 20 years now?
MM: The hardest thing to remember was he was immature and remember that this was his first outing with these guys. In fact, when John [Arcudi] and I first talked about it, this thing grew out of what we had done with the B.P.R.D. 46, 47, and 48 and realizing this character is growing up and as a little kid, he's been around these agents and looking up to them. Now he looks to be the mature Hellboy and he had a hell of a growth spurt in the middle there, but he's not in awe of these guys. H'es definitely the junior member of these guys. It's his first outing with the grown-ups. Fortunately, there was a couple of scenes that presented themselves where I could kind of remind the readers and in a way, remind Hellboy "you're the junior guy. You do what we say. Here's a shit job. You do the shit job because you're the new guy. You take orders." I've never tackled Hellboy in any way remotely like that. It was interesting.
CV: What made this the right time to tell Hellboy's first story with the B.P.R.D.?
MM: It kinda grew out of seeing him evolve in BPRD 1947 & 1948, which had a bit more focus on Hellboy, not the main focus, but we had a little bit of room to show these guys growing up and I had done the graphic novel with Duncan Fegredo where we see a young Hellboy and enough stuff was happening that we thought it's a a natural progression that keeps following Hellboy and some of the agents, but it really followed Hellboy. There's so much of Hellboy's history that we've never seen. I dropped a few short stories in, over the years, but the beauty of the way that Hellboy was established, that he appeared on Earth in the 40s and we didn't pick up on his first full-length story until the 90s, there's this gigantic chunk of time where we haven't seen him really in the field with Professor Broom. We've just never seen this stuff.
At the same time, I'm doing the HELLBOY IN HELL stuff. I love the fact it picks up new readers, but it's a weird place to start with that book. As the HELLBOY IN HELL stuff gets weirder and weirder, I thought it would be nice to a have old-school, simpler, less complicated version of Hellboy out there. If we really focused on this, it probably would have been the perfect book to put out for the 20 year anniversary, but I don't think that way. As I've been thinking about this book, we've been talking to other artists along the way, maybe this guy, maybe that guy. We just really didn't have the right artist, so like so many of the books I do, it's really a matter of certain things coming together all at the same time. In this case, it was that John and I wanted to do this book, we didn't have an artist, and then, through channels, we learned that Alex Maleev was available and interested and that's what made this book happen.
CV: You've always had very distinct artists on your books. So what attracted you to Alex's style?
MM: He's really good. Once upon a time, when I first handed the Hellboy stuff over to Duncan Fegrado, I was very concerned about having somebody who wasn't an imitator of me, but somebody that was who has a lot of my same sensibilities. Now, with this series, that's not the focus. It's just a matter of getting really good guys and Alex is just really good. In a way, I won't say it's easier to find artists, but at least I'm not try to fit artists into a narrow box. When I made up this story, there was no part of it where I said "I need this artist" or "I need this kind of artist." It was just "here's a story. We need a guy who is really good. Who wants to do it?" You know? I want a guy who is enthusiastic for the material.
In fact, the most frustrating thing in working with Alex was that I want to tell him the whole series. Because Hellboy does go through a character arc, I want to tell Alex what happens in the later issues. Alex didn't really want to hear it because he is enough of a fan of the material where he wanted to be surprised. I said "well, you can't be surprised because you're drawing it." [laughs] I have to tell you where this thing is going.
CV: With your work, what drew me to you as a fan, is that you base so much around myth and folklore from all across the globe. Did you pull inspiration from folklore for at least the first story for HELLBOY AND B.P.R.D.?
MM: In a way, I had kind of a joke idea for what this mini-series might be. We've been talking about it for years. It was a one-line pitch to John Arcudi. "I want him to go to South America and blah blah blah." It was really folklore based. I'm not familiar with South American folklore. When the story started shaping up, and again, I wanted something very old school Hellboy, so it leans much more in the pulp magazine direction, folklore is such a big part of Hellboy that I did do some homework and did pull in a little bit of South American folklore just so we get a little flavor. There's one scene in particular that's, there's an interaction with the local folklore characters from South America.
CV: Has there been any myth or stories from folklore that you felt you couldn't adapt to your characters?
MM: There's nothing I feel like I wouldn't do or that feels "hands off." I'm not as knowledgeable about certain things. Somebody commented to me, the other day, "I'd love to see a story about Hellboy in Asia, with martial arts stuff and ninjas and things like that." I'd love to see that story. In my head, Hellboy has been everyplace. I'm sure there's a story where he hung out and fought ninjas, and we did some Japanese things. Unfortunately, I just don't know enough about that kind of stuff, so again, part of the beauty about this HELLBOY & B.P.R.D. series is we will be having different creators and different writers come in on the book. Ideally, we will have somebody who wants to do Hellboy in Japan. There's a lot of ground to cover and I'm stuck to the stuff that I'm familiar with. I'd love to see a story in every corner of the world.
CV: This is going to be an on-going series and are you just going to be working on the first arc?
MM: Yeah... well, no. The second arc which is two issues... two-issues lead off the HELLBOY & THE B.P.R.D. '53. They'll be two issues by me and three by yet to be determined, by a different creative team. I will have my hand in on, I'd like to think, everything, either doing real co-plotting or editorial. There's certain things I want to see in this series and there's other places where I just want a great story to fill in that hole. Because Hellboy does become an agent at the end of '52, according the the Hellboy companion, Hellboy and Broom go to England, for about, I think it's about 6 months. It's a significant chunk of Hellboy's life where it's sort of a father and son outing where they encounter various supernatural things in England. That folklore and that mythology... I love old English ghost stories. I really wanted to write those myself, even though I have other things I should be doing. I said "No no no. I need to do the Hellboy in England chapter." I'll be writing that. I have a million ideas for stories, so in the future, I may collaborate with somebody or I may step in and write things along the way, but my focus has to be the HELLBOY IN HELL stuff because that's going way too slow.
Make sure to check back tomorrow when we talk to Mike Mignola about HELLBOY IN HELL, the upcoming FRANKENSTEIN UNDERGROUND, and even a little bit of AMAZING SCREW-ON HEAD. Check out the rest of the preview of HELLBOY & THE B.P.R.D. below and pick it up when it comes out Wednesday, December 3rd!