Over 150 enlistees lined up to metaphorically “Join The B.P.R.D.” last Saturday at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (or C2E2) for Dark Horse‘s panel dedicated to the Hellboy spinoff series which has taken on a life of its own. Over the course of an hour the panelists which included creator Mike Mignola, artist Guy Davis and editor Scott Allie took fans on a tour of all the publisher’s Mignola-related projects, starting with a plug for their new “Join The B.P.R.D.” promotional campaign which allows fans access to new material and eventually special perks like VIP convention passes if they sign up at www.DarkHorse.com/jointhebprd.
Dark Horse will release “Hellboy in Mexico: Or A Drunken Blur” by Mignola and Richard Corben on May 5, which the creator said would be “funny and sad.” Although the next major phase of Hellboy stories starts in July with “Hellboy: The Storm,” “You’ll see major changes for Hellboy and major consequences for him as he makes some sacrifices to take on the forces that have been raised up,” Allie explained before teasing Dave Johnson’s covers to the upcoming “Abe Sapien: The Abysmal Plane” miniseries. Allie and Mignola both joked around the idea that the King of Fear monster on the cover of “B.P.R.D.: King of Fear” #5 resembled a penis, with the artist saying, “I added arms to it to make it less like that, but it didn’t really change it that much.”
The new direction for the B.P.R.D. will carry the name “Hell On Earth” as an overarching brand once “King of Fear” wraps up. “This is a big shift for the characters,” said Allie of the book for which Davis will again provide art. “All the B.P.R.D. books up this point, we’re calling ‘Plague of Frogs’ and that ends with ‘King of Fear,'” Mignola added. The editor then announced that Dark Horse will launch a new comic series based on Mignola and writer Christopher Golden’s “Baltimore.” Mignola explained of the project, “If you’ve read the book, there’s a hole in the middle of the book where the character takes off after the man who ruined his life, and that’s where the comic picks up. There’s this giant chunk of years from the middle of the novel that hopefully this series of mini series will fill in the blank for.”
Finally, the panel announced “The Amazing Screw-On Head” as a hardcover collection full of stories written and drawn by Mignola though not set in a shared universe as with Hellboy. “They’ve all got a similar kind of feel that’s almost like a shared universe, but it can’t be called that because it’s too weird,” Mignola said. “Also, it’s got my favorite short story I’ve ever done, which is called ‘The Magician and The Snake’ which my daughter plotted a few years ago and won an Eisner award for it at age seven.”
The panelists then opened the floor up to questions which ran the full gamut of Mignola’s creative output but also found some specific focus on the work he, Davis and other collaborators have done on “B.P.R.D.” One topic that was returned to often over the course of the hour was the creation of various characters from the world of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, including Abe Sapien. “I drew one picture of the B.P.R.D. team – this was before I knew it was going to be called the B.P.R.D. – because for whatever reason I was going to do a team book,” Mignola explained. “Hellboy was supposed to be part of this team of guys, and I grew up reading Marvel Comics, so I kind of had ‘Fantastic Four’ in the back of my head and all these old great Marvel characters. I’d always loved the Sub Mariner, and I’d loved the idea of a guy being under water. So I had a fire girl probably because of the Human Torch, and I drew a Fish Man. But very little thought went into who that guy was.
“It was only over years of doing the book, little by little, that I pieced together who this guy was. I probably had the name ‘Abe Sapien’ before I had his origin. These names tend to not come at all or they just spring into my head. So ‘Abe Sapien’ sounded funny, so I thought, ‘Well, we could tie it to the Lincoln assassination so there’s some justification for the name.'”
Similarly, pulp hero Lobster Johnson came about thanks to a quirk of naming. “The idea for him…well, I was a fan of all the old pulp magazine characters, and everything I like I like to have represented in the Hellboy universe,” Mignola said. “I don’t know that I put any serious thought into creating a pulp magazine guy, but I woke up one morning when we were in Italy for a signing at a convention and told my wife, ‘I just came up with a great name for a character: Lobster Johnson.’ And she, as she does, just stared at me blankly…I had no idea why that sprang into my head, but I knew the character would not be a lobster and he’d have nothing to do with lobsters. At one point, I’d planned on doing a Conan-type barbarian character called Lobster Johnson because you can stick that name on anything, but finally when it came time to have a pulp character, I thought, ‘What am I going to call this guy? Well, there’s Lobster Johnson, which is the only hero name I’ve come up with. I guess that’s who that guy is.’ It really sounds like I don’t know what I’m doing, doesn’t it? It’s amazing I’ve gotten as far as I have.”
The creator and John Arcudi have also written a new Lobster miniseries for Davis to draw that the team will bring to light eventually. “Unlike the Lobster Johnson book I wrote, which takes place a year before his death…we thought, ‘Here’s an idea: why don’t we go to the beginning of his career so we can continue with Lobster Johnson stories.’ The guy only has about a ten-year career, so we can cover all of that.”
A fan jokingly asked after the origin of the “King of Fear” phallic monster, to which Mignola replied “It’s one of those things I wanted to see Guy draw. It’s just a shape I like.” Davis added, “I haven’t drawn enough penises in my life.”
As to whether or not a “Screw-On Head” collection would lead to more animated specials, Mignola said, “Every once in a while, somebody starts talking about doing another animated Screw-On Head thing, but at this point, it’s not in my power to do it. Somebody else has to want to do it. There’s always talk but nothing serious at this point.”
For more on “B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth,” “Baltimore” and more, be sure to check out CBR’s ongoing “To Hellboy And Back” series of interviews with Mike Mignola!