Mike Mignola’s return to full duty on his signature creation has been a long time coming, but the wait is almost over.
Dark Horse Comics today revealed exclusively to CBR News that “Hellboy In Hell” — the anticipated next phase in the life of the big red adventurer — will land in comic shops this December, written and drawn entirely by Mignola.
Fans have known about the “Hellboy In Hell” cycle of stories — an era for which comparisons can be drawn to Mignola and his collaborator’s rebranding of their “B.P.R.D.” series with the “Hell On Earth” banner — since HB’s unexpected death at the end of the “Storm & The Fury” tales written by Mignola and drawn by Duncan Fegredo last summer. Since then, the artist has returned to drawing sequential pages for the character and his world with a few short stories for “Dark Horse Presents,” dealing with both the after-affects of his demise and some lighter events from his distant past.
But with the first “Hellboy In Hell” four-issue series, Mignola will return to long-form storytelling in a world he promises will present everything he loves about the character and nothing he feels burdened by. In his first full interview on this new era, the artist explains how a distinct lack of reality, a Hell built on “Paradise Lost,” a lurking set of past villains and, most importantly, a wander hero Hellboy all combine to make him ready to put pen to paper over the long haul.
CBR News: Mike, I assume you’re spending a lot more time at the drawing board these days.
Mike Mignola: I am. Actually, I just finished up really the last thing I had to get out of the way for quite some time that’s been keeping me away from getting back to drawing the comic. I’m pretty happy.
I know you’ve not been doing as many covers for the many expanding “B.P.R.D.” family of series. Do you have a sense of how best to compartmentalize when you’re working on character designs and kind of non-published material to support those books or even those covers?
No. I usually let my editor set up my schedule, so it’s really whenever he needs stuff. Sometimes if I know there are two or three covers that are due soon, if I decided to do one cover I’ll really sit down and do two or three. I get a lot of that stuff out of the way at once so I have bigger, uninterrupted chunks where I’m just working on the comic. There’s one series coming up that I agreed to do covers on, but other than that I think my covers in the future are going to be limited just to the trade paperbacks. As much as I’d love to do covers for all the other books that are going on — because you look at this stuff and go, “Oh, it’d be fun to draw that thing once!” — I think I’m going to limit my involvement to the trades since I want to spend as much time as I can drawing the actual comic pages.
Though “Hellboy In Hell” is still a few months away from seeing the light of day, you kind of dipped your toe back into the waters of sequential work by drawing story pages for “Dark Horse Presents.” And there you went from a very serious “wake for Hellboy” story starring Kate Corrigan to the exact opposite with a very fun tale of Hellboy in Mexico fighting an Aztek mummy.
You didn’t think that was serious? I thought that was very sobering and thoughtful. [Laughter] That might just be me.
Well, you definitely returned to the milieu of Hellboy carrying a zombie’s arm in his hand with which he could bludgeon anything in sight.
It was something where Dark Horse had asked me to do a story, but I didn’t really have a story. So I thought, “What would be fun to do?” Really, like you just said, nine-tenths of where that story came from was that I thought it’d be funny to have Hellboy pop a guy’s arm off and hit him with it. It was not one of the “been cooking for 100 years” kind of stories that you get sometimes.
But did those stories kind of warm you up to draw HB again after writing for Duncan for so long? Did you need to loosen up?
Yeah. I know I’m rusty. I definitely am rusty. It wasn’t done primarily for that reason. It was done because Dark Horse asked, and I foolishly said yes. But unfortunately, the rust is going to be there for a while. I’ve done the first two issues of “Hellboy In Hell” now, and they’re fine. I mean, I’m really happy with some of it, but I also know that a few years from now I’ll be looking back at some of these issues and really wincing. But I’m really looking forward to being five years down the road so I can wince at these. Already I see that I’m kind of starting to loosen up and have more fun. The panic is starting to wear off.
This new series is going to be such a huge change for the character and the world. What strikes me the strongest about the “Hellboy In Hell” concept is that since so much of the whole world you’ve built is based on different facets of folklore and mythology, it leaves me wondering which legendary version of Hell you’ll be using most for your inspiration here. Do you have a main literary Hell to guide you?
It’s definitely not pits of fire and the devils with pitchforks. It’s definitely not that. I’ve read a lot of different Hell stuff, and so the basic structure of my Hell is the [John] Milton Hell. I use his city Pandemonium as the capital city of Hell. I’ve got a specific kind of geography for Hell. But the main characteristic for my Hell is that it’s made up of everything that I want to draw. When I started “Hellboy,” the ideas was “Here’s a world where I can put in everything I want and do every kind of story I want to do.” But I was restrained by human history and geography to a certain extent. Like, when Hellboy went to Japan, Japan kind of had to look like Japan. [Laughs] But what I’ve done with Hell is that I can go back to doing stories that are like a Japanese folk tale or an Indian folk tale, but it doesn’t have to look like any specific part of Japan. Everything is a distorted version. I don’t trip over things like, “How the hell do you draw a Buddist temple?” I can just make up my version of that. It’s very liberating to me as an artist because the one thing that I did stumble over with certain things was the reality. Now I’m in this fantasy location, and a lot of stories that have been save on the shelf are being dusted off because it will be more fun to do them in this setting.
How does Hellboy work in that setting. We’ve seen him get further and further away from a square-jawed, action-adventure, pulp hero and closer to a fantasy hero. Obviously, putting Excalibur in a guy’s hand will do that. But after all the Duncan stories, is he entering a more traditional fantasy quest narrative where he’s on a specific journey through the layers of Hell?
One of the things I keep pushing against is turning it into something like that. I don’t want to do Hellboy on a mission or Hellboy on a quest. What I’m trying to do is take all these big things that have been attached to Hellboy — all these “purpose in life” ideas — and I’m trying like hell to leave them aside and turn Hellboy into a much simpler character. The first four issues, which are one story, kind of resolve a lot of stuff. Kind of. They set the stage for the stories to come after, which for the most part involve lots of one-issue stories or even single comics with two stories. So he doesn’t have a specific purpose. He’s just going to wander around Hell.
My favorite stories I’ve done in the past are stories where Hellboy’s just wandering through Japan or the Appalachian mountains. I always had in mind that in between these “mission” stories, he just went for a walk and stumbled upon stuff. That’s kind of what I’d like the “Hellboy In Hell” stuff to be like. But again, the first four issues kind of set him into this world and give the readers not a complete tour of the world but a sense of what it’s like. Then we just turn the guy loose and say, “Wander around in it.”
Over the years, there have been plenty of characters in the series that have died horrible deaths — many of them at Hellboy’s hands. Is there an itch you have to bring some of those pieces back into place since they can only be seen in Hell?
There is definitely some of that. I didn’t want too much of that. I didn’t want to do one of those, “Now you’ve been thrown in to prison with all the guys you’ve sent to prison” kind of stories. There’s definitely a character that was done in the past that I’ve been itching to do. So we’re going to see sort of a rematch story. It’s nice to have that in my back pocket and know I can do that, but there’s so much other stuff that I want to do that I’m not really that interested in just revisiting a zillion characters I’ve already done.
For more on the world of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., watch for CBR’s continued coverage at Comic-Con International this week!