Horror fans won’t have to stay up late to catch “Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil” – but it couldn’t hurt. Bringing the late-night double feature format to comics, “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola and horror master Richard Corben team up once again for two tales of supernatural terror. Corben, who began in the underground comix world and had contributed to “Creepy,” “Eerie,” “Vampirella” and “Heavy Metal” before creating “Den” and other series and collaborating on “X-Men,” “Ghost Rider” and “Conan the Cimmerian,” has previously worked with Mignola on several Hellboy tales, usually one-shots or 3-issue miniseries, the most recent being “Hellboy in Mexico (Or, a Drunken Blur).” CBR News spoke with Corben about “Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil,” which arrives in stores November 17 from Dark Horse.
In a career spanning more than forty years, Corben has illustrated many of comics’ biggest horror icons, not to mention producing famous non-comics work like the album cover to Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell.” Recent years, however, have seen him returning again and again to Hellboy, partnering with Mignola for the first time on 2005’s “Hellboy: Makoma.” “Hellboy is obviously a uniquely interesting character. But to be honest, I would enjoy Mike’s writing just as much if the lead character was a human being,” Corben told CBR News. “In fact, Hellboy doesn’t seem like a demon from Hell, but a big friendly red guy who happens to be very strong.
“When I get a Hellboy script or synopsis, I don’t know where it’s going to take me. I just know it will be a fun trip,” Corben continued. “I think Mike and I have similar interests, such as old horror movies and the work of Poe, Lovecraft, Smith, Howard, etc. But Mike is original and creative in his plots so I’m usually pleasantly surprised.”
According to Dark Horse’s solicitation text, the “Double Feature of Evil” takes Hellboy to “a carnivorous home and a pagan temple.” CBR asked Corben about his approach to creating these two environments from a design standpoint. “At first I thought designing the ‘carnivorous home’ would be easy, just a Victorian or Gothic style house. But that is misleading – because of a plot element, there could be no furniture, nor any paintings on the wall except one. I tried to sidestep the empty shell look by emphasizing the stark, dark lighting,” Corben explained. “Sometimes a little problem like that can cause extra work. The page where the man first explores the house’s interior didn’t look right at first. In fact, I had to redraw a couple panels on that page three times.
“The ‘pagan temple’ was an elaborate Egyptian display in a museum. I tried to imagine such a display in our local museum, but go beyond what their budget might be.”
Discussing the art of creating horror through each of these environments, Corben was modest in regard to his own contributions. “In the first one, Mike set up a slow tension that built up to a shocking revelation. I merely followed his lead with the dramatic, single light source effect, then have a full page pay off panel. Of course, Dave Stewart’s coloring is of vital importance for these dramatic effects to work. I owe him a debt of gratitude for saving some of my weaker panels,” Corben told CBR. “Also, the coloring changes the mood from the first story to the second much more eloquently than my drawing.”
Corben did say that the pacing of each story influenced how he presented the two environments. “As I said, the first story had a slower build up. I used this space to emphasize atmosphere and mood. Not only with the interior lighting, but having a gray cloudy day with black clouds casting black shadows over parts of a scene. Tension can also be shown by moving in for more close ups, letting the characters’ expressions show how uptight they feel,” Corben said. “In the second, shorter story, we move quickly into the middle of the action. We don’t know exactly how the situation came about – we’re just in it, blow by blow.”
“Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil” marks Corben’s third one-shot featuring the demonic hero, following a pair of 2-issue miniseries. Many of his other recent engagements, such as Marvel’s “Haunt of Horror” titles, have also taken the form of short miniseries. “I really like the shorter format. Twenty-four pages or thirty-two pages make a great short story,” Corben said. “The storytelling is trimmed to the essentials with no fluff. A short miniseries, up to about 3 books, is also good for me if more background or character development is needed. But a storyline running 6 issues or more gets to be a drudgery, and at my age there’s a danger that longer stories may have to be finished by someone else.”