April 3 sees the release of “Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible” #1 from Dark Horse Comics, the first of a three-issue miniseries written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie with art by SebastiÃ¡n Fiumara and colors by Dave Stewart. The book spins out of events taking place in the ongoing “B.P.R.D.” series, and follows the titular character as he flees the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.
Over a year ago, Abe Sapien slipped into something resembling a severe coma after being shot by B.P.R.D. newcomer Fenix. Kept immersed in a life-support tank at B.P.R.D. headquarters, the amphibious agent appeared to be undergoing further metamorphic changes while catatonic. Comic Book Resources spoke with series co-writer and Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie about the upcoming miniseries and Abe’s motivations for fleeing the agency.
Over his lifetime, Abe has undergone several transformations, both physically and psychologically. It has become clear that this process of metamorphosis may not yet be entirely complete, but what Abe may ultimately become remains something of a mystery.
“When they first found Abe in the tube in the late seventies, they had no idea what he was,” said Allie. “Years later, in the story Mike wrote in ‘B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs,’ we found out that he’d started out a normal man — a scientist around the time of the Civil War — and he’d evolved into this fish man. Now it turns out that his evolution was not complete — and who knows if it is now. Personally, this experience is changing him, and a big part of the first few arcs will be him dealing with all the changes he’s facing.”
The timing of Abe’s reawakening could not be more auspicious: the world of “B.P.R.D” is overrun with monsters known as the Ogdru Hem, laying waste to cities across America and around the world.
“Some of these prophets of the end of the world with their warnings of a new race of man have suggested that Abe has something to do with that,” said Allie. “They were saying that a few years ago, before things really went to ‘Hell on Earth.’ Then the world started changing suddenly, new monsters were appearing … and then Abe went through a bizarre transformation. Some people don’t think it’s a coincidence, and Abe doesn’t want to become a paranormal research project.”
“Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible” begins in the midst of this upheaval, as the B.P.R.D. team scrambles to locate their fleeing comrade and friend. Abe, meanwhile, is traveling: hopping trains, listening to the horror stories told by the dispossessed and keeping his own motivations to himself.
“This series is going to be sort of in that ‘Fugitive,’ ‘Hitchhiker,’ ‘Incredible Hulk’ TV show formula: a man traveling through the world having interesting things happen to him, revealing himself and revealing the unique qualities of [those] around him,” said Allie. “But it’s also going somewhere very specific, with significant turning points mapped out ahead … Abe is looking for answers, and he’s heading places where he thinks he can get them, but he’s as much running from the truth as he’s running toward it.”
The world of “B.P.R.D.” is a world that is populated by magic, mythical beasts and spirits who walk amongst the living. In spite of this, it’s a world that remains believable, in part because it operates within its own set of rules and limitations. Death and loss are not uncommon events; cherished characters die, and stay dead, and their passing sends repercussions rippling out through the rest of the story’s cast. Abe Sapien, however, has not died, implying that there remains some broader purpose he has yet to fulfill.
“Fate plays a huge role, but characters retain choice,” explained Allie. “Hellboy was destined to be the Beast of the Apocalypse. He could never get far away from that destiny, but did he fulfill it, or was he able to defy it? As I hope is becoming more clear all the time, we are dealing with a story with repercussions spreading all throughout human history, and before.
“People are starting to think [Abe’s] slated for a larger purpose, but whether he is or not, and whether, like Hellboy, he can dodge it — that’s what his story will be about.”
SebastiÃ¡n Fiumara is providing the visual language of this fugitive-on-the-run story. In his scratchy shadows and expressive character renderings, Fiumara brings a sense of gritty realism to the aesthetic of “Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible.”
“[Fiumara] is phenomenal,” said Allie. “He’s so good. His work has incredible mood to it, and power, volume. His style of grit is a lot of what delivers that somber, mysterious mood, which is a lot of what Abe Sapien will be, as we go forward. We’re [also] working with his twin brother Max. I have found through very rewarding experience that if you have the opportunity to work with twin brothers from South America, you do it.
“The realism that SebastiÃ¡n brings is not the kind of realism that can sometimes be boring in comics,” Allie continued. “Everything feels real, but it feels emotional, it feels charged up. The changes that Abe is going through are made more real by Sebastian — it doesn’t look like yet another Mignola find whose bizarre style transforms the character. Sebastian’s level of realism helps make the changes in Abe very clear, while also highlighting his humanity. His imperfect humanity is an important part of the stories we’re going to be telling in this series.”
The world is crumbling around the B.P.R.D. Cities have been over-run by grotesque beasts, and the infrastructure of the world’s nations is failing. Despite the best efforts of the B.P.R.D. and their counterparts around the globe, the threats seem to keep escalating. Allie is forthcoming in his admission that the B.P.R.D. books are indeed facing a cataclysm, and that the end of the world, perhaps the end of the story, may not be too far off.
“Make no mistake, we are building to the end of the world,” said Allie. “I don’t know, maybe we’ll flinch, but the end is nigh. There’s not a day coming soon where the B.P.R.D. kills the last Lovecraft monster and wipes the sweat from their collective brow. Putting off the end for mankind and not seeing our heroes become the beasts of the apocalypse might be the best we can hope for. Abe had to return now, to offer us a very unique perspective on things — I mean that in a number of ways.”
“Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible” #1 hits stores April 3 from Dark Horse Comics