The world is falling to pieces: the air is filled with smoke, and beasts as tall as skyscrapers are emerging from the bowels of the Earth, laying waste to cities across the United States. At the front lines of the U.S. Government’s response team is the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, dispatching agents to attempt to contain the damage.
“B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #107: Wasteland” is the latest installment of the ongoing series from Dark Horse Comics, a three-part arc that begins May 15. Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi with artwork by Laurence Campbell, known for his work on “Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine” and “Punisher MAX.” Campbell’s rendering of the B.P.R.D. world is heavy in shadow and streaked with rain, a darker, grittier aesthetic than is common in the pages of “B.P.R.D.”
The story follows B.P.R.D. agent Johann Krauss on a reconnaissance mission to Chicago in search of the group of B.P.R.D. agents who went missing in the previous story arc, “The Abyss of Time.” Arriving in Chicago, Johann finds a city in ruin, overrun with the beasts known as the Ogdru Hem, and with the human populace transformed into grotesque monsters. Comic Book Resources spoke with artist Laurence Campbell about this latest chapter of the B.P.R.D. saga, his aesthetic choices and the thrill of bringing his own Ogdru Hem to life on the page.
“Johann has taken a group of B.P.R.D. agents on a mission to find a team who have gone missing,” Campbell told CBR News. “We follow the B.P.R.D. agents as things very quickly go off from the original plan — Johann is leading the team, but we get to know a little more about Gervesh and Nichols who are both in ‘The Long Death.’ Here we get to know them a little bit more and get an insight of what their view of the world is like.”
Campbell’s work on “B.P.R.D.” is, in some ways, a departure for the series. Campbell’s work is darker, employing heavy shadow and graphic contrast, tempered by intricate detail and realistic, expressive character renderings. In putting the world of B.P.R.D. on the page, Campbell aims to emphasize the downbeat tone and atmosphere of the script.
“With ‘B.P.R.D. Wasteland’ we really get to see how ‘Hell on Earth’ has affected parts of America on a ground level,” said Campbell. “The overall tone is pretty downbeat — you get to see from the perspective of one of the agents as the world he knew slips away from him — This story is of a darker tone, and this suits my style of art. John’s script is very atmospheric and cinematic. This is something I respond to and hopefully deliver. John’s great at writing the horror moments, but he’s also great at writing the quieter character moments — I love drawing both.”
The influence of film in Campbell’s work is apparent not only in the pacing of the story, but also in his use of lighting and framing: a strong use of panoramic shots and controlled use of depth of field that speaks to a love of cinema.
“Before starting any script I usually immerse myself in references to get in the mood,” Campbell said of his process. “I watched films like ‘The Road’ and ‘War of Worlds’ before I started drawing this time — this was the type of feel I felt the script reflected. The world has changed and there’s a feel of things being out of control; like the old rules and social structures don’t exist.”
“B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Wasteland” is Campbell’s first foray in the Mignola-verse, and he’s stepping into a world that has been imagined and defined over the years by a range of outstanding artists, not least of which is Mignola himself. This history elicited both excitement and trepidation for Campbell as he stepped into this world.
“‘B.P.R.D.’ has always had a high standard. It has great storytelling and I love how small things really develop over the long term,” Campbell said. “Guy [Davis’] initial run on ‘B.P.R.D.’ is fantastic and has set the bar high for every other artist who joins — Getting to work with Mike, John and [colorist] Dave Stewart is a dream for most artists. The standard of artists and work in the Mignola-verse is very high. Everybody seems to raise their game when working on the titles — nobody wants to drop the ball. Everybody involved really is pushing in the right direction and you feel there’s a master plan behind the story.”
Campbell found a great deal of support in working with Mignola and Arcudi, who allowed Campbell to take the time to immerse himself in their world, and who pushed him to break new ground in his work.
“John Arcudi certainly writes to artists’ strengths, which is great. The script was very clear in terms of emotions and setting. I had to design an Ogdru Hem, which was very exciting for me,” Campbell said of his collaboration. “Hell, I would have been happy drawing ones which had already been created, the vast size makes them great fun to draw. The first ideas I sent in were too safe: like a watered down version of what had already been before. I took a shot of sending in my ideas that I had rejected myself because I thought they wouldn’t fit in with the Mignola-verse. Mike liked one of them and we went from there. I wanted to design something which had a powerful and majestic presence — scary yet strange and beautiful.
“Sending artwork to be agreed on with Mike was initially quite daunting, as I am a huge fan of his work, but he’s been really great and very supportive,” added Campbell. “In fact the whole team have; I love the way everyone is pulling in the same direction.”
“B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #107: Wasteland” by Mignola, Arcudi, Campbell and Stewart is on sale May 15, 2013.