With the recent release of “B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: New World” #5, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense have already raised their champagne glasses, made their resolutions and watched the ball drop in Times Square – off panel, of course – to close out 2010. But with monsters and natural disasters still wreaking havoc across the globe and the Bureau now the primary international agency dealing with such trouble, the new year offers little rest. The first two arcs of the ongoing “B.P.R.D.” series of miniseries, “Gods” and “Monsters,” will introduce new characters and cataclysmic threats, while Edward Grey rides again in the American West. Between the 19th century “Witchfinder” and the 21st, another miniseries will explore the past of haunted pyrokinetic agent Liz Sherman. “Hellboy” and “B.P.R.D.” creator Mike Mignola spoke with CBR News about what’s coming up for the team in the new year in this penultimate edition of HELL(BOY) ON EARTH (Part one here, part two here and part three here).
As John Arcudi told CBR in a previous interview, the next B.P.R.D. series, “Gods,” will feature the introduction of a new character called Fenix, who seems to be able to predict the future. Asked about his own role in this new agent’s creation, Mignola said, “It’s interesting the way these things happen. When John came in on B.P.R.D., I got this idea of bringing in a new guy who was maybe dead for a couple days, he’s some kind of military guy, and gave it to John and John turned it into a character [Ben Daimio]. Same here.
“A while back, we were discussing B.P.R.D. and the fact that all these characters were becoming increasingly screwed up. I thought maybe – not that we’re killing anybody off – but maybe we could use another person. And that’s about as much as I suggested,” Mignola continued. “I’m sure John went away from that conversation and thought about it, because I wasn’t shoehorning somebody in on him, I can just plant a seed – maybe it’s going to grow, maybe it’s not going to grow. But I planted that seed, and this new character grew out of that.”
While it’s premature at this time, with the final issue of “New World” only just arriving and “Gods” set to begin, to discuss the ongoing “B.P.R.D.” series beyond “Gods” and the follow-up mini “Monsters,” Mignola was happy to talk about the new deluxe hardcover presentation of the classic “B.P.R.D.” material, which begins in February with “Plague of Frogs” volume 1. The new edition collects “Hollow Earth,” “The Soul of Venice” and “Plague of Frogs” under one cover, though the format of that cover was up in the air for some time. “The decision to do it as a hardback came from every convention I’ve been to since we started doing those ‘Hellboy’ hardbacks,” Mignola said, referring to the “Hellboy Library Editions.” “There’s always somebody in the audience saying, ‘Are you going to do those with B.P.R.D.?’ We haven’t because ‘B.P.R.D.’ doesn’t sell like ‘Hellboy,’ we couldn’t justify doing the big, oversized hardbacks. But we had already been discussing doing something like the Dark Horse Omnibus thing. With there being so many B.P.R.D. books out there, if you’re a new reader and you see 14 trade paperbacks, it’s pretty daunting. But if you can repackage these things so ‘Plague of Frogs’ won’t be 14 trade paperbacks, it’ll be 4, ok, it’s a good deal for the people, it’s not as intimidating. It seemed like a good time to do that.
“The plan was already in effect to do them as paperbacks, but so many fans were asking about them as hardbacks, well, while we’re at it why don’t we do them as hardbacks?”
Outside of the main “B.P.R.D.” title, Liz Sherman will get her time in the spotlight in “B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered,” a three-issue miniseries by Dark Horse editor Scott Allie and Karl Moline beginning in April. “Scott has been supervising this Hellboy stuff for more years than he’d like to think about, and I’ve said to him a few times over the years, ‘You really should write one of these.’ Because he knows the supernatural stuff I know. Most guys I work with, they may know the films but they don’t read the same stuff Scott and I do. In many ways, Scott and I are on the same page,” Mignola said. “And Scott’s from New England. I said, if you want to do something that’s got that authentic feel of your neck of the woods – Scott did this really nice series for Dark Horse called ‘The Devil’s Footprint,’ a really nice kind of small-feeling New England supernatural series – so if you want to do something like that, it would be great.”
With this tone and location in mind, it was decided that Liz Sherman would be an interesting character upon whom to focus. “We’ve seen very little of Liz’s past, so is there a particular period of her history that we haven’t looked at that would be significant,” Mignola said, adding that the series would explore her relationship with Professor Bruttenholm (pronounced “Broom”). The series takes place at an early period in Liz’s career – or, rather, before her career with the Bureau begins. “She’s still a teenager, a young teenager, she is not an agent, she is years away from being an agent, but it’s that transition from just being a ward of the B.P.R.D. to something more,” Mignola said. “It’s nice when you see these characters that you’ve had around for a long time and see that there’s large parts of their story, that there’s large parts of their past, that we haven’t dealt with at all.
“This whole Hellboy world has expanded, not because we’re trying for market share, but because, you know, there’s this big gaping hole. We don’t need to fill it, but if a story comes up and it adds to this overall sense of the characters and this world, and we’ve got the right artist and we’ve got the right writer, then yeah, let’s fill these holes.”
As he mentioned, Mignola has worked with Allie on “Hellboy” and “B.P.R.D.” for a number of years, but having Allie, the series editor, pen a story changes the nature of their roles. “It’s a weird one when the editor is the writer, because then I become a little bit like the editor, but I still can’t tell the editor what to do because he’s the editor, even though he’s the writer on it,” Mignola said. “It’s a great story, and it’s also kind of nice reward for Scott putting in all these years putting up with me, that he gets to put his stamp on this thing. Because everybody that we work with on the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. stuff, including Scott, we want everybody to feel like they’re part of something. If a guy comes in and does one story, yeah, no big deal; but if a guy’s around day in, day out, for years on this stuff, we want them to feel like they’re making a contribution. Which means that [colorist] Dave Stewart really needs to write a Hellboy or B.P.R.D. story! Because he’s been saving our asses for a lot of years!” However, while Mignola has mentioned the possibility to Stewart in the past, at present there are no plans for the colorist to write an issue. “The guy is the busiest guy on Earth, so I’m sure he hasn’t given it much thought, and it’s been a few years since I mentioned it,” Mignola told CBR. “But who knows. Maybe if he ever slows down a little bit – I’d love to have Dave do something.”
Rounding out the slate of “B.P.R.D.” projects is the second Edward Grey miniseries, written by John Arcudi with art by Western comics legend John Severin. Mignola told CBR he was largely hands-off with this series after the initial discussion “I’m so excited about this book. The work that John Severin is doing on it is unbelievable. It’s so beautiful. John had done a one-issue B.P.R.D. story, which was really cool. Like Corben, having John Severin as part of this thing was something I never imagined,” Mignola said, further explaining that Arcudi had wanted to work with Severin, bringing the artist on to illustrate “War of Frogs” #2 (part of what was essentially a miniseries of one-shots). Afterward, Arcudi wanted to do a Western with Severin but was afraid there wouldn’t be a place in the market for such a title. “I said – this is actually before I did the first ‘Witchfinder’ book – is there a way that we can do a Western and tie it into the whole Hellboy world? It was kind of an awkward spot. We didn’t have any character existing that would work in the Old West, except for, hey, I’ve got this Victorian occult detective. I’ve been wanting to do stories with Edward Grey. What if, because he’s there in 1860, 1870, 1880, will that timeframe work for you? Well, yeah. Great, take my occult Victorian detective, put him in the Old West, and do whatever the hell you want. Make sure it’s supernatural, make sure Ed Grey does some things, but you go and write a Western for John Severin.
“That actually spurred me into doing the first ‘Witchfinder’ book, because, well, ok, he’s an English occult detective. It’ll be weird if the first big story about this guy is set in the American West,” Mignola said. “So I had to jump in and do with Ben Stenback that first ‘Witchfinder’ book so we would establish this guy’s regular world so that the second book would be a fish out of water story.”
Though Mignola had spoken of an Edward Grey trilogy when the first “Witchfinder” series debuted, the third installment is shelved for the present. “We don’t have an artist right now who I’m looking at as the right artist to do it. John Severin is going to be doing something else for us, hopefully, Ben Stenbeck is on the ‘Baltimore’ stuff and frankly, the biggest problem is, I’ve got so many other things I want to do,” Mignola said. “‘Witchfinder’ is kind of a casualty of me wanting to go back and draw comics. As much as I love that character and his world, and I could come up with more stories about that guy, and I’ve got one or two more stories floating around in the back of my head, I just can’t take the time to do those if I want to go back and become almost full-time writer/artist on ‘Hellboy.'”
Next, HELL(BOY) ON EARTH concludes with the main event – a look at plans for Hellboy himself in the new year!