Earlier this month, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola revealed that director Neil Marshall had taken the reins of a cinematic reboot of the character with Stranger Things star David Harbour replacing Ron Perlman in the leading role. The new film would be rated R and mark a new launching point in tone for the franchise. But fresh beginnings only come after something else has unfortunately come to an end — and now thanks to Peter Briggs — who scripted the first Hellboy film alongside Guillermo del Toro — we have learned what one of these axed projects was: the highly coveted Abe Sapien spinoff.
“While I’ve got nothing to do with the reboot, I HAVE been working with Universal Pictures on another Hellboy spinoff project since 2010,” Briggs wrote in a post to Facebook. “Internally, Universal were keen to make a Hellboy spinoff based around the character of Prince Nuada from Hellboy 2…and asked if I was interested in writing it. I said I was, although there was the slight problem of Prince Nuada being…ah…um…slightly ‘dead’ at the end of Hellboy 2.”
“I started working on an outline with my Los Angeles-based Panzer 88 co-writer Aaron Mason while still in New Zealand,” the writer continued. “It was called Hellboy: Silverlance, and we solved the ‘Nuada Problem.’ Although we never really discussed it as such it really was a B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) movie. The aquatic Abe Sapien was the main character, and Hellboy still featured fairly prominently in it. I suppose you could liken it to a Suicide Squad situation: Batman was in there, but the story wasn’t really about him.”
“Universal really wanted to proceed with it, but after further discussions at the studio it was apparent a Hellboy 3 was still on the cards for the studio and more of a priority, so Silverlance got back-burnered. I figured that was the end of that,” Briggs remarked. “Five years later, 2015, I was in Sweden when I got another call from Universal. It was looking like Hellboy 3 wasn’t now going to happen, so would Aaron and myself now be interested in further developing a reworked version of Silverlance?” To which Briggs exclaimed, “Hell yes!”
The writers were given one caveat, however. Hellboy could not be shown in the movie. “We reworked and expanded the project out…Abe is troubled still by his psychic connection with Princess Nuala from Hellboy 2, so researches the history of Nuala and Nuada,” Briggs added. “We would have seen Nuada’s connection to a rival fairy courtier who seeks control of the fairy kingdom (and Nuala’s hand in marriage), and engineers the machinations that cause Prince Nuada’s expulsion…Doug Jones would have been playing twin characters of both Abe and a reprise of the Angel Of Death, with whom Prince Nuada strikes a bargain. Agent Myers from the first Hellboy film would have returned. The story reached a rousing action climax at the B.P.R.D. Colorado headquarters and used Rasputin’s summoning gauntlet from the first movie (and we did manage to sneak Hellboy in for a cameo in one scene!) If it had been successful, it would have been the first in a series of From The Files Of The B.P.R.D. projects.”
Briggs went on to add that after the script had been turned in, Universal and Dark Horse comics decided to go a different direction with the property. “…We were asked politely to put a pin in the Silverlance project as they were keen to reboot a movie version of Hellboy with an all-new team,” Briggs explained. “Universal were very happy with our reworked Silverlance and wanted to proceed with it, but now it was made clear we couldn’t use any of the characters created for Hellboy 2.”
Briggs later relayed that his time with Abe Sapien and the other members of the B.P.R.D. had seemingly reached its conclusion, and what he thought about the franchise going forward, “With the announcement of the Neil Marshall Hellboy reboot project…I think it’s safe to say Silverlance is now officially dead. As a fan of Hellboy for 25 years, I’m curious to see how the new Millennium project turns out.”
The reboot, currently titled Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, has yet to receive a release date.