Lobster Johnson, the pulp adventure hero of Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy” and “B.P.R.D.” universe, swings into his second miniseries in January, courtesy of Dark Horse. Written by ongoing “B.P.R.D.” scribe John Arcudi with art by Tonci Zonjic of “Who is Jake Ellis?” fame, the five-issue miniseries is set early during the Lobster’s career and features features fantom tribes, hard-nosed gangsters and the hero’s own unforgiving brand of justice. “Lobster Johnston: The Burning Hand” brings supernatural adventure to the prohibition era.
Originally appearing in “Hellboy: Box Full of Evil,” Lobster Johnson — or, “the Lobster” — fought crime in New York City in the 1930s, branding evildoers with the symbol of a claw. The world at large believes he was a fictional character in adventure novels, but his life ties in closely with Hellboy’s and the Lobster’s ghost has appeared several times to the modern-day Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, most recently inhabiting the ectoplasmic form of Johann Krauss. Prior to “The Burning Hand,” he starred in the 2007 miniseries “Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus” and the novel “The Satan Factory” by Thomas E. Sniegoski. Comic Book Resources spoke with Arcudi about what the Lobster’s latest adventure has in store for readers.
Arcudi said he is looking forward to returning to Lobster Johnson and the character’s distinctive era. “It’s the 1930s in America! Art Deco, the Great Depression, the rise of the Nazis, zeppelins!” Arcudi told CBR News. “My God, what more inducement does a writer (or artist) need?”
The writer’s enthusiasm mirrors his readers’ — for having relatively few appearances, the Lobster has proven quite popular amongst fans. “Maybe something’s been missing from the zeitgeist since we lost all the pulp heroes,” Arcudi said, speaking of Lobster Johnson’s appeal. Â “This is no revamp, no updating of an old 1930s character. Â It’s everything people love about that stuff with none of the expectations associated with a revival. Â It’s its own thing, brand new, and yet still somehow nostalgic — hearkening back to an era of mysterious two-fisted heroism.”
The B.P.R.D. universe has given Arcudi a pretty big playground, including some flexibility with genre — while the core “B.P.R.D.” series is primarily supernatural horror and action, the recent “Witchfinder” series had a strong Western influence and “Lobster Johnson” is something of a pulp adventure while retaining a look and feel that unmistakably ties them into the broader tapestry. “It’s a mistake, I think, to pigeonhole genres. Â Or rather, to limit them,” Arcudi said. Â “‘Evil Dead’ is an excellent example. Â It’s a horror comedy that is equally hilarious and terrifying. Â But the real thing here is that Westerns and Noir stories are really, in and of themselves, kinds of fantasies. Â No Western story or movie can be anything like reality because here we are, over a hundred years later, recreating in our own image what things were like back then. Â And noir, even when it was contemporary, was always most successful as psychological drama that didn’t have much to do with observable reality. Â So adding mystical and fantastic elements to either one of those genres doesn’t seem like a stretch to me or, apparently, to readers — and thank God for that!”
Regarding the story of “The Burning Hand,” Arcudi opted to say “not a whole lot, if I can get away with it,” but divulged a few details when pressed.Â “We do introduce Lobster’s first nemesis, who will prove to be pretty important,” the writer said. “We also will be re-introducing one character longtime Hellboy Universe readers will recognize. Â Or more accurately, we’re sort of re-introducing that character for the first time. Â Trust me, it all will make sense after you read the book.”
The setting, though, is easier to pin down. “It’s about a week after the very first dead gangster with a claw brand on his head was found — in other words, it’s right at the beginning of his career,” Arcudi explained. The Lobster’s allies are, at this point, “still in training.”
For “Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand,” Arcudi is working with Tonci Zonjic, fresh off the acclaimed Image Comics series “Who Is Jake Ellis?” “Tonci has been amazing! Â His work is reminiscent of Alex Toth and Noel Sickles, and a little Robert Fawcett thrown in,” Arcudi said. Â “Who better for a 1930’s pulp story? Â Nobody! Â People are gonna freak when they see these pages. Â They are just gorgeous!”
“Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand” leaves its mark in January.