SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains MAJOR spoilers for “Hellboy: The Fury” #3, on sale August 10. Be warned!
For a while now, Mike Mignola has been promising that he’d return to write and draw the next phase of Hellboy’s life in a new series from Dark Horse Comics once the current run with Duncan Fegredo wraps. But as it turns out, that’s not exactly true… because Hellboy is about to die. Forever.
Revealing a key piece to the ending of the current “Hellboy: The Fury” miniseries whose third and final issue hits on August 10, Mignola exclusively shared with CBR News that the comic will show his signature character’s demise. “I killed Hellboy once before, but he came back pretty quick,” the writer/artist explained. “I knew he was dead, and I was waiting for people to go, ‘Oh shit! Hellboy’s dead!’ But nobody seemed to notice. So this time we’re doing Hellboy’s death where you’ll go, ‘No. He’s dead, and he’s not coming back in 12 minutes.’ There was a little bit of work that had to go into that because this really is the end of him as that physical character that appeared in the very first issue. It’s a weird thing to do, but it’s fun.”
Below, Mignola tells CBR first about how he came to the decision to kill the big red guy on the heels of plucking out his eyeball and making him the heir to King Arthur’s Britain as well as revealing how future stories will crossover the current “Hellboy” fairy world with the lives of the B.P.R.D., what solo adventures lie ahead for Abe Sapien and how the drunken months Hellboy spent in Mexico remain a source of inspiration for him and Richard Corben.
CBR News: Mike, the last time you and I spoke about Hellboy, it was right when the current “The Fury” series was being announced, and back then you said – and I quote – “The Fury is going to be crazy!” I guess now we know what you were talking about. [Laughter] I’ve never heard you speak on this, but do you look back on a story when it’s done and try to get a sense of how you felt it worked out?
Mike Mignola: I’ve got to say, I’m so thrilled with what Duncan’s been doing. I’m really happy. The thing I’ve been saying a lot lately is that the thing I’m happiest about is how the overall picture of these books are working together, and how they’re building on each other. But as far as the actual “Hellboy” stuff goes, this storyline – which about half of it I knew before I started while half took on a life of its own and went in different directions – I’m very happy with how it turned out. Especially when you’re doing something big that gets bigger and bigger, the thing I’ve run into in the past is, “Am I able to make the ending big enough for the story?” I did a story years ago – the second Hellboy miniseries – and the middle of the story got much bigger than I expected, and so the ending I originally had planned didn’t work. It was too small. So I had to make up a bigger ending. Sometimes it’s about juggling these things so they flow right and don’t peak too early. That can be tricky, but this one I’m pretty happy with, which is good because it’s a fairly important one.
There’s plenty to discover in the final issue of “The Fury,” but one thing we do know to expect from #3 is that Hellboy is going to die. What does that mean for the book? We’re constantly meeting characters who have been dead for hundreds or even thousands of years in this series, but does the death of HB’s corporeal form make for a significant change in how the rest of this series functions?
I don’t want to talk too much about it because I’m not quite ready to talk about the book that I’m drawing right now, but the one thing I’ve been saying for years – and for a while I’ve been saying it knowing that I was talking about Hellboy – is when referencing the death of Roger the Homunculus and other characters, I always say that when characters die in the Hellboy universe, they just become more interesting. So Hellboy now is a lot more interesting. I just felt he’d run his course as the guy who everybody knows. Hellboy has been in the world walking around – as I’ve realized in doing these stories with Richard set in the past – for over 50 years doing all these things.
This really all started in “The Conqueror Worm” when I had him quit the B.P.R.D. because we had been building up hints about this guy forever, and I thought we couldn’t just keep hinting. So what if I removed him from his day job? And as soon as he went underwater and the mermaids abducted him, I thought, “Oh shit! Have I gone too far? Am I veering off into this fantasy direction too much, too fast?” But then I realized that if we’re going there, then let’s go there. I didn’t want to backpedal and say, “Once you’ve been abducted by mermaids and have been gone a few years, we can just give you your day job back.” It didn’t feel like I could do that. The snowball rolling downhill was picking up speed, and it got bigger and bigger. Sooner or later, that snowball is going to hit a tree and bust wide open. Hence, if we’re going to go, let’s go. The King Arthur thing… why not? Plucking out his eye… why not? If we’re going that way, then here’s all the things that had to happen.
And it’s strange when these things happen! Like plucking out his eye. I had been thinking about doing that for years and knew sooner or later that I’d do it. Then I just went, “Guess what? That’s today.” Once you know you’re going, it gets kind of exciting because all the things you’ve been keeping in your back pocket… well, it’s time to pull them all out. In a way, the story has dictated the pace at which this stuff started happening. And I never want to go backwards. I never want to say, “Superman’s not dead anymore” and go back to the way things used to be. I can always tell stories that take place in the past. But as far as the ongoing storylines, my feeling is that we’ve done Hellboy as a B.P.R.D. agent or as this and that. But we haven’t done him dead.
When you initially took Hellboy out of the B.P.R.D., there was a gap in publishing there. You did “Makoma” and brought on Richard Corben, but it took a minute for the main arc of Hellboy’s life to ramp back up. When did it all come together for you to thread Arthurian legend and Norse myth and all the pieces on the table into one cohesive story?
I think I had a lot of that stuff that I wanted to do for a while, and actually, this King Arthur stuff I’d been playing with in my head for a long time. But that period you’re talking about after “The Island” came because I was having so much trouble drawing that stuff myself that I was wrestling with the fact that I’d lost so much confidence in my own abilities. I was wondering whether I’d be able to tackle this big, giant story. And when I’d wrapped my brain around finding somebody else to do this stuff – and as soon as Duncan said yes – it was clear that I could then do this big storyline.
Actually, it’s funny because when I think back now we originally had Lee Bermejo who was going to do it. I guess that I was desperate enough to do this big story that I was willing to do it with a guy who I wasn’t very familiar with. So Lee was going to do the big story, and thank God that he… not that he wasn’t going to do a good job, but thank God that it didn’t work out because I don’t know if anyone else could have pulled the thing off as well as Duncan did. So part of the gap we’re talking about is that Duncan is pretty slow. So there’s a big gap because I was still playing with what I was going to do, and then once he was on board it still took some time. It wasn’t like during that whole chunk of time, we didn’t know what we were doing. It’s just that once we’d found out what we were doing, it took a long time to get to print.
Like you’ve said, the various series in this world play off each other, but at the same time, they do occupy their own corners. “B.P.R.D.” remains in the modern world very much as it plays with various Cthulu-like monsters and what have you, and “Hellboy” is very much involved with folklore. Part of this is doubtlessly influenced by what you’re interested in drawing or what John Arcudi is interested in writing, but do you think that overall division has helped the stories in some significant way?
I think so. I think between the two books, you get a broader range about what this stuff is all about. And yeah, John definitely has his leanings as far as the things he wants to write about, and I have my leanings. And even though we see eye-to-eye on stuff, there’s very little crossover between what John wants to do and what I want to do, which is great. That’s why it’s good that there are two books.
What’s actually really interesting is that in the last issue of “The Storm,” you get to see Hellboy start to see what’s been happening in “B.P.R.D.,” and I know that the next issue of “B.P.R.D.” you see reference to what’s going on in England. So while the books have been running parallel to each other, they’re starting to look into each other. They’re on such different paths, though they still do tell one big story. Everything is building towards certain climaxes. So while things heat up in “Hellboy,” things are also heating up in “B.P.R.D.” and things will bleed over from “Hellboy” to “B.P.R.D.” and kind of vice versa. It’s good, rather than being redundant and having two books that are talking about the same thing – which I have no idea what Marvel and DC do when they put out a billion different comics with the same character. We’ve got our own separate but connected thing going here. It’s the same world.
As you’ve built up Hellboy’s personal myth by making him the rightful King of Britain, the one question I kept asking myself was what villain could serve as a counterpoint to him physically and mythologically. And then I got my answer when you gave the Ogdru Jahad an actual, physical form for this story. Altogether, how does “The Fury” represent the end of the conflict you’ve been playing with from day one of “Hellboy”?
It’s funny. The Ogdru Jahad thing, which to me has always been behind all this stuff, is something that I kind of forget has been a long time since we’ve seen that thing on the page. Since I know how everything is connected, I don’t always realize that I’m not showing all those connections all the time. Again, the end of this series has gone through a lot of changes over time. I can’t even remember all of the different ways I was going to end “The Fury,” but I do know that it was fairly recently – like in the last six months when I was writing the end of “The Storm” – that I realized how I had this Nimue character praying to this dragon thing where I decided, “Okay, I can bring back the Ogdru Jahad.”
It seems like it was very recently where I realized that it would be great to come back to where we started. Especially since we started playing with the whole King Arthur thing, it feels like we’ve been going off in a completely different direction. In its own way, it seemed like a great idea after we introduced this Olde English, King Arthur stuff to come back around to some silly shit that I made up at the beginning. One of the things I never want to do is explain away how all the old mythology stuff ties to the Lovecraftian stuff. I don’t ever want to take the mystery out of the old myths by saying, “It was actually a space man!” or whatever. But I thought that this was a way to link these things together so you could go, “Oh, it actually is all one big story – one big mythology.” And it’s such a big mythology, you’ll never really see how everything works. I’ll never explain some of the big mysteries, but you will see these connections. As I was coming to the end of “The Fury,” it became really important, I realized, to end up in some way where we started.
Although, I re-read “The Wild Hunt” getting ready to talk to you, and it’s surprising how much you seem to spell things out very explicitly in terms of what we’re now seeing with “The Fury’s” finale. Is it hard to keep things shifting and surprising while you’re playing with the idea of prophecy so much?
Yeah. But part of this is that I’ve always been very vague. You’re right that when you look back, everything is in there, but even as I’m writing these things, I’m not quite sure what they mean. So I don’t necessarily work from complete knowledge of how things are going to end up. I know where things are going, and so I hint at those things, but the specifics firm up as I go along. So many of these prophecy things have just been things that have kind of come off the top of my head, starting from the second “Hellboy” mini series with the Beast of the Apocalypse stuff. I didn’t know I was going to do that. [Laughter] So part of this game has been leaving enough wiggle room in these prophecies so I don’t write myself too much into a corner too early.
But yeah. I think if you read Duncan’s whole run, you do see even back in the first book “Darkness Calls” that it seems to be about the Baba Yaga and the Russian stuff, but with the stuff that happens with the witches and especially the little pig guy, it really is clearly the beginning of this big storyline. With the new “Hellboy” stuff, the thing I’m happiest with is that I was able to do this giant, big storyline and not veer off into too many odd tangents. The whole thing does hold together pretty well. And it gives the illusion that I knew what I was doing. [Laughter] That’s one of my main goals.
From the very beginning when I started playing with this idea of whether Hellboy would work, I knew at some point I wanted to veer it in a particular direction. Part of that is me as an artist saying, “I don’t want to draw Japan or any of those places anymore.” I wanted to free myself up as an artist. So as part of this plan, knowing that I would come back and be the artist on the book, I needed to come back to a different character. I wanted to come back to this character as a slightly different character and artwise approach it differently. So there’s a whole lot of stories left to do with this character, but since he was drifting so close to this fantasy world thing, I just said, “Let’s cut the ties and cut him loose entirely.”
Though in the meantime, we know that the stories in the past will continue on with the next being this Corben-drawn “House of The Living Dead” book. Is that just a testament to the strength of that collaboration and the fun you’ve had writing for him?
Yeah. So many of these things tend to take on a life of their own. And one of those is this idea of Hellboy in Mexico. I had so much fun doing this one-off, silly story with Hellboy fighting Mexican wrestlers with Richard, and what I established there was that there was five or six months there where Hellboy was drunk. He says at the end of “Hellboy in Mexico” that he doesn’t remember what happened after this one particular story. So I figured there was at least three months there where he either doesn’t remember or he doesn’t want to remember – he won’t admit to remembering what happened in those three months. And that’s a really fun place to set stories because then you can do some really crazy shit, and either it’s warped by his perspective of things or whatever. There’s just something really fun about doing stories Hellboy has blacked out for some reason. So I did one little short story that’s going to come out in “Dark Horse Presents” and then there’s Richard’s graphic novel. And there’s at least one other graphic novel that’s plotted to take place in this great “lost weekend” drunken adventure in Mexico.
We ran a panel report from San Diego where your editor Scott Allie declared 2012 The Year of Hellboy, and then you corrected him to say it’s The Year of The B.P.R.D. and Lobster Johnson. You’ve always got a few series running parallel to the main books, but have those ideas been ramping up in a significant way of late?
I can say this because we mentioned it on the panel, but another thing that’s happening is that in Guy [Davis’] last issue of “B.P.R.D.,” we saw Abe Sapien get shot to pieces, and as a result of his injuries, things are going to happen with that character. And I sheepishly asked John Arcudi whether it was okay to remove him – not right away but eventually – but to start sliding him out of the regular “B.P.R.D.” book and let him have his own story for a while. Part of this is just that logistically, so much is going on in this world that having just one book makes it really difficult to show a wide range of what’s happening in the world. So to have Abe go off and see a part of the world that the regular B.P.R.D. doesn’t see, we get a little more range from that as far as the global disasters building. Scott Allie and I have written or are writing a few one-shots or two-issue mini series here and there that will be B.P.R.D. stories running parallel with the regular book to again show what’s happening here or there. So there’s a lot going on, and it is very much The Year of B.P.R.D., and my “Hellboy” book will be coming before too long.
I guess as a final question, have you started working on whatever it is that’s next after “The Fury”?
Yes! I’ve drawn four pages, and I’m going to draw the fifth page today. I should be much further along, but just juggling this much writing and these covers… I’ve been chomping at the bit to get back to this thing for so long, but I’ve got a gazillion covers to do. But as you’ll see, there’s more and more cover artists involved these days, and more and more of the writing I’m not doing. My goal is to keep my hand on everything but slide back into being an almost full time writer/artist of my own book. It’s tricky. This whole thing has gotten kind of huge, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
“Hellboy: The Fury” #3 ships on August 10 from Dark Horse Comics.