Dark Horse Editor Scott Allie has watched Hellboy grow from a quirky character in a single miniseries to a cult favorite and fan sensation to a multi media giant with movies, animated features, novels and toys.
He’s also helped guide the Hellboy universe as it expanded beyond the big red monkey into a wide variety of side projects, from “BPRD” to the upcoming “Lobster Johnson” mini-series.
In addition to shepherding the various Hellboy projects along, Allie has also worked on the Buffy and Conan lines at Dark Horse, as well as working on his own projects such as the horror series “The Devil’s Footprints.”
We had a chance to sit down and talk with Allie about his job, the demands of working on such high profile books and what’s in the future for the Hellboy universe.
Scott Allie: When I was in college, me and some friends wanted to make a campus magazine. So we had to teach ourselves how to make that, with the help of a drunk poet divorcee, who was sleeping in his car with a baseball bat to protect himself from his wife’s brothers. We figured it out, and I took to it real well, and so I realized I wanted to do that.
After college, my first job was houseboy for a literary magazine called “Glimmer Train Stories.” I started out just doing data entry, setting up their subscription business, but then they gave me more actual editorial work. And they paid me real well – they were my aunties, my foster family after I’d moved across country alone. So I saved money and started publishing my own comics.
I was living in Portland and the folks at Dark Horse noticed me. I remember introducing myself to Richardson, handing him my first issue. That was a long time ago. Anyway, I’d left “Glimmer Train” to focus on the self-publishing, but I ran out of money and then Dark Horse offered me the job. I’d managed to put five issues of a book with no budget out on a monthly basis, so that was enough to get me an entry level job editing for Dark Horse and one of my first gigs was “Hellboy” and that has made all the difference.
CBR: Hellboy has grown into a huge part of Dark Horse’s publishing plans. What’s it like editing the books?
SA: It’s great. It’s an education working with Mike. And it’s intense, increasingly so, as the book has become more and more important to the company. There was a time when everyone left us alone, no one had expectations of when another Hellboy book would show up or what it would be about.
Pressure has increased over the years, as Hellboy increasingly came to represent the best of what Dark Horse has always been. I edit a lot of books, but Hellboy’s always been the one I love best. I don’t even feel bad saying that. I love my other books, but everyone knows – especially other cartoonists – that Hellboy is a unique thing in this industry and that I’m lucky to have been a part of it for so long.
CBR: What’s you’re role in the planning of the Hellboy world? Do you work in kind of a showrunner capacity?
SA: Hellboy’s a publishing project, so publishing terms work just fine. Editor. Mike and I talk everything over; I’m almost always the first to see anything he does, outside of his wife. We talk over the stories, go back and forth a lot. He’s grown to trust me more and more over the years, and so we bat a lot of things around.
The way I landed the job back in 1994 was that I asked him to redraw a little something, and that was what he wanted – someone looking at his stuff with a critical eye. It paid off back then and it’s been how I do the job ever since.
But the objective is always only to get his ideas out there, in the purest, best way we can. I don’t want to inject my ideas into Hellboy. I want to create a place where Mike can best execute his own ideas. But he likes a partner in that and so I step up in whatever way is required.
CBR: Related to that, does working on big name projects like “Buffy” and “Hellboy” throw extra pressures and demands on you compared to the other projects you work on?
SA: Oh, yeah, of course. The difference between “Buffy” and “Hellboy” and “Conan” on the one hand, and “Devil’s Footprints” on the other, is all in the pressure and demands. You have to work further out, you carve your plans in stone early enough that other people can plan around them.
There are a million ways in which that sort of high profile thing makes the job different. The ways in which it’s the same is the fun things – the creative stuff. But the other things, the marketing, the budgeting, the scheduling, those are essential. I like having a heavy load of high-profile books. I like to think I’m doing something that matters, on the one hand, so that I can have the freedom to do something self-indulgent, something that allows me to really explore, on the other hand.
Mostly my books these days are high pressure. Hellboy, all the books we have coming up this year and next, those are a massive juggling act. But I want to get back into some of the simple things.
SA: I also write. I love that phrase. I have all these boxes in my office, most of them labeled “Hellboy” or “Conan.” Then I have one literally labeled “I Also Write,” and it’s full of Devil’s Footprints, my small press stuff, the issue of “The Goon” I worked on.
But no, I walk a line, and even the Abe story in “Odder Jobs” was something I wasn’t comfortable doing. I turned it down at first, thinking it would look bad for me to write a Hellboy thing, but then I realized that in turning it down I was being a prima donna of another sort, so I decided to do it.
CBR: Let’s talk the various Hellboy related projects. I know I have a huge man crush on Loster Johnson, so we’ll hit that first. What can we expect from the miniseries, who’s doing it, and when will we see it?
SA: Mike’s writing it with an artist named Jason Armstrong. Mike’s doing covers, Jason’s doing interiors.
It’s called “Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus” and it’s something Mike’s been kicking around for years, literally, that he once thought he’d draw, then went through a bunch of other ideas before settling on Jason.
At one point, we were gonna have Jason draw a different book, but I thought that the level of energy in his stuff would suit the madness of a Lobster Johnson story – “Lobster Johnson” is as close to “Screw-On Head” as anything Mike’s done since then and Jason’s got the energy and power to pull that off, sustain it for five issues.
CBR: And then there’s “BPRD 1946” which I’m going to take a guess is set just when Hellboy was still a wee-un? What can you tell us about that?
SA: Yeah, so Mignola and Josh Dysart are writing this and Paul Azaceta is drawing it. Paul was our choice for Lobster Johnson at one point, but I felt he was a better choice here, and Armstrong better on The Lobster. Hellboy’s barely in this – he’s effectively not in it. He’s basically an infant at this point, and Broom is sent back to Europe to look into the remains of the Nazi Occult Bureau’s experiments, see what they were up to.
In Berlin in 1946, you had the beginnings of the Cold War – two years ago we were allies with the Russians, and now we were uncomfortably occupying – in the military sense of the word – the same space. And the Russians, of course, had their own occult specialists on the scene.
CBR: And Abe Sapien is getting his shot at a solo book. Will it reveal anymore about Abe’s origins?
SA: No. This is set way in the past, back in 1981, so back then, Abe didn’t have the faintest idea about his origins. He wouldn’t learn a damn thing about it until 2002 or so. This is his first mission without Hellboy – up until then, he’d been Hellboy’s sidekick. Then Hellboy got a girlfriend, and traveled the world with her for a while, leaving Abe in a tank at the Bureau. Finally Broom and the boys decided they had something he could handle, since it was a fairly simple gig – but it goes bad, and Abe gets really tested as an agent. So this story doesn’t actually push Abe’s story forward, in the way the B.P.R.D. has lately, but what Mike’s doing with it, as the writer, is to weave a really intricate visual adventure together.
Jason Shawn Alexander is the artist on the book, with Mignola covers. Mike’s giving him the best stuff he’s ever had to draw. Every time he turns in pages, Jason talks about how much fun his job is, how much it’s making him feel like a kid again, discovering comics for the first time.
Mike strings pictures together like Hitchcock, even if he’s not drawing them. He weaves them into a story in ways no one else does, and with Abe he’s taking chances and doing some wild things with imagery. It’s a fun potboiler of a story, a fast-moving action mystery, if you will, but it’s also like an art film.
SA: Yeah, I guess some of the fairies are evil, but mostly it’s other people that are evil in this one. We’ll get to evil fairies again later on, but this one starts with English folklore, but runs off into Russian folklore pretty quickly. You can guess that the Baba Yaga will have a role, but Mike uncovered some other real nice stuff, things I hadn’t heard of before. He has a great knack for looking at the characters of folklore as monsters, and approaching the stories that way.
CBR: Are there any plans for more Hellboy animated movies?
SA: I think so. I think a third one got greenlit. But I’m not sure. I know Mike had an idea for a third one, but I don’t know if he has ideas past that. He can come up with no end of this stuff, though.
CBR: And what else does Dark Horse have on the plate your average Hellboy should pick up?
SA: Well, it’s February now – in March we got “B.P.R.D.: The Garden of Souls” launching, by Mignola, Arcudi and Davis. That one goes into Abe’s origins. That one answers some questions about his past, really digs into it deeply, while the story takes place almost entirely in the present. This is a variation on a storyline Mike and I were talking about clear back in 1998, but it’s evolved a lot and Arcudi has brought a lot to it. It would have been a Hellboy & Abe story back then, but it’s better this way. It’s very heavily focused on Abe. Few of the other agents have anything to do in this one.
And then in August we have another “B.P.R.D.” series coming from the same time – we roll right from the last issue of “Garden of Souls” into “Killing Ground,” which I think makes volume eight of B.P.R.D., and the sixth one drawn by Guy. Killing Ground brings the group back to their headquarters – brings the fight to their headquarters. These monster hunters become the hunted, on their own turf, and so their home becomes the Killing Ground.
So we’ve been talking a lot about all these other Hellboy spinoffs, but Mignola, Arcudi, and Davis are the heroes, cranking out ten issues of “B.P.R.D.” this calendar year. No small achievement.
CBR: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, especially during a big con week, Scott.