Mike Mignola was flying solo in his very own spotlight panel Saturday at the New York Comic-Con. Right away he opened the floor to audience questions, and the first question was about the extremely successful Hellboy feature film which has a forthcoming sequel. Asked about the humor in the movie, Mignola explained, “Guillermo [Del Toro, the director] is a funny guy, so he just naturally latched on to the humor from the comics. The second film is actually funnier, but at the same time darker.”
Regarding their working relationship, Mignola said, “Guillermo and I are both interested in the weird. Stories about regular people just don’t hold my interest.” He explained that they instantly hit it off when they first met, and both had the exact same idea for who should play Hellboy: Ron Perlman. Dark Horse Publisher Mike Richardson introduced the two, and as Mignola tells it, “Mike was really nervous that we wouldn’t get along. So when Guillermo and I were hanging out, he convinced me to prank call Mike. I called him up and said ‘Mike, how could you stick me with this guy? We just had a big fight and he got on his plane and left.’ Guillermo got a big kick out of that.”
The popular Hellboy supporting character Lobster Johnson was the subject of a number of queries, beginning with a fan who wanted to know if rumors about Bruce Campbell as the casting choice were true. Mignola confirmed that that is Del Toro’s desire, but said, “The question is where to put him? We keep saying we’re going to put him in ‘the next film’, so now we’re saying Hellboy 3, but we never seem to find the room.” Asked where he came up with the name, Mignola related, “I was in Italy, and I just woke up one morning and said to my wife, ‘I’ve got the greatest name for a character ever! Lobster Johnson!’ And she knows me, so she just said ‘Okay.’ So I had the name long before I had the character, and I just kept looking for a place to use it.”
The next questioner referred to Mignola’s “healthy fascination” with mythology and folklore. “If you want to call it healthy, okay,” Mignola joked. “I read Dracula when I was 13 years old, and that was it, there was no going back. So I’ve always been into that sort of dark, Victorian sort of folklore. And growing up, my favorite comic was Marvel’s Thor. I’ve always liked how in mythology and folklore, so little makes sense. That appeals to me.” He cited the Russian folklore as a particular favorite, which he incorporated into in the “Hellboy: Darkness Calls” miniseries.
Mignola went on to detail his experiences breaking into comics, saying “I though I’d sneak in as an inker, and eventually they’d feel sorry for me and start giving me penciling jobs. You know, like “Here’s a Conan story, go draw a bunch of giant monsters hitting each other.” Chuckling, Mignola said, “I was a horrible inker. So my inking career eventually crapped out, and an editor said to me ‘Why don’t you try penciling?” Asked how his current style developed, Mignola said tongue-in-cheek, “I just kept trying to be less horrible. That, and I started using a lot of blacks to make up for horrible coloring jobs. I figured, if I put black there, they can’t put in pink and yellow.”
Mignola’s novel, “Baltimore,” co-written with Christopher Golden, was asked about. Mignola explained that he’d planned the story of a WWI vampire hunter to be a graphic novel, but the story grew so much that he decided to do it as a novel with illustrations instead. Then the art chores mushroomed as well, as Mignola explained. “I originally intended to do only do about 40 illustrations for the book, but that became 150.” which is why he has thus far put off doing another novel. Mignola went on to say, “Right now, I really want to get back to drawing comics.”
Though he’s anxious to get back to comics, he emphasized his desire to keep his projects short. “I have so many things I want to do, I just prefer to do things in short bursts.” Comparing his two skills, he said “Writing is hard. Drawing is fun. But I also like working with brilliant artists like Guy Davis and Duncan Fegredo. I can tell them ‘I want a scene with 3,000 soldiers’ and I don’t have to worry about how to do that. It’s liberating. So either way, I really prefer to do just one at a time, writing or drawing.”
When asked which artist he would most like to work with, Mignola said, “The list is shortened because I usually need to have a rapport with whomever I’m working with. Richard Corben, for example, isn’t a really good communicator, but because he’s so good you just have to put up with it. I’ll send him an e-mail and I never hear back from him. I just have to hope he got it,” he chuckled.
Mignola briefly talked about two upcoming Hellboy comics with a couple of his collaborators, one illustrated by Duncan Fegredo called Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, which Mignola described as “already even better than Darkness Calls,” their previous collaboration. The other miniseries will be illustrated by Richard Corben, and is entitled Hellboy: The Crooked Man, focusing on Hellboy in the 1950s. Mignola also mentioned that he has plans to do an original graphic novel.
Asked how the various incarnations of the Hellboy franchise affect each other, Mignola said he prefers to keep them separate. “But I think the Hellboy videogame is set in the same universe as the movie, because he has pants,” Mignola laughed. More seriously, he explained, “The novels reference the comics, but up until recently the comics haven’t referenced the novels. We did just do a story in the comics where a Chris Golden character from the novels was referenced, though. And the short prose stories are in entirely their own universe.” On the subject of the Hellboy animated movies, Mignola said “We did write a third one, and it featured Lobster Johnson, but they pulled the plug on it. Maybe after the next live-action movie comes out, it will get back on track.”
One fan wanted to know if there is any social commentary in Hellboy. “Not intentionally,” Mignola said. “I just like to do stuff with big things smashing into each other. Oh, and we have talking hedgehog coming up in one of the comics,” he said with a grin.
Mignola’s creation The Amazing Screw-On Head was discussed, with Mignola explaining that the television pilot episode produced for the Sci-Fi Channel was not picked up. “The Sci-Fi Channel just didn’t know what to do with it,” Mignola related. He did mention there is a collection of the Amazing Screw-On Head comic in the works which will include the original comic as well as what he described as “other little curiosities.”
A fan asked if there was any particular reason that David Hyde-Pierce had played both Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movie as well as providing a voice for the Amazing Screw-On Head pilot. Mignola explained it was just coincidence, but he did say he was shocked when he was told they were able to get Hyde-Pierce and Paul Giamatti for the pilot. Quoting himself, he said his reaction was, “You’re kidding. How did that happen?” He mentioned that he did eventually meet Hyde-Pierce and was able to tell him how he appreciated the actor’s work in bringing his characters to life.
The last question of the panel concerned the possibility of inter-company crossovers with Hellboy. Mignola cracked, “I’m much too busy with my own stuff to have time for ‘Ant-Man vs. Abe-Sapien.” With that Mignola thanked the audience, and was given a round of enthusiastic applause.
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