On April 7, fans of Mike Mignola’s ongoing Dark Horse universe of titles surrounding his iconic character Hellboy will get a second chance to take a look into one of the more mysterious corners of the Hellboy Universe. That’s when “Edward Grey Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels” hits stores as a trade paperback collection, and while that original miniseries by Mignola and artist Ben Stenbeck was a part of Hellboy’s broader narrative, many fans are still unclear as to how or they didn’t even know it to begin with.
Introduced in early Hellboy story “Wake The Devil,” Grey was an occult detective deemed “Witchfinder” in the Victorian era whose first fully fleshed-out adventure in “In The Service of Angels” saw him coming across frequent Hellboy adversaries The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra (the new volume also includes a pair of shorter Grey tales previously uncollected). However, what fully connects Grey’s classic adventures to Hellboy’s modern world has yet to be fully revealed, and so this week as part of our ongoing TO HELLBOY AND BACK series, CBR News chats up Mignola about the how and why of the character as well as his creation process for the entire Hellboy saga. And Dark Horse has provided CBR with an exclusive peek inside Stenbeck’s Grey sketchbook as well as a look at Guy Davis’ art for Grey as part of Dark Horse’s Join The B.P.R.D. campaign.
CBR News: The Edward Grey material is something that’s part of the bigger Hellboy universe like, say, Lobster Johnson is, but it’s also something that feels as though you could have spun it out as its own franchise like “Baltimore.” Why make him a part of this broader tapestry with your other characters?
Mike Mignola: I have had people who are much more commercial-minded than me say, “Why create your Victorian occult detective and then tie him to the Hellboy Universe? If you create him separately, then you have the opportunity to sell him as a film or whatever.” But to me, there’s such a rich history in the Hellboy Universe, by doing Edward Grey in the Hellboy Universe I can use all that Hyperboria stuff and things that I’ve figured out. But also, he make the rest of the Hellboy Universe richer. Everything I like, there needs to be a version of it in that universe. Lobster Johnson was my pulp character because I love old pulp heroes. I love Victorian occult detectives and I love that period and those kinds of stories, so I need that kind of guy in Hellboy’s world.
But because he is separated by so much time from the regular characters, the thread that connects him to Hellboy is a little thinner. But it’s there, and while some of it’s just in the “Hellboy Companion,” it’s appeared in places. In the Abe Sapien miniseries we draw the connection between Professor Bruttenholm and Edward Grey. And if you read the “Hellboy Companion” there’s more of a connection in that his was [Bruttenholm’s] childhood hero. So that thin connection connects Edward Grey all the way up through Hellboy. In fact, I’ve plotted this story just in my notebook that involves Hellboy and Ed Grey…not actually meeting, but you’ll see the two of them in the same story.
One thing that stands out to me about the character, particularly in this most recent cycle of stories with the witches, is that Grey is known amongst the fairy and fantasy characters. Not many humans leave that mark on the mythical world especially as we learn how their society works. He seems to be one person who’s pierced through.
Exactly. And there’s Edward Grey, this Victorian occult detective, and then there’s this guy with a mask who’s shown up in a couple of Hellboy stories talking to fairies, and he’s referred to as “Sir Edward.” Are they the same guy? And if they are the same guy, how did this Victorian-era detective turn into a guy who’s handing out with fairies and Baba Yaga and characters like them? So the Edward Grey character, while he seems very isolated, has a gigantic story arc which I know will come out sooner or later. There’s so many pieces that are connected up in my head, but we haven’t just put enough pieces out there so everybody sees the whole story -Â which is good. If I didn’t know how these things connected, I wouldn’t be sleeping at night. There’s no end to the stories because this puzzle is so big and there are so many pieces left to put on it…pieces that appear totally isolated are not.
I don’t know if you’re a big “Lost” watcher, but one of the things that always gets me about fans who complain against the show is the phrase “They’ve just been making this up as they go along.” I’m not sure I know of any other way to tell a story. When you have a big epic in mind, you’ve certainly got large pieces of it in place from the start, but isn’t part of the process always letting things gel and grow as the telling goes?
It would make it very boring to do the story if you worked out 20 years worth of material and then just had to sit down and write it all out for 20 years. The trick -Â and I don’t know if this was conscious at the beginning -Â to writing so much of the Hellboy stuff is to make it vague so I never wrote myself into any holes or into a corner. Even as I figure things out, I don’t want to box myself in too much. I know where Hellboy is going. And he will probably get where I intend him to be, but it doesn’t mean he won’t take a few odd turns along the way. And there’s a possibility that one day I’ll wake up and go, “Oh, oh! He’s not going where I thought he was going!” I don’t think that’ll happen, but at the same time the character is exciting to me because there are so many question marks about how he’s going to get where he’s going.
SPOTLIGHT ON…EDWARD GREY
Born into a life in the lower class but catapulted to the upper echelons of British society in the reign of Queen Victoria, Edward Grey solved his first occult mystery as a 12-year-old when the son of the lord his father worked for turned werewolf on the local countryside. Rather than castigate Grey for uncovering his son’s deceit, Lord Hastings took the boy under his wing -Â making sure he got the finest education and an opportunity to travel to London to continue the battle against the world of the unknown in the service of the Queen herself, who he met after cracking the case of a Tower of London haunting in 1876.
The next several years involved a whirlwind career where the “Witchfinder” explored many cases in London’s high society and helped guard the interests of the crown against The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra who had become a rather strong source of stress for the Queen. Of particular note in Grey’s career was the 1882 case where he clashed with Vladimir Giurescu -Â a Romanian nobleman Grey uncovered for the first time as a deadly vampire. In his later career, Grey traveled the globe fighting the Heliopic Brotherhood finally landing in New York City around 1914. Two years later, while investigating a case in Chicago, Grey disappeared and was never heard from again.
In 1997, when renegade Nazi scientists attempted to resurrect Giurescu, it was Grey’s historical battle with the vampire that proved extremely useful to Hellboy and company. More importantly, a mysterious figure in cloak and mask called “Sir Edward” appeared with the farie king Dagda and Baba Yaga to aide in the battle. Since then, Sir Edward has lurked on the edges of Hellboy’s growing conflict with witches and fairies of all types. The exact connection between Edward Grey and Sir Edward remains unknown.
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