2007 is going to be a great year for Hellboy fans. On February 6 th the DVD of "Hellboy: Sword of Storms," Hellboy's first animated adventure, hits stores. Fans of the movie will also want to pick up "Hellboy Animated: The Black Wedding," an eighty page graphic novel featuring two Hellboy adventures done in the style of the animated movies, which hits stores the week before on Wednesday, January 31st. CBR News spoke with Rick Lacy, the artist of the lead story in "The Black Wedding," about bringing the animated Hellboy back to his four color roots.
Lacy's background is in animation and he's currently one of the artists who works on Cartoon Network's "The Venture Brothers" for their Adult Swim block. It was a comic book adaptation of another cartoon based on a live action feature that lead to his work on "The Black Wedding." "Well, it's a bit of an adventure," Lacy told CBR News. "A few years ago while perusing through one of Dark Horses 'Clone Wars Adventures' books, I had the inclination to email the studio to see how a lad like myself might get involved in the books. Being bred on animation for years now I was obviously attracted to the 'Clone Wars' cartoons. So I shot an e-mail inquiry over to Dark Horse and a chap from Human Resources emailed me back and said he would pass my info on to Jeremy Barlow. The head dude on CWA. A few months passed by and I had nearly forgotten about it, when Jeremy emailed me back asking if I was still interested in working on CWA. I was! So I did a few test pages so they could see I can handle the material. I did two CWA books in about a year I think - then Scott Allie, Dark Horse's horror editor, rang me up saying they're looking for an artist for the new Hellboy Animated books (Jeremy Barlow had recommended me) and asked if I would be down with the dizzle. Well duh! 'course I was. So I did a few test pages for Scott and Matt Dryer (the managing editor for the Hellboy Animated books) and voila. I was super excited."
One of the reasons Lacy was so excited to get the "Hellboy Animated" assignment was simply because he's a big fan of Mike Mignola's signature creation. "Who isn't?" Lacy asked. "Mike's work is a huge influence for many artists these days and to pass up an opportunity like working on the Hellboy line, well, I'd have been a space case."
Even though it's based off a character that originally appeared in Dark Horse Comics', "The Black Wedding" is still a licensed book and with the exception of more people being involved with the process, Lacy doesn't find licensed projects much different than other assignments. "The licensed stuff has plenty of cooks in the kitchen, but everyone's cool and works well together," he explained. "Dark Horse hooked me up with all the model sheets I needed. I'd also been following the blog for Hellboy Animated and was already familiar with everything that Tad and his crew were doing."
Lacy is still new to field of illustrating comics, but his background in animation has helped ease some of the adjustments he's had to make. "Working in animation, you learn to adjust rather quickly to different styles. (And I've become rather notorious for just taking a style and doing my own thing with it. That does get me into trouble sometimes though)," Lacy said. "The biggest difference was just getting used to the subtle difference between animation storyboards and the static page of comics, but essentially they are all together similar. With animation everything just keeps happening and you have the luxury of 'acting' to get all the emotion and pacing you need. With comics you have to nail the quintessential pose or attitude per panel to express what the characters are feeling or to get across the proper body language for the scene. I'm still learning all the tricks for comics, as I'm still very new to the biz, but I'm having a wicked time."
For his work on "Hellboy Animated: The Black Wedding," Lacy was assisted by inker Jose Marzan Jr. in developing a style that captured the animation feel of the movies, but at the same time paid homage to Hellboy's original four color origins. "We were super tight with the deadline on 'Black Wedding' and there was no way I'd be able to do pencils and inks myself," Lacy stated. "So we invited Jose over from 'Y the Last Man' to give us a hand. The first print of the book has a flub in it and Jose's name was left off the credits by accident, but those are his inks in there and they're awesome. Thanks Jose! As far as the style for 'HBA' over all, I'm going for somewhere in between. Both styles look great and I wanted these books to stand out from HB Animated, but invoke the world they're derived from. I figure it would be best that way. People should be able to recognize the animated quality of the books, but at the same time feel they've gotten themselves into a whole other aspect of the Hellboy-verse."
The books in the Hellboy-verse have a distinct feel to them. Establishing the tone of "The Black Wedding" has been one of the more challenging aspects of the assignment for Lacy. "Setting the tone for the books has actually been a bit of a situation, I feel, for us art wise. But we're getting closer," Lacy said. "The attitude of the characters I think is there. They're very established and it's easy to get them to fall in line. We could easily slap down some standard ink lines and colors and call it done. Bam! A cartoon book! Come and get it. But if it wants to stand on its own we really need to give it is own life. So, I'd say we've nailed about half of it, but I think I can push it further and really make it thick and moody."
Lacy found the other difficult aspect of his "Hellboy Animated" work to be the deadlines. "Matty Dry Dry and his crew know how that feels," he said. "We've had huge crunches on these babies and we get them in just at the buzzer. Sometimes over the buzzer; sometimes a few weeks over the buzzer. But we get them out. Dan Jackson and Michelle Madsen have done the colors for us so far and I can only imagine the stress they must be in since they're the last line of art production."
Working on "The Black Wedding" wasn't all about difficulty and challenges for Lacy. He also had quite a bit of fun working on the assignment. Some of that fun came from collaborating with writer Jim Pascoe. "Jim's a character! He's great," Lacy stated. "I hadn't known Jim before the books so I didn't know what to expect, but I'm glad I know him now. He's very innovative and has a real love for the industry and crafting comics.
"Jim used to talk to me through his script notes," Lacy continued. "Like, 'Rick, get ready for this. Can you believe this is happening!?' And I'd do a double take and say to the script, 'Jim is that you?' But, anyway, Jim is very creative. There was always something new coming up in his writing. A new danger or surprise around the corner and I just wanted to be sure the audience was as surprised as Jim made me. The books are just starting to come back from the printers and so far so good."
"The Black Wedding" is actually Lacy's second "Hellboy Animated" collaboration with writer Jim Pascoe. The duo first worked together on a comic that will come packaged with the 'Sword of Storms" DVD. "Its called 'The Phantom Limbs' (funny because Venture Bros has a villain of the same name)," Lacy explained. "I'm currently finishing up the third book, which is titled 'The Judgment Bell.' 'Phantom Limbs' was a great jump off book for me personally as it was half the length of the regular series novels. I was able to start getting a feel for the style and production of the books as a whole. That ones a bit neater I'd say. I wanted to do a bang up job so I was very meticulous with the inking. But now, on the third one, I've fallen into my looser more comfortable style. You should actually be able to see my evolution in the books as far as art. It has been a learning experience for us all on these bad boys and I think we've just about hit the mark. If we have another book, I think that's where I'll finally have settled in."
In addition to working with Pascoe, Lacy has also been having a blast bringing to life Hellboy and his world. "Getting to work with the Hellboy cast is great fun," Lacy said. "When I read the comics for the first time I became completely enthralled with them and never thought for an instant that I'd be drawing paranormal's biggest bad ass professionally. It has been very rewarding and I've gotten the chance to meet some awesome people. Matt Dryer has given me a lot of responsibility and a chance to voice my opinions on all aspects of the production, from script meetings to color choices. Its awesome knowing that you're boss trusts you that much. It drives you to do your best. Also, I like drawing the BPRD trench coats."
Lacy's drawing hand is going to be very busy over the next few months. He'll be working on a number of projects including at least one more "Hellboy Animated" book. "I'm having a blasty blast working on 'Hellboy Animated' and the Dark Horse guys are a swell bunch," he explained. "They're easy going and never on anyone's case for anything. Just keep 'em up to date and fire off a few flares when things get hairy and you're gold. Up next, I think, we have a fourth book in the pipe line. I'll probably start that in the next month or so. Plus 'Venture Bros' is negotiating their next season. If we get the greenlight on that, I'll be back on that train heading express non stop to Funtown, USA. And also, a friend and I are just signing a book deal with Oni Press for the publication of our own graphic novel called 'Labor Days.' So that's extremely exciting for us. All in all, I should be getting very busy very soon."
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