Arcudi Takes "Witchfinder" West

Sir Edward Grey, the Victorian Witchfinder of Mike Mignola's Hellboy/BPRD universe, is set to return for a second miniseries in February 2011 from Dark Horse. While Mignola penned this year's "Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels" himself, the follow-up, titled "Lost and Gone Forever," will be written by his long-time "BPRD" partner John Arcudi. John Severin, the artist behind classic war Western series such as "Mighty Marvel Western," "Billy the Kid," "Blazing Combat," "Frontline Combat" and more, provides art for the five-issue mini which, appropriately enough, takes Grey into the American frontier.

CBR News spoke with writer John Arcudi about "Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever," which is set to be officially announced this week at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

CBR News: So, this second "Witchfinder" series turns out to be a Western. How does Victorian Englishman Edward Grey find himself in such an environment?

John Arcudi: He's on the chase, after a member of the Heliopic Brotherhood with whom BPRD readers are already slightly familiar. He's on a mission for the Queen on this, but takes it perhaps a little further than she might have cared for. All the way to Utah.

How do his gunslinging skills compare with the sorts of hombres he'll be running into?

Well, he can shoot a gun, he can kick ass. He's not a fish out of water when it comes to that, to shooting and killing. Some other customs, some other cues, he needs a little tutoring on.

I'd imagine there will also be some monsters in "Lost and Gone Forever." Will we be seeing any familiar characters or species? At this point, has this sort of paranormal activity hit American shores?

Always been on American shores. Maybe it started here, who knows? As for critters, we do see a lot of a familiar "species," as well as a little peek at a pretty big Kahuna in the paranormal arena and a healthy dose of a one of a kind sort of fella. Plus, lots of great scenery beautifully drawn by Sev (the great John Severin), so really there's no way you can pass this up.

What else can you tell us about Sir Edward Grey's adventure this time around? Who is he up against, does he have any companions by his side?

It's the kind of thing where Grey is going in one direction, and he gets diverted up another path where his talents are more needed. He's trying to do the crown's business, but he suddenly finds himself on a mission for all humanity... well, at least the humanity in Western Utah.

And he does have a couple of companions. Morgan Kaler is the tutor I was talking about before. Kaler is a Civil War veteran and so a good deal older than Grey. He's also a kind of analog for Grey in his community, and that gives Edward a look into his own future, sort of.

Also, I hope everybody is going to like Isaac.

If I recall correctly, this miniseries was actually written before the first one. Based on the shape that one ultimately took, did you find yourself wanting (or needing) to revise "Lost and Gone Forever" at all?

It was started before the first one, but I only finished the script for the fifth issue a month or two ago. And I really didn't have to do much retro-fitting - only one panel, I think.

"BPRD" is about to enter a new phase with the first "Hell on Earth" miniseries. Will "Witchfinder" tie in at all to the upcoming events and threats, or continue to feature characters like Memnan Saa, Giurescu and the Heliopic Brotherhood who are more associated with the pre-"King of Fear" world?

The Heliopic Brotherhood shows up in a very limited function, but the truth is, there are elements of this series that will eventually crop up in the Hellboy/BPRD universe. Nothing is unrelated in our books. It is a stand-alone story, don't get me wrong. You don't have to buy other BPRD series to enjoy it, but as we like to do to reward all our longtime, loyal BPRD/Hellboy readers, we're adding layers to the Universe to make their reading experience richer and (we hope) more satisfying.

Edward Grey, I believe, represents the Hellboy universe's earliest figure chronologically to be explored in his own miniseries. Does this present any challenges to you as a storyteller, or does the roadmap of where things are ultimately going give you an idea for what Edward Grey's place in setting up those events might be?

It actually was liberating. As you say, I started my series first, and Mike had done very little writing of Grey prior to that. He kept an eye on me, but mostly let me do as I liked because I knew what was what once I started writing the story proper. We don't have to keep tying into existing continuity, or plugging up lapses in an unwieldy continuity. When you're doing that, the narrative becomes secondary, which is insane. That's not the kind of books we write. The only challenge - and I say this a lot - was writing a good story, and that is plenty challenge enough for anybody.

Who decided to recruit classic Western artist John Severin for the book? What is your sense of what makes him a great artist for this series in particular?

This is the reason I wanted to do this interview; to talk about Sev! This Western series is something Mike and I had talked on-and-off about for years. It was supposed to be my baby, so I didn't really put it on the front burner - I'm like that, unfortunately - but [editor] Scott Allie got Sev to do one of the "War on Frogs" books, and we all sorta looked at each other (figuratively speaking) and said; "The Grey Western!"

So Scott asked, Sev said yes and we went to town. The pages are gorgeous! I don't know how he does it. I just got an email of some scans of pages from the end of the fourth issue, and they're stunning! Sev is one of the all time greats in comics - right up there with whomever you care to name - and working with him has been a dream, and a dream come true.

The sad thing is, I just don't see any other artists in comics today who could do a Western nearly as well as Sev. When you think of all the beautiful Western comics in this industry's history (many done by Sev), then it's hard not to feel cheated by the shrinking number of genres out there for readers. In the case of Western comics, it's a mostly lost skill - more like a mostly lost passion.

The happy thing, however , is that we got Sev! Can't wait to start a new project with him - if he wants to, that is.

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