CCI: Hellboy, The B.P.R.D. & Beyond

"I'm Mike Mignola, and I have very little to say. There is no news on 'Hellboy 3' if you want to leave now," joked the cartoonist and creator of Dark Horse's big red paranormal detective at the start of the "Hellboy, The B.P.R.D. and Beyond" panel Saturday at the 2010 Comic-Con International in San Diego. After introducing his current "main series" collaborator, artist Duncan Fegredo, Mignola launched into a review of current projects, starting with the currently serializing "The Storm" miniseries.

"What the plan is - and we're sticking to it - is a three-issue 'Storm' series to be followed by a three-issue 'Fury' series, which will be collected as the third book in our big arc called 'The Storm & The Fury.' We're very clever," Mignola joked of the two-in-one project whose gap between installments comes as a way to keep Hellboy material on the stands more consistently.

"After that, I will be returning as the artist on 'Hellboy,'" the character's creator then calmly announced to a flurry of applause. "Duncan has promised he'll stay on as an artist on 'Hellboy' in the same way that Richard Corben has been an artist on 'Hellboy' - doing stories set in Hellboy's past as I continue with the ongoing storyline."

He then announced a two-issue Hellboy miniseries titled "The Sleeping & The Dead" which he has written for artist Scott Hampton. It'll hit next year after the debut of the incoming Corben "Double Feature of Evil" which the artist described as "two short stories with a really weird framing sequence." The shared universe title "B.P.R.D." came up even though Mignola joked, "I tend to forget about that book, but both Hellboy and B.P.R.D. have giant, world-changing, character-changing things going on this year and next year."

Mignola then moved on to fan questions, the first of which was unsurprisingly about other media plans for his characters, specifically whether there were more plans for animated Hellboy projects. "No," said the creator. "The animated thing, we'd written a third one, and they pulled the plug on it. With no giant live action movie out there to support the animation - I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but certainly no one's talking to me about it."

An audience member asked after Mignola and Christopher Golden's Baltimore character who will soon move to comics. "It's not an adaptation of our novel, but if anybody's read the novel, there's a big gap in the middle. We planned a bunch of stories to take place in this gap, and it's a World War I-era book about a soldier whose life is ruined by a vampire whose plague spreads and halts World War I. This is the series where the character spends many years chasing the vampire. That's where the miniseries takes us."

Someone else asked what they thought would be a common question for Mignola - the issue of why Hellboy left the B.P.R.D. The artist said that in actuality he didn't get asked that often but "For me, as an artist on the book...after I did the book 'Conquerer Worm,' I felt I'd done that kind of story as well as I could do it as an artist. I could still write those kinds of stories, but the thing that I wanted to explore was Hellboy's folklore/mytholoical roots more. What Hellboy had been was stories about a team full of guys who would go investigate a problem, and I guess that structure didn't interest me that much - certainly as a book to draw for myself. I was much more interested in these odd stories. I think when I started 'Conqueror Worm,' it wasn't my intention for Hellboy to quit, but by the end of that story I said, 'This one turned out okay, and I don't think I want to do this type of story again.'

"I don't think my strong suit was ever writing a team of guys," Mignola continued. "Hellboy just became much more interesting to me than that team became. It was never my intention to explore who Hellboy was - Hellboy wasn't anybody! The gag was going to be 'He's a regular guy, he just looks like the devil.' I never thought of who this guy was, but as that book went along, that character became so interesting to me that there was no room in what I wanted to do to explore those other characters. That's why, thank God, we did the 'B.P.R.D.' series which gave us a place to explore the other characters. So much of the personality of those characters has been developed by John Arcudi. I've given him broad strokes - 'This guy's this. This guy's that. It'd be nice if this character did that' - but John is the one who really brought those characters to life."

A fan earned a laugh from the audience and Mignola when he asked if there was an end to the Hellboy story in sight or if he was "just going to drag it on forever." The creator replied, "There's always been a plan to have an end for Hellboy. It's not right around the corner, though probably what Duncan and I are working on right now is as close to an end for that character as we've ever done. I'd say it's safe to say that what we're doing in 'The Storm & The Fury' is certainly an end to the character as you know that character." He then added jokingly that "that's a salesy kind of thing to say, right?"

"I'm a different artist than I was and a different writer than I was before, so we've been spinning this book in a particular direction that I want to do myself...but the character is a living, breathing entity with a destiny. Yes, there is a definite arc to that character where you're going to see some major changes to this guy relatively soon."

The topic of Hellboy's newfound ties to Arthurian Legend came up with a specific citation of the character's earlier use of swords serving as possible foreshadowing, to which Mignola replied, "Wouldn't it be great if I said, 'Yeah, I always knew it and I had him pick up that Sword in "Wake The Devil" because of it'?" After the resulting laughter died down, he said, "The King Arthur things I planned for a while, but certainly not way back ten years ago...since Duncan's been involved, I saw this big storyline coming. Part of why the storyline happened is because Duncan agreed to draw the series. It's too big a story for me to have done myself as an artist, but if I could find someone else to draw it, it would make me able to write this big epic story.

"With the sword thing, I realized that I've always liked drawing swords...I looked back at the comics noting several instances where he had a sword. I did establish early on that he was a terrible shot, but that's mostly because I don't like drawing him with guns because I find guns difficult to draw. Swords are easy to draw, and they're fun. But then I thought, 'Maybe that does mean something.' It was another piece that fit really nicely with this Arthurian thing I was thinking about."

Mignola later confirmed that he and Dark Horse are working on a new Lobster Johnson series, which has been delayed due to the search for the artist. "I think of things in a really bass-ackwards order. So the first Lobster Johnson series took place at the end of his career, and we thought for this next one we'd go back to the very beginning of his career. It'll happen."

The movie adaptations of Hellboy directed by Guillermo del Toro did eventually come up in conversation as Mignola explained, "I believe 'Hellboy 2' started out as an adaptation of the Roger story - 'Almost Colossus' - I'm pretty sure that's what it was. [Del Toro] did like the arc of that character, and we discussed it for a few hours before we hit a snag and went, 'Ah, let's do fairies instead!'"

Asked what his favorite Hellboy story was, Mignola sat for a moment, having a hard time at picking one single adventure. "As a writer, [it's] probably 'The Crooked Man' that I did with Richard Corben," he said. "I'm really happy with that. I couldn't have drawn that story and pulled it off. As a big story, what I'm doing with Duncan...it all breaks down into categories. My favorite big one that I did was 'Conqueror Worm.' With the short stories, my favorite non-me one is 'Crooked Man,' and I've got a real fondness for the 'Christmas Underground.' There's this one part where this old woman is going to die, and Hellboy knows it and put his big hand over her hand. That's probably the best one I ever did."

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