Abe Sapien had a rough 2012, having spent much of the year in a coma. But 2013 doesn't look to be any easier for the B.P.R.D. agent -- as it's set to be both dark and terrible.
"He'd spent some time out of action as a field agent, and then got back involved in time to see Liz Sherman ignite the center of the world, releasing monsters and all sorts of other problems across the surface of the earth," Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie said about Abe's activities pre-coma. "He and the rest of the B.P.R.D. crew launched into action, fighting monsters all over, and eventually Abe was taken out by a young psychic girl during a mission in Texas. Since Abe's been in the coma, in a life-support cocoon, his body has been changing ..."
His story will continue with Abe Sapien: The Dark and Terrible, a new series written by Mike Mignola and Allie and illustrated by Sebastian Fiumara (Loki, Mystery in Space). Debuting April 3, the comic is the first issue of a "maxi-series" that will follow Abe as he travels across America, on the run from the B.P.R.D., as monsters continue to wreak havoc on the country — and as his own body continues to change in frightening ways.
I spoke with co-writer Allie about this new chapter in Abe's story, and what it's like to collaborate with Mignola.
Where is this next series going to take Abe Sapien?
Since he's been down it's just gotten worse and worse, more monsters, more cities lost. We've seen a breakdown of the major infrastructures of the U.S., and some other countries have it even worse. [...] Hellboy died somewhere along the way.
The changes to the Earth sort of mirror the changes in Abe's own anatomy — he's continued to mutate — leaving some in the B.P.R.D. to suspect that what's happening to the world is connected to what's happening to Abe. This has been suggested by some mystical characters in the series, so now the government guys are wondering, too.
How long will this series be, and how does it fit into the rest of the B.P.R.D. story?
This series is going to go on for a few years, and will eventually tie back into the main B.P.R.D. story. For the time being it will parallel it.
What makes Abe an interesting character to you?
He's a great reflection of Hellboy. Hellboy's a cross between a demon and a man, and he doesn't like to think too much about the demon part of him, and goes about with great purpose ignoring it. Abe is a cross between a fish and a man, and he's put a lot of work into figuring things out, and it's shaken his purpose, at times, in being a member of the B.P.R.D. He wants the truth, but sometimes he can't handle it ... That's a lot of what this series winds up being about.
What's the hardest part about writing his story?
This is the sort of story that really lends itself to narration, because Abe will be spending some time alone — but I wanted to show Abe wrestling with things through action more than through us reading his thoughts. So I want to find the right ways to get real insight into what's going on in his head. I love narration in comics, I love voice-overs, but I felt there was some good reasons not to do it here.
Is this the first book to be illustrated by Sebastian Fiumara? What sort of guidance did you give him in terms of the look and feel of the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. universe?
The way the schedule on this worked out, Sebastian had actually already done most of a two-part Lobster Johnson series that you'll be seeing later in the spring. So I'd been working with him for a while, off John Arcudi scripts, and knew what he could do. So in writing it, I was just excited to see how Sebastian would bring things to life. He's incredible. One of the things we discussed the most was the locations, because as we destroy the world in B.P.R.D., we want to make it feel really real, which means referencing locations pretty specifically.
Sebastian's Lobster Johnson work has a lot of mood, and a lot of impact. In Abe, things are a bit more understated. So the mood is fantastic, really creepy and weird. And when there is a moment of impact, when things do get big and loud, he can knock it out of the park. I think the best thing about doing this particular story with Sebastian is how REAL he makes these changes in Abe, how well he can imply Abe's humanity when his appearance is actually more monstrous than before.
What's it like co-writing a series with Mike Mignola? How does it work in terms of who does what, and how is it different from your other collaborations?
It can be a complex dance ... Some of the pieces of the general concept of this story were Mike's, some were mine, and I'd have a hard time saying exactly what was what. The way I like to co-write with Mike is to get from him everything he wants in the story either written or over the phone, and I build an outline from that, to run by him. We talk about it, I rewrite it, and I try to get an outline that we're both really happy with. Sometimes that doesn't work — on Abyss of Time, the B.P.R.D. story we have coming up soon, everything was outlined pretty tight, but after the second issue was written we completely tore it apart and Mike rewrote a lot of it. Nothing like that has happened with Abe so far. But all in all, the co-writing I've done with Mike works a lot the same the way my co-writing with Joss Whedon went on Buffy Season 8.
Which came first for you, editing or writing comics? And how does your work as an editor influence your writing?
I was writing and drawing them first. I did it through high school and college, of course, and then I was a self-publisher for a while. I had an editor on the self-published book, in a nominal way, but really I was putting the book together, running the other artists and the schedule — he read my scripts and gave me feedback. Self-publishing taught me my basic approach to editing. Part of how my work as an editor influences my writing is that I welcome notes and rewriting. With the kind of notes I give my writers, I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't take input. When I was writing Season 8 with Joss, he was more my editor—he acted much the way I work as an editor, and working as a writer for him has informed my editing since then. I really see it all as a big mix. There's not a sharp line of demarcation between my work as an editor and my work as a writer. I spend all my time making comics with other people, and I do it differently with different people. Sometimes I'm sending Sebastian a script I wrote, sometimes I'm sending him one John wrote.