Comic book fans, perhaps more so than any others, love determining the best of something. However, as fun as it may be to debate, sometimes there can really only be one true answer. When it comes to the question "What's the best horror comic of all time?" the answer is so simple it's obvious: Hellboy.
There are other contenders, of course, from Naoki Urasawa's Monster to the Hellblazer storylines that ran at the same time, there are countless horror books out there, and they all have their merits. But make no mistake, Mike Mignola's signature creation is the one to beat.
Other series without a singular creative voice can ebb and flow in quality. Hellblazer, for example, has more than its fair share of duds in-between all-time classics. But Hellboy never stops being good. The reason behind that consistency is a united core. Writer Mike Mignola, color artist Dave Stewart and artist Duncan Fegredo, among others have always provided a foundation around which to build Hellboy stories.
Accordingly, there's a lot of Hellboy to get through; though, to be clear, we're talking about the main Hellboy series, including Hellboy in Hell, but not spin-offs like B.P.R.D. But now that Dark Horse has bundled the complete series in six chronological omnibuses -- four collecting the core story, two collecting the various Hellboy short stories -- it's easy to learn why.
A Core Writer
Mignola has been involved in scripting just about every core Hellboy story and drawing a majority of his appearances, too. Yes, John Byrne scripted Seed of Destruction, but Mignola plotted it. It's rare in just about any medium for a character's creator to stick around and keep telling their story; for comics, especially so.
On top of that, he's remained active in other ways, overseeing the broader "Mignola-verse" at Dark Horse, as well as working on each of the Hellboy films, including the upcoming reboot. But let's talk about his writing.
There's a formula to most Hellboy stories: (1.) There's a creepy thing, sometimes from mythology; sometimes from fiction; sometimes made up; (2.) Hellboy -- sometimes alone, sometimes with his pals like Abe Sapien -- has to investigat; (3.) Hellboy fights the creepy thing.
And you know what? That formula works. Mignola fully fleshes out each antagonist before the inevitable punch-up. Sometimes he puts a neat metafictional spin on it, like he does in the story "Makoma, Or a Tale Told by a Mummy in the New York City's Explorer's Club in 1993." It tells a creation myth with the titular hero simply drawn over with Hellboy.
But even with that formula, Mignola weaves it all together to form a tight, cohesive epic that's as satisfying as long-form narratives like Love & Rockets or Usagi Yojimbo.
NEXT PAGE: The Fine Art of Consistency (And Fun)