In 1993, writer-artist Mike Mignola gave birth to his greatest creation: a demon named Hellboy who was destined to bring about the end of the world, but who rejected that destiny in order to protect humanity from the creatures that go bump in the night. Since the character’s debut in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2, Hellboy has been a staple of the supernatural genre. He’s had countless adventures, fighting everything from ghosts and Lovecraftian gods to witches and vampire wrestlers. He’s also battled every other monster from folklore in between, including a recent ruckus with a phantom hand in England.
It should come as no surprise that this famous paranormal investigator has made his way to the big screen, including his own animated movies. You’re probably familiar with the film adaptations from Guillermo del Toro, starring Ron Perlman. If, however, you’ve not watched those, the new movie from Neil Marshall, starring David Harbour, might be a good jumping on point. But before Hellboy’s new on-screen adventure, CBR is taking a look back at pieces of concept art that shaped the comics and films of Hellboy. You’ll also find beasts, characters, and concepts that might not have made it into the books or movies, at least not in their initial forms!
15. ORGAN GRINDER
Wayne Barlowe was one of the concept artists who worked on the designs for Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Among his designs for the movie were the fantastical creatures that occupied the Troll Market located under the Brooklyn Bridge. Many creatures occupy this creepy little corner of the world, including one or two monsters you’ll see below. Presented here first is the monstrous Organ Grinder, a musician who appeared in the film that was perhaps some sort of sea creature before deciding to entertain the masses with his barrel organ.
It seems that he also has a bit of musical accompaniment from another creature with three arms and what looks like two heads. He plays the clackity clack of some kind of shell instrument. This design looks quite at home in Mignola’s universe and not at all welcome at your local music festival.
14. ELVEN PUPPETS
As might be expected, Mignola himself provided concept art for the Hellboy movies. In fact, Mignola is actually a fantastic concept artist. Just look at the work he did for a New Gods animated project that never made it to the screen. In the foreword for Hellboy Vol. 2: Wake the Devil, Alan Moore complimented Mignola’s drawing style, describing it as “German expressionism meets Jack Kirby,” so Mignola New Gods would have been a match made in heaven.
Anyway, one of his designs for Hellboy II were the puppets featured in the intro to the movie. The opening scene of the movie is really impressive in the way it is able to emulate Mignola’s art style, from the eyes to the shape of the figures. It’s basically the case for a stop-motion Hellboy movie based on Mignola’s designs.
13. TOOTH FAIRIES
Yikes! You’ll never think of the tooth fairy the same way again. Obviously, in the world of Hellboy, there’s no room for an angelic entity who comes down to your room to collect your fallen teeth and put a quarter under your pillow. No, in Hellboy II, we meet the real tooth fairies, and they’re absolutely terrifying. They feed on calcium, which means that they LOVE teeth and bones. When they feed on their victims, the tooth fairies start by munching through the mouths of their victims.
Despite the fact that Guillermo del Toro’s second Hellboy outing was more about fantasy than horror, the auteur still manages to completely ruin a childhood fairy tale with this design and a particularly creepy scene in the movie. No thank you.
12. THE THRONE ROOM
Hellboy II had the benefit of many talented concept artists, including Barlowe and Mignola. Another talented individual who designed the look of the film was Kun Chang, who has worked on tons of other movies and games, including Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, cult classic The Fifth Element and the great Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. One of his coolest designs was the throne room for the opening scene of the movie.
The most aesthetically pleasing bit of the design is the way light is filtered into the room from behind the King’s throne. As evidenced by the first scene, the light coming through those openings in the wall is nearly blinding and gives the King the look of a deity. This design really pushes the fantasy elements of the movie.
11. TROLL MARKET VENDOR
Here’s another Barlowe design for that creepy Troll Market. This is actually quite a nice twist on the traveling salesmen. This particular vendor walks around with all sorts of creepy crawlies and knick knacks on his back. We’re honestly not sure we want to know what any of those bug-like things do. One particularly clever detail is the stone or mat that’s tied to the vendor’s tail so that it won’t just drag on the floor.
If your interested in more of Barlowe’s work, he also created concept art for other del Toro movies, such as Blade II and Pacific Rim. He also designed aspects of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as well as Avatar, The Hobbit movies and fan-favorite Titan A.E.
10. OGDRU JAHAD
Okay, one more piece of concept art by Barlowe before we travel beyond the movies. This is an important one: the design for the grotesque Ogdru Jahad, the octopus-like Lovecraftian horrors that are imprisoned beyond our reality and wait to be freed in order to bring about the end of the world. Hellboy spends a lot of his time trying to stop villains from freeing these evil gods.
Per the Hellboy: The Art of the Movie book, del Toro wanted Barlowe to imagine what horror writer H.P. Lovecraft envisioned his Great Old Ones might look like. “I worked in as many odd, nameless organs and twisting limbs as I could,” explains Barlowe in the book. We think he got the spirit of these evil entities just right.
9. VLADIMIR GIURESCU
Vampires are pretty much an every day problem in the Mignolaverse at this point. He’s used these creatures of the night in his stories pretty often. “I’ve loved vampires since I read Dracula as a kid, so I’m sure I was in a hurry to create my own vampire character,” writes Mignola in the trade paperback edition of Hellboy Vol. 2: Wake the Devil. The above drawings are from his initial sketches for Vladimir Giurescu, the first vampire he introduced into the world of Hellboy.
Mignola created the design for Giurescu before he had even started working on Hellboy’s first story arc, “Seed of Destruction.” According to the artist, he planned to do “more classic vampire stuff” with the character, such as having him turn Liz Sherman into a vampire.
8. HELLBOY MODEL SHEET
If you ever wondered if there was a professional guide to drawing Hellboy, there actually is! Mignola, the man who’s drawn the character a thousand times, created a model sheet for how to draw Hellboy for artist Scott Benefiel while they collaborated on the Ghost/Hellboy crossover miniseries for Dark Horse. As you can see from the picture above, Mignola went over every single detail of Hellboy’s look, down to what the palm of the right hand of doom might look like. If you’re wondering about the answer, Mignola doesn’t know what it looks like either.
You have to imagine that this model sheet has been passed along to the various artists who have worked on Hellboy comics over the years. This is a pretty helpful tool for anyone interested in creating Hellboy fan art, too. It pretty much covers everything you ever wanted to know about drawing the character.
7. FIRST HELLBOY DRAWING EVER
One of the best books on Mignola’s work is definitely Hellboy: The First 20 Years, a collection of his artwork for the series. Featured in this collection is the very first drawing Mignola ever did of his greatest creation. As you can see, this guy looks quite a bit different from the character we’d all come to know and love, but this is still the drawing that sparked the most well-known chunk of the artist’s career.
He drew this proto-Hellboy for a convention and thought it was “the funniest damn thing I’d ever came up with,” according to an interview with io9. Apparently, Mignola had no intention of writing a series around this character at first. Fortunately for us, he eventually got to work on his Hellboy stories.
6. JOHANN KRAUS
Johann Kraus was such a fun addition to Hellboy II, especially in that one scene where Hellboy thought he’d killed the new leader of the BPRD field team by shattering his containment suit but instead got his ass kicked by the dude’s ectoplasmic form. Classic Hellboy. The two eventually got along, and teamed up for a mission to find the mythical Golden Army.
The design for Kraus’ suit in the movie was created by artist Sergio Sandoval, who also contributed concept art for the first movie. As you can see from the sketches above, Sandoval drew many different designs for Kraus’ helmet. Obviously, Mignola’s drawings of Kraus aren’t as detailed, so Sandoval had to create something that looked quite a bit more mechanical and totally steampunk-y.
5. KARL RUPRECHT KROENEN
Here’s a bit of concept art that Sandoval contributed to the first Hellboy. It’s a horrifying look at Karl Ruprecht Kroenen, the surgery-addicted assassin from the movie (in a pretty altered form from his comic book appearances). If you’ve seen the movie, you undoubtedly remember that one part where the BPRD believes Kroenen is dead but he suddenly rises from the dead in his gruesome physical form to assassinate Professor Bruttenholm.
It’s hard to decide which element of Kroenen’s mad design is more terrifying. Is it the stare from his lid-less eyes? Or perhaps the way his teeth are bare due to the lack of lips? The Kroenen in the movie is more machine than man, and Sandoval’s art captures that perfectly, even including a detachable mechanical hand for the villain.
4. BENJAMIN DAIMIO’S FINAL FORM
Benjamin Daimio, a BPRD agent, recently made headlines when Ed Skrein was cast as the character for the new Hellboy movie, even though Daimio is Asian American in the comics. Skrein later dropped out and Korean American actor Daniel Dae Kim replaced him in the role. But before the character was almost whitewashed, Mignola pondered what Daimio’s were-jaguar transformation might look like on the page.
As you can see in the image above, Mignola and BPRD series writer John Arcudi had a distinct look in mind for the were-jaguar, one that would resemble a Jaguar God from the character’s past. They envisioned a creature that would evolve in stages, from a “raw meat version” that was “more or less human shaped” to its “cat-like” final form with dark skin and hair.
3. ANIMATED HELLBOY
Two Hellboy Animated straight-to-DVD movies were released in the gap between del Toro’s movies, continuing the adventures of the movie universe with Ron Perlman, Selma Blair (Liz Sherman) and Doug Jones (Abe Sapien) reprising their roles. The first movie was Sword of Storms, which sees Hellboy travel to Japan to stop the demons Thunder and Lightning from acquiring a sword that will allow them to unleash chaos on the world.
The second movie, Blood and Iron, told parallel stories about Professor Bruttenholm’s encounter with a vampire in the 1930s and Hellboy’s fight with the villainous goddess of witches, Hecate, in the present. Sean Galloway was the artist who designed Hellboy’s animated look, which includes the hooves that were missing from the live action take on the character. Overall, Galloway’s design is closer to Mignola’s take on the character in the comics.
2. ABE SAPIEN
The last two entries on this list are by far the most fascinating. In 2013, excerpts from Guillermo del Toro’s notebooks were released in a collection called Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions. The book features notes and sketches for del Toro’s various projects over the years. It contains concepts for his earliest movies, like Mexican vampire movie Cronos, as well as his more well-known projects, such as Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy.
In terms of Hellboy, you can see that he was thinking about Abe Sapien at one point and even drew a mock-up for what the character would look like in the movies. There’s a glimpse at Johann Kraus’ helmet on the second page. This rare peek into the the director’s mind is really quite fascinating… and full of monsters.
1. THE PRINCE’S FACEHUGGER
Last but not least is this awesome homage to the facehugger from the Alien movies, another idea that bounced around in his notebooks for Hellboy II. According to FirstShowing.net, the director wanted Prince Nuada’s weapons to all be natural, such as the beanstalk monster known as The Last Elemental that the Prince sent out to cause chaos in the streets. (Hellboy eventually killed that monster.)
Another monster del Toro thought of was called The Deadly Root, and it resembles Ridley Scott’s original creation in a lot of ways. While its function is different — it doesn’t impregnate its victim with a killer alien — it’s ultimately just as deadly. The Deadly Root would attach itself to its victim’s face and feed on the humidity, basically sucking the victim dry. Eeeeek.
Do you know of any other cool Hellboy concept art? Let us know in the comments!
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