Hellboy: 15 Things You Never Knew

Hellboy holding excalibur

Created by Mike Mignola over 20 years ago, Hellboy has long since earned its place as a pinnacle of dark fantasy and folklore storytelling. In the time since his first appearance, Mignola’s creation has sparked numerous spinoffs, garnered two feature films plus two animated adaptations, and has gained a large following among comic book fans. Many "Hellboy" fans know of the films, but perhaps not so much of the comics.

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"Hellboy" first debuted in 1993 and follows the titular character, Hellboy, a demon paranormal investigator with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. That much people already know, but what other fun facts are there to know about Big Red? Over the course of Hellboy’s adventures, many secrets and origins are revealed, but there is more to learn about the demon investigator than just what is in the pages of Mignola’s comic. Thus, here are 15 Hellboy facts you might not know.


Hellboy's Original Design

In a pamphlet for the first Great Salt Lake Comic Con in 1991, a sketch was featured by the then artist for hire, Mike Mignola. The sketch, shown above, was of a hairy, almost caveman-like demon with four horns, wings, and… a crab and a fish around his belt… for some reason. Written on the belt are the words “Hell Boy." Mignola didn't think much of this sketch and, in fact the name was pretty much a joke. In an interview with Christopher Irving, Mignola said:

“I had never really given any serious thought to doing, and certainly not writing, my own comic. I’d done this drawing for a convention and written “Hellboy” on it as the last thing; I’ve done this drawing with a blank space on his belt that I wrote it on. I thought it was funny, but wasn’t serious about doing anything with it.”

Little did Mignola know that this joke of his would lead to the idea for his own comic series.


The Original Hellboy Team

When Mignola began to develop upon the idea from his Great Salt Lake Comic Con sketch, he started with something a bit different than what he ended up with. Mignola revised the character slightly when he was featured on the cover for "Dime Press" #4, an Italian magazine. This version looked slightly more like the Hellboy we know, but without the red skin or B.P.R.D. clothing.

From there, Mignola began developing a comic around the character. In the back pages of "Hellboy: Seed of Destruction," Mignola describes that his original idea centered around a team of superheroes with paranormal powers and origins, pictured above. Mignola goes on to say that he decided to shift the focus onto just Hellboy, due to the fact that he had trouble coming up with names fro the rest of the team. Though, as shown in the concept art, several elements made the final cut, such as the B.P.R.D. logo and the amphibious B.P.R.D. agent Abe Sapien.


Hellboy First Comic Appearance

After some development, Mignola’s Hellboy idea was beginning to take shape. He first appeared as we know him in an exclusive comic book handed out at San Diego Comic Con, way back in 1993. “SDCC Comics #2” featured a four-page, black and white story in which Hellboy runs into a dog at a creepy abandoned gas station. The dog is revealed to be Anubis, the ancient Egyptian god of mummification. Hellboy uses quick thinking and brute strength to defeat the creature and the story ends with a very comic book-y explosion.

The comic, co-written by John Byrne, was the first appearance of Hellboy’s signature trench coat and was a basic introduction to the character, his personality and the kinds of things he encountered. The story was later colored and featured in the back of the first Hellboy volume wherein Mignola comments on the piece, saying “I wasn’t much concerned with the plot, but I did learn a couple of things — Hellboy looks better with a coat, and I like to draw gorillas with big bolts sticking out of them.” The latter part of the quote refers to the second Hellboy story produced, which was also reprinted in Volume 1.


Hellboy Raises The Dead

Hellboy is known for taking a hit…. Well, a lot of hits actually. Sure, Hellboy is strong and durable, but he’s faced some pretty powerful foes, which in turn have resulted in some pretty bloody fights. He's been stabbed, punched, shot, and injured in just about every other way imaginable in his line of work. Despite all this, Hellboy keeps a cool head and always finds time for a crisp, dry humor comeback. It might surprise fans to know that this “brush-off the bullets” personality was largely based on creator Mike Mignola’s father.

Mignola’s father worked with his hands, a cabinet maker, and would often come home with tales of accidents ranging from minimal to horrific. Mignola says he’d offhandedly describe every gory detail with an aloof manner about him. His unflappable attitude is familiar to Hellboy fans, and easy to see how Hellboy reflects this. Mignola’s father was also a Korean war veteran and world traveler, someone who had, as Mignola puts it, a “been there, done that” sort of attitude. You can see this in Hellboy; in his longer than usual life-span, he's seen and dealt with a lot of supernatural things and usually knows exactly what he's dealing with.


Hellboy and Dr Broom

Speaking of fathers, fans of the films know that Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (played by the late John Hurt) adopted Hellboy when a group of soldiers found him as a child off the coast of Scotland. Professor Bruttenholm raised him to fight his destiny and work for the betterment of mankind as an agent of the B.P.R.D. What most people don’t know is that Professor Bruttenholm actually only has a small part in the main Hellboy series, not including the spin-offs. In fact, after the first volume, "Seed of Destruction," Professor Bruttenholm only appears in flashbacks.

This is because Professor Bruttenholm dies in Volume 1. In “Seed of Destruction,” Professor Bruttenholm dies at the hand of the deadly frog-like demons that appear to suck the life right out of him. The death is somewhat glossed over; Hellboy acknowledges it, but the effects of his death aren’t played out at strongly as the films portrayed them to be. Professor Bruttenholm obviously had a major role in Hellboy’s upbringing, but not as much of a role in the main comic series.


Hellboy's Mother

It’s pretty obvious that Hellboy is a demon. His name is Hellboy after all, but most people don’t know that Big Red is actually half human… sort of. Hellboy’s mother was Sarah Hughes, a witch from a long line of demon agents. On April 30, 1574, a 16-year-old Hughes sought power from the demon Azzael, Hellboy’s father and lord of witches. Hellboy was conceived within Sarah’s soul that night.As Sarah grew older, she renounced her old ways and repented for her sins and dealings with demons.

She eventually met a man who became her husband and gave her two human children, one of whom became a nun and the other a monk. When Sarah was on her death bed, she urged her two human children to take steps to keep Azzael from claiming her soul after she passed. The children failed and Azzael took her soul, out of which Hellboy was born. These details were revealed in the events of “Hellboy Vol 3: The Chained Coffin and Others.”


Hellboy Reads Lobster Johnson

He’s highly skilled, he’s mysterious, he’s… delicious? That’s right, it’s The Lobster, scourge of New York mobsters and nazi scum. Taking out organized crime and eventually working with the government to fight nazis in a role not unlike Captain America's, The Lobster was known for burning his signature claw mark into the heads of his victims. His real identity was unknown, and over time he was thought to be nothing more than a pulp comic book hero by the name of Lobster Johnson. Many, like Hellboy, who read Lobster Johnson comics while growing up on a military base, still believe he was a real person.

Hellboy got a chance to meet his hero, though not quite in the flesh, in “Hellboy Volume 5: Conquerer Worm.” As Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. investigate Hunte Castle (where The Lobster’s last mission took place), they encounter the wandering ghost of the fallen superhero. Lobster Johnson’s spirit assists the B.P.R.D. in their mission and is eventually given a proper burial so that his restless soul may pass on.


Hellboy Quits the BPRD

It might surprise some to know that Hellboy’s career with the B.R.P.D. spans less than half the main comic series. There are 12 volumes of "Hellboy," and at the end of “Conquerer Worm,” Hellboy Quits the B.P.R.D. He does so for two reasons, the first being the treatment of his friend Roger. Roger is a homunculus, an artificial human created from blood and herbs. He was discovered in an alchemical lab in the ruins of Czef Castle in “Hellboy Volume 2: Wake the Devil.” Hellboy and Roger became friends and Roger was soon inducted as an agent of the B.P.R.D. Unfortunately, the B.P.R.D. also experimented on Roger and stuffed him full of explosives during the mission to Hunte Castle.

The second reason that Hellboy quit was to find himself. After learning of his origins and destiny, Hellboy quits to search for more answers, which he had been avoiding up till then. After resigning, Hellboy sets off for Africa, where his adventures continue.


Hellboy Meets Sabrina The Teenaged Witch

Fans may know of Hellboy’s many team-ups, the most famous of which is his run-in with Batman. Some of his other famous team-ups include Star-Man, Gen 13, The Goon, Savage Dragon, Mad Man, and, more recently, Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Though the crossover is merely a one-page comic included in the back of “Archie vs. Predator,” an already strange crossover, it is still a fun little meeting of the two supernatural beings.

The comic depicts Hellboy sneaking into eight-year-old Sabrina’s home to speak with Salem the cat about his business with the Spellman family. Specifically, Hellboy wants to know what has bound him to the witches. Salem introduces Sabrina as the "Future Queen of Witches” to Hellboy, whom he describes as “The Future King of Hell." The comic ends on an adorably funny note with Sabrina asking Hellboy if he wants to build legos with her.


Hellboy teams up with a Cow to fight Aliens

Continuing with the theme of Hellboy’s strange encounters, perhaps the strangest enemy he has fought is a race of cow-stealing aliens. In “Buster Oakly Gets His Wish," Hellboy fights a bunch of little green men in a flying saucer. Hellboy is called in to investigate after several cows go missing from a farm in Kansas. The farmer believes it is the fault of Satan-worshipping teenagers, but it turns out they're victims as well. The leader of the Satanists was abducted and turned into a cow/human hybrid. Hellboy manages to take out the ship and save the cow-boy.

This story, originally a one-issue comic that was later reprinted in “Hellboy Volume 11: The Bride of Hell and Others,” was written by Mike Mignola and drawn by guest artist, Kevin Nolan. In the preface for the comic, Mignola says that he wrote the story so that it would include things that he thought Kevin Nolan could draw better than others, like cows, pigs and supernatural versions of those animals.


Hellboy Tries Pancakes For The First Time

Perhaps fans of the movie might not be so surprised about this one, since Ron Perlman’s Hellboy was seen being brought massive stacks of pancakes, but nonetheless its a fun fact that Hellboy loves his flapjacks. The first time this was revealed was in a two-page story originally released in “Dark Horse Presents Annual 1999” and later reprinted in color in “Hellboy Volume 4: The Right Hand of Doom.”

The comic features a young, crooked-horned Hellboy being called for breakfast. He wants hot noodles but is instead presented with a stack of pancakes. Like any little kid would do, Hellboy claims he doesn’t like “Pamcakes” despite never trying them. Hellboy gives in and tries them and it turns out he loves them! This newfound love of flapjacks is very much to the hilarious dismay of demon lords residing in Pandemonium, the capital of Hell. The demons claim that after eating pancakes, Hellboy shall never stray from the side of mortals, a tragic loss for their cause. Mignola says of that story that it started as a joke, but gained a lot of love from the fans.


Hellboy Atlantis Sketches

Though there is no direct connection between “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and "Hellboy," fans might be interested to know that Mike Mignola worked on developmental art for the Disney film. Pictured above are some of the pieces Mignola did, including designs of the main characters (excluding Milo Thatch), the look of the city of Atlantis, and some ship designs. Most of the characters were “Disney-fied” in the final product, but much of the city, statues, and technology remained close to Mignola’s original sketches.

Much of the city and artifact design of Atlantis looks as though it jumped right out of the pages of "Hellboy," as does the different take on the old legend. Similar to the use of myth and folklore in "Hellboy," the legend of Atlantis was reworked and reimagined in a very Mike Mignola way. Rather than have a city of mer-people living in a Roman-like sunken city, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” takes a much more tribal, yet advanced, take on the legendary civilization.


Hellboy's Girlfriend Alice

In the Hellboy films, fellow B.P.R.D. agent and human flamethrower, Liz Sherman, was given a bigger role than her comics counterpart. In the films, a character who was more of a sister to Hellboy in the comics was upgraded to a main character and set up as Hellboy’s love interest. The two became a couple at the end of the first film and were expecting twin children at the end of the second.Many fans of the film are unaware that Hellboy had a very different girlfriend in the comics, Alice Monaghan. Hellboy first encountered Alice in a story titled “The Corpse” which was included in “The Chained Coffin and Others.” Alice was only a baby at the time and Hellboy rescued her from being kidnapped by faeries.

Hellboy eventually runs into Alice 50 years later in the events of “The Wild Hunt,” which ends with the two dating, more or less. Like Hellboy, Alice’s aging has slowed greatly, a trait that she claims is due to her time among the faeries. Unfortunately, their time together doesn’t last long, as Hellboy dies in the final volume of the series, shortly after they planned to start a life in America together.


Hellboy with Excalibur is King of Britain

Hellboy’s mother, as previously mentioned, was a witch by the name of Sarah Hughes. Other than being the catalyst for Hellboy’s birth, Hughes gave something else to her demon son: a royal lineage. Sarah Hughes was the descendent of the bastard child of King Arthur and his half-sister, Morgan Le Fey. Thus, Hellboy is not only the future king of Hell, he is the current true king of Britain.

Hellboy learns of this aspect of his lineage in “Volume 9: The Wild Hunt.” It is Morgan Le Fey herself who reveals to Hellboy that he is King of Britain, and presents to him Arthur’s sword, Excalibur. As usual when it comes to his strange and disastrous origins, Hellboy at first rejects this truth, or rather, wants nothing to do with it. Eventually though, Hellboy pulls Excalibur from its resting place, claiming his birthright, despite the fact that it may bring his supposed destiny as bringer of the apocalypse closer to coming true.


Hellboy says his true name

“Anung Un Rama." Fans of the film have heard it before, as have fans of the comic, but not many know the meaning of Hellboy’s given demon name. The name translates roughly to “and upon his brow is set a crown of flames." This refers to Hellboy’s destined future as bringer of the apocalypse. Hellboy learned of this destiny in “Wake the Devil,” where his true name was revealed by Rasputin. Part of the volume was used for the ending of the first film, and both share a similar scene wherein Hellboy breaks off his horns after rejecting his destiny.

Hellboy cannot escape his destiny, at least not in life. Throughout all the volumes, Hellboy does all he can to avoid his origins and what they mean for his future. Hellboy fights to stop the armies of Hell from bringing on the apocalypse in the final volume of Hellboy, “The Storm and The Fury." Fortunately, Hellboy manages to escape his fate, but unfortunately, the price for doing so was his life and his soul. Hellboy is currently dead and wandering the circles of Hell in Mignola’s most recent series, “Hellboy in Hell,” which ended its run last year.

Is there anything else obscure about Hellboy that we forgot to point out? Tell us in the comments!

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