Mike Mignola's Hellboy is in a league of his own as creator-owned comics go. Not only does the character's 25-year history hold a unique place in the hearts of fans, but as a franchise the big red guy has been adapted multiple times, with Neil Marshall's Hellboy reboot only the latest evolution.
At least that's how the character's creator, and the cast of the new movie, see it. CBR had the opportunity to catch up with Mignola, as well as stars David Harbour, Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim, who stressed they had to deliver a different flavor from the previous Hellboy films of Guillermo del Toro.
"They came to me and said 'This is the movie we're going to make.' They already had a treatment based on a book I did that I never would have chosen to film," Mignola said of the film drawing from his miniseries Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, with artist Duncan Fegredo. "So I was thrown at first. But then I realized that we didn't really want to start where Del Toro started. So we start kind of in the middle of the Hellboy storyline and then brought in elements from different stories.
"It's very much its own thing. The reason why I was surprised they would chose it was because it's the middle chapter of this very complicated story," he continued. "I thought, 'Start with one of the easy ones!' But once I realized how it was going to work and why it was going to work – because not only does it make for a terrific movie but it sets up a great pattern of stories. If you're going to start something that you hope will be several movies, then there's a whole thing here that has its own character apart from the Del Toro movies. You want these things to exist as their own thing."
Mignola added that, while the new film starts at The Wild Hunt, he worked with Marshall to deliver a deeper dive into the mythology. "When they brought me in, I was very happy because I could say 'I see what you're doing, but this would work better over here, or if you want that kind of a beat, let's borrow it from this.' It was my chance to stitch together my stuff. Someone handed me the skeleton."
Harbour agreed that his task was not just to make a performance happen. but to draw on everything emotional and even visual from the comics to make Hellboy true to Mignola's roots. "It was an interesting thing for me because I'd never done a comic book character before," he said. "And what's interesting is that you have a framework – like you actually have ballet positions like first position to start from. Hellboy has certain gestures from the comic that are fully realized. He has a jaw that does certain things when he feels certain things or experiences them. It was very interesting for me to play that and not to resist that.
"There are scenes direct in the movie that are from The Wild Hunt. Like, we're on a hill with horses, and you can see it," Harbour said. "I had a big blank-page notebook – a couple of them it wound up being – where I'd have the [script] scene on one side and then the panels from the comic on the other side. And I have all these notes and things. But it was interesting to have that framework. And I know our [director of photography] looked at Mike's work. Like sometimes Hellboy will be the only red thing on a page, and then in the page there are lots of blues and an accent of yellow, and I know the DP was trying to work with those primary colors to be faithful to the spirit of the comic as well."
"Everybody was on board with the fact that we loved Mike's comics and we wanted to make Mike's comics [on screen]," Harbour added, noting that it didn't stop there. "The one thing that I do feel like is that as a movie, you don't just want people who have read the comic to come to the movie and see the comic. We need to have some surprises, which we do have a ton of little surprises throughout. We do have some psychology that differs or certain roles between people that are a bit different than the comic. But it's all in the spirit of what Mike was trying to do."