LAS VEGAS COMIC EXPO: Mignola Goes to Hell in "Hellboy"

Before opening the floor to questions from the audience, Mike Mignola had just one announcement to make at his spotlight panel Saturday at the Las Vegas Comic Expo: "There's no word on 'Hellboy 3.'" Mignola defused the inevitable questions about the third installment in the movie series based on his long running Dark Horse Comics series by acknowledging that while there had been "a little bit of talk" between director Guillermo Del Toro and star Ron Perlman at Comic-Con International in San Diego a few months ago, there was "nothing in the works" at the moment.

"Del Toro wants to make a billion different movies and somehow thinks he can do them all," Mignola said.

With that out of the way, Mignola invited fans to ask questions. Asked about what directors other than Del Toro the writer/artist might want to work with, Mignola said his recent novel "Joe Golem and the Drowning City," a collaboration with writer Christopher Golden, is being developed by filmmaker Alex Proyas ("Dark City," "The Crow"). "He'd be on my very short list of guys I'd like to see work on my stuff," Mignola said of Proyas. Mignola also noted that he first created the character of Joe Golem right after selling the movie rights to Hellboy, worried that the movie might turn out so horribly that he'd never be able to do any more Hellboy comics, and he'd need a new character to work with.

Another fan asked Mignola about his co-writing process, having collaborated with such writers as Golden, John Arcudi and Scott Allie on a variety of projects. "My name's on a lot of comics that I had little or nothing to do with," Mignola said.

With Arcudi, who writes the "B.P.R.D." series for Dark Horse, Mignola started out being very hands-on, but over time has given his collaborator more and more freedom. "For the most part, my co-writing involvement on 'B.P.R.D.' is saying, 'What are you going to do now?'" Mignola said, likening his role to that of an editor. With the novels he's worked on with Golden, he starts out providing 6-10 pages of notes, and then works out the details of the story over the phone. On the upcoming "Abe Sapien" series co-written with Scott Allie, he's planning to be even more hands-off, and to encourage Allie to dictate the direction of the story. Abe will be cut loose from the B.P.R.D. and pursuing his own adventures.

Asked if there were any projects he's been unable to pursue, Mignola replied that he's been given opportunities to work on a wide range of projects. "As you get older, the guys that you knew are now running companies," he said. Although he found success in Hollywood, he noted that during the height of the "Hellboy" movies, he spent five or six years not drawing any comics at all, and now he wants to re-focus himself on comic books. "I'm 52 years old, and I've got a million ideas for comics I want to draw," he said. "Everything I've done outside of comics has been, 'Yeah, that'll be fun for a few days or a few months.'"

On the upcoming re-numbering of "B.P.R.D." as an ongoing series with Issue #100 this month, Mignola said over time the book had essentially become a monthly comic, "so why not start numbering it that way? I don't think any of us realized we had gotten to issue 100," otherwise the significant milestone probably wouldn't have occurred in the middle of a story arc. Mignola's new "Hellboy in Hell" series, which he will both write and draw starting in December, will also feature ongoing numbering, although it won't always be released monthly. Mignola said he plans for the first four issues to come out monthly, and subsequent issues to be released on a more sporadic schedule, mostly as self-contained one- or two-issue stories. If a story is scheduled to last for more than one or two issues, however, those will be released monthly.

Asked about his opinion on the "Hellboy" movies, Mignola said there was no way for him to be objective since he was so involved in the productions: "It's like watching home movies." Still, he admitted there were many things he would have done differently, but he told Del Toro to feel free to change anything he wanted. "The first movie is very much Del Toro trying to make a Mike Mignola movie," Mignola said. For the second movie, initial plans called for a direct adaptation of one of Mignola's comic stories, but since so many changes had been made to the characters for the films, the story didn't fit. Instead, Mignola and Del Toro devised a new original story, and Mignola felt the ultimate result strayed pretty far from the initial vision. "Lots of things in it are cool," Mignola said, but he prefers the first movie.

The next fan at the microphone asked what the most difficult thing about drawing comics was, and Mignola replied, "It's all difficult." He developed the world of "Hellboy" specifically to cater to his strengths as an artist, and is now putting Hellboy in hell to "cut free from the real world." In the past, he'd have ideas about stories set in foreign countries, but wouldn't have enough knowledge to draw those places. In hell, he can use folklore from around the world, and set the stories in analogous regions in hell without being beholden to reality.

On the subject of comics' shift from print to digital, Mignola stuck up for the old-fashioned approach, saying that he doesn't work digitally at all. "As long as I can be left alone to do my stuff, I'll be happy," he said. He did speculate that the single-issue comic was likely to go extinct, and that future series would be published as digital issues and then collected into trade paperbacks. "If collections went away, I'd be upset," he said, noting that having a permanent collected edition is important to him. "If books went away, I'd probably lose interest."

Mignola told a fan of "The Amazing Screw-On Head" there would be no more stories with the character, because "unlike anything else I've done, I got it right the first time. I don't want to screw it up." There will be some stories in "Hellboy in Hell" that may have a similar vibe, but "that character is done."

Asked how he's kept the Hellboy mythology coherent over nearly 20 years, Mignola replied, "The more you try to explain how that stuff works, the more trouble you get into. After 20 years, I'm still not stuck tripping over stuff." With Hellboy now in hell, Mignola has more freedom to play with the mythology, and he plans to draw on a range of existing folk tales. "It's fun for me to take stories and feed them through my filter," the creator said.

A fan asked which other comic books Mignola reads, and although he named "Goon," "Criminal" and "Fatale," he said that overall, "there are very few comics I read these days. Every once in a while, I go, 'Jeez, I haven't read a comic in three years.'" He said he prefers reading prose, and while he looks at a lot of comics, he'll just do that: Look at the pictures without reading the story.

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