Sir Edward Grey, a mysterious character occasionally appearing in "B.P.R.D." and "Hellboy," gets his own five-issue miniseries from Dark Horse beginning next month. Written by Hellboy mastermind Mike Mignola with art by Ben Stenbeck, "Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels" sees the Victorian occult detective fighting against otherworldly assassins and the devious machinations of the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra. CBR News spoke with Mignola about the book, as well as a second "Witchfinder" miniseries already in development.
Mignola described the first Sir Edward Grey miniseries, "Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels," as
"Witchfinder Year One," following shortly after the strip on MySpace Dark Horse Presents in which Grey saves Queen Victoria and becomes her designated occult detective. "We don't really find out this guy's background, but we do find out that he has some kind of destiny," Mignola told CBR. "I don't like to hit the destiny thing too hard, because it is my tendency to hit that sort of thing too hard, but it does come up as I was doing the book. Characters tend to start talking about stuff that I hadn't planned for them to talk about. The character will become very important in 'Hellboy' somewhere down the road, so I wanted to lay the groundwork for what's going to happen with this character."
"Witchfinder" is also meant to be a look at Mignola's version of Victorian London. "I've always been a big fan of English Victorian supernatural literature, and especially Victorian-era occult detective stuff. This is my ham-handed, very American attempt at pulling that off," he said. "It's fun, it's got seances, it's got Jack-the-Ripper-like murders, it's got cops in those helmets with the little bull's-eye lanterns running around through gas-lit alleys. It's probably informed more by old movies about that kind of stuff. Even the color treatment has almost a black-and-white feel to it. I wanted something that was so atmospheric and touched on all the peculiarities of Victorian-era stuff because there isn't a plan to do another one of these Ed Grey stories in London, so I wanted to make sure we got all that stuff, all that feel, clearly established as an Englishman in London. I wanted to make sure we got all of that stuff in this one series."
The series finds Sir Edward Grey confronting the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, Mignola's version of the secret society of Freemasons. "We see them as this mysterious group that's kind of lurking around the edges," the writer said. "They clearly have an agenda, they clearly know more about what's going on that we would like them to know about. One of the things this series does is set up a really strong reason for Ed Grey to not like these guys. Some of this stuff came up in the 'Hellboy Companion,' where I wrote a brief Ed Grey history, and now that I've written his history, we'll see some specifics about how some of this stuff works. And eventually in his life story, Ed Grey will be the guy that brings down the Heliopic Brotherhood. So here, in this series, we'll start to see a reason why he will have a grudge against these guys."
Joining Mignola on the series is Ben Stenbeck, who also illustrated last year's "B.P.R.D.: The Ectoplasmic Man" one-shot. "Ben is very detail-oriented and he's a research hound," Mignola said. "I wanted somebody who was going to take the time to draw Victorian London. He's got kind of a clunky, cartoonish style, so it's not photorealistic by any stretch, but he's loaded the thing with information, with old billboards and signs and building details and art deco details, so you get a lot of authenticity, even if it's a cartoonish drawing style. When you see machines, it looks like it could be a real Victorian machine. Or when you see a close up of a gun, you say, oh, that's a real gun."
Mignola likes working with only a few regular artists so he knows what to expect. "We're not looking to add a zillion new artists to the Hellboy roster," he said, adding that Stenbeck was best suited of his favored artists to drawing Victorian London. "Also, it's finding somebody who could do the Victorian period, I didn't have a long list of guys to choose from. Ben's done a great job. For a relatively new guy, I think this is going to be the book where you see a gigantic improvement as the book goes on."
This first "Witchfinder" series is actually the second that Mignola has developed. "We kind of came up with the second book first, because ['B.P.R.D.' writer] John [Arcudi] was wanting to do a Western. And I said, let's do an Ed Grey Western. But then I thought, since this guy is an English Victorian occult detective, it's a little strange to have the first book take place in the Old West. So the book I'm doing was created to establish his regular day job, and then the Western will be the second one. I've seen all of the first issue of John's and some of the second issue, and it's amazing. John Severin is drawing it, it's some of the best stuff I've ever seen him do."
Mike Mignola was hesitant to give details on his other upcoming B.P.R.D.-related miniseries starring Lobster Johnson, other than to say that John Arcudi is "doing the bulk of the writing on that" and that the series is shaping up to be "Lobster Johnson Year One." "I think we'll probably have a female reporter, some police trying to figure out who this guy is," Mignola said. "In the way that 'Witchfinder' is the Hellboy universe's version of London, what we'll see with Lobster Johnson in a lot more detail is the Hellboy universe's version of 1930s New York."
"Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels" #1 arrives July 1 from Dark Horse.