This May, Mignolaverse fans can anticipate a double treat, as Hellboy guest-stars in “Abe Sapien” #23 in a one-off drawn by renowned artist Kevin Nowlan. Series writer Scott Allie, who also edits the Mignolaverse titles in his role as Dark Horse Comics Editor-in-Chief, tells CBR News that he tailored his script to capitalize upon Nowlan’s gift for infusing a tinge of humor in his art.
Both Nowlan and Allie share with CBR what appeals to the collaborators about playing these two characters off of each other. To tease the upcoming release, Dark Horse also revealed exclusive pages from “Abe Sapien” #23.
To the delight of Nowlan fans, Dark Horse also divulged that “B.P.R.D.” writer John Arcudi and the legendary artist will team in 2016 on a “Lobster Johnson” one-shot, which hopefully will be full of “monsters and guns and graveyards and weird characters.”
CBR News: Scott, which came first for you: the decision to team Abe with Hellboy in this story or the decision for you to team with Kevin?
Scott Allie: I think it was the decision to get Kevin in here. If I recall, we’d asked Kevin to do it, he agreed, and then we started talking about what he might do. Then we decided it’d be fun to have Abe deal with a lake monster, and that tied us into a prior story — in “Box Full of Evil” Hellboy refers to an incident with Ogopogo, and we decided to tell that story with Kevin, which gave us Hellboy.
There is a certain amount of whimsy or wit to the tone of this story, was that a tone you set out to attain from the start, or did it develop over the evolution of the issue’s collaborative dynamics?
Allie: It was intentional from the moment Kevin was on board. I think Kevin does fantastic humor. Not enough people in comics can anymore. This issue isn’t knee-slappin’ comedy, it’s not outside Mignola’s normal tone, but it does push it in that direction. I love when Mike goes funny, so we leaned into that on this one.
Kevin Nowlan: I think the humor in Scott’s script is pretty subtle. I tried to play it as straight as I could but I draw a little funnier these days for some reason. I love to exaggerate a little, even when stuff is supposed to be “realistic.”
What do you both enjoy about getting to do a done-in-one story like this?
Allie: I think it’s so good for the reader to get payoff — they pay so much for comics these days. I want every issue to deliver for the reader — every issue should give the reader the stuff that they’re showing up for. It’s a bit of a lost art, delivering a whole story in a single issue. We just did a five-issue arc in “Abe” #18-22, the first time we’ve done a story that long in the monthly series. So it was good to follow that up with a done-in-one.
Kevin Nowlan: After 22 pages and a cover, I’m ready for something new.
Once you realized the story was set in British Columbia did you start researching the landscape, or did Scott give you some reference material to work from?
Kevin Nowlan: Scott provided quite a bit of material and I found some additional reference photos on my own as I worked on the drawings. I tried to make everything look reasonably authentic, without getting too literal.
While Abe and Hellboy do not make a great comedy team per se, there is something about the interaction of those two characters that almost has a buddy film (Bob Hope/Bing Crosby) vibe to them. What appeals to you both about playing Abe and Hellboy off of each other in this story’s manner?
Allie: We’ve been writing Abe on his own for 20 issues. He meets people along the way, forges relationships, then parts ways. So it was great to write an issue where the relationship is preexisting, the readers already know Abe’s dynamic with Hellboy, and we don’t have to build the relationship from scratch within the 22 pages — there’s real friendship, already there. It actually sort of rolls over into the theme of the next arc.
Kevin Nowlan: The contrast in their personalities works well. Fire and Water; two regular mugs who just happen to me monsters. Hellboy is gruff and cynical. Abe is practically a wide-eyed optimist by comparison. Visually, they offer nice contrasts as well. I probably drew Abe a little thinner and greener than normal.
The song that plays a role in this story — is that Slovenian? Also what inspired you to set the story in Okanagan Lake and in 1992 in particular?
Allie: Well, it spins out of a reference in “Box Full of Evil,” so Lake Okanaga and 1992 were locked in, not my choices. But I love setting a story right before “Seed of Destruction,” right before their lives went crazy.
The song is based on an old tune about the Ogopogo, but rewritten in a mix of a Native American dialect and Mike’s Hyperborean language.
Kevin, one of the myriad reasons you are such an acclaimed artist, is the way you draw characters, particularly the townspeople in this issue. I honestly consider you the Walker Evans of comic book artists with the great faces you create. Can you talk a little bit about what inspires the kind of faces and body types you use for characters?
Kevin Nowlan: Thanks for the compliment but Walker Evans is too serious for me. I’m more of a Joe Sedelmaier guy. Or if that reference is too dated, maybe the Coen brothers?
Kevin Nowlan: Right. I did a one-shot with John Arcudi back in 2013.
What can you tell us about this particular Lobster Johnson tale?
Allie: As usual, John wrote the upcoming “LoJo” one-shot specifically for Kevin. John and Mike and I are all huge fans of Kevin, so we come up with these things just based on what we want to see him draw. The upcoming one-shot — when John sketched the story out to me over the phone, my brain just switched off at some point and I said, “Okay, I just want to see Kevin draw all this, let’s get it done!”
Kevin Nowlan: I don’t have the script yet so this may all change… but I think it has monsters and guns and graveyards and weird characters. And hopefully a lot of night scenes because I think I missed some opportunities to go overboard with the shadows on the previous Lobster story.
Scott, when you are teamed with Kevin on a story, what kind of creative morsels do you try to put in the script for him to capitalize upon?
Allie: I remember with this one — and this is the only thing I’ve ever written for Kevin — we spent a pretty long time on the phone talking about the tone and the kinds of things he wanted to draw. A big part of it was just that Kevin wanted to draw the kinds of characters that don’t normally populate comics. He wanted to draw older people, he wanted to draw the kinds of faces you call character actors in movies. I had just gotten a book about the elders in my home town, Ipswich, Massachusetts. I ordered another copy and had it sent to Kevin. These were some of the faces we wanted to get in the book. And the other thing Kevin wanted was organic, outdoor settings. So the story is set in Canada, but in a lot of ways I was just setting it in my hometown.
At the same time, my wife and I were binge watching “Murder, She Wrote,” where Angela Lansbury always cast a lot of cool older actors. So I basically shaped this story to be a “Murder She Wrote” murder mystery with the kind of answer that Jessica Fletcher never would’ve uncovered.
If you consider one of the greats of Broadway and “The Manchurian Candidate” did a show for so long, the guest stars on that must be staggering. Setting aside Jerry Orbach, please give me the three guest stars on “Murder, She Wrote” that surprised you and your wife the most.
Allie: Good call singling Jerry Orbach out, because he’s head and shoulders above the rest.
There’s one episode featuring Bryan Cranston and Linda Hamilton, so there’s two right there. You get Mr. Cranston in short 1980s-style tennis shorts, which aren’t a far cry from Walter White’s tighty whiteys. Another favorite is “Twin Peaks” star Richard Beymer, who if I recall played a few different characters.
Kevin, in general, what appeals to you most about working within the Mignolaverse?
Kevin Nowlan: Monsters, dark humor, irony… and you couldn’t ask for better people to work with than Mike, Scott and John.
Are you coloring yourself in both projects. If so, what advantages do you find result from your art when you color it yourself?
Kevin Nowlan: Yes, I did the colors and seps on “Abe” and I should be doing the same on “Lobster Johnson.” With most of these stories, I’ve been laboring over the art for so long that most of the color decisions are already made by the time I finish the inks. It’s frustrating and time consuming to work with another colorist if they have a different approach. I hate writing notes for changes. It’s easier to just do it myself.
“Abe Sapien” #23 by Allie & Nowlan goes on sale May 13 from Dark Horse Comics.
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