In the world of Mike Mignola's B.P.R.D., one of the newest agents on the block is a would-be exorcist. But for the next story featuring solo Bureau hero Ashley Strode, Dark Horse is bringing in a few more voices to the mix rather than excorcising any.
CBR News has learned that later this month, the planned "B.P.R.D." #140 will see a shift from its announced creative team. Cameron Stewart was scheduled to write and illustrate the first post-John Arcudi story arc on the book, but will not be able to fully pen and draw his story featuring Agent Ashley Strode. Instead newly minted "B.P.R.D." writer Chris Roberson will work to bring Stewart's story to life alongside first time Mignolaverse artist Mike Norton.
"Unfortunately due to my ongoing work on both 'Fight Club 2' and 'Batgirl,' I wasn't able to be the sole creator of this story," Stewart told CBR. "I wrote a treatment for the story, breaking it down into the major beats, and that was handed to Roberson to flesh out and turn into a full script."
Norton also chimed in on the shift, saying that he's long wanted to work with the creators and characters involved even though he's amazed at the amount of B.P.R.D. stories he hasn't gotten to as a fan. "I'm the worst comics reader ever. I'm a disgrace to my profession that way," the artist joked. "It feels like yesterday I was reading the first Hellboy series and then just looked up and all these years of continuity and characters just showed up. It really is it's own universe. To me, it's almost more an aesthetic. When someone like Mignola is so involved in the creation of something, it almost has to be. He's that distinct.
"But that's what makes getting to play in it exciting. I can't think of many artists more 'against type' for a Hellboy project than me or Cameron (who drew the first Ashley story). I really like Ashley so far, though. I think she was probably the best choice for me to work on. I guess [Editor] Scott Allie thought so too, because here I am!"
For his part, Stewart found a kindred spirit in Norton on the page. "I haven't seen any of it apart from three pages of artwork, but Norton's work always looks terrific. It was really interesting to see how the first three pages were fairly close to what I'd envisioned," he said.
The original Strode tale was the two-issue "Hell On Earth: Exorcism" story that Stewart wrote and drew with Mignola in 2011. That series put the neophyte agent and exorcist front and center for the first time in an adventure that saw her far out of her depth. This new tale (running for several issues starting in "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" #140) pushes that journey forward as Strode becomes one of the last voices in humanity standing against the world that's quickly disintegrating after recent events across the Mignolaverse. The agent finds herself outmatched in a crumbling ghost town with more than a few surprises.
"'Exorcism' saw Ashley go from a field soldier inexperienced in occult combat, to taking on her first demon opponent and defeating it," Stewart said. "Rather than pick up right where we left her, I thought it would be fun to jump forward a few years and see her more experienced and capable. She's now a kind of "combat exorcist," hunting down demons and their human acolytes.
"As far as I know, the ghost town is a real place," Norton explained. "I've heard stories from Scott and Tim Seeley about it. They've been to the main location several times and it looks and sounds spooky as hell. That kind of 'real life' weirdness is kind of in my wheelhouse since I've been drawing a horror comic about a real town for the past two years. That's what I'll be drawing on."
While the story beats for the tale come from Stewart (who like other Mignola collaborators has "adopted" Strode as his character in the B.P.R.D. milieu), the finer points will fall on the shoulders of the artist and Roberson, as Norton explained, "Chris and I have been talking about working together for like five years, it feels like. I'm just happy it happened."
As for what role this adventure will play in terms of future work in the Mignolaverse or for the creators, Norton is leaving the door open after this run wraps. "Right now, it's just a chance to play. But I never say never anymore when it comes to comics. I told myself at the end of last year that I'd take it easier in 2016 and do less. I've already broken that resolution. Luckily, my friend Dave Stokes is helping me with thumbnails so I can get a head start on every issue."
For his part, Stewart said the arc will likely be his last contribution to the world of the B.P.R.D. as he focused back on the finale of "Fight Clube 2" a wide range of original projects. "The finale of the series is actually one of the things that most made me want to work on [Chuck Palahniuk's sequel] -- I think it's a fairly provocative comment on the way that Fight Club has been embraced by many of its fans. I'm curious to see the reaction!
"Collaboration is something that can be very liberating and exciting when done with the right partners, and I've been very lucky in that regard to have worked with such talented and generous people," Stewart continued. "I also enjoy working solo, and I will likely be working on another solo project in the near future."
"B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth" #140 is scheduled for release April 20 from Dark Horse.