When artist Mike Mignola decided to pass the baton on to another artist, his first choice was a guy by the name of Ryan Sook. Coming off an impressive run at DC Comics' "The Spectre," Sook has just been announced as the artist for BPRD, a three issue spin-off featuring characters created by Mike Mignola in his popular Hellboy series from Dark Horse.
BPRD, which stands for Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, will be published as a three issue mini-series written by Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski, with plots and covers provided by series creator Mignola. The book will focus on the "other" members of the BPRD such as Roger the Homonculus, Abe Sapien and others, although Hellboy himself will make a cameo appearance.
The mini-series is set to ship from Dark Horse beginning in January of next year. The book will feature characters created by Mignola, but will focus on the BPRD after Hellboy's departure.
"BPRD will focus quite a bit on the Liz Sherman character and her pyro-kinetic powers. (Liz is) at the crux of our story," Sook told CBR News. "She has disappeared in a frightening manner thus pulling the rest of our strange team into a wild hunt that leads to the center of the earth. Abe (Sapien) is the driving force of the search, though purely to find Liz and not in anyway to help the Bureau which continues to alienate our heroes. Roger is a homunculus who also takes keen interest in Liz's whereabouts not only as a friend but also because it was her power that initially brought him to life. Kate Corrigan is trying desperately to hold the group together, hoping not to lose Abe and Roger the way that she lost Hellboy (at the end of "Conqueror Worm") and simultaneously bring Johann Kraus into his new home at the Bureau. Not much more can be said about Johann at this point except that without him, our team might be lost for good!"
Sook will also provide fans a sneak peek into the world of BPRD with a 3 part comic strip for Dark Horse Extra, a free preview comic strip magazine released monthly by Dark Horse to retail and comic shops for free, to introduce the new main character.
"His name is Johann Kraus, a great character who's a lot of fun. He's kind of a hybrid of an idea that Mike Golden and Mignola had together," Sook said.
Issues 42 through 44 of Dark Horse Extra will be available starting on December 5th and will feature an exclusive BPRD "teaser" strip written by Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski with art by Ryan Sook. Johann Kraus, the newest member of the BPRD, developed his unique powers and handicap during a psychic catastrophe in China.
BPRD won't be the first time that Mignola and Sook have worked together. "I've known Mike (Mignola) for years now and he actually helped me get into comics," said Sook. "My first job was 'Challengers Of The Unknown' with DC. (Mignola) had introduced some of my samples to Dan Thorsland, who was the editor on that book at the time. Then I showed Dan some newer samples of my stuff that I had done down at the Con in San Diego that year and he said, 'Let's get you started on this book.' So (Mignola) helped me get my first job."
Sook and Mignola also worked together on a Dark Horse Presents story called "Kodex Arana." "It was a tribute to HP Lovecraft, and our contribution was a story called 'The Book Room Horror'," said Sook."Mike's been a mentor to that degree. I met him at a Con showing samples of my work and I showed him my stuff and he really liked it."
Professional relationships aside, Sook is still feeling no small amount of pressure in following Mignola's footsteps.
"This is a thing where all these characters have pretty much only been drawn by one guy, it's not like drawing a Batman book where a ton of people have drawn this character before you, and so it's a little intimidating," said Sook. "The crazy thing about doing this job is that not many people have ever done anything with Mike's other characters and being a fan of Hellboy myself I've looked at some of them and said, 'Oh, that's not as good as Mike's' but now it's me doing the art and I just want to do justice to his characters."
Sook and Mignola will share duties on BPRD, but Sook still feels most of the weight on his own shoulders. "What Mike (Mignola) has contributed to this is the covers and he's helped design mostly all of the characters, I'll give him the credit," he said. "He's helped with layouts and stuff, but the interior art will be mine."
One look at Sook's brooding art and you'll know that Mignola couldn't have found a better artist to carry on his work. Sook's work is reminiscent of a darker P. Craig Russell or Windsor-Smith with more than a nod towards Mignola's own shadowy flare.
Sook also spoke briefly with CBR regarding his tenure on "The Spectre" for DC which will end in January.
"'The Spectre' has been running about a year and I'm inking up my last few pages now. The book will go on, but my run ends with the January issue. It was a year's worth of work and certainly more work than I've ever done in a year otherwise," said Sook.
"I've been working 3 years straight now, pretty much since the time that Mike and I did that Dark Horse Presents issue, and I'd like time to learn how to draw again and to doodle," said Sook. "There have been those few instances where they've asked me to do a one-shot, like on some "Buffy" books for Dark Horse, but right now I have really nothing on the schedule after I finish this BPRD mini, and you know what, I kind of like it that way."
While Sook may be taking a well deserved break from all this work, that doesn't mean he'll be sitting idle. He's got a wide variety of upcoming possibilities he hinted to.
"I've had some discussions with people at DC and at Marvel about doing some graphic novels and mini-series. I've been pigeonholed as the 'Supernatural Guy' and I'd like to take a step back and look at things with new eyes. So, I'd love to work on a detective book or a Batman graphic novel, which is in discussion right now," said Sook. "Actually, I've been kicking around a bunch of different ideas about doing something creator-owned. Both John Arcudi ('Doom Patrol') and I would like to bring back a character we worked on for Dark Horse a while back called RAGNAROK again. J.M. DeMatteis and I have also had discussions about doing something in the future too."
So, if response to this BPRD mini is overwhelming is there a chance that we could see more BPRD books down the line? "In all honesty it all depends on how BPRD does in Dark Horse's eyes. But, yeah that's a definite possibility. We'd all be interested in doing another one," Sook said.