Mike Mignola on Hellboy’s 20th Anniversary
Once in a while I’m reminded of an anniversary — whether it’s for an awesome movie, TV show, book, or even a product — and immediately think, “Damn…now I feel really old.” Because that awesome thing is so fresh in my mind, and so dear to my heart, that I just can’t wrap my brain around the fact that it’s been a part of my life for that long.
Hearing the words “20th Anniversary of Hellboy” elicited one of those moments. It completely floored me, because I can clearly remember the moment when I pulled a new comic from the stands featuring a blunt horned, red-hued creature, and instantly fell in love with the art and words of Mike Mignola.
The realization came when Dark Horse dubbed Saturday, March 22nd “Hellboy Day,” and announced that the event would be celebrated in comic shops around the world. And to mark the occasion, the release of ‘HELLBOY: THE FIRST 20 YEARS’ will soon be hitting shelves, which presents Mignola’s favorite covers and illustrations in gallery style, from his first drawing of the character through twenty years of publishing.
The second time I was floored by Hellboy-related news this week was when I received an Email: it simply asked if I’d like the opportunity to speak with Mike Mignola himself. When I regained consciousness and realized it was not a hallucination, I quickly agreed.
Blake Northcott: Hi, Mike! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me.
Mike Mignola: No problem.
BN: The 20th anniversary of Hellboy is almost here, and there are some exciting things happening this week — but first, I want to go back to the beginning. When you were creating this character, did you have any inkling about how popular it would become? Was there ever a sense that you were onto something special?
MM: Not at all. I didn’t really know, but I hoped it would amount to something. I certainly didn’t know it would expand into what it is now.
I just wanted to put something on paper full of everything I liked, so I created it in a way that if it worked out, it would be my favorite comic to draw.
But I didn’t really allow myself to think it would really happen.
BN: What were some of your influences or inspirations while creating Hellboy — inside or outside the comic book world?
MM: Basically it’s hard to pin it down. I have a really short attention span, but I put everything I liked into this one book.
I was thinking about old movies and comics I liked…it’s a book that feels like my real interests, with Nazis, and monsters and ghosts — and not just something that would be easy to draw, or done for commercial appeal.
BN: To mark the 20-Year Anniversary, Dark Horse is releasing HELLBOY: THE FIRST 20 YEARS.
In your foreword, the first sentence you wrote is “This is not The Art of Hellboy Volume 2.” I’ve already had the chance to see it, but for those who don’t know about the book, what is THE FIRST 20 YEARS, and what does it mean to you?
MM: What I really wanted was to show how it blew up from this one little comic that I never thought people wanted into this whole Hellboy universe.
I wanted a book to show my evolution as an artist — I felt my early works were kind of clunky, and to show the evolution of the whole series.
BN: Working with so many titles in one shared universe must be daunting. How challenging is it to keep continuity on track?
MM: Continuity has been relatively easy, because we only included three writers in twenty years. Some came and went in short stints, but it was mostly written by me, and more and more (in recent years) by John Arcudi and Scott Allie.
I’ve been working with John for fifteen years, and Scott has been writing since the beginning. The three of us coordinate and keep things consistent.
It’s all I think about. I don’t have another job, and I’m pretty focused on mythology and continuity.
The problem with big company books is that they change their creative team every six months to a year. The fact that it’s been just the three of us for so long has made it relatively easy.
BN: Looking forward, where do you see Hellboy going? Since he died and went to hell in 2011 it must present some unique challenges.
MM: It was more challenging than I thought it would be, but interesting to write a character who is already dead. My choice has been to keep writing him like when he was still alive — he just has a couple new problems.
There is no part of the book that is about making him not dead anymore. I just threw him into a different environment. So the plan is just to keep him roaming around in this wonderful landscape that we’ve created. My version of hell is made entirely of every environment I’ve ever wanted to draw. So for an artist like me, it’s so much fun to create that world.
BN: Shifting away from comics, some people might not be aware that you’ve worked on films, including Blade II, The Hobbit, and Pixar’s Brave — do you have other movies outside the Hellboy universe that you’re working on in the future?
MM: No, I very rarely get asked to work on films. I’ve worked with Francis Coppola, way back when I worked on the Dracula comic. I got roped into that film for a couple of minutes. And then the other film stuff was with Del Toro. Guillermo wanted me on Blade II as a warm-up to working on Hellboy. We were working on developing Hellboy, so it was like, “Come and hang out with me to see if we get along.”
The only other thing I’ve done was with Disney, where they brought me in as a designer and consultant for Atlantis. And on Brave I only came on because I’m friends with the director, and that was for a couple of days. So it’s not really what I do.
I have no burning desire to work in film — it’s a fun world to see, and see how things get done, but my day job is really the best job I could have.
BN: And finally, can you give us an update on the likelihood of a Hellboy III movie? When Hellboy II ended, everyone resigned from B.P.R.D. and Liz announced her twins — it left the series feeling like a third movie was inevitable.
MM: That wasn’t my idea — I would have done the ending differently. It was such a struggle to get the first film made, and no one was jumping up and down to make a second movie.
Guillermo was very optimistic about making Hellboy II, and he thought it would be a no-brainer. I probably would have preferred wrapping it up neatly at the end, and the cliffhanger ending has led to however many years now of people asking, “Where is Hellboy III?” and the truth is, I have no idea!
Guillermo has said that making Hellboy III would be very expensive, and I don’t think that anyone is excited to make an expensive Hellboy sequel happen. So I’m not holding my breath.
BN: Thank you for chatting with me!
MM: Thanks a lot!
Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle).You can follow her on Twitter or pick up her best-selling sci-Fi/superhero book Arena Mode over at Amazon.com.
Blake previously interviewed YouTube sensation ComicBookGirl19 in She Makes Geek Chic and proved cosplay is on the rise with The five Hottest Trends of the Summer Fan Conventions.