In a continuation of the original film, Hellboy II: The Golden Army finds Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his team of B.R.P.D. elites as they battle an evil elf that is hell-bent on resurrecting an invincible group of mythological warriors known as the Golden Army.
The film, directed by Guillermo Del Toro and co-written by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, melds the superhero world of the comics with the fantastical vision of one of the world’s finest directors to create a universe that feels wholly unique.
Mignola first penned Hellboy in 1994 for the then-fledgling Dark Horse Comics. Since then, Mignola has nurtured the Hellboy series into a collection of numerous comics, graphic novels and other works.
Mignola did the art and writing for the series until 2007, when artist Duncan Fegredo took over the drawing. Mignola has since penned several storylines, but has been unable to balance the responsibilities of writing and inking the Hellboy comic books.
He played an essential role in the production of the first Hellboy film, and filled a similar role for the development of Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.
Mignola took a few minutes to talk to M&C about the journey Hellboy both as a comic and film creation.
M&C: Now that Hellboy 2 has hit store shelves, what is your focus as far as the Hellboy universe?
Mignola: My focus is on the comic, as it always has been. Unlike the short amount of time that I spent on the film, I’ve never been away from the comic. Unfortunately, I don’t draw the comic anymore, but I still write for it, and I co-write the related Hellboy comics.
M&C: What made you decide to step away from drawing Hellboy?
Mignola: Because the way I was going, it was never going to get done. I had come up with a gigantic storyline, some of which paralleled with what’s in Hellboy 2, and I just realized that it was too big for me to do.
It would never get done. Even without the film, there was the B.P.R.D. comic and these other Hellboy related things that I wanted to do, and I just couldn’t keep all those balls in the air. I couldn’t devote the time it would take for this gigantic comic book story.
I found another artist who wanted to draw the book, and one of these days when we’re done with this big storyline, I’d like to take the comic back and do it myself. But for now, I’ve got my hands full just telling this story.
M&C: What was the process like, handing over the reigns as the artist? Did you guys meet a lot? Did he look at a lot of your stuff and try to mimic it?
Mignola: That’s actually the opposite of what I wanted. I didn’t want someone who would imitate me. I really wanted to find a person with which I already had some common ground; we told stories in a similar way.
There had to be a certain similarity in the art style, because Hellboy is so much based on my art style. I knew an artist who was perfect for that, and fortunately he was available. It was a no brainer about who should do it, although we started out with another artist who didn’t work out, but the guy we got, Duncan Fegredo, was great and was a big fan of Hellboy.
It was very difficult to hand it over to someone else. I mean, it is my baby, and I had done it for, at that point, twelve years maybe, and to let somebody else do it. Nobody is ever going to do it exactly how you imagine it, but Duncan got used to it, and it’s been a lot of fun. It was the toughest professional thing I’ve done, but it was also tough creatively.
There were times when I would say, “Oh, I would do his finger a little more like this.” And little by little, you realize you can’t breathe down the guy’s neck.
It was somewhat different from doing things with [Guillermo] Del Toro on the first Hellboy picture where I just told him, “You’re great. Do whatever you want.”
But when you’re sitting in the room and he’s doing things that you would never do, you can’t help but go, “Um, are you sure you want to do that?”
M&C: Do you think B.P.R.D. would translate well into a movie?
Mignola: I think it would be great in a film. I love that book, and what’s really great about that book is John Arcudi’s writing…I shouldn’t say that. It’s John Severin and Arcudi working together that makes it so phenomenal.
My involvement in that book has been to kind of steer. Some of the plot elements are mine and the direction of the book is mine, but John is so good at the character and has really taken ownership of that book.
I think it’s fun, and I really love those characters. I was kind of thinking if The X-Files did really well, it would be a conversation I would hope to have, to say, “We’ve got something that’s kind of like The X-Files, except it’s got more monsters.”
M&C: Was the plot of Hellboy 2: The Golden Army taken from one of your stories?
Mignola: No, it wasn’t. We started out trying to adapt one of my storylines, but one of the problems we ran into…Del Toro and I were both really into mythology at the time.
He was doing Pan’s Labyrinth and I was hatching this gigantic storyline in the Hellboy comic, which is sort of folklore oriented. And so that’s where our heads were at. Also, by the end of the of the first Hellboy film, that is Del Toro’s Hellboy. It was much easier to write an original story for that Hellboy than to take one of my stories and change it to fit the Del Toro Hellboy universe.
M&C: For people who only know the movies, what are some things they have in common with the comics?
Mignola: One of the things that I really love about the movies is that they are still true to Hellboy’s personality. The spirit of Hellboy is still there, just like it is in my original creation.
The details and the relationships become very different, but it’s still my kind of stuff. It’s very interesting. I’ve had fans of the comic say that Hellboy 2 is very different from the comic than the first movie, and I’ve had fans who say that it’s much more similar. I don’t know what the hell is going on there, but it still feels a lot like my stuff.
M&C: In creating the totally fictional universe of Hellboy, do you ever struggle to keep from making things too unbelievable?
Mignola: That’s a really good question. It’s funny, because as much as I like getting away from the real world, Hellboy has always been grounded in the real world. When I did a story where Hellboy goes to the bottom of the ocean and hangs out with mermaids, that was really tough.
In broad strokes it seemed like it would work, but when I got there I just said, “Should I really be doing this?” because I really felt like I was crossing a line. I really enjoyed that story, but you really do have to acclimatize yourself again and understand that you just made the story that much bigger.
You’re encompassing fairy-tales instead of just real-world vampires and Frankenstein…that’s how I view the real world…with physical stuff. We’re now in this other realm. And that’s what made Hellboy 2 possible.
I had embraced that world in the comic. The story I’m working on now, when it’s finished it will add up to four graphic novels. When it’s all done, it’ll be more of that world. Fantasy, mythology, folk-lore…Europe.
M&C: And so, in creating the characters you also have to create a reason for them to exist.
Mignola: Right. And also because I want to draw them. That’s how almost everything in Hellboy started: “Well, I’ve always wanted to draw this character.”
M&C: You’ve done some crossovers before, but never anything too “out there”. Do you ever get approached to do some really crazy ones?
Mignola: No, not really. People don’t talk about crossovers too much anymore. I mean, I did one a while back with Eric Powell about The Goon, which was so much fun. I didn’t want to do the standard thing where Hellboy comes to that town, so we did it more like “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” where Hellboy gets clocked on the head and wakes up in The Goon.
I drew the first three pages and the last page, and told Eric that he could do whatever he wanted to do because I didn’t have to make it jive with my style.
M&C: Do you meet a lot of people who have only seen the movies and want to dig into the comic?
Mignola: Yeah, there are a lot of people out there like that. I’ve only met one person who saw the movies, then read the comic and decided they didn’t like the comic. I imagine that is a danger with something like this.
If you like Hellboy for the relationship stuff, like with Liz Sherman, or all the stuff with Abe Sapien, you’re probably going to be disappointed when you pick up the comic and that stuff just doesn’t exist. But the comic has other stuff that the films don’t have, too.
M&C: So what’s up with Hellboy 3? Is Del Toro going to direct it? What about “The Hobbit”?
Mignola: You know as much as I do. Probably more. [laughs] To my knowledge he still wants to do it. He’s still planning on doing The Hobbit, so I don’t know.
Anytime you talk to Guillermo or read about what he’s doing, there’s always a list of about 20 films. When I see him, we’ll talk about it, and he’ll tell me five films he wants to do. Then I’ll go home and read online a list of ten other films that he wants to direct. Ones I’ve never even heard of. He just loves so many things.
M&C: Would you ever go for a different director?
Mignola: I don’t know. He’s done a wonderful job, and it would be hard to imagine someone else doing Hellboy, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a dark, spookier Hellboy. Something a little bit straighter.
Guillermo’s strokes are so broad, and doing a small, spooky Hellboy film…I couldn’t imagine him doing that sort of story because it’s so restrained. Certainly there are no talks about another director, but I’m curious to see what happens.
M&C: I really appreciate your time, Mike.
Mignola: No problem. Thank you.