Mike Mignola has gone to hell with Hellboy, and he has every intention of staying there.
“I find the hell that I’ve created very, very cozy,” he told a crowd at Long Beach Comic Con on Saturday afternoon. “I don’t want to leave it.”
So what’s so great about the “Hellboy in Hell” underworld where Mignola plans to spend most of, or maybe all, of the rest of his career?
“If you could look inside my head, this is the world that’s in there,” the Hellboy creator said. “It’s entirely made out of the things I like,” which include old buildings and forests and exclude cars, planes and the pressure of trying to illustrate real places.
“I just want to draw that world,” he continued. “The trouble is, that world’s really big, so it’s going to take a really long time to draw it.”
During the hour-plus “Hellboy in Hell: 20 Years of Hellboy” panel, moderated by Hero Complex’s Patrick Kevin Day, Mignola showed a passion and respect for folk tales – and a self-deprecating sense of humor.
He said his well-meaning demon started “as such a silly thing” – with “the stupidest name on earth,” though he noted that calling a movie “Hellboy” scared Hollywood (but not too much – Guillermo del Toro directed two big-screen adaptations starring Ron Perlman).
Discussing ceding art duties to Duncan Fegredo for some Hellboy stories, Mignola said, “He draws better. … He can draw a little bit like me, but he can also draw cars and girls. … Hellboy never would have had a girlfriend and you never would have seen him in the inside of a car” if not for Fegredo.
Answering a fan question about how he conceived of Hellboy’s fellow members of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense two decades ago, he said, “Not a lot of thought went into this stuff,” adding the design for Abe Sapien hasn’t changed much since his first sketch.
The writer-artist has, however, put a lot of thought into Hellboy the character’s end (though that may not be “Hellboy’s” end).
“The trick when you have an endpoint is, when do you do it? Do you do it and say, ‘I’m done’? I can’t imagine ever not doing ‘Hellboy.’ I can’t imagine ever not doing that world. At the same time, if you’ve got a big finale, you want to do it before you’re too old and shaky. So we will do that endpoint, and I’ve come up with a way to do that endpoint without it being the end of the book.”
To tell the 20 years of Hellboy stories he’s already told, Mignola has relied on a vast home library of books on fairy tales and folk tales – works he cites clearly in the introductions to collected volumes of “Hellboy.”
“I always fess up – this is where I got the stuff,” he said. “No one really holds it against me. And I’m so sure that if I don’t give credit where credit is due, someone will say, ‘Hey, you’re ripping off these old stories.’ … Because so few people do read [the source material], I feel like I’m doing something, like bringing these stories back out there and introducing an audience who might never read Japanese folk tales about heads that float around in the wood planning to kill a guy.”
Mignola added that, other than adding Hellboy, he tries not to tamper with what originally worked about the original tales.
“I love those old stories so much, the last thing I want to do is pollute them with the nonsense that I made up.”
In terms of new stories, “Hellboy in Hell” (which will soon introduce the character’s sister) will later this year be joined by “Hellboy and the BPRD,” which picks up in 1952 and, Mignola said, offsets the weirdness of the other title with a more classic feel. It begins with the title character’s first outing as a BPRD agent and will cover large stretches of the character’s life that haven’t been seen.
Asked about Hellboy’s blue-collar voice, Mignola said it’s rooted in the two sides of his personality. One side indulges his fondness for Shakespeare and Dickens and tries to write dialogue like that, while the other “says ‘You’re embarrassing the hell out of yourself’ – and that’s where Hellboy comes in and says ‘You’re boring me to death.’ … I get to let the air out of the balloon when I get too gassy.”
Long Beach Comic Con at the Long Beach Convention Center until 5 p.m. Sunday. Hero Complex is a sponsor of the convention.
RECENT AND RELATED