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    Hell Notes: A Hell of a Love Life

    By | December 17th, 2013
    Posted in Annotations | 4 Comments
    Logo by Tim Daniel

    When I wrote “Hell Notes: A Hell of a Family” there was a glaring oversight: the women Hellboy has been romantically involved with. So think of this as an addition to that one.

    Alice returned by the fairies
    Alice Monaghan
    Hellboy met Alice when he was only fourteen years old, although given the pace he grew up, he looked much older. And Alice was… well, one. So there’s a bit of an age gap there.

    One-year-old Alice had been kidnapped by the Daoine Sídhe (Irish fairies). The fairies were a fading race at this time and wanted to raise her as one of their own. To get her back, Hellboy had to help a corpse to find a proper Christian burial place before dawn. True to their word, the fairies returned Alice, though it would mean they would fade from the world a little more. As Alice grew up it became clear she was different. Though she was still a human, she had been changed by the fairies, and as she grew older she sought them out.

    Hellboy and Alice were much older when they saw each other again. In what Hellboy thought was a dream, he glimpsed her at the funeral of Dagda, the last king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The last time he’d seen her she was only five, yet forty-three years later he recognised her immediately. Later, after his attempted murder by the members of the Wild Hunt, Hellboy took refuge in her home. Alice had apparently been waiting for him. Like Hellboy, she’s been drifting in and out of the fairy realm, unable to tell the difference between that and dreaming.

    Alice took Hellboy to Queen Mab of the fairies, though Mab was quick to point out that has been a long time since she was queen of anything. Queen Mab set Hellboy on a course the would lead him to the truth of his lineage on his mother’s side, his one chance to escape the monster that had been growing inside of him since his death in Hellboy: The Island. Alice joined Hellboy, feeling that somehow she was a part of this.

    They were sent a guide, a fairy creature calling himself Edmund, Duke of Gloucester, a treacherous fellow that lures Hellboy into an ambush in which Alice was poisoned. This had all been set-up by Hellboy’s ancient ancestor, Morgan le Fay, as a way to get him to her home and get rid of the demon Eligos at her gates. When Alice recovered, Morgan revealed the true nature of Hellboy’s birthright as the true king of Britain, the heir of King Arthur Pendragon.

    While Morgan and Hellboy talked further, Alice was left to rest, dreaming she was in a cave full of hundreds of soldiers that appeared dead, but were actually waiting. King Arthur appeared before her, and told Alice her life was bound to his sword, that she would be the first to see the new king with his crown. When she awoke, she was convinced Hellboy would be the new king and that somehow Excalibur could solve their problems. Hellboy was not as easily convinced though.

    Later that evening Hellboy was approached by his uncle, Astaroth, who yet again tried to get him to take up the Crown of the Apocalypse and unleash the army of Hell. Hellboy of course rejected his proposal, then fought with a vision of his darker self, releasing a flame that burned out Morgan le Fay’s castle. In horror at what he had done, Hellboy hurried to Alice’s room to find her charred skeleton.

    This hopeless moment prompted Hellboy to finally claim the sword Excalibur. When the sword was drawn free of the stone, the world around Hellboy vanished and he found himself standing where he had met with Queen Mab, and at his side was Alice, alive and well, albeit confused.

    As the King of Britain, Hellboy travelled as only he could, in a tiny rental car (Alice had a poor credit rating and Hellboy’s cards were somewhere on the ocean floor after everything that happened to him in Hellboy: The Third Wish) with Excalibur sitting on the backseat, wrapped in a stolen hotel towel. He and Alice soon learned that the noble dead of Britain had begun to rise in preparation for their final battle on Vigrid field, as had been foretold.

    Continued below

    After fighting a hedgehog warrior, Alice and Hellboy found themselves at a pub in the middle of nowhere (the barkeeper was the fading spirit of Queen Mab, who had been killed by Nimue, but they didn’t know that just yet) and shortly after they were joined by the assembled noble dead of Britain, standing, waiting for orders. But Hellboy was unable to give them orders. He felt he needed to do things his way, alone, not riding at the head of an army the way everyone kept telling him he should. Even at Alice’s urging, he decided to give up Excalibur. Before he left, Hellboy told her when all this was done he would return to Bureau, and asked her how she’d feel about living in America. Then he left, telling the waiting army they had the wrong guy.

    Hellboy’s actions made no sense to Alice. They had gone through so much to get Excalibur only to have him discard it so easily. She was convinced he had made a mistake, and began to think that the dream of King Arthur she had had in Morgan le Fay’s castle truly was nothing more than a dream. But the barkeeper (spirit of Queen Mab) reminded her that the sword was bound to her, that it was put into her keeping for a reason. She told Alice about George Washbrook, a man that had been waiting for something most of his life. When Alice saw the elderly Mr Washbrook coming down from upstairs, there was the spirit of a robed woman at his side, and somehow Alice knew he was the one who should be king and presented him with Excalibur. As he took up the sword, the robed spirit placed a crown upon his head, and George Washbrook was restored to youth, and clad in shining armour. Another robed figure gave him the Holy Grail, and with it he restored the army awaiting outside.

    When the army rode away to the final battle, Alice ran at their heels, witnessing the passing of the last witches, the bloody battlefield of Vigrid, and the passing of Britain’s last king. At the steps of Niwue’s tower in the middle of the battlefield, she saw Sir Edward Grey urging her to hurry. She arrived at the top of the tower, she saw Hellboy had been victorious and had bought the world more time, but it was at a terrible price. As she watched, the spirit of Niwue tore Hellboy’s heart from his body, and dragged him down into Hell. Alice was left alone with the crumbling remains of his body.

    Afterwards, she found herself back in Mab’s pub, dusty and old as if it had been abandoned for decades, and on the bar lay Mab’s crown.

    Alice made one more appearance after Hellboy: The Fury in An Unmarked Grave, an epilogue for B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia. In the short story she appeared to Kate Corrigan in a graveyard and told her of Hellboy’s death, and asked Kate to stay in England. The land had been baptised by Hellboy’s blood and a garden would grow where there had once been buildings. People would come from all over the world because they had a dream of it, the last garden on Earth. Even as she told Kate of this, lilies began to grow in the graveyard. When Kate declined to stay, Alice disappeared as quickly as she had arrived.

    See? The crown's on the left there.
    This story was surreal for me, because here Alice has been transformed into those weird prophetic characters that tend to show up in Hellboy and B.P.R.D. from time to time, but when we first met her in The Wild Hunt, she was so down to earth. She spoke much the way Queen Mab used to, and given that Mab’s crown was left to her, and the cover art for this story had Queen Mab’s crown by Alice’s side, it would seem she has inherited Mab’s legacy in some form. And really, who else could have inherited it? All the fairies are dead at this point, and Alice, changed by them as she was, is the last remnant of them in all the world.

    Continued below

    I do hope we’ll see Alice again. She was around for only a handful of stories, but she really brought something different out of Hellboy. But as we’ve learned from B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Lake of Fire, all of Great Britain has vanished now. Whatever window was open for people to go to the last garden on Earth has since closed.

    Stasia with her Yankees Cap
    Anastasia Bransfield
    This name probably isn’t familiar to you. That’s not surprising since Anastasia’s never actually appeared in the comics, and even then I can only think of one reference to her (in Abe Sapien: The Drowning). This is because Anastasia was a character created by Christopher Golden for Hellboy: The Lost Army, an illustrated novel that came out in 1997. In 2007 Christopher Golden returned to the character with Hellboy: The Dragon Pool which delved further into their history together.

    The two met June 10, 1979 in a pub in London. Hellboy showed up with vacuum cleaner looking for a pair of goblins that were stealing relics from the British Museum. The two were dealt with relatively easily and with the bare minimum of fuss. All this was observed by a twenty-nine-year-old archaeologist, a certain Dr Anastasia Bransfield. She also happened to work at the British Museum for the professor from whom the goblins had stolen the relics in the first place, and was very grateful to Hellboy for his efforts. To thank him, Anastasia bought him a pint.

    Anastasia was still pretty young at the time, only twenty-nine, but she was closer to Hellboy’s age than Alice (He was thirty-four at the time). Anastasia was a strawberry blonde woman that usually wore her hair in a ponytail sticking out the back of her New York Yankees cap. Whenever she lost her cap, she’d buy another one. She was clearly a very loyal fan considering she’s a Brit. Anastasia, or “Stacie” as she’s called by those with a certain degree of intimacy (only Hellboy calls her Stasia), wa a natural leader and it suited her well. She can stand her own ground against various sorts and was very rarely intimidated. Anyway, she made an impression on Hellboy that’s for sure.

    By the 1980s Hellboy was on leave from the B.P.R.D. and travelling with Stasia to various archaeological sites. Then, in April, Obsidian Danse showed up. This group of sorcerers were obsessed with resurrecting three god-like beings to bring about the apocalypse or something. They may sound like a big deal, but these guys were barely on the B.P.R.D.’s radar. Hellboy had actually foiled a few of their plans by accident, and they’d got it into their heads he was hunting them down, so they decided the best thing to do was to kidnap his girlfriend.

    For eight days Anastasia was kept as their prisoner, blindfolded, while they taunted her and burned her with cigarettes. Fortunately nothing worse than that. Every day they would parade her outside, trying to goad Hellboy into attacking them. Finally, when that wasn’t working, they decided to sacrifice her to their gods. This wasn’t something Stasia was up for, so she managed to headbutt one of the sorcerers, breaking his nose, and trying to escape. It didn’t work and she broke her ankle in the process, but then Hellboy showed up and… well, you get the idea. Needless to say, Obsidian Danse got the crap beaten out of them.

    Anastasia had seen the kind of danger she was putting herself in by being with Hellboy, but she could look past that. Their stumbling block proved to be something a little more subtle. In late February, 1981, Hellboy and Stasia were celebrating. In the winter of the previous year they had uncovered three skeletons of giants, the first physical evidence of giants to be made public. For Stasia, this was the biggest moment of her career so far, but for Hellboy it was a stark reminder of the sacrifices she was making for their relationship. While he may have been an honorary human, he was still a beast or a devil in the eyes of most people. For him to be in a relationship with a human woman was laughable, an affront, wrong. Anastasia had said she could handle that, but Hellboy could see how she wasn’t being taken seriously. She was being dismissed as some sort of sideshow. Their offensive relationship was eclipsing her finest moment of her profession to date.

    Continued below

    The two broke up the following month. It had been Hellboy’s idea, but the break-up was mutual. When Hellboy returned to the B.P.R.D., he was quieter and withdrawn. For his father, Professor Bruttenholm, it was painful to see. He hadn’t altogether approved of Hellboy going off with Anastasia for the better part of two years. Abe observed that Hellboy was clearly still in love with Anastasia, and though he may not have known it, when he had suggested to Anastasia that they break up, he had been hoping that she would fight for them, but instead she gave in.

    Sets the mood, doesn't it?
    Five years later Hellboy was called out to Egypt where all the members of a dig had gone missing only to show up a week later in pieces, entrails all over the place, at a nearby oasis. Heading up the investigation team was Dr Bransfield, along with Captain Michael Creaghan, an agent from MI5 (one of the victims was a relative of British royalty). Anastasia and Hellboy immediately bonded over their mutual dislike of Captain Creaghan, and all those familiar feelings came rushing back. Hellboy thought he was really good at hiding it, while Anastasia pretended not to notice.

    This was not exactly the most romantic place either. Besides the entrails oasis, there were giant spiders, mutant people, an undead army of Persian warriors, a professor driven mad by an amulet, a crazy sorcerer, some weird tentacled creature, Hellboy carrying around the head of Lady Catherine in a bag… Oh, and all this was in 1986 when Egypt’s neighbour Libya was becoming an ever more worrying concern. For Hellboy and Anastasia it was a series of escalating events in which they essentially took turns in saving each other, all the while trying to convince themselves they’re just really good friends. Hell, Anastasia’s parting line was, “I love you, big guy. Always will. In all the ways that matter, you’re my best friend.”

    Following this Hellboy spent the next two weeks back at the B.P.R.D. silent and withdrawn. And this did not go unnoticed by Professor Bruttenholm either.

    Another five years later, 1991, Anastasia was forty-two and in Tibet looking for the Dragon King’s Temple, a legendary warlord who burned all his enemies. Her dig was frequently being sabotaged, and then the daughter of one of the professors was kidnapped by a mysterious dragon-like man. Again, the B.P.R.D. was called in, this time bringing in Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Professor Bruttenholm, and four other agents. Both Abe and Bruttenholm could see Hellboy was as in love with Anastasia as he ever was, but only Abe noticed that those feelings were reciprocated.

    Meanwhile Professor Bruttenholm took the first available opportunity to give Anastasia a speech about not hurting his boy. It was a tactless move, but it was also endearing to see him trying to protect Hellboy. However, this conversation had the unintended side effect of forcing him to acknowledge Anastasia as a person and not just an obstacle. Throughout his time in Tibet, he grew more sympathetic towards her, even noticing her own heartache.

    There was also a dragon and a powerful sword-wielding dwarf monk and that sort of stuff.

    By the end of The Dragon Pool, Anastasia requested Hellboy stay with her, but Hellboy, knowing that sooner or later they would come against the same problem that first drove them apart, declined her offer. Instead he left her saying, “I’ll see you in another five years.”

    Did they ever see each other again? If they did, that story has never been told.

    Hellboy’s wife
    That’s right, Hellboy got married. No surprise you haven’t heard about it before as the story hasn’t actually been told yet. Tomorrow, along with the new B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth and Sledgehammer 44, there will be a new Hellboy story in Dark Horse Presents #31 (with the second part in Dark Horse Presents #32 in January) featuring art by Mick McMahon. Also, it’s set in Mexico during Hellboy’s famous six-month drunken “weekend” in 1956, and those stories are always fun. Keep an eye out for it.

    Dark Horse Presents #31, cover by Mike Mignola
    Continued below

    Well, that’s it for another Hell Notes. There will be one more before the year ends, and it’ll include something special…

    //TAGS | Hell Notes | Mignolaversity

    Mark Tweedale

    Mark writes Haunted Trails, The Harrow County Observer, The Damned Speakeasy, and a bunch of stuff for Mignolaversity. An animator and an eternal Tintin fan, he spends his free time reading comics, listening to film scores, watching far too many video essays, and consuming the finest dark chocolates. You can find him on Twitter @MarkTweedale.


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