Please note, this column contains spoilers for everything up to and including Hellboy Gets Married.
CONCEPTION AND BIRTH
Sarah had two other children, a boy and a girl, and they broke the tradition of witchcraft in the family by becoming a monk and a nun. As Sarah grew old, she feared for her immortal soul, and on her deathbed she recanted her former beliefs and begged for the forgiveness of God. Her children were given the task of protecting her from Azzael, chaining her body in its coffin. If they could keep her from him for three nights, his claim to her would have been broken.
While studying Hellboy, Professor Bruttenholm was unable to keep a professional distance. He grew to care about the child, and eventually adopted him as his own child in March 1946. But he was afraid of how much he did not know about his newly adopted son, so in May 1946, he went to seek answers in Berlin. His search led him to the demon, Varvara, head of the Russian Special Sciences Service. Varvara took a special interest in Bruttenholm. He was what she called “a seeker,” and he had a habit of stirring up the kind of trouble she enjoyed. This affection for him led to her passing over everything the S.S.S. had found in regard to Project Ragna Rok.
These papers should have confirmed the Professor’s worst fears, but instead he focused on the spark he had seen in Hellboy while studying him in the Bureau labs. A spark of good, that in the Professor’s eyes made him at his core just like any other child.
In 1947, Hellboy tasted his first pancakes. They immediately became his favourite food, and shortly after he met Archie, a soldier that claimed to be an expert at making pancakes, a recipe that led to the pair fast becoming the best of friends. But Hellboy was growing up quickly. By 1948, pancakes were “kid’s stuff,” and he had begun stealing cigarettes, and escaping from the Bureau’s new headquarters in Connecticut.
Astaroth presented Hellboy with a vision of Professor Bruttenholm in the belly of a whale, old and freezing cold, lost after searching for Hellboy for such a long time. Hellboy tried to warm him, but he had no matches. Then Astaroth told him he could call up a fire with but a word, and for a moment Hellboy saw the world engulfed in flame. Hellboy ran away in fear from the vision, past funhouse mirrors, in which he saw his adult self holding his father’s sword and wearing the crown of the apocalypse.
When Astaroth’s ploy to awaken Hellboy to his destiny failed, Gamori attempted to kill her half brother, but Astaroth intervened, warning her that so long as he lived, she should never plot against him.
The lack of horns is one of Hellboy’s most defining characteristics. It says so much about who he chooses to be versus who he was born to be. At such a young age, he was afraid he might be like Frankenstein’s monster, so he pushed himself to be like his adoptive father, Professor Bruttenholm, hunting monsters around the globe. He was already fantasising about being “The Lobster Jr,” fighting Nazis and monsters. Already he was challenging what he was born to be.
In 1952 Hellboy was awarded honorary human status by the United Nations. It was a terrible moment for Professor Malcolm Frost. He destroyed most of his research on Hellboy and his right hand, and two months later he died a broken man.
As for Hellboy, he joined the B.P.R.D. as a field agent and began fighting monsters.
At first being a B.P.R.D. agent was wish fulfilment for Hellboy. He was doing what he dreamt of doing as a child, and working side by side with his adoptive father. In 1953 he spent several months in England, Scotland, and Wales with Professor Bruttenholm and an old friend of his from the Professor’s school days, Harry Middleton. Hellboy would later think back to these days as the happiest of his life.
The test was considered a failure by the Osiris Club, but they did not witness Hellboy’s blood falling upon the earth and the lily’s that grew from it, just as they had from Saint Leonard’s blood centuries beforehand. This association with lilies is an important part of Hellboy’s mythology and remains so even to this day. In Gorinium, the capital of the Hyperborean empire, there stood a statue in the garden of King Thoth surrounded by the very lilies that grew from Hellboy’s blood. Inside this statue was the most sacred object of the Hyperborean people, the hand of the watcher that had created the Ogdru Jahad. It was that statue’s right hand that was fused to Hellboy by his father in Hell. The lilies reveal Hellboy’s connection to Heaven.
In 1956, the Professor sent Hellboy to help a colleague of his, Professor Edmund Aickman. Aickman was exceptionally knowledgeable, but he was also greedy, and used Hellboy to gain gold from the spirit of King Vold. He had Hellboy hold one of King Vold’s wolves, a creature that turned out to be a Viking berserker and proceeded to beat Hellboy to a bloody pulp. Aickman reaped an appropriate reward, gold that burned its way through his hand, and left him a beggar afterwards. Hellboy healed up well enough, but I’ve often felt Professor Bruttenholm was never as concerned for Hellboy’s well being as he should have been.Continued below
A DRUNKEN BLUR
1956 was a bad year all round. In May Hellboy was sent to Mexico with new agents Hendricks and Murphy to deal with hordes of witches and vampires that were destroying entire towns. The vampires were American vampires, not the European kind. They were primitive, bestial creatures. The horrors Hellboy witnessed in Mexico were the worst Hellboy had yet seen. Hendricks and Murphy quit after only a few days. But Hellboy wasn’t left to fight alone.
He banded together with three brothers, former wrestlers that had had a vision telling them to fight against the monsters terrorising their homeland. They were damn good at it too, and for about a month Hellboy and the three brothers fought hard all day and partied all night. But the drinking made them sloppy, and one night the vampires took Esteban, the youngest of the brothers and Hellboy’s closest friend. Hellboy and the two remaining brothers tracked vampires and tortured them, trying to get information about Esteban, until one day they found a message.
We readers have been shown a little of went on in the forgotten months. For a while Hellboy had been a luchador, wrestling and drinking, until he propositioned by a Dr Kogan, who wanted him to fight his creation. Dr Kogan had been promised great rewards from the princes and ministers of Hell if his creature could defeat Hellboy. However, Hellboy had no interest in the fight, so Kogan had kidnapped a girl whom he would kill if he refused.
The fight was a disaster, waking further monsters as it went. Worst of all, Hellboy was unable to save the girl he’d been fighting for. And even the monster he’d been forced to fight was just as much a victim as any. When the battle was done and everyone was dead, Hellboy returned to drinking, haunted by the ghosts of those he had failed. For a moment, Astaroth appeared, warning him not to live a man’s life, for though he could suffer like a man, he would never know the peace of the grave for he was bound for Hell in the end.
Hellboy’s drunken bender even saw him share a drink with Lobster Johnson. Not the Lobster, the mysterious crime fighter from the 1930s, but rather the actor who played Lobster Johnson in the Mexican films in the 1950s. And Hellboy married a woman he’d only just met, binding himself to her in this life and the next for all time. When he woke up the next morning, he discovered he’d married monster and at the mention of divorce, things got ugly. He was forced to kill her, but the ring he had worn, a serpent that had escaped in the battle, still lived (and don’t tell me that’s not going to come back to bite him… so to speak).Continued below
And there are still a few more tales in Mexico yet to come, including one in this month’s Hellboy sampler, available on Hellboy Day, March 22. The story, The Coffin Man, from Mike Mignola and artist Fábio Moon, will pick up after Hellboy Gets Married which ran in Dark Horse Presents #31-32.
So ends part one. The next part will be along soon enough, and in the meantime there will daily artworks going up as a part of 31 Days of Hellboy. There’s some truly fantastic pieces. You’re going to love it, trust me.