Back in 2014, Multiversity Comics published our reading order for the Hellboy Universe and we’ve updated in annually ever since. We almost skipped this year. Thanks to the pandemic there wasn’t really much to update. However, with all the new omnibuses that have been announced for 2021, a new reading order was really required. So here it is, just getting it in under the wire for 2020.
As I’ve said before, this is not the official reading order because there is no official reading order. The Hellboy Universe is made to be accessed from many different starting points. Pick a series—“Hellboy,” “B.P.R.D.,” “Witchfinder,” “Lobster Johnson”—they’re all good starting points. Just follow the numbers on the spines of the trades or omnibuses. Many of these series can be read without reading any others. If you’re only interested in “Lobster Johnson,” that series works perfectly well on its own—you don’t need to read “Hellboy” to read “Lobster Johnson.” Discovery is meant to be a part of the reading experience, so don’t be afraid to explore a little bit.
If you do start exploring, but don’t want go out there completely blind, this simplified reading order may be for you. It’ll help you get the big stuff in the right order. Otherwise, here’s our usual reading order. I’ve also included links to some other reading orders at the end as well as other useful resources.
Mignolaversity’s reading order prioritizes the library editions and omnibus editions. While we’ve tried to keep it simple, the “Hellboy” series is collected in both library editions and omnibus editions, which collect the stories in a radically different order. To accommodate both, the reading order is split into two columns: stick to the left if you’re reading “Hellboy” in trade paperbacks or the library editions, or stick to the right if you’re reading “Hellboy” in the omnibus editions.
A final note for new readers: once a trade paperback is collected into an omnibus, there will be no further reprints of that trade. If a book is available as an omnibus, that’s going to be the easiest way to track down those stories. If you read digitally, the trade paperbacks and omnibus editions are readily available on ComiXology and Dark Horse Digital. However, the library editions are not available as digital volumes. I’ve included links in the image below to the various books to make things a little easier for you.
If you’re interested in other reading orders, here’s some that other readers have come up with:
Hellboy Book Club
OK, I have to admit, this has become my personal favorite reading order (and not because I played a role in shaping it). The reason I made Mignolaversity’s Hellboy Universe reading order, and why I make sure to update it annually, is because I don’t just love the books, I also love the community around the books. The Hellboy Book Club taps into that community in a fantastic way. There’s nothing like working your way through a book and then digesting it with the book club after. The hosts, John Salinas, Danielle Reneé, and Aubrey Lovelace, all have such different points of view on the material and add so much to the conversation. This is not a “the comic was good” podcast; their approach is detailed and critical. Plus it’s great to just read some comics and talk to your friends.
The Comics Bookcase’s reading order
Earlier this year, The Comics Bookcase released their own reading order, building on Sean T. Collin’s reading order from 2015. It is focused only on the trades, some of which can be quite difficult to track down now, however it does include an interesting “best of” section at the end.
Fabien’s Reading Order
This reading order is focused on the trade collections, and has some conversation about each section. This is a rather popular reading order too. Although it was originally published in 2017, it’s still being updated periodically.
Hellboy Media’s reading order (in Russian)
This includes a breakdown of each series and a chronological list of stories. It also includes a chronological list for the Baltimore—Joe Golem Universe. This list is regularly updated.
Comics Guide 101’s Ultimate Hellboy Reading Order
A video reading order. It’s two years out of date now, but the channel revisits Hellboy occasionally, so they may do an updated reading order video eventually. This video goes into detail about where the branching points are for these books, but it’s a bit vague when it comes to the more obscure spin-offs. There’s also a companion video which explains a bit about each series.
The Hellboy Universe Publishing Order
This is a story by story reading order based on the debut of the first issue of an arc or miniseries. There’s not really much more to it than that. I’ve been keeping this order updated since February 2009, back when it was on the Dark Horse forums.
Hellboy Wiki Publishing Order
This is not really a reading order, but rather a table showing when every single issue came out. I’m putting it here for the sake of being thorough.
Fraser Sherman’s Chronological Reading Order
If you’re new to the Hellboy Universe, don’t use this one. Chronological reading order is really only good for rereads, so this for readers that have read it all before and want to experience this universe a new way. Truth be told, it is a very fractured, high effort reading experience though. It jumps from book to book and even at times mid-story. It hasn’t been updated since 2018 at this point either.
If you find any other reading orders you like, feel free to link ’em in the comments!