OK, we’re wrapping up this big interview with Mike Mignola and co.! Today we’re looking at the comics ahead in 2018 and beyond. We won’t be talking about the big reveal at the end of “B.P.R.D. The Devil You Know” #5, however, so discussion on that particular series is going to be a little light. However, this article does otherwise assume you are up to date with Mignola’s titles. There are spoilers ahead.
If you missed any of the previous interviews, here’s some handy links:
∙ Part 1: “Hellboy”
∙ Part 2: “B.P.R.D. The Devil You Know” & “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.”
∙ Part 3: The Expanding Hellboy Universe
∙ Part 4: Beyond the Hellboy Universe
∙ Part 5: Patric Reynolds discusses “Joe Golem, Occult Detective”
∙ Part 6: 2018 and Beyond – Omnibuses & Film
In “B.P.R.D. The Devil You Know,” a long-dormant plotline has emerged: the return of the vampires. Since 1774 there have been relatively few vampires in the Hellboy Universe. They’ve laid sleeping in their graves, waiting for a time when humankind no longer knows how to fight them. However, in the wake of the apocalyptic events of “Hell on Earth,” it appears they’ve begun to rise.
‘That is one that was left completely in their lap,’ said Mignola. ‘When I approached them, or Scott [Allie] approached them, about doing that series the idea was, “Take this character and do what you want.” If they were to say “We’re positive we’re never gonna do anything with that character,” then I would say, “OK, then maybe somebody else will do that character,” but as long as they’re showing any interest—and they have shown interest in doing another book about that guy—as long as it’s in their hands, it waits on them to do something with it. Nobody wants to see it more than I do, but I’m not gonna yank it away from ’em.’
But the vampire plotline is not limited to Simon Anders or “The Devil You Know.” It spans centuries, and has already been touched on in both “Hellboy” and “Witchfinder.” There’s no reason it couldn’t be explored from another vantage point.
‘That is the beauty of having all this stuff,’ said Mignola ‘There are so many stories, so many different ways and places to present the history that we’ve created and there’s no sign of that—even when “B.P.R.D. wraps up”—there’s no reason that other things won’t go on. Scott and I had plotted one of the things in the vampire storyline was this colonial-era incident where we get vampires brought in, shipped in to America to fight for the British and I quickly banged out an idea for a whole other book set in Revolutionary War America with vampires. I’d love for Scott and I or somebody to do that book one of these days.’
‘We know John’s story eventually has to butt up against “The Iron Prometheus”—we’re pretty much there—so I literally don’t know what John is doing next,’ admitted Mignola. ‘We’ve discussed where things go after “The Iron Prometheus.” John is really best completely left to his own devices. We had a conversation some time back about a basic number of books that get “Lobster Johnson” not only past “The Iron Prometheus,” but then we butt up against the beginning of “Hellboy: Conqueror Worm.” There’s a finite number of “Lobster Johnson” books to be done.’Continued below
“The Pirate’s Ghost” did give some hints as to the future, most notably Cindy moving to Chicago. In the present day, it’s known that the Lobster was active in both New York and Chicago, but up until now we’ve only ever seen him in New York in the pages of “Lobster Johnson.” That may change in upcoming issues…
Mignola has his own reason for mentioning Chicago in the books. ‘With my limited knowledge of gangster stuff, when I think of gangsters, I think of New York City and Chicago, he said. ‘If we’re gonna have a guy whose main target is gangland, where are we gonna put him? New York and Chicago.’
After the events of “The Iron Prometheus,” the Lobster hunts Memnan Saa, a mysterious man with connections to the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra and Sir Edward Grey. Late in life, Sir Edward tracked members of the Brotherhood in New York and then Chicago, where he disappeared. Could it be possible the Lobster picks up on a similar trail?
‘That’s the beauty of writing this shit vague,’ said Mignola. ‘I don’t know what John’s looking to do there. On some of these books, I’m as much the reader as you are. I just set the ball in motion on these things.’
‘I’d been keen to work with Paolo again after “Beyond the Fences,” and he had room in his schedule to do a single-issue story,’ said Roberson. ‘I asked him what he wanted to draw, and he gave me a short list that included a particular location that was not far from where he lives and that he visits often. So I researched the history of the location and discovered that a lot of interesting stuff had happened there, with a lot of story potential. “Burning Season” is based on the real history of the area going back centuries, and the pages that Paolo has been turning in are amazing.
After that is “1956,” which is an interesting year for Hellboy. Afterall, he spent five months drunk and beating up monsters in Mexico, which you can read all about in the “Hellboy in Mexico” trade collection. But this presents a problem for “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” The book can’t simply be a retread of “Hellboy in Mexico,” and yet it can’t assume readers have read it either.
‘That is the one place where [Chris] and I spent quite a bit of time plotting the structure for that year,’ said Mignola.
However, Mignola is not limiting himself by sticking to the strict progression of years from 1952 onwards. He’ll still let himself jump around a bit, but only to eras beyond the years Roberson is working on.
‘Doing the Krampus one-shot, there was no way I was going to do a story that took place in ’52, because we’re already past there in the “Hellboy and the BPRD” series,’ said Mignola. ‘Doing a Hellboy story that’s set in the ’70s means that ultimately we’ve got a collection for that story to go into.’
There are other parts of Hellboy’s life Mignola would like to explore that have been explored in Christopher Golden’s prose novels, but haven’t yet been seen in the comics. ‘When Chris did The Lost Army, he created this love interest for Hellboy which is in the continuity of the comics. We haven’t really done a story that focuses on it, but it’s referenced [in “Abe Sapien: The Drowning”].’Continued below
‘All these character tend to take on a life of their own and build on the history you’ve already created,’ said Mignola. ‘And then suddenly you go, “Oh shit, we’ve never dealt with this chunk of history.” If you look at somebody like Abe Sapien, there’s still a tremendous amount of backstory, like his first years at the B.P.R.D.—we’ve done practically nothing with that. Liz growing up at the B.P.R.D., we’ve done almost nothing with that.’
A new “Witchfinder” story tends to come along roughly every two years, so it stands to reason that since we had “City of the Dead” in 2016, there’s likely something ahead in 2018.
‘On the next “Witchfinder” we’re collaborating with an artist who hasn’t worked on a Hellboy title before now,’ teased Roberson, ‘but who has been one of my favorite artists for more than twenty years, and I can think of no one better suited to handle the Victorian era.’
Mignola feels there is a great deal more left to do with Sir Edward. ‘Maybe the single biggest model for Ed Grey was William Hope Hodgson’s occult detective Carnacki, and the Carnacki formula was Carnacki holding court in his club and telling his stories,’ he said. ‘I would still love to have an Ed Grey book that was like that, with Ed Grey, or maybe a couple of other occult detectives, telling short stories. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do and hopefully we’ll get something like that sooner or later. Not every story needs to be a giant, sprawling story.’
‘When I was brought on to work on “Witchfinder,” I worked out a pretty ambitious overview of where we could take the character over the course of years,’ added Roberson. ‘I devoted a lot of space to that period when Sir Edward is a private occult detective hanging out in the Silver Lantern Club. (I broke it down into different historical periods, and we have a couple of stories left to tell in the one I titled “On Her Majesty’s Occult Service” before we get to the period I’m calling “Occult Detective For Hire / Tales of the Silver Lantern Club.”) So we’ll definitely be getting there soon or later, if I have anything to say about it!’
This six-issue miniseries started last week, and if you’ve read my review, then you know that I loved it. The “Koshchei the Deathless” was originally a very different project. It began with a pair of stories, “How Koshchei Became Deathless” and “Baba Yaga’s Feast,” both back-ups in “Hellboy: The Wild Hunt.” Originally the plan was to do an anthology of short stories involving Russian folklore, but while researching, a larger story began to take shape.
‘I was reading Russian folklore and there were so many great stories,’ said Mignola. ‘The Koshchei origin story is not a Koshchei Russian folktale. It is largely somebody else’s story―there’s all these Russian epic heroes―and I just borrowed bits and pieces. The thing about Koshchei with the egg inside the goat, that is the special power of Koshchei, but the story I told about the dragon and Koshchei being chopped into pieces and being put back together, that’s somebody else’s story. I was thinking of doing a bunch of these weird little adaptations of Russian folktales, and then thought there was so much Koshchei story, and that little story I did with Guy Davis was really just the beginning of that character. So what if I turned it into this Russian epic?’Continued below
Even as far back as 2007’s “Hellboy: Darkness Calls,” Mignola was already building a larger story for Koshchei.
“When Koshchei is fighting Hellboy, there’re two characters that are commenting on Koshchei, and one of them says, “I was with him at the battle of Chernigov and on the road to Kiev when he shot the nightingale,” and the other says, ”And I when he went into the Sorochinsk Mountains to kill dragons.” Ever since I wrote that, I knew Koshchei had done these other things. I laid the groundwork for this bigger story, I just didn’t know what the story was yet. And, of course, I teased Ben Stenbeck about the story and he got all excited. I’ve been promising that book to Ben for quite a while and now he’s finally getting it. Ben’s a glutton for punishment.’
‘At one point I had a contract on my desk for three “Koshchei” books,’ added Stenbeck. ‘They already had titles―I think Mike condensed those into this one book. So maybe this is a stand alone book or maybe it will continue. There’s a way that “Koshchei” could go on forever but at the moment we are just focused on this one story. I guess we’ll see how it goes. But I love drawing this series and this world and I would love to do more “Koshchei” books.’
It is remarkable how a character like Koshchei can carry a whole miniseries, and it seems this is something Mignola would like to do a lot more of in future.
‘The Hellboy Universe just keeps getting bigger,’ said Mignola. ‘As long as these things continue to sell, I don’t think there’s any danger of running out of stuff to do. It’d be great to just do books that are set in a particular time period and not have to have the star be some major established character that we have to create a logo for. I would love to see stuff that involves the Osiris Club or the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra or whatever, but what do you call it? In the world of comics, you kind of need a label on those things. So we’ve got that banner that says “From the pages of Hellboy” across the top of all the Hellboy-related books. A lot of it comes down to book design for me. If the book is about Sarah Jewell, do we have to have a logo or can it just be “The Mystery of the ― ― ― ―: A Sarah Jewell Adventure”?’
‘There’s always something new and interesting to draw,’ said Stenbeck of the Hellboy Universe. ‘I love the characters and stories, but at the end of the day I have a low attention span and working in the Mignolaverse lets me do such vastly different stuff. Two years ago I was drawing a Burroughs-esque adventure in the Hollow Earth, last year I was drawing Victorian London, and this year I’ve been drawing a medieval fantasy Russia. (Although I do feel like I could keep drawing medieval Russia for a few years without getting bored.)’
‘Scott and I have kind of pitched Ben various things he could do next,’ said Mignola. ‘I want to keep the artist happy. There’s two or three different projects that Ben could do. We’d love to have him do all of them, but it’s up to him what he’d like to do next.’
‘I thought we decided on one?’ said Stenbeck. ‘Although I’ve messed that up now by trying to convince everyone I should be drawing another “Hellboy” series, so I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be doing [in 2018]. I’d love to get to all of them eventually…’
‘If we had the manpower and Dark Horse said, “Hey, we just want to publish nothing but Hellboy comics,” then we could expand more than we’re expanding right now,’ said Mignola. However, he’d prefer to keep the team small. ‘I just like to keep this little family of people that we’re working with.’
Look out for “Koshchei the Deathless” #2 on February 7, 2018.
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Ben Stenbeck
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Clem Robins
Sent to kill Hellboy by the Baba Yaga in Darkness Calls, Koshchei the Deathless hinted at a long and tragic life before being enslaved to the Russian witch.
Now, in a pub somewhere in Hell, Koshchei tells Hellboy about a dangerous mission when the witch sent him to hunt and destroy the last dragons before their eggs hatched.