New York Comic Con was a blast for us, and one of the undisputed highlights was getting ten minutes or so to chat with Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Lobster Johnson, Baltimore, and more. We crouched behind his table in Artist’s Alley and tried to squeeze as many questions into our limited time as we could. We hope you enjoy this peek into the center of the Mignolaverse!
“Hellboy in Hell” is coming – why did you decide to get back in the driver’s seat as the artist of the Big Red Guy?
Mike Mignola: Well, I was never supposed to be out of the seat that long. Duncan [Fegredo] came on board because I was busy with the movie, and there was this big storyline, and I knew that with my schedule as busted up as it was, I was never going to be able to do this big storyline. But writing that book for him, and writing the stories for Richard Corbin and everything, it just kind of got away from me. It’s like “these guys are having fun, I’m writing fun stuff for these guys to draw, but I want to draw this fun stuff.
And of course when I killed off Hellboy…I knew I was going to kill him off, and I knew it was the right time to do it, but it was also the perfect place for me to come back. Because what I really wanted to do was to be freed of drawing the real world. And my version of hell is something I couldn’t explain to another artist; it is entirely made of everything I wanted to draw.
That leads into a question about Hell as a setting. Does having the book set in Hell limit the scope and help focus the book, or does it blow the walls off and let you do whatever you want?
MM: Oh, it blows the walls off. It’s not just a bunch of rocks and fire, it is everything I want to draw. Not only that, because Hellboy is dead, and because everyone else is dead, or has something wrong with them, the physical restraints of the real world aren’t there. So, why wouldn’t a guy become a lizard, or become transparent, or just float out of a room? So, as an artist, it is so wide open to do new things.
I’ve just started issue #4, and I’m just scratching the surface of what this world can be.
You brought up Richard and Duncan, and those guys clearly influenced the look of the book quite a bit when you weren’t drawing it. So our question is, since you’re moving onto the main book, will those guys (or others) be coming in to do side stories, flashbacks, or anything of that sort? Specifically in the Mexico environment?
MM: Well, I have some ideas for some stories set in Mexico, which is a great chapter of Hellboy’s life.
MM: I don’t know who would draw that, though. I know Richard is busy with his own stuff. But, if Richard wanted to do Hellboy again, my first question would be, “well, what do you want to draw?” And then we would work on that. Same thing with Duncan; actually, I’ve written Duncan a graphic novel, and he’s been busy with other stuff, but I think he’s just started working on that graphic novel, which is actually about Hellboy as a little kid. So, that is something we’ve never seen before…that would be fun.
We’ve touched on some of the artists you’ve worked with, so let’s move over to some of your co-writers; John Arcudi, Scott Allie, Cameron Stewart. What is it that you look for in a writing partner, and how does that relationship typically work over the course of plotting out a series?
Well, the short answer is that I look for someone who will put up with me.
MM: The truth is, I’m not looking for writers, other than John, and even then, John and I have been friends for a long time, and I would talk to him about what I was doing, and he would talk to me about how much grief he was getting at DC, and it was just one of those things, like, “why don’t you write my book?” That was the closest I ever came to looking for a writer.
Expanding with Scott Allie is just natural for me, because we talk about this stuff just about every single day, as he’s been the editor on the book almost since the very beginning. So, at some point, I realize that “I don’t have time to write all this stuff, and the only person who knows as much about this shit is [Allie], so why don’t you do it?”
Cameron Stewart is an interesting case, because Cameron had been doing some writing, wanted to do some more, and it was an experiment. We said, “so why don’t we take a character, and since Cameron likes drawing girls, is there a female character we’ve got, somewhere in the B.P.R.D. stuff, that we aren’t doing anything with, and don’t have any plans for?”
And there happened to be this one character [Ashley Strode] who was introduced and had a small part in one story, and we said “why don’t we give that character to Cameron, to do with whatever he wanted?”
Now, I had a hand in the first story, and using Ota Benga from “B.P.R.D. 1947,” I said “why don’t we put these characters together?” But, the idea was, that at the end of that story, that character is completely in Cameron’s hands. The hope is that, in between other books, Cameron will come back and pick up that character and really own that character. But, at this point, that character is Cameron’s to do whatever he wants with her.
There are a couple other artists that we’re working with right now…am I at liberty to say anything about this book? I don’t think so, not right now. But, there are a couple other artists that I have worked with in the past, and they have created a character in one of my other books, so I said to them “I love that character, you guys had a real hand in creating that character, and so if you want to do another B.P.R.D./Hellboy related book, why don’t you just take that character and do whatever you want?” In a way, I wind up this character and give it to them, and say “take it where you want.”
We both loved “Exorcism” and thought Ashley Strode was a great character. We talked a little about Richard and Duncan before, but in the past year or so, you’ve worked with a lot of great young artists, like Tyler Crook, James Harren, and Max Fiumara (we are especially big fans of Harren’s work). What appeals to you about working with these up and coming creators? And do you ever offer them notes or guidance on how to work in this universe?
MM: It all depends on how involved I am as the writer. James and I, and Scott Allie, have just done a story that James just finished, it’s a 2-issue thing that will come out…sometime, before too long. On that one, I tortured the shit out of James.
MM: Well…not really. But, what I love about these guys like Max – and Max’s brother Sebastian is doing something with us and is amazing – and James and Tyler, is that these guys are all enthusiastic. I want to work with guys who want to be there. I don’t want to work with a guy who is saying “do you have a book for me because I want to make the rent this month?” Working with these young guys who are that enthusiastic is great. I think part of it is that a lot of these guys have worked with Marvel or DC, and that is such a big company, and so they aren’t getting the same amount of feedback or involvement that they get when they’re working on our stuff.
When I work with these guys, maybe not the very first thing we do, but if it works out, it’s like “man – I love what you’re doing. What do you want to do?” The Hellboy/B.P.R.D. world is flexible enough that, if artist is flexible enough to work with us, and is willing to do certain things, I want him to be happy.
John Severin is a perfect example. John Arcudi wrote John Severin a one issue B.P.R.D. story, Severin did a great job, he wanted to work with us again, and so Arcudi came to me and said “I want to write him a western – no one does a Western better than John Severin, but how do we sell a western?” So we decided to set it in the Hellboy world, and it took a little thinking to figure out how to do a Hellboy western, but we have this whole universe to play with, so we’re able to create books that suit specific artists.
That said, I’m not looking to expand by a trillion books. There is just John, me, and Scott Allie as the main writers on this stuff. I’m certainly not interested in market share. What I’m interested in is creating and expanding this universe and telling these stories naturally, organically, and not playing some sort of “we need to get more books out there!” market share kind of thing.
Who is a character in the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. world that you want to take a focus on and put in the spotlight?
MM: Well, there are some characters who will show up in “Hellboy in Hell” that it would be giving things away if I said who they were. But clearly Abe Sapien has been sitting in a jar for awhile, so he needs to get out and do some stuff, and some things are planned for Abe that are very exciting.
But for the most part, not only did Hellboy leave the Earth, but I left the Earth, so most of what goes on on Earth, with one exception that I can’t give away – there is one book I plan to write that takes place on Earth and has never had his own series – but for the most part what is going on on Earth is John’s domain. I would love to see more stuff happen with the Witchfinder character, because I love that Victorian era, and we’re in talks with a novelist who i love to come in and write some more Witchfinder stuff.
B.P.R.D. is renumbering to #100, and you’re getting away from the whole miniseries paradigm. What has precipitated that change?
MM: It was something marketing pointed out to the editor, and we didn’t even realize that we were there [with #100]. I just think that the miniseries thing just gets a little confusing; if it is going to be an ongoing, monthly book, then why don’t we treat it like an ongoing, monthly book and simplify everyone’s life.
I think we were also bowed over by the fact that, “Holy shit, we’re at issue #100!”
Lobster Johnson has been a huge presence this year – what about that character made you decide that 2012 would be a coming out year for him?
MM: The artist who did “The Burning Hand” series, Tonci [Zonjic] is fantastic, and when he showed up, we said “Oh yeah, we finally have our Lobster Johnson artist.” Now Tonci is a little slow, he’s juggling a few others books, so we said “OK, we have Tonci on board, we have Lobster Johnson back up and running, before Tonci comes back and does another long run, let’s keep the character alive.”
So that is why we tossed out all these one shots to various artists, including Max [Fiumara]’s brother Sebastian, who is phenomenal, so, that was to keep things alive until Tonci could come back, which is why he stayed on as cover artist, and John and I are now talking about a longer, 5-issue or so arc, for Tonci.
Scott Allie, in past conversations with us, has somewhat hinted at things moving towards the end; is there an end game in sight for Hellboy or B.P.R.D.? Is there something we can expect the books to move towards? We’ve heard B.P.R.D. described as being three acts: Plague of Frogs, Hell on Earth, and then this new one.
MM: Well, we’re still on “Hell on Earth” – i think we’re there until we come up with a new title. Both [Hellboy and B.P.R.D.] are definitely going someplace, and with Hellboy I definitely have a “and then this happens” kind of moment, but it is no time soon. So don’t worry.