Last year some of these artifacts started to make their way out of the pages of Hellboy and onto the shelves of fans. This was all thanks to the artistry of Skelton Crew Studios, a team of artists working on high-quality scale replicas for Locke & Key, Mouse Guard, CHEW, and of course, the Hellboy universe. I’ll be looking at some of these artifacts and the roles in the stories they featured in below, but first I’d like to share with you an interview with the head of Skelton Crew Studios, Israel Skelton.
Israel Skelton: Thanks for the kind words, and that was exactly the idea. When Mike and I were first talking about the line, we both had the same ideas on how the Artifact Archive should look and feel and wanted the replica to transcend and extend into the packaging as well. I wanted to bring some of Mike’s art to life, and if I could bring a little bit of the Mignolaverse to life as well, why not.
I will say it’s pretty fun hammering out all the little details, like figuring out where Trevor Bruttenholm was in the early ’60s, or when Thomas Manning joined the B.P.R.D., but I always worry that I’ll get something wrong. Good thing Mike is awesome and proofreads everything. He’s been great to work with.
So you write the catalog tags for the pieces? Because I was reading one for Agrippa’s Charm to prepare for this interview, and I couldn’t help but crack a grin. Dr Howard Eaton (from B.P.R.D.: 1946) “borrowed” the charm from Vatican City. I can only imagine how the timid Dr Eaton would have faired at something like that. And you know, it’s nice that you throw in these things that reference the minutiae of this sprawling universe. I mean, Eaton was only in one miniseries and an eight-page short.
IS: Pouring through the source material and trying to make sure all the pieces line up is the best part. A lot of this stuff is happening just off screen if you will. We already knew that the charm was “on loan” from the Vatican, but we didn’t know when it was acquired, or by whom. That’s where I come in and add those little pieces. I’m a huge fan of Mike’s universe and to be able to fill in the tiny cracks is such an extreme honor. That being said, I’m not a writer, and Mike has been integral in polishing up the descriptions.
As far as Eaton goes, he was a museum curator with an interest in the occult before joining the B.P.R.D. and had several missions in Europe with Bruttenholm as the war was coming to a close. He was a natural fit to locate and “borrow” a small piece from the Vatican’s war ravaged archives. I know no one will probably check, but I even made sure that the dates were right for Allied occupation of Italy.
My favorite part of the packaging for that piece is the Sign Out Log. You’ll notice that Ben Daimio checked the charm out of the archive to try to quell the jaguar spirit, but when it didn’t work, he returned it. Abe then checked it out to put in his field kit when he led a search party to locate the Daimio, and the Daryl the Wendigo. Good thinking, Abe.Continued below
There’s four pieces out at the moment; the Bog Roosh’s Nail, Agrippa’s Charm, Bishop Zrinyi’s Button, and the Elf Shot that hit Alice Monaghan. And you’ll be unveiling some new pieces on Hellboy Day; Vasilisa’s Comb, Mohlomi’s Bell, and the Ogdru Jahad Amulet, I believe.
IS: As for upcoming pieces, we plan to debut Vasilisa’s Comb [from Hellboy: Darkness Calls] and the Ogdru Jahad amulet from Hellboy: The Island on Hellboy Day this month. We have many, many more pieces planned for the future. The line is just getting started.
I saw on Twitter you posted an early version of the little frog sculptures from B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess. It’s pretty cool to see these pieces come together.
Your approach for each series you work on is distinctly different. I mean, what works for the keys of Locke & Key wouldn’t work for the artifacts of Hellboy. Did it take long to figure out what that style was for this line?
IS: What a complement, man, thanks. That’s what we strive for. We want each line to reflect the look and feel of the book or books that they’re based on and make sure the artist’s style doesn’t get lost in that transition from two to three dimensions on its way to becoming a tangible object.
Thanks for the kind words about the frog, too. That was sculpted by Jamie Macfarlane and he did a killer job. We just got the initial test castings back for that and I’m not one to toot our own horn, but people are going to really dig ’em.
IS: Thanks, man. We work with some really talented guys, Jamie Macfarlane, Tim Arp, and John Thompson to name a couple, and we’re all huge Hellboy fans.
OK, I’m not going to ask you to pick a favorite from the pieces (that would be too cruel). Instead, let’s say you can make only one more artifact from the Hellboy universe. What object would that be and why? And I know this is tough question, because I tried to answer this myself and could only narrow it down to three. (Thankfully you’re already working on Mohlomi’s Bell, otherwise it would’ve been four.)
IS: That is a tough question, but I think it would be Ualac trapped in amber. I know that may be a little obscure, but I have a few things on my bench right now that fans should really dig and were previously on my “I have to build this” list. Maybe your three are lurking around the shop, we’ll have to see.
The thought never crossed my mind that Ualac could be an artifact, but that would make a really awesome one. Something really unique, actually. And just like that I’m back up to four again.
IS: It’s been such an honor to collaborate with Mike and get a chance to work in his Hellboy/B.P.R.D. universe – I can’t imagine a creator who wouldn’t feel that way.
We’re hoping 2014 is a great year for the Artifact Archive line and the other books we work with – Locke & Key, CHEW, and Mouse Guard. We’re also sitting on killer news of two more licenses we’ve signed and plan to announce in the coming months. I’m a lucky, lucky, busy guy.Continued below
You can check out more of the Skelton Crew Studio’s work on their website, and you can follow Israel Skelton on his Twitter, @SkeltonCrew. And keep your eyes peeled for the reveal of Vasilisa’s Comb and the Ogdru Jahad Amulet on Hellboy Day.
The Bog Roosh’s Nail
Bishop Zrinyi’s Silver Button
Cornelius Agrippa’s Charm
When it looked like Hellboy was easily going to complete his task, Gruagach the changeling awoke Grom the War Pig and set him on Hellboy. With Agrippa’s Charm held tightly in his fist, each punch diminished Grom in size, until he finally gave up and fled.
On another occasion Hellboy used this charm to beat up a giant vampire cat in Kyoto.
In the Dane Hills of Leicestershire there stood an oak tree. Beneath it lived Black Annis, a cannibal hag that would snatch away children and eat them, and hang their skins in the boughs of the tree. But she wasn’t always this way. Once she had been a goddess, and her people brought her gifts. In time they abandoned her, and those ungrateful fairies became like wild beasts.
But Vasilisa was not too curious, and she had her doll to protect her. Finally, the Baba Yaga let her go with one of the skulls full of fire from her fence. When Vasilisa returned home, the fire burned up Vasilisa’s step-mother and step-sisters. Vasilisa kept the doll with her all her life, and when she was old and grey, the doll came to her death bed with two gifts, a blue handkerchief and a little comb.
In Hellboy: Darkness Calls Hellboy came across the spirit of the doll in Vasilisa’s form, and she passed the gifts on to Hellboy to combat Koshchei the Deathless. When the blue handkerchief touched the ground it became a flood of water, and where the comb touched the ground a forest sprung up, growing through Koshchei as it went.
Ogdru Jahad Amulet
This amulet appeared in Hellboy: The Island, worn by an Ogdru priest that had been killed by the Spanish Inquisition. However, the amulet’s history is far longer than that. It is connected to native Americans that had kept a record of the true history of the world on three golden tablets, written in the language of the first people. Further connections to Mesoamerican civilisations have been explored in Hellboy versus the Aztec Mummy and Abe Sapien: The Shape of Things to Come, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an amulet like this again in a future story.Continued below
More than two years later, when Hellboy died in Hellboy: The Island, Hellboy spoke to Mohlomi on the plains beyond life. When he appologized for losing Mohlomi’s bell, the old witchdocter presented it to him anew. Hellboy awoke from death with Mohlomi’s bell clutched in his right hand, and from it he drew strength to fight back against the Ogdru priest that had been resurrected in a body woven from his own blood.
When B.P.R.D. Agent Elizabeth Sherman was kidnapped by Memnan Saa and the Chutt, she was used to combat frog monsters, channeling the Vril power inside her to create dragons. To contain her and to focus her energy, a Chutt monk had created little frog statues that levitated in a circle around her. The statues were destroyed when Liz broke free of Memnan Saa’s control, each one shattered and burst into flame.
Ualac’s Amber Prison
It seems Ualac’s lot in life to remain imprisoned. In 964, Ualac pretended to be the Devil, in a gambit that ended with his head on an anvil being beaten repeatedly by a blacksmith’s hammer. He was then sealed in a box with holy symbols on it, and there he stayed for until 1998, when he was released by two rather foolish Satanists.