Artist August: Mike Mignola [Art Feature]

By | August 14th, 2014
Posted in Columns | 12 Comments

Mike Mignola is one of the most iconic artists working in comics today. So much of what he’s done has rippled through the industry, influencing the way countless artists approach their craft. Not only in terms of his idiosyncratic approach to cartooning, but also in how his comics are released. He became synonymous with the series of mini-series, many people referring to it as ‘the Mignola model’ of publishing. His measured approach to storytelling was seen as a successful way for others to tell their own stories. Creators like David Peterson have credited Mignola with providing a template for independent comics publishing.

But publishing practices won’t get you an Artist August spotlight. For that, we look to Mignola’s output. He has, of course, been working in his Hellboy universe for twenty years now. But he’s also worked for Marvel and DC, provided concept art for movies and television, and turned out countless covers for other peoples’ comics.

Mignola’s art has, over many years of refinement, become almost gestural in its storytelling. He’s gotten to a point where he can convey a maximum amount of information with a minimum number of lines. He uses chunky black shapes to give his scenes depth and his characters contour. These shapes, when combined with his bold line, gives these comics a feeling of angular other-worldliness. It’s the type of thing where, if you really examine a panel, you’ll begin to see how gestural the art is. What was once Hellboy in the distance becomes a little squiggle, a flame is actually a zig zag, a partially sunken ship is really just some weird shape. But damn if he doesn’t sell it. There’s something in these lines and the way he puts them on paper.

If you look at Mignola’s pencils, you’ll see that they are far more detailed than the final published art. During inking he’ll decide to black some things out completely, or omit some other elements all together. The end result gives the illusion of something more detailed. He suggest shape and texture, and the reader’s mind unconsciously fills in the rest. It’s masterful cartooning.

The pacing of Mignola’s pages are also of note here. He uses large panels to establish the space of a scene, then use smaller panels to show details and build atmosphere. When he does this, it gives the reader the sense of exploring an environment along with the characters. Mignola will also use some panels for just solid color, which is often used to convey the passage of time, but can also be done to emphasize a story element.

I want to thank Hellbud Mark Tweedale for his help putting this together. The guy is a font of Hellboy knowledge, so I’d be a fool for not seeking his input. If you’ve not read his remarkable series of Hell Notes articles I highly recommend you check them out.

Is this cover art to an unannounced Mignola project? Is that Roger? And is he in hell?

Hellboy, doing that thing he does.

Art for Hellboy’s 15th anniversary.

Original art, from a set of coasters

Sketches for what would become the cover to Abe Sapien vol. 2: The Devil Does Not Jest

Sketchbook page from the Conqueror Worm TPB

Original art from The Conqueror Worm

Page from Hellboy- The Third Wish #2, color by Dave Stewart

Page from BPRD- King of Fear #4

Page from Hellboy- The Island, color by Dave Stewart

Page from Dark Horse Presents #151, color by Dave Stewart

Original art from The Goon #7

Page from Hellboy in Hell #4, color by Dave Stewart

Well, that answers that.

For The King.

Continued below

Remember that time Mike Mignola and Rob Liefeld teamed up on X-Force?

Rocket Racoon #2, June 1985

Rocket Racoon and Groot: The Complete Collection, April 2013

And lastly- GROOT!

Cover to X-Men Classic #57. Note Wolverine’s hat.

Concept design art for Mr. Freeze, as seen in Batman: The Animated Series

Mr. Freeze and Batman

Batman Black and White statue based on Mignola’s art, amazingly sculpted by Jonathan Matthews

Illustration from Cabinet of Curiosities

Monster with Baloon

Rocketeer, color by Dave Stewart

Double Feature of Evil chapter header, The Bride of Hell and Others TPB

Hellboy in Mexico chapter header, The Bride of Hell and Others TPB

The Whittier Legacy chapter header, The Bride of Hell and Others TPB

Monkey with a Gun

Cursed Pirate Girl pin-up

Concept art for Disney’s Atlantis

Concept art for Disney’s Atlantis

Toy Story That Time Forgot poster

Self portrait

//TAGS | Artist August

Mike Romeo

Mike Romeo started reading comics when splash pages were king and the proper proportions of a human being meant nothing. Part of him will always feel that way. Now he is one of the voices on Robots From Tomorrow. He lives in Philadelphia with two cats. Follow him on Instagram at @YeahMikeRomeo!


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