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Creators Share Their Favorite Hellboy Stories After 20 Years

By , and | March 21st, 2014
Posted in Columns | 9 Comments

Tomorrow is the big day, as there will be celebrations across the world for the 20th Anniversary of Hellboy’s first appearance. Mike Mignola’s influence is felt far and wide, in different ways for different people. Some just appreciate his work and the world he created. Some draw on him as an influence for their storytelling. Others? Others say that his work genuinely changed their lives.

But after 20 years, there are so many wonderful stories to choose from that were created by Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo, Richard Corben and more that it makes it rather hard to choose just one as a favorite. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t try, though, as we’ve asked creators who double as fans of Mike and his beloved characters to share what their favorite Hellboy story is, and why it’s their favorite. Take a look below, and please, share your favorite in the comments.

Rafael Albuquerque
(“B.P.R.D.” cover artist, co-creator and artist for “American Vampire: Second Cycle”)

“Seed of Destruction” not only introduced me to Hellboy’s universe, but also made me see comics with new eyes. Mignola’s perfectly composed art echoes in my mind every time I have to think a scene or layout a page. Just like a tattoo in my brain that reminds me that, despite of what some people say, silly and fun, are completely different things.

Jai Nitz
(Writer for “Dream Thief” and “Toshiro“)

My favorite Hellboy story is “The Wolves of Saint August” from “Dark Horse Presents” #88-91. WoSA was Mignola’s follow up to the original miniseries, Seed of Destruction, and his art style was still in flux. A lot of people have commented that Mignola’s stand-alone Batman story, “Sanctum,” from “Legends of the Dark Knight” #54 was a strong precursor to Hellboy (it is, and it’s fantastic). Mignola’s art was on a minimalist trajectory from that Batman story to Next Men to Hellboy and you could see him getting more confident with each page in those days. WoSA was the tipping point from “early Mignola” to “modern Mignola” in my eyes. Mike was still pouring in detail that would become superfluous to his later work on “Wake The Devil” and beyond. The story itself introduced Kate Corrigan and showed the tragedy behind some of the giant monsters Hellboy would encounter. Also, because WoSA was featured in DHP and later collected, there are five stellar covers for a novella-length story. WoSA is sad, exciting, and beautifully written and drawn. But to me, it’s that last moment where we got to see Mignola refining his craft before making the leap from “artist’s artist” to “superduperstar.”

Andrew MacLean
(Creator of “Head Lopper”)

I can’t really play favorites but I remember how special it was to read “The Corpse” for the first time. I was already really into Hellboy but the humor in Hellboy’s interactions with the corpse slung across his back just set those hooks in deep. No comic speaks to me like Hellboy does.

Israel Skelton
(Skelton Crew Studio)

I have two favorite Hellboy stories. The first is “Pancakes.” I love it because in just a few panels Mike tells you more about a character than some books take issues to do. It’s also awesome because if you know someone who hasn’t read Hellboy, (they’re rare, but they’re out there) it’s a great, quick introduction. How could someone not be instantly intrigued and want more? The second, and not surprisingly, is “Wake the Devil.” Every page is visually beautiful and the story has such an incredible flow. You can’t put it down. It also has everything: Nazis, witches, even a homunculi, and I’ve wanted to build my own homunculus ever since.

Don’t get all grossed out, I’ll probably just use clay…maybe.

Kris Anka
(Artist for “X-Men”)

My absolute favourite Hellboy story has got to be the “Conqueror Worm.” This was one of the very first books I ever remember reading where pacing and tone were as strong as the narrative. The plot moved forward, but there would always be these side beats; these quiet beats, that helped convey an almost cinematic editing to the book. I was able to feel the speed of the story through these moments, really be able to enjoy myself as I worked through it before I get to a big action burst. Coming from these bombastic and fast-paced stories that you’d often find amongst superhero books, seeing this lone story where the atmosphere and silence had equal value to the dialogue was a revelation to me, and one that has rocked me at my very core to even this day.

Continued below

David Petersen
(Creator of “Mouse Guard”)

While it’s really hard to pick the best or even my favorite Hellboy story, one that stands out to me is “The Troll Witch.” It’s an odd choice to stand out, since Hellboy is not in it very much other than as the audience of the Troll Witch’s story. This story falls into the Folktale category of Hellboy stories…and in those it’s always a fun guessing game to figure out what parts were from some real folklore and what parts Mike purely made up. The pacing in this story is really nice…full of panels beats for atmosphere, mood, and subtlety. And you certainly can’t go wrong with a troll witch riding a goat and wielding a spoon into battle.

Ron Marz
(Writer of “Witchblade” and “Adventures of Superman”)

Picking a favorite Hellboy story is a pretty tall order. I love ’em all. I love the multi-part epics that move the mythology forward. I love the standalone hardcovers telling tales from Hellboy’s past. But more than anything, I love the short stories, perfect little atmospheric gems of mood. What makes me admire them even more is that I know crafting a well-told plot in eight or ten pages is a much tougher task than doing so in a full issue. Mike’s done a lot of great shorts; “Goodbye Mister Tod” and “The Iron Shoes” come to mind immediately. But my favorite has to be “Heads” because … well, flying Japanese vampire heads. The story is a delicious balance of horror and black comedy, and Mike’s art evokes Edo-period woodblock prints. For me, “Heads” is the perfect Hellboy story.

John Arcudi
(Writer for “B.P.R.D.,” “Lobster Johnson,” and “Sledgehammer 44”)

“Hellboy: Heads,” page 6
It’s “Heads.” First published as a back-up story in an “Abe Sapien” one shot in 1998, you can now find it in the Hellboy Hardcover Volume 2.

Set in Japan it’s about some vampires, but that has nothing to do with why I like it. It’s the storytelling that completely bowled me over, that made it so memorable — and Page Six of this story in particular is what really did it for me. Hellboy is using a rope and an ornamental stone lantern to sink a bunch of bodies to the bottom of a pond, and the economy of storytelling is phenomenal!! There’s NOTHING there that you don’t need to clearly communicate the action. It’s boiled down to just three panels. Three clear, beautifully drawn panels with just enough to tell the reader everything he/she needs to know.

Are there better examples of Mike’s storytelling? Maybe. Probably, in fact. I can’t tell you why this one stuck out, but to this day I still think of “Heads” as something special.

Daniel Chabon
(Mignolaverse Assistant Editor)

My favorite Hellboy story is probably “Hellboy in Mexico.” It’s definitely hard to pick just one, but I LOVE “Hellboy in Mexico.” Combing the talents of both comics legends Mike Mignola and Richard Corben. It’s hilarious and tragic at the same time and one of the few comics that I find fun to read out loud.

Scott Allie
(Writer for “Abe Sapien,” Mignolaverse Editor)

My favorite Hellboy story changes all the time, but thanks to some recent rereading, I find myself loving “King Vold.” The scene with Broom and Hellboy is beautiful, there haven’t been enough of those in the comics. I laugh out loud at the establishing panel when Hellboy says, “Norway.” The rundown of Norway folklore, and Hellboy’s dawning realization that he’s being played are all really nice nicely done, but it’s that blurry line between wolf and berserker, and the coins falling through the guy’s hand—the page layout, and the way the coin falls through the page—that I marvel at. I love Mike’s tendency to mix really subtle humor with moody moments, and the way he sees movement across a page. “King Vold” isn’t a story we talk about much, or look back on much, but I had reason to recently, and was reminded how much I love it.

Continued below

“Hellboy: King Vold,” page 12

Maura McHugh
(Writer for the upcoming “Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland”)

It’s difficult to narrow down one favourite because I’m fond of so many, especially the stories from when Hellboy was a kid – his relationship with Trevor Bruttenholm at that time is lovely. So, it’s not surprising that I really enjoyed the recent “The Midnight Circus” graphic novel. I have a soft spot for the one-shot “Buster Oakley Gets His Wish,” because it pushes into new territory for the Hellboy universe (alien abduction), and it’s such a fun title with loads of humorous dialogue. I always felt sorry for the cow-headed boy at the end, and I’ve often wondered what became of him. Also, Kevin Nowlan’s art is perfect for the story: an almost ligne claire style that works with the contrast between the science fiction elements and the rural Kansas location.

But, for sheer epic storytelling combined with terrific art, it’s hard to top The Fury, which pulls together so much of what’s been foreshadowed about Hellboy’s history and hinted about his future. One of the things I admire about Hellboy is how he strives for autonomy despite all the power players who are trying to control him. Often, his destiny seems immutable, but Hellboy continues to fight against it. There’s also brilliant art by Duncan Fregedo, and as usual Dave Stewart’s colours are perfect. Mike brings Hellboy to the climax of a monumental battle with flashes of his trademark deadpan humour despite the grim situation. I won’t go into my love for “Hellboy in Hell,” as I think I’ve already mentioned too many stories!

Duncan Fegredo
(“Hellboy” artist, most recently “The Midnight Circus”)

Having followed Hellboy from the beginning my favourite story would generally be the latest issue released, it was all good and Mike’s art and storytelling delighted at every turn. The sticking point came with “The Corpse,” both art and storytelling meshed and developed to a new level, organic, seamless, creepy and blackly humorous. I’d return a lot to “The Corpse.” Time passed, the mythos of Hellboy grew bigger, deeper, new favourites emerged, “The Troll Witch” was, to me, the new Corpse. So spare, creepy yet poignant. And a terrific cow. But it was “The Island” that haunted me most, that lonely sense of destiny left hanging in the air, and that was even before I knew I was to follow it.

It’s a few years later and now I find I return to my original way of thinking, my favourite is the latest issue released: “Hellboy in Hell” staggers me with each new issue, revelations abound in each issue, dealt with deafening understatement. Just amazing stuff.

Of course, we also want to know your favourites. Tell us in the comments section below, and if you’re not sure, maybe refresh your memory with the Hellboy MegaBundle currently on Dark Horse Digital. It includes every single comic to date for only $50, which is especially good for people new to Hellboy. Plus there’s few things better than binge reading twenty years of Mignola’s comics.


//TAGS | 20 Years of Hellboy | Mignolaversity

David Harper

David Harper mainly focuses on original content, interviews, co-hosting our 4 Color News and Brews video podcast, and being half of the Mignolaversity and Valiant (Re)visions team. He runs Multiversity's Twitter and Facebook pages, and personally tweets (rarely) @slicedfriedgold. By day, he works in an ad agency in Anchorage, Alaska, and he loves his wife, traveling and biscuits & gravy (ordered most to least, which is still a lot).

EMAIL | ARTICLES

Brian Salvatore

Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).

EMAIL | ARTICLES

Mark Tweedale

Mark writes Haunted Trails, The Harrow County Observer, The Damned Speakeasy, and a bunch of stuff for Mignolaversity. An animator and an eternal Tintin fan, he spends his free time reading comics, listening to film scores, watching far too many video essays, and consuming the finest dark chocolates. You can find him on Twitter @MarkTweedale.

EMAIL | ARTICLES


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