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Mike Mignola entered a convention room filled to capacity with head Dark Horse Editor Scott Allie in tow. Calmly addressing the crowd at Emerald City ComiCon in Seattle, Mignola wasted no time and began the question-and-answer session with an answer.
“Hello. I have no idea when we will see ‘Hellboy 3,’” he said. The audience responded with a mixture of laughter and disappointment.
Fans started off with an array of questions about Mignola’s involvement with the two Hellboy motion pictures. Responding matter-of-factly, Mignola explained that it was very strange to be helping someone like Guillermo del Toro, a filmmaker he respects, change something he had created. He explained that as the process went on, del Toro reshaped the characters from “Hellboy” for the film and effectively changed them from Mignola’s creations to something that belonged to him.
According to Mignola, he agreed with the process and gave it his blessing. The creator commented he did have to bribe del Toro a bit, saying “I had to give him two pages of his favorite ‘Hellboy’ comic to keep Hellboy from showing up in a crib.” Mignola acknowledged that there are noticeable gaps between the characters in the movie and the characters in the books, and while the movies have brought Hellboy and his crew to a broader audience, that broader audience will likely never see the truer versions depicted in the comics.
The subject of the panel switched to inquiries about Mignola’s highly recognizable art style and the process of developing it. Summing up his career, Mignola told the story of his early days at Marvel, being a “terrible” inker and transitioning to be a “terrible” penciller. Mignola also acknowledged that he never felt like he had a grasp on comic art until about ten years ago. He was studying Jack Kirby intensely and while creating the art for a DC book entitled “Cosmic Odyssey,” he had the feeling that he found a direction in his art. A year later he started creating Hellboy.
An aspiring artist quizzed Mignola on why he decided to jump out of the mainstream and take a chance on Hellboy. Mignola responded by saying, “I hate repeating myself. After ten years in the biz, I had some things figured out. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
Explaining that his options were to do either another Batman or Wolverine book, he decided to roll the dice and take a chance on creating something that contained all the elements of everything he loved. “Even if I never made a dime, I wanted something on my shelf before I went back to drawing ‘The Defenders’ or something.”
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Shunning calls from Image Comics to create a Batman-like character, Mignola took the plunge and eventually hooked up with Dark Horse. He took the time to describe himself as the poster child for getting away with murder, because now he’s doing exactly what he loves.
Commenting on the broad range of folklore that Mignola references, an audience member asked him to describe his research method. The creator laughed, saying “I like how people think I’m constantly being guided by a monk with a candle through old Easter European cathedrals. That sounds like heaven to me, except that Eastern Europe is scary.”
Mignola went through a brief history, talking about his interest in folklore from his art school days. Collecting tomes of mythology books, Mignola started a small library. He admitted that he hasn’t read most of them, but he’s glad they’re there. He mentioned that one day he’d like to have a Hellboy story that happens in every part of the world, and to give that story the distinctive feel of each area. As part of his plan for that, Mignola exuberantly talked about the myths of the Appalachian mountain region and his recent mining of the folklore for upcoming Hellboy stories.
When quizzed on whether the characters were based on anyone, Mignola quickly responded, “Well, Hellboy is me. It’s my voice. It’s what I’d say in those situations.”
While Hellboy’s voice is his, Mignola went on to explain that the physicality of Hellboy is based on his father – a World War II-era carpenter with a strong build and rough hands. When he first needed a female character, he turned to his wife. “What would my significant other say when I say something stupid like this?”
Mignola said that while some writers reference certain actors for the basis of characters, his characters always come straight out of his head.
A concerned audience member asked if Mignola and Allie had ever received any hate mail from conservative groups akin to the hate mail J.K. Rowling received for “Harry Potter.” Jumping in, Scott Allie said, “In the first week after publishing ‘Hellboy,’ we received two letters. One from a minister and one from the Church of Satan. The Church of Satan said they liked the book but they were unhappy that Mike did not give enough credit to Anton LaVey and some book about the Nazi experiments with electricity.”
The audience responded with a laugh. Scott went on to say that, from clergy folks, they have only had positive reviews and that they are appreciative of the irreverent style Mignola uses when he writes. “We’re always expecting some clergy-based hate mail. I keep waiting for it.”
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Mike Mignola did mention a news story from a couple of years years ago that detailed how one theater opened the movie “Hellboy” and “Passion of the Christ” on the same day, and that the two lines of moviegoers were eyeballing each other. Scott Allie quipped, “Yeah, the Hellboy fans weren’t into all that gory stuff.”
A costumed fan asked why Mignola and company decided to create the title “BPRD” after Hellboy had left the organization. Mignola explained that in the beginning, Hellboy had always been his focus and wasn’t quite sure why he had put him in with a team. Mignola said he always liked the other characters in the book but there was never enough room for them to grow and develop more, so “BPRD” was an experiment to see if these other characters could hold a book up on their own, and they did. He wasn’t worried about some other character overshadowing Hellboy, because there is a tendency for characters to get killed off or beaten up so badly they have to take a break for awhile.
The final questions centered on how aspiring artists and writers could prepare for a career in the comics industry. Mignola readily admitted that the landscape has changed considerably since he first started, but no matter what, it is important to have a broad knowledge of art and writing. Mignola stated that it is immensely useful for people to be active and drive themselves, and that the only way to really get better is to practice and produce.
Mignola and Allie gave other tips, including self-publishing a book, distribution through the internet, and trying to get work at some of the smaller publishers. They encouraged writers and artists to become friends and work with each other to produce something of quality. They cautioned the room that there isn’t always a lot of money in comic book writing and drawing, but if you love what you do you won’t regret it.