In a sense, a very crucial ending is headed towards Mike Mignola's Hellboy.
While the creator remains committed to chronicling the life of the hell-born, earth bound adventurer at Dark Horse for many years to come, Mignola has long promised a final chapter for what he calls "the second part of Hellboy's life" - a part whose story began when artist Duncan Fegredo came to Hellboy with 2007's "Darkness Calls" miniseries. Since then, the doom-fisted paranormal detective has taken on witch's bent for revenge, reconnected with faces from his past and learned of his own birthright tied to the legendary King Arthur.
All those threads will come to a head this July with the launch of "Hellboy: The Storm" which will be the final third of the Mignola/Fegredo trilogy of stories that have run from "Darkness Calls" through "The Wild Hunt." Although, as Mignola told CBR exclusively below, what exactly happens in the pages of "The Storm" and its follow up "The Fury" will upend fan expectations for Hellboy's life and world, while paying off on many long-gestating ideas. Read on for a first look at "The Storm" as well as Mignola's detailed analysis of how he's turned the series from pulp adventure to folklore legend in the latest installment of CBR's TO HELLBOY AND BACK.
CBR News: Mike, people have been asking for a while about what the next chapter for you and Duncan's Hellboy stories will be. Dark Horse has clued us into the fact that the next volume is called "The Storm," and I've gotten the impression that this completes a trilogy of sorts that started with "Darkness Calls." Did you always think of it in that way?
Mike Mignola: Well, it was three books that turned into four books, and now it's turned back into three books. Now that the collection is out, it's easy to talk about it, but the "Wild Hunt" story originally ended with Hellboy deciding to get Excalibur, but not actually getting it. It was only four-fifths of the way through that series that I went, "You know, we can't wait this long and have Hellboy not get that sword." That was one of those things where that miniseries changed quite a bit in that last issue. So there was an entire miniseries that got cut out which was going to be the quest for the sword. We kind of shoehorned that into the end of "Wild Hunt," which I think made the whole thing better because the pacing was really slow.
Also, with "Wild Hunt" we did an eight-issue miniseries, and we had to take a big break in the middle of it. I wanted to not run into that situation again, so "The Storm" is actually part one of the third book. The third book will be called "The Storm And The Fury." "The Storm" is a three-issue miniseries which will be followed after a break by another three-issue miniseries called "The Fury." Those together will be collected as the third book: "The Storm And The Fury." It is a three-book epic, and when that ends, Hellboy is in a very, very different place. By the end of "The Storm," he's in a pretty different place. "The Storm" gets us someplace, and then "The Fury" is a three-issue climax to this whole Hellboy epic. "The Fury" is going to be crazy! [Laughs]
This thing has gone off in so many directions, and it's been about so many different things. "The Storm" continues it, and "The Fury" is kind of this giant, apocalyptic wrap up to this middle chapter of Hellboy's life.
You've obviously read more legends and myths and fairy tales than probably 99.9% of the human population...
Thank God! Otherwise, everybody would know what I was doing! [Laughs] But, yeah.
In the early Hellboy stories, you were pulling more from pulpy influences, and in this latest run you've really started to tap into fairy tales and Arthurian legend...the things people associate with an old book they find in the library covered in dust. Do you have one that guides the story more than the other, or did you just start with the pulps because that's what the character looked like?
I grew up with Marvel Comics and then discovered the pulp magazine stuff, and in a way, that first miniseries was Marvel Comics - because it takes place in World War II and Captain America and the Red Skull and all that. I wanted the character grounded in that time period, and it just made sense logically, as a Marvel Comics guy, to make Nazis the villains. And the other part of me was the HP Lovecraft pulp stuff, so I wanted to bring that element into it. And there was a ghost, briefly, of a monk and a nun. That's much more the stuff I read. I'm a big fan of ghost stories as well as the folklore and the mythology. The very second Hellboy story I did was "The Wolves of St. August" which was based very much on folklore. So the folklore stuff came in really early. The second big Hellboy miniseries was dealing with Nazis and all that stuff, but real quickly the folklore stuff took over.
"The Corpse," which I guess was the third Hellboy story even before "Wake The Devil," was basically an adaptation of an Irish folk tale, and it just never went away. Not only was it everybody's favorite Hellboy story, but that little pig guy, who I always knew had this other life to him, was just cooking in the background and eventually returned to this series and became the catalyst for all this stuff that's in this three-book Arthurian epic. It's a perfect example of a little throwaway character who takes on a life of his own. And what I like is that he's probably the last character you ever expected to be a major player in the scheme of things.
And he found his own life, not just in terms of playing a role now, but he also got his own back story. I don't think anyone was expecting to say, "That little pig man is going to have a sympathetic turn to his past."
With that back story, I was looking for something else, and I had a book of Irish fairy tales and legends that I was skimming through when I stumbled upon that story. I just went, "Oh. That's the origin for my pig guy." It's just like when I did the Hellboy story "The Chained Coffin" which was an Irish folk story I'd planned to adapt even before I was going to do Hellboy. Suddenly I reexamined that folk tale and said, "This actually works as a piece of Hellboy's origin." There are all these stories out there, and my feeling is, with all of folklore and mythology, is that this is my toybox. These are my characters. I get to pick and choose through this vast body of mythology - this gigantic thing - and these are all my pieces to play with. And I don't have to make up the names of the characters. [Laughs] Because I hate making up names! If I can pull that stuff out of a book, A) it makes me look smart, and B) it grounds Hellboy in this giant, mythological thing.
SPOTLIGHT ON...PROF BRUTTENHOLM
As foster father to Hellboy and founder of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (whose name, as Hellboy fans know, is pronounced much more easily than spelled as "Broom") is one of the most central figures in all of Mignola's character mythology. Unfortunately, the professor died a few pages into the very first Hellboy tale in 1994.
"I kind of tend to kill these guys off and then do stories about them," Mignola laughed. "I tend to see the arc of their lives and then go back in and fill in the blanks." In the case of Bruttenholm, those blanks have proven to be large and fairly significant for the larger Hellboy world. Aside from being the primary adversary to the Nazi regime's exploration of the occult during WW2, the professor has also seen his encounters after the war become key moments in how Mignola and company build the future of the various comic series, with the recent "B.P.R.D. 1946" and "1947" series by Joshua Dysart helping to expand both the Hellboy universe's conception of vampires and the Soviet Russian side of the occult world - at least one of which will be dealt with in the near future.
"One of the things that Josh has done is that now there are two Professor Bruttenholm solo stories, which are great because he's a great character. I just didn't realize he was when I created him," Mignola teased. "I guess I had a sense of who this guy was and a little bit of his past, but for that story it was about the end of this guy. This is why the Hellboy universe is expanding so rapidly: because these characters who got so little screentime - or 'pagetime' I guess - are saying, 'Hey! I kind of got shortchanged. I have a whole life!' And once I figure out their whole life - and it only takes two minutes to figure out their whole life - I can go, 'Oh yeah, sorry about that. When we have the right artist and right writer, we'll give you your time.'"