The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense enters a new era with the August-debuting miniseries "BPRD: Hell on Earth: New World" by the regular creative team of creator Mike Mignola, writer John Arcudi, and artist Guy Davis. The "Frog War," a struggle against a strange subterranean race which began in the pages of "Hellboy" even before the BPRD spun off into its own Dark Horse series, is apparently at an end, and the surviving agents find themselves on an entirely different playing field. CBR News caught up with with Arcudi to get the details behind the Bureau's brave new world.
Following the events of "King of Fear," the BPRD's new status quo has them operating under a United Nations mandate, reversing course from the beginning of that miniseries which saw the United States withdraw its support even as the Bureau faced its most ominous threat. As to what this means for the team, Arcudi said, "Well, they get a lot more money, and their sphere of operations expands globally. They finally have the resources to deal with the 'Frog Menace' - a little late on that count, but the new dangers they're confronting are going to require even more resources, so the UN has arrived in the nick of time.
"On the other hand, the BPRD also have a brand new kind of oversight."
Some agents have already expressed reservations and some displeasure about that oversight. Whether having UN backing is a blessing or a curse, though, may come down to perspective. "In terms of the yield to humans across the globe, yeah, the benefits outweigh the pitfalls," Arcudi said. "More BPRD resources and agents means more investigations, more aggressive tactics against potential threats, and more folks saved. But as far as the BPRD dynamic is concerned, I wouldn't be so sure. And, at any rate, they had no choice. As the paranormal incidents multiplied and caused destruction on a global scale, the UN had to get involved."
With the additional funding and scope, readers can also expect to see the team undergo a bit of a recruitment drive. "Yeah, and I think Dark Horse is leading the charge on that front," Arcudi joked, referring to the publisher's "Join the BPRD" marketing campaign. "But seriously, you are going to meet new characters through whom some of future story lines will be told."
In addition to the Bureau's new international status, "King of Fear" represented some notable shifts for the agents themselves - it appears that Abe Sapien, like Hellboy, has the potential to be very bad news, even though he (again like Hellboy) remains a hero at present. In the penultimate issue of "King of Fear," Abe was revealed as a more advanced specimen of the Frog people and hailed as the future king of the world. This development has already shaken the faith his teammates place in him, as seen in the concluding issue of that series. "In 'New World' we'll see that Abe is not buying any of this for one second," Arcudi told CBR. "He knows he's a good guy, but Devon's not so sure - and very soon, readers are gong to wonder if Devon isn't right. Readers, and Abe himself."
Liz Sherman, another BPRD mainstay, will find herself "somewhere else" for the foreseeable future, according to Arcudi. "She's not going to be a member of the BPRD for some time to come. She'll be showing up, and will even have her own stories, but not as a member."
The latest miniseries begins the "Hell on Earth" cycle of stories, following on from the "Frog War" cycle that had run through BPRD since its inception before coming to a head in the trilogy of miniseries beginning with "The Warning." While this is a new beginning of sorts, Arcudi said that he won't simply be discarding all that's gone before. "A lot of what happened in the Frog cycle will carry over just by virtue of all the raw continuity we've generated, but I will say one very important element from the Frog War will factor very significantly into the next cycle," the writer said. "I won't say what exactly because it's very big, but readers will be happy to see what we're doing."
As to what defines the "New World" of the BPRD, Arcudi said that "it's no longer an occasional giant catastrophe, but a steady diet of destruction and invasions by monsters, etc. That's the new norm in this world: chaos."
Arcudi also told CBR that "Hell on Earth" will run "at least as many [miniseries] as the Frog cycle." "Right now Mike [Mignola] and Scott Allie and I have worked out about 20 issues of material, and that seems like it will get us roughly halfway through, but things are going to get so huge after those twenty issues that there may quite a few more. It's building to one hell of a climax... literally.
"Those first twenty issues will be complete stories on their own, but ultimately readers will see that they are basically the foundation for the new cycle," he continued. "Everything we establish in this group of series will be major components of the 'Hell on Earth' cycle as a whole. Readers are starting to notice that Mike and Scott and I use every part of the bison. If we introduce a character, or a theme in any story we do, that's going to come back later on down the line. It's a massive epic we're putting together."