Pyrokinetic agent Liz Sherman's past comes into focus in March's “B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered,” a three-issue miniseries from Dark Horse debuting in April. The series, illustrated by Karl Moline, will also see longtime “Hellboy” and “B.P.R.D.” editor Scott Allie take the reins as writer for the first time in Mike Mignola's supernatural universe. Allie has previously written two “Solomon Kane” series, creator-owned titles “The Devil's Footprints” and “Exurbia,” and other comics for Dark Horse, recently and notably co-writing the final arc of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8” with Joss Whedon.
Liz Sherman became a ward of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense shortly after, at age 11, an uncontrolled burst of her fire powers obliterated an entire city block, killing her family and scores of others in the process. Under the tutelage of Professor Bruttenholm (“Broom”), she eventually becomes a field agent, working with Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and the others. Recent story arcs have seen her tested against the psychic machinations of Memnan Saa, who claimed that Liz alone could avert the pending apocalypse and showed her visions to prove his point. With Saa dead, though, and Liz increasingly eager to strike out on her own, the world's fate remains in question.
CBR News spoke with Allie about his plans for the character, which involve taking Liz back to the early days after her family's death and sending her to the writer's own home town.
CBR News: So Scott, how long, exactly, have you been working on “B.P.R.D.” at this point?
Scott Allie: Longer than it's existed as a book. I've been Mike's editor since 1994, right around the time the first trade paperback of “Hellboy” came out.
From your perspective as an editor, seeing a bit of how Mike Mignola and John Arcudi have developed these characters, how has Liz Sherman grown as a character since the early days of “Hellboy” and “B.P.R.D.?”
One cannot overstate what John's brought to the book as far as expanding the characters. Mike created a great character with Liz, and because of how he writes, he gave her something unique among comic-book heroines. He didn't write her like a girl. She's just another person in the Bureau. She's not lacking in femininity, but she is lacking in cliche. Mike set that standard, and he grew her into her own person, but John has made her a more unique recognizable, identifiable character, subject to her moods, her conflicted feelings about her power and her role in the Bureau, and her limited human relationships. She's much more nuanced than she was originally, as will happen over time.
What would you like your story to add to her history?
Well, like I said, Mike never really writes her as a girl, never diminishes her individuality in stereotypical comic-book ways. So I get to do that. I'm actually writing her as a young girl, fourteen years old, still quite immature, and still reeling from what happened to her family. We've mostly always seen the Liz that has blocked out the pain. Here we see the Liz with whom the pain is fresh, the memory of her family still vivid, and I make her relive that, for the first time in the comics. What I really wanted to do when I started thinking about this story was to do a classic horror story with Liz as a still vulnerable young character, but I was really excited when I realized this was the perfect place to do a scene that's absolutely essential to the Hellboy storyline, but which we've barely ever even brushed up against.
Speaking on the story itself, what can you tell us about “The Dead Remembered?”
In 1692, us Massholes killed a whole bunch of people because we thought they were witches. Now a ghost of a woman who was pardoned, but who the locals were still mad at for her free-spirited ways, is causing trouble for a priest that Broom has known for a long time. Hellboy encourages Broom to get young Liz out of the god damn lab, and out in the world, so he takes her to New England, not intending to put her in the middle of the ghost hunt, but alas... chaos ensues.
It sounds like setting will play an important role in this story. What can you say about the small New England town where this story takes place?
Well, I can tell you I'm obsessed with it. It's the setting for “The Devil's Footprints.” It's the town where I grew up, Ipswich, Mass., although in this story I don't name it, just because that would get tiring, if I plugged Ipswich every time I write a comic. But I've relied on local geography, local history. I had a great aunt or something that was killed as a witch, I had a great uncle who was a blacksmith who signed a receipt for putting shackles on the witches. So I used that, and the architecture, and the woods, and the main street—Central Street, actually. It makes it more real for me writing it, let's me know I have the details right, and can move the characters through a space that's meaningful to me.
Being set during her teenage years, this story takes place before Liz even becomes an agent. Why choose this period of her life?
My interest in the horror stuff is pretty specific. I don't like guns, I don't particularly like heroes, to tell the truth. Around the time we did the Abe series with Jason Alexander, which shows how Abe started as an agent, I thought of how different Liz's path was. Abe was a fishman, and they needed to figure out what to do with him, and with Hellboy standing there, it made a lot of sense to the B.P.R.D., I imagine, to say, Well, if Hellboy can do it, let's try it with fishboy. But how did they come to that conclusion with Liz? She was a little girl that they basically locked in a room so she wouldn't kill anyone. How do you go from that to her being an active agent? And my thought is that you do it slowly and carefully, and perhaps without initially intending that. And I gotta tell you, at the end of this one, Broom is not thinking that this girl is ready for fieldwork.
Karl Moline is illustrating this series, who of course you've worked with on “Buffy” and “Fray.” What led you to choose him for “The Dead Remembered?”
How he handles characters. That was the main thing. Everything I've said about why we dealt with this period of Liz's life should make it clear why he was the right choice. I love Karl's work, I love him working with Andy Owens and Dave Stewart, so I was just really excited to put this team together on a book that's really MY kind of book. A little less superheroic than “Buffy,” less action-adventure than the normal “B.P.R.D.,” and just focused on a very human, young girl struggling with herself, and a weird mystery that hopefully has some creepy moments and lots of intrigue.
Finally, how much did Mike Mignola look over your shoulder to see how you were handling his character? Was there a sense of role reversal between the two of you?
Yeah, it's funny, this year I've co-written books with Joss Whedon and Mike Mignola, the two guys that I've edited the longest. So role reversal, yes, but at the same time, we were using language that we'd been using for a decade or more. With Joss, on Season 8, it was a real step forward in our collaboration, but with Mike, it was just a shift. Just, “Okay, I'm gonna do more of this part this time, you're gonna do more of this,” but it was essentially the same relationship we established back in 1994. Not saying it wasn't nerve-wracking sending him the scripts to go over, but that guy has me on edge on a daily basis, so again, relationship unchanged.