When the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense finally defeated the underground Frog kingdom, ending the war that had been raging since the agency first debuted in the pages of "Hellboy," agents Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, Kate Corrigan, and company found their troubles were only beginning. The explosion at the center of the Earth that was part and parcel of their victory also unleashed a series of long-buried horrors upon the world, and ushered in the mega-story-arc appropriately titled "Hell on Earth."
In addition to the main "B.P.R.D." series, written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi with art by Tyler Crook, Dark Horse Comics expands the playing field this Spring with several additional miniseries and one-shots catching up with field agents and exploring hidden corners of the fallen world. Editor Scott Allie, who has edited Mignola's titles almost from the beginning, recently made his "B.P.R.D." writing debut with the Liz-focused "The Dead Remembered" miniseries and "Being Human," a one-shot starring Roger the Homunculus, and now returns with two additional tales from the greater Bureau. "B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: The Pickens County Horror," a two-issue miniseries with art by Jason Latour, wraps up this week and reveals what vampires have been up to in the Mignolaverse, while May's "The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell," illustrated by Max Fiumara, reveals the method behind the madness of the B.P.R.D.'s resident prophet-scientist.
CBR News caught up with Allie for a quick chat about both series, working the other side of the editor's desk, and what's coming up later in the year for "B.P.R.D."
CBR News: Scott, you've edited "B.P.R.D." and "Hellboy" for years and have now written several stories in this universe. How does your immersion in the behind-the-scenes and planning of the "big picture" help or influence how you shape the stories you're writing?
Scott Allie: I've been with these characters forever, so I know them as well as anyone can. I know this world, I live inside it. When I write "Star Wars" stuff, I have to do a bunch of reading and viewing to get inside of it. Even writing "Buffy" takes a certain effort of immersion, even though I've lived with those guys since 1998. But Mignola and I have talked on the phone almost every day for eighteen years, in my small way I've helped shaped the world since nearly the beginning. I think I know what makes the characters, the stories, the mythology tick in a way that makes it a very natural writing gig.
"Pickens County Horror" wraps up this week. This short series gives a pretty solid example of how big "Hell on Earth" is, since it's a side-story in terms of the cast but introduces a whole new conflict to the B.P.R.D. world. How does this (possible) vampire apocalypse tie in with everything else that's going on?
There's been a sort of secret plot among the vampires for ages. Mike's favorite novel is "Dracula" -- or at least it was his favorite novel growing up, one of the single biggest influences on him, along with Kirby and Lovecraft. With the ubiquity of vampires in every other corner of horror fiction, why are they relatively rare in the "Hellboy" books? Because they're up to something. But now that the world appears to be ending, the vampires are getting anxious. What if their "thing" doesn't happen before the world ends? All this waiting was for nothing. However, what specifically goes on in "Pickens County," what goes wrong with the vampires' plan, is caused by the general worldwide havoc taking place.
Through the several "Hell On Earth" arcs to date (not to mention events over in "Hellboy"), it really feels like critical mass has been reached with things spiraling further and further out of control in this world. How does a world that's constantly in crisis mode affect or change the B.P.R.D.'s mission?
Well, the first thing, of course, was that their charter got changed so they're an international organization now, with international responsibilities. They've also found themselves in a weird alliance with the Russian occult sciences, an alliance that'll keep getting more complicated over the course of this year. But the bottom line is they're busier than ever, even while their most experienced agents -- the whole cast of "Seed of Destruction" -- are out of action.
With the world already having gone to hell in a handcart, is it more difficult for you, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and co. to keep raising the stakes?
Sort of -- really it's just more difficult to manage the pace. We know where we're going, and the stakes do keep getting steeper. But we have to make sure we don't get there too fast, and also that we don't go too long without a major development.
Coming up next month, you've got "The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell." Why delve into his history at this point in "Hell on Earth?"
Couple reasons. The main thing is that O'Donnell, though out of his mind, has insights into what's going on in the world that no one else has. The one-shot tells the story of how he got that insight, in a sense. Also, with "Hell on Earth" heating up as it is, on a global scale, we want to do more small, personal, horror stories, and this is one of the most straight-up Lovecraftian stories stories we've ever done.
What most interests you about the Professor? What makes him fun to write?
He's nuts. He's like the narrator from a Lovecraft story, after the end of the story. Lovecraft's protagonists don't get a lot of sequels -- they're pretty used up at the end of the tale. Every line out of O'Donnell's mouth is one of those italicized zingers at the end of a Lovecraft story. But the fact is -- you don't want a whole hell of a lot of that. This story takes place before he lost his mind, and there's really very little dialogue, mostly narration from a B.P.R.D. agent we haven't seen in years...
Often the best part of mysterious characters is their mystery. How do you balance telling a good, revealing story with the Professor with the need to leave some of the enigma intact?
Well, often the best part of Mignola's stories is the way answers merely pose more questions. Mike is a genius at divulging info and backstory stuff without killing that mystery. Both "Pickens County" and "O'Donnell" do that really well.
Will the Professor's story, like the "Pickens County" book, open up a new "Hell on Earth" conflict, or is it more contained to O'Donnell's revelations?
More contained, and yeah, more oriented toward his back story, toward something that happened a long time ago. But it does have pertinence to what's happening now. There's a framing sequence that puts it in a modern context.
With the many "B.P.R.D." books this Spring, you've brought in a number of artists to the roster. How did you and the Hellverse crew go about selecting artists and pairing them with the various stories you wanted to tell?
Facebook! Actually, I'm not on Facebook, but Mike and John are, and they find a lot of artists there. Artists come to us on their own, in all sorts of ways. We're all tuned into the industry in different ways, through conventions, social media, just sort of being there -- we all keep our eyes out and share artists all the time.
Following the big Spring push, is there anything you can tell us about the direction of "B.P.R.D." during the second half of 2012?
Really sort of more of the same, but, uh... in a good and exciting way. The main story continues monthly, all written by John and Mike, with Tyler Crook doing most of the issues this year, after a great run by James Harren. Peter Snejbjerg will be back -- I think this is the first time he's doing an arc in the regular run, after the "War on Frogs" one-shot and the "Abe Sapien" two-parter. Alongside that, though, we have more specials revealing the other trouble in the world, with Cameron Stewart doing what might be his best-looking work ever. A great two-parter that he wrote with Mike and drew himself. We've got stuff in the works with Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, more with Max Fiumara, Jason Latour, Kevin Nowlan. We have some really crucial stories, big things happen to the world and the main cast, and consistently great art. I could not be happier with the bunch of artists we're working with. John's in Philadelphia, Mike's in LA, I'm in Portland, and every time art from one of these guys comes in we're all leaping up from behind our computers and high-fiving each other from thousands of miles away. Once a week one of us will comment on how lucky we are to be getting these pages in from these guys.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more news on "B.P.R.D." and the rest of the "Hellboy" universe in the coming months.