For years, everyday fishman Abraham Sapien has been one of the most beloved and mysterious characters in the canon of Mike Mignola's Hellboy Universe. A fixture of the B.P.R.D. from its earliest appearances, Abe has remained the human soul of the various series published by Dark Horse even in recent years when he's been lying in a glass tube in a coma.
But it isn't until today that the character has been able to truly break out on his own, and in May's "Abe Sapien: The Dark And Terrible," the hero starts his own journey free of the B.P.R.D. in a story the publisher is promising will begin his definitive solo adventures. Written by Mignola and Dark Horse E-i-C Scott Allie with art from Sebastian Fiumara (and a special issue #1 variant cover by his brother Max Fiumara), "The Dark And Terrible" takes place against the backdrop of the current "Hell On Earth" cycle of stories while carving its own path.
"So much of 'B.P.R.D.' is about regular guys, and while John [Arcudi] writes everything well, he's got such a handle on that idea. Scott Allie and I are both much more oriented towards the supernatural. So why not take this character who's evolved so much in one direction and let's really make him a supernatural character again," Mignola told CBR about his "taking Abe back" from the team book.
"Abe was entirely in the 'B.P.R.D.' world, but I've had an idea of where Abe should go, and once John had Abe shot and put into a coma...well, I don't think I told John to do that, but when he did I thought it'd be a good time to take Abe away from John. I said, 'Let me pull him out of there because he's got something he needs to do.' He'd become such a regular guy that I thought 'Let's lose that.' I've always had a lot of ideas about Abe – not so much a concrete story, but the past of that character and his origins have largely come from me. He's so supernatural, and he's so tied into this mythology that goes on in the Hellboy Universe. I thought, 'Let's not lose that entirely. Let's embrace it.'"
Mignola explained that his role in the series would be fleshing out the history of the character and fitting him more strongly into the larger, unique mythology of the universe. "Most of the Hellboy stuff has been built on the mythology I made up," he said. "Other than some of the English stuff that ties into Hellboy's origins, it all has to lean on what I made up. I've brought in a few bits from other cultures, but when you go back to the Ogdru Jahad stuff and the dragon, it's all stuff I made up. Granted, I borrowed the idea of this dragon who was there at the beginning of the world from a bunch of mythologies where that occurs, but I tried to look at what was common to different mythologies so I could build off that.
"Abe really grows out of or is tied into the kind of Lovecraftian mythology I created. He's not specific to any culture. He's more the culmination of that weird thing I did. When we did the first Abe mini series, 'The Drowning,' we saw this big jellyfish kind of thing which was also in Abe's origin story in the first B.P.R.D. story I wrote myself. We saw these big Lovecraftian things and an underwater temple. So while the character has the whole Victorian thing going on, he's also tapping into the Lovecraftian supernatural thing that I am fascinated with. It's the world history stuff that I've made up. This new story is about the foot he's got in that world and how he reconciles that with his Victorian past, which he doesn't remember much of, and the fact that he's been living like a regular dude for a bunch of years now."
Unlike his long-gestating "Hellboy In Hell" series, however, the future of Abe will not be a story of a man who is trying to escape his past. "The difference between Hellboy and Abe is that Hellboy never wanted to look at his origins at all, and Abe I think is much more adult about that. He's not quite as quick to say, 'I just won't think about it.' He's much more fascinated by what he is, and now that he's evolving into something else, I think that it behooves him to look into what he is and all this stuff means."
And that's where Allie comes in. As co-writer, the longtime B.P.R.D. editor will be tasked with building a world around Abe that could sustain itself much like Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. do today (which the writer describes in this recent interview with Robot 6). "So much of the Abe book is going to be up to Scott Allie in terms of the cast. We've talked about an overall structure and what Abe's doing, but there will be some familiar faces. The idea is to run parallel to 'B.P.R.D.' but not just be a second B.P.R.D. title. So there is a new cast of characters on the way, the same as there is in 'Hellboy In Hell.' It's expanding that world not just to expand it but because we've moved the characters into a different phase of their lives. It gives them an opportunity to meet new people."
And while those new adventures wait ahead, some classic Abe action will ride shotgun in the form of the series variant covers. "If you look at the variant covers rather than the real covers, they are a bit disorienting," Mignola laughed. "Basically what Scott came up with for the artists was 'Just do a scene from Abe's past. Do a lost adventure for the cover.' But they don't have anything to do with the story at hand. This takes place just after Abe leaves B.P.R.D. headquarters. Other than maybe a flashback somewhere, Hellboy will not appear in the series at all."
"Abe Sapien: The Dark And Terrible" ships this April from Dark Horse.