A Real Survivor: Mignola Talks "Hellboy: The Island"

Tue, March 29th, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
George A. Tramountanas, Staff Writer

This June, Hellboy returns in "Hellboy: The Island", a two-part miniseries written and drawn by creator Mike Mignola from Dark Horse Comics. This is Mignola's first Hellboy tale since the release of the "Hellboy" movie, so CBR News gave him a call to find out what this miniseries has in store for everyone's favorite pancake-eating, cigar-chomping demon.

When asked what this miniseries is about, Mignola told CBR News, "Getting Hellboy off the bottom of the ocean, where he's been the past 3 years. Hellboy washes up on an island where something really horrendous happened. There's some ghosts, a guy coming back from the grave, and what it all kind of comes down to is Hellboy learning a big chunk of his own history and the secret history of the world. It's sort of the Book of Revelations for the Hellboy universe."

These revelations deal with "the mythology behind the Hellboy universe and how that relates to Hellboy himself. "You go from the origins of life on earth and how Hellboy is related to that." Mignola explained, "It answers a bunch of questions that I never thought I would answer. But still, with every question that gets answered in Hellboy it raises about five new really big ones."

After writing "The Third Wish," Hellboy's last miniseries, Mignola knew he wanted to do a book called "The Island." However, getting the book written has been something of a challenge. "Originally, this story started out to be my nod to William Hope Hodgson, who is a great WWI era supernatural writer," said Mignola. "He wrote a lot of sea stories and a lot of stories about islands - sort of Sargasso Sea kind of places. (But), as so often happens, it started out to be a nod toward this one writer and it veered off completely in this other direction.

"I've sat down to do this book three different times and each time I had a completely different story," continued Mignola. "The problem was that at the same time we were trying to do the movie, I would start on this miniseries and then I would have to drop it and go to Prague or go to L.A. or wherever I was going, be there for a chunk of time, and when I would come back to this I had changed my mind on what I wanted to do.

"I think it started out to be a two-issue miniseries. Then the second time I sat down to do it, it was a three-issue miniseries. They all started roughly the same way, but they all ended completely differently. The last time I sat down to do it, I realized people are going to end up waiting years for this comic, so I needed to reveal something about the character to justify the wait."

Since Mignola has had two false starts on this project, he said he has two "big chunks" of these versions done in the form of completely finished pages. He hopes to include these when this story is eventually collected in trade paperback. If he does, Mignola pointed out this will be the first trade to ever contain "deleted scenes" of his.

As Hellboy now has a potentially wider audience due to the movie, fans might worry that the Hellboy mythos has been watered down to appeal to new readers. Fortunately, it seems there 's no need to be concerned. "If I was trying to reach a wider audience, this is exactly the story I wouldn't have done. This thing is so geared toward the Hellboy insider." He indicated this might not be the best book for someone new to the Hellboy universe because it's so "atypical." "This [story] may be a reaction to the movie in how much I tried to be true to the comic. Because I didn't want it to look like I was suddenly trying to cash in on the movie," said Mignola.

However, that's not to say that Mignola doesn't reference the movie at all. He does include a couple of elements from the film to help enhance their existence in the Hellboy universe, and make them important on their own outside of the movie. "There is a scene in the comic that is inspired from hanging out with Ron Perlman and having drinks in the bar in the hotel."

Despite the success of the movie, Mignola confesses to being a bit nervous about this miniseries. "This story is very odd in that it's very much the end of the first chapter of Hellboy's life," said Mignola. "The first six trade paperbacks kind of end here, and then the next Hellboy miniseries, which Lee Bermejo ('Lex Luthor: Man of Steel') is drawing that I'm writing, begins a whole new phase of Hellboy's life. In a very real way, this is the wrap-up. This is kind of transitioning Hellboy from one kind of character to another kind of character - from one kind of story to another kind of story.

"The whole first chunk of the Hellboy adventures is about avoiding having any kind of mission in life, other than 'Yeah, my job is to fight monsters.' What the next chapter of Hellboy ends up being about is, you have a very specific mission - a very specific goal. And this first chapter has been a lot of Lovecraft kind of stuff. We've introduced the folklore elements, (and) my own kind of Lovecraft mythology that is being dealt with in the BPRD. This new chapter of Hellboy is very, very folklore-oriented. So this story, in a way, is me making my big statement about the kind of fake 'Lovecraftian' mythology (featured in Hellboy to this point)."

For fans hoping to see Hellboy join up with the BPRD again, don't hold your breath. "Hellboy is becoming a very different kind of character than he was and his journey is going to be much more in the folklore kind of realm, and walking that gray line between the real world and the shadowy folklore world." Mignola also mentioned he has a lot of Hellboy's future planned out already, and as of this moment, none of those plans include any return to the BPRD.

Dave Stewart, who has worked on several Hellboy tales in the past, is the colorist for this book. The color palette of each Hellboy miniseries has always played an important part in the stories Mignola is trying to tell, and "The Island" is no exception. "When people ask what this miniseries is about, I say 'Well, it's about the color yellow.' (For) every Hellboy miniseries the color palette is different because it's a different kind of story. Since this one takes place entirely at night in the midst of the fog, there's a particular look to that.

"Yellow is a living presence throughout the miniseries," continued Mignola. "I'm sure Dave Stewart and I will go back and forth two million times about 'How many different yellows? And what's the perfect yellow for this part? And what's the perfect yellow for that part?' It's a fun process, but it's very painstaking. And I certainly appreciate that Dave Stewart is willing to put up with me, because I am a pain in the ass when it comes to the color."

When asked about other upcoming works, Mignola confessed, "I'm actually just drawing comics now, which is great." However, his slate still appears very full when discussing his involvement with projects on the horizon.

He said "Hellboy 2" (the movie) is still actively being developed. Mignola came up with the story along with Guillermo del Toro (the first film's writer/director), and Guillermo is working on the script "even as we speak."

Four Hellboy novels have also been planned for Pocket Books. Christopher Golden is writing one of them and is working as an editor on this series. Mignola is drawing the covers for all of the books. He said there has been talk of a Hellboy video game and an animated series too, but nothing is firm on these fronts.

In discussing frequent collaborator Christopher Golden, Mignola also said, "Chris and I are actually doing a novel together. It was an idea I had for a comic (unrelated to Hellboy) that I was just never going to get around to doing. So Chris and I have begun working that up as a novel that I would illustrate."

Lastly, one of Mignola's other creations, "The Amazing Screw-On Head" is being developed as an animated series for the Sci-Fi network. Mignola said he gave the company doing the series his notes on the script and has liked what he saw, but he isn't actively involved with the project.

As Hellboy has had a lot of interesting team-ups in the past, CBR News - on a whim - asked Mignola who he would team his creation with, if he could choose any character in the comic book world. He replied, "I think, because it was so much one of the inspirations for Hellboy, Marvel Comic's Thor. I think Hellboy and the Marvel Comic's Thor actually have quite a lot in common - they inhabit similar kinds of worlds…I think that would actually be kind of interesting. I wouldn't mind seeing Hellboy roaming through Asgard with Thor. That would be kind of fun to do."

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