Thoughts on the Hellboy reboot

David Harbour in Hellboy (2019)

I just purchased my tickets to see the new Hellboy reboot starring David Harbour and direct by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent). While I am a big fan of Hellboy, my introduction to him came through the 2004 film. I wish I had discovered the comic when it debuted in the 1990s, as I was obsessed with the X-Files and H.P. Lovecraft at that time and probably would have loved it.

It’s no secret that expectations are not particularly high for the reboot – even Hellboy creator Mike Mignola seems aware of that. The first trailer did not go over well, and the second, while better, did not wash away all the concerns. The film’s tracking is reportedly not looking so good.

My take on this film, especially with the most recent trailers and TV spots, is that while Hellboy is a character very associated with Mignola and his distinct style, the new film seems to ask, “What if Frank Frazetta created Hellboy?”

If Mignola and the producers are looking to create a new cinematic universe, I don’t see the wisdom of using this film to adapt two very late-era Hellboy stories, The Wild Hunt and The Storm and the Fury. In the comics, both of these stories take place in the early stages of what is essentially the Apocalypse; Hellboy actually dies at the end of The Storm and the Fury, leading him into a Dante-esque journey into Hell itself.

This story would have made more sense if this was the final sequel to the 2004 film by Guillermo Del Toro (although the odd subplot of Hellboy’s children from Hellboy II would have had to be dealt with). Of course, superhero films often have world-ending stakes, so it’s possible – even likely – the film’s conclusion won’t go in the same direction as the comics.

Nonetheless, it’s not the direction I would have taken with the reboot, regardless of whether it was intended to be a standalone film or the start of a franchise. Not that anyone cares about how I would have done it, of course, but here’s my pitch.

I’d keep Harbour as Hellboy; he’s a good choice, and could anchor a franchise for years. But I would have made the film a period piece – maybe the 1960s or ’70s – and made the stakes fairly low (i.e., not the apocalypse). I would have sidestepped the whole “Hellboy’s destiny” storyline, which took precedence in the comics fairly early on. The “chosen one” aspect of Hellboy never interested me very much; my favorite HB stories are the ones where he basically takes the place of some figure from a folk tale.

That’s why my take would have been somewhat like Mad Max: Fury Road or the Fistful of Dollars trilogy. The idea would be something like this: a wandering Hellboy comes to some small town that’s having a supernatural problem, gets involved in a mystery that ends up involving a monster or supernatural threat of some sort. But while Hellboy is present and gets some action sequences, the story is as much about the other characters as it is Hellboy. And again, fairly low stakes, a low, almost indie film budget (and look), not too much CGI — largely a character piece / mystery. And I’d give it to someone like Travis Knight to direct.

Finally, I would have given Hellboy a different characterization. Perlman’s Hellboy was a bit goofy and somewhat self-absorbed; Harbour’s take appears to be sarcastic and angry. Neither represents the Hellboy of the comics, who is thoughtful, a bit world-weary, and whose sense of humor is mostly of the “dad” type.

Anyway, that would have been my approach. If the film is cheap enough, it doesn’t have to be a massive hit, and if it’s successful enough you can build from there.

Hellboy II website

The Hellboy II website is now live. I like the little intro by Doug Jones, a.k.a. Abe Sapien. Also, the “Big Baby” gun looks badass.

Troll Market

The more I read about Hellboy 2, the more it seems that there’s something of a Harry Potter-esque vibe to it. I think it’s the idea of the “Troll Market” more than anything else, but still.

I really can’t predict how well this film will do. The first one was a moderate success, but it was no Batman Begins or even X-Men. Maybe these Rowling-esque touches, while alienating some Hellboy fans (Hi, Scott!) will draw in the casual crowd.

Del Toro + Lovecraft = happy JFCC

At the Mountains of Madness

Somewhat on-topic, here’s some fantastic news: it seems Guillermo Del Toro (The Devil’s Backbone, Blade II, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) has finally gotten the green light to make his big-budget adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. (I like to think it was partly my influence–see the last question.)

Finally, someone will take a crack at a true A-movie version of Lovecraft’s work. ATMOM is probably the best one to start with, though I think The Dunwich Horror would make a great film as well. With any luck (and skill), ATMOM will be the beginning of a run of big-budget Lovecraft films (like the Austen films of the nineties or the current epic fantasy boom).

Savage Dragon/Hellboy


In my question to own any and all comic appearances of Hellboy, I finally picked up a copy of Savage Dragon/Hellboy, which collects two issues of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon comic featuring a guest appearance by the wielder of the Right Hand of Doom.

Quick history lesson: In 1992, when the post-Batman comic book boom was at its peak, a number of Marvel Comics’ most popular artists left to start a new company called Image Comics. While Image’s fortunes have waxed and waned over the years (they currently publish the bestselling Walking Dead), two original Image titles have continued ever since those early days: Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon.

The Dragon is a green-skinned, super-strong fellow with a big green fin on his head and an (until recently) unknown origin. He appeared in a blaze of fire with no memory of his past and was recruited to fight (supervillainous) crime by the US government.

Hellboy is a red-skinned, super-strong fellow with filed-down horns on his head and an (until recently) unknown origin. He appeared in a blaze of fire with no knowledge of his past and was recruited to fight (supernatural) crime by the US government.


Hellboy sweetness

Hellboy: Darkness Calls

Sometimes to get a comic shop to order a lot of copies of a particular comic, a publisher will offer a “retailer incentive.” This is often some sort of poster or super-rare variant cover or even a collectible like an action figure, and the comic shop gets one if it orders enough copies of the comic. Then the store can put the incentive on display, though often enough they’ll just sell it to a rabid fan, usually at an exorbitant price.

The current Hellboy miniseries is called Darkness Calls, and the retailer incentive was a beautiful 18×24 poster signed by artist and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. Since I’m known as the local Hellboy freak at New England Comics in Harvard Square, the manager, Matt, set aside the poster and sold it to me for an insanely reasonable price. I’m actually jealous of me.

I can’t thank Matt enough, so instead I’ll plug his rap/funk/rock band, Type 4. You can also check out his Myspace page here.

(Oh, and so far, Darkness Calls is really good. It’s written by Mignola but drawn but Duncan Fegredo, since Mignola is busy with Hellboy 2.)

Catholic school considers admitting Hell boy

Catholic school opens gates to Hell boy

Hellboy figure review

I wrote a review of a Hellboy action figure for Michael Crawford’s toy review site. Here’s the link. My main motivation was to raise awareness of the animated films, because if Blood & Iron doesn’t sell well, there won’t be any more.

Hellboy: Blood & Iron

Well, I’ve gone two weeks without writing a videogame-related post. There’s a reason for that—about two weeks ago, I sort of lost interest in gaming. Burned out, I guess, after four or five months of hardcore videogame obsession. It’s happened to me before; I well remember how obsessively I played Diablo in summer 1997, only to stop abruptly in late August and then I was never able to enjoy the game again.

I think a lot of people go through phases like this. And if the right game came along, I’d probably get into it. As of right now, though, the only games I’ve been interested in have been Super Smash Brothers Brawl and Konami’s Hellboy.

Speaking of Hellboy, I finally watched the second animated flick, Blood & Iron, last week. While I enjoyed the first film, Sword of Storms, Iron is a definite improvement. Where Storms had Hellboy wandering around the world of Japanese folklore, the new film brings the big red lug back to his roots, having him battle vampires and werewolves in a haunted house. The story is loosely based on the legend of Elizabeth Bathory.

Hellboy game preview

Hellboy’s getting a videogame later this year. It looks like it’s basically a God of War clone, which is fine with me, since I don’t own a PS2 and never got to play GoW. It also seems to me that many of the most enjoyable licensed videogames have borrowed another game’s gameplay (such as Simpsons Road Rage [Crazy Taxi] and Simpsons: Hit & Run [GTA3], the only two good Simpsons games).

Anyway, you can watch a preview of Hellboy: God of W—I mean, Hellboy: The Science of Evil here (QT) or here (WMV). And yes, that’s Ron Perlman as the voice of Hellboy.

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