Hellboy 2 lives

Even the most casual reader of this blog probably knows I’m a big fan of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. The comic is one of the best out there, and the film, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, is my favorite comic book film.

So it was with great pleasure that I read that Hellboy 2, whose future had been in doubt after Revolution Studios announced it would be closing its doors in October 2007, has been picked up by Universal Studios—the company that passed on the first film years ago.

Last Comic Standing

Since I currently find myself with excessive amounts of free time, I stopped by my parents’ house yesterday with the intention of retrieving my old comicbooks. My main period of comic collecting (aside from Hellboy in the last year or so) was 1991-1992; it began with Wolverine #41 and ended with X-Men #20, from what I can tell. In any event, I knew my old comics were buried somewhere in our terrifying cluttered attic. I went up there, fully expecting to spend the next two hours climbing over boxes and generally making the attic an even worse mess, when, to my shock, I discovered my father had cleaned the entire attic. At first I thought this might be a bad thing; I’d had a vague notion of where my comics had been. To my surprise, it only took me about thirty seconds to find the comics box.

Looking over those old comics was an interesting experience. I was a fan dead-center in the period where artists were very much trumping writers; the comics I was reading were being plotted and even written by the likes of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane. Bleh. Some of these comics had decent writers—Larry Hama on Wolverine, Chris Claremont on X-Men, Peter David on Incredible Hulk—but for the most part this was a very style-over-substance era. I’ve also been reading old collections of 1960s comics, where Stan Lee ended every line of dialogue with an exclamation mark, but the dialogue in many of these comics is much worse—like a buffoonish caricature of Lee’s expository-heavy style.

In light of my recent resurgence of interest in comics, I’ve started flipping through some recent Marvel and DC comics, and even picking up a graphic novel or two. My feelings are mixed. On the one hand, the writing is definitely better, now that we’re in the Writer’s Age of Comics (Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis, Neil Gaiman, Joss Whedon, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, and so forth—I leave out Alan Moore only because he hasn’t written much lately). But my God, are these companies obsessed with their superhero worlds, what with the Infinite Crises and Civil Wars. Every comic has ten characters in it, be they villains or heroes.

Am I old-fashioned because I’d like to read a story where Batman foils a normal human terrorist, or Wolverine, say, sneaks into Iraq to save a Canadian captive? I’d like to see some small-scale stories and some good characterization. Maybe that’s happening in some places…J_Stone informs me that DC has been quite good lately. I’m not as fond of the DC characters, except maybe for Batman and/or Superman, but I could try them. Unfortunately I don’t really like the concept of the Ultimate Marvel universe…I can’t really say why, other than I just prefer the mainstream world.

Of course, I really haven’t bought many comics lately. I keep telling myself I’ll buy various series when they come out as trade paperbacks, and in the meantime I’m enjoying myself more by reading old 1960s and 1970s comics alongside my goofy 1990s ones. But for a good perspective on why people like me have mixed feelings about today’s comics, check out this excellent article by Greg Hatcher: A Friday Spider-Epiphany. Hatcher’s theory is that

There’s two groups of fans reading superhero comics right now, the illusion-of-change fans and the real-change fans, and each one is absolutely convinced that the other group is going to destroy their beloved superheroes. And it terrifies them, because they both love comics fiercely, and neither can stand the idea that they might get taken away. So each group is constantly yelling at the other to for Christ’s sake STOP it, d’you have any idea what you’re doing? I suspect that this underlies a lot of that free-floating fan anger out there. This is why so many comic book message boards have the social niceties of Mad Max’s Thunderdome.

I think Hatcher may be on to something here. For instance, the only Marvel or DC comic I’m reading regularly at the moment is Wolverine: Origins, which I’m trying out solely because it features Wolverine back in the brown costume I first encountered him in. So where does that put me? I suspect I prefer the illusion of change to real change. I agree with Hatcher, if you want to make real changes, create a new character (as Mike Mignola did with Hellboy) and maybe even a new universe (like Ultimate Marvel or All-Star DC). (That said, I loved what Peter David did with the Hulk during his run—joining the three personalities into one—and I always thought it was a shame they brought back the dumb savage Hulk, cool as he is.)

Review: Hellboy Makoma #2

I’ve reactivated the comments feature on the blog. It requires you to create a free account with TypeKey (because I hate clearing out spam comments), but the process takes just a few minutes and the account can be used on any website that uses Blogger, Typepad or a few other formats. Also, now that I know some people get my blog through an RSS feed, I’m going to start using real titles rather than one-word appellations.

I picked up the second and final issue of Hellboy: Makoma, or, A Tale Told by a Mummy in the New York City Explorers’ Club on August 16, 1993, written by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and drawn by comics legend Rich (Heavy Metal) Corben. Hellboy stories tend to fall into one of three categories: adventure stories, where Hellboy and his pals get involved in some villain’s scheme or go traipsing across the world to stop some threat (Seed of Destruction, Wake the Devil, Conqueror Worm); folklore adaptations, where Hellboy stands in for the protagonist in an old folktale (“The Corpse,” “Heads”); and then there are the stories that investigate Hellboy’s origins and his destiny.

Lately, almost all of the Hellboy stories have been of the latter variety–to mixed reception by fans. Personally I’m more enamored of the first sort of story, but that has become the province of Hellboy’s spin-off comic, BPRD. However, we still occasionally get a one-off story of the second variety, folktale adaptations, and this is the story of Makoma. Mignola himself draws some bumper pages to place the folktale in context of Hellboy’s history, but Corben takes over when we get into the meat of the tale–a story of an African folk hero who wanders about Africa fighting giants and seeking his doom.

I didn’t find the story as engaging as last year’s The Island, which, as some may remember, I wasn’t that taken with either. Recently I’m enjoying the Hellboy tie-in novels, which are set before Hellboy quit the BPRD, more than the Hellboy and BPRD comics of late. I like Hellboy and the BPRD when they’re investigating odd phenomena, from Nazi mad scientist installations to fairy tale monsters in caves, in their business-like, vaguely bureaucratic manner. I like the incongruity of Hellboy in his big trenchcoat, standing in a room with a bunch of suit-clad agents; I like the contrasting of this clearly Judeo-Christian demon fighting tentacled beasts clearly inspired by the materialistic (though still fantastic) vision of Lovecraft. Yeah, it’s inconsistent, yes, it’s a potpourri of science fiction, superhero comics, folktales, UFO conspiracy theories, and everying else you can imagine–and that’s what I enjoyed. I liked that you could get a Hellboy story where he fights Nazi mad scientists, followed by a folktale adaptation such as “The Corpse,” and then a story with alien creatures such as Conqueror Worm. Recently Mignola has been trying to tie all of this together in The Island and BPRD, but I’m not sure if this is the right thing to do.

In any event, I tend to enjoy the X-Files-ish investigations more than the folklore-oriented stories and so I haven’t read a Hellboy story that really got me jazzed since Conqueror Worm (including the one-shots in the Dark Horse Book of the… series). It’s just my personal taste, and I can understand the argument of many fans that Hellboy is a better and more artistic comic now than it was ten years ago. It probably is, but, as I have often found with such things, it’s not quite as fun.

In the letters section of Makoma #2, editor Scott Allie mentions that the next BPRD miniseries will focus on (spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the most recent miniseries, The Black Flame–highlight to read) the efforts of the team to find a way to resurrect Roger the homunculus, who died in the last miniseries. Allie ends the “pitch” with “Don’t get your hopes up.” Well! I’m certainly looking forward to reading a six-issue miniseries that focuses on the efforts of the BPRD to attempt something so momentous, only to fail. I’m reminded of Leonard Nimoy’s words when asked whether Spock would return in Star Trek III: “Well, look, we’re calling the picture Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. If we had Captain Kirk turn to the camera at the end of the picture and say, ‘Sorry, we didn’t find him,’ people would throw rocks at the screen.”

I suspect–or at least hope–that the series will offer something more satisfying than that, but it was a rather cheap shot by Allie.


Dark Horse has released a four page preview of Mike Mignola’s upcoming Hellboy miniseries “The Island.” It’s the first Hellboy comic (not counting B.P.R.D.) since the movie came out (the last miniseries, “The Third Wish,” was published way back in 2002).

The pages are beautiful–Mignola’s style continues to evolve. Back when I first encountered Mignola’s art (in a Wolverine graphic novel titled The Jungle Adventure–it was much better than it sounds), I loved his sharply-defined, uncluttered style, but he was still using a lot more lines and detail than he does now. There’s more grace in his artwork now, with its smooth curves, inky shadows, and the crescent-shape of Hellboy’s head.

Mignola has promised that the story will deliver a smorgasboard of information about Hellboy’s identity, and in particular, what the Right Hand of Doom is (my guess: it’s the hand of an archangel, or perhaps a god–maybe Hephaestus).

1 2