Roger’s Comic Ramblings: Happy Anniversary, Hellboy!

Roger Ash

Roger Ash


by Roger Ash

This past weekend, Dark Horse celebrated the 20th Anniversary of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. Holy cow. Twenty years of Hellboy. It doesn’t seem like he’s been around that long, partly because I remember his debut.

The Legend panel from San Diego in 1993. From left to right: Barbara Randall Kesel (original Hellboy editor), Mike Mignola, Arthur Adams, John Byrne, Frank Miller, Geof Darrow, Dark Horse Comics president, Mike Richardson. Photo by Roger Ash.

The Legend panel from San Diego in 1993. From left to right: Barbara Randall Kesel (original Hellboy editor), Mike Mignola, Arthur Adams, John Byrne, Frank Miller, Geof Darrow, Dark Horse Comics president, Mike Richardson. Photo by Roger Ash.


Back in 1993, Dark Horse had a panel at San Diego to reveal details of their Legend imprint. If you aren’t familiar with Legend, you’re not alone. I find that many fans either don’t recall it without some mental nudging, simply don’t remember it, or never heard of it since it didn’t last that long. But at the time, it was a huge deal. Legend was composed of a group of top creators – Mike Mignola, Arthur Adams, John Byrne, Frank Miller, Geof Darrow, Paul Chadwick, Dave Gibbons, and Mike Allred – and this was their umbrella imprint for creator-owned projects including Sin City, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, Monkeyman and O’Brien, Next Men, and Hellboy. Hellboy debuted in a giveaway comic Dark Horse distributed at the convention that year.

San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2, which features the first appearance of Hellboy.

San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2, which features the first appearance of Hellboy.


The initial Hellboy miniseries, Seed of Destruction, was plotted and drawn by Mike Mignola with a script by John Byrne. It wasn’t until the next miniseries, Wake the Devil, that Mignola took on scripting as well. Art Adams’ Monkeyman and O’Brien was the featured backup for the miniseries. Hellboy was supposed to return the favor and appear as a backup in the Monkeyman and O’Brien miniseries, but that unfortunately didn’t happen.

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1


As an aside, there’s even an odd Hellboy/Westfield connection. Hellboy: Seed of Destruction was featured on the cover of the final issue of The Westfield Newsletter. The following month, we changed the title to Worlds of Westfield, and it’s remained that ever since.

As loudly as Legend began, its end was rather quiet. There were no big announcements. If I remember correctly, the logo just stopped appearing on the books. But Hellboy soldiered on with the fan base growing of this monster smasher who might or might not be the apocalypse beast. One thing was for certain; that if he was the apocalypse beast, he would do his damndest to not fulfill his destiny. And Mignola continued to grow the mythology and characters around him. In fact, Hellboy and his world became so popular that he starred in two films by acclaimed director, Guillermo del Toro, and starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #120

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #120


Eventually, Mignola stopped drawing Hellboy but stayed very much involved with his creation and crafting stories for not only Hellboy himself, but spinoff series including B.P.R.D., Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien, and more. On the plus side, that brought us Hellboy as drawn by Duncan Fegredo, Richard Corben, Kevin Nowlan, and others. On the down side, no one draws Hellboy like Mignola. But Mignola eventually returned as both writer and artist for Hellboy in Hell, and the fans rejoiced.

Hellboy in Hell

Hellboy in Hell


Hellboy is the perfect vehicle for Mignola. He draws great monsters and monster fights and Hellboy is full of both. His use of shadows and lots of black sets an appropriately creepy mood for the stories. I’ve never been a huge fan of horror, but the mix of heroics and horror in Hellboy really works for me and draws me in. Several Hellboy stories have seriously creeped me out.

But aside from the horror, Hellboy can also be quite funny. His dialog during battles often elicits a smile. And you also have a terrific cast with Liz Sherman, Abe Sapien, Roger, Johann, and all the rest. It’s the personal interaction that helps make Hellboy and all the related books come alive for me and invests me in the stories. Hellboy’s world a vast, complex, and interesting one that I love to spend time in. In fact, all of this thinking about Hellboy has made me want to go back and re-read the early stories that hooked me on the character.

So, Happy Anniversary, Hellboy! And here’s to the next 20!

Now, go read a comic!

Classic Comic covers from the Grand Comics Database.

 

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