I’ve been a fan and collector of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy ever since I first read Seed of Destruction sometime over 15 years ago. An unintended harbinger of doom with a heart of gold, Hellboy is easily one of the most original and layered comic book characters around. With a reckless sense of humor and self, cast over a beautifully macabre only-as-Mike-Mignola-could-have-dreamt-up backdrop, the Hellboy series is truly a paranormal investigatory force to be reckoned with.
But as with all things awesome, it no doubt took some time before Mike Mignola got his title character to where he was destined (or doomed) to be. Hellboy went through a transformation, a design crisis of sorts, where he was honed and tested though obscure comic paraphernalia until he became the big red lug we’ve grown to love.
Hellboy’s first iteration conceptually was in a pamphlet for the Great Salt Lake Comic Con in 1991. This is a bit of a Hellboy grail and although I haven’t yet seen one in person, I’d be sure to shake the hand of the proud owner when I finally do. In this prototype, Hellboy’s design was heavier on the demon side, more grotesque, more monster than man. This depiction may also inform the original intention for the character, perhaps less conflicted, more classic monster?
By his second prototype in an Italian fanzine called Dime Press #4 (May 1993), Hellboy changed significantly. He began to display more human-like features, and we get a glimpse of his internal conflict, stubs where his demon horns should be. An incredible symbol of defiance against his natural gift, a birthright to destroy. Hellboy appears to be near complete design-wise at this stage, though his right hand of doom was yet to grow a wee bit doomier.
Come San Diego Comic Con Comics #2, Hellboy was finally seen in story form, and we realize that this half-demon is also half-comedian, which is wickedly funny over the incredibly dark backdrop of story-arcs to come. Even in this short strip, Mignola does a stellar job of establishing character, trajectory, the art.
Before he finally gets his own series, Hellboy makes a quick stint in Next Men #21 (damn that cover, oh the doom!) and the rest is history. With a strong title series and spinoffs galore, there’s much Hellboy to catch up on and tons of characters/landscapes who are as unique and complex as he is. If you haven’t already, read Seed of Destruction, trust me, hell is cooler than you think!
Like most fans, I’m cautiously optimistic for the Hellboy relaunch in early 2019. The film has been pretty hush apart from some casting information and a pretty sweet shot of David Harbour in full Big Red glory. We’re sad face that Guillermo del Toro is no longer at the helm, and what a glorious comeback that would have been after 10 years since the Golden Army. No Ron Perlman, new cast, direction, reference to R-rating and Rise of the Blood Queen. Yep, we’ve got a reason for being a little worried.
by Cory Saran
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