Mike Mignola On Leading Hellboy Through Hell

Hellboy has died, and you’d think that would give Anung Un Rama a break. Instead, Mike Mignola has decided to explore what happens when a demon dies and goes to… well, as he reveals, not Hell, exactly.

When the first Hellboy miniseries arrived, not even Mignola foresaw the sprawling story he’d wind up telling, spanning centuries and the entire globe, or Guillermo Del Toro bringing him to the screen. Now, more than 20 years later, Hellboy and his universe are enduring apocalypse and hell. Mike Mignola was kind enough to talk about how Hellboy got there, and where he’s going from here.

Your take on Hell is substantially different from most. What sources did you draw on to develop it?

Mike Mignola: It’s not really Hell! (chuckles) Part of killing him off was to put him someplace that was a lot of fun to draw. That Hell is made entirely of stuff I wanted to draw. I knew I didn’t want to do the comic book Hell of fire and volcanoes. I had already the world that lives inside my head.

The beauty of doing the hell stuff is, there’s no real world to it. I use a lot of reference for old architecture, but the trick is to exaggerate it, push it. With the Hell stuff more than anything I’ve ever done, there’s an attempt to create this exaggerated world. Which is why buildings lean at strange angles, taller and skinnier, combining things.

I wanted to throw Hellboy into that world, a world only I could draw. So I did have a rough map what it looked like. But when it comes to the old buildings, all the little details, that’s all from my head.

How do you choose who winds up in Hell? I admit I was a bit surprised to find E.T.A. Hoffman and Erckmann-Chatrian down there!

That’s not really them, I just borrowed the names. (laughs) The hardest thing for me is naming characters. I’ve always been a huge fan of Hoffman, and the story had a Gothic horror-tale feel, so the names wound up in the story.

One thing that stood out to me about issue #7 is the deadpan comedy; Hoffman and his associates don’t seem terribly fazed by the bizarre things unfolding around them.

Humor’s always been a real important component. Some Hellboy stories get grimmer than others, or parts of stories, but this one especially had that weird fairy-tale kind of feel, and the absurdity of the gag I came up with. It was such a silly idea, and yet it did feel like the absurd thing you’d find in a fairy tale. And it’s just fun when you have guys like the two doctors, it’s fun to write those bumbling guys.

It’s not really scripted, beforehand. When I’m plotting, I’ve got a beginning, two or three bits, and an ending. I thumbnail the story, and I put in some dialogue. That’s when I really put it together. As I’m drawing, some of the scripts already there, but I’m refining that script, adding to that script.

It’s pretty fun to see a shout-out to mythologists and fairy-tale writers. You don’t often see people talking about E.T.A. Hoffman.

I was going to throw Hellboy into a very Hoffman “Sandman” story. And it’d be such a weird story that me and three college professors would get it. I’m a book guy, I read a lot, I love that stuff. My favorite question I get from fans is, “Where do you get this idea? Get me a list of authors!” If I can do something, “That was really cool, where did you get you that?” That’s why I always fess up where I get these stories. There seems to be this big mystery where I get these folk tales, and every bookstore has a folklore section. I’ve just been collecting it for a really long time! It’s not top-secret stuff.

We also get a view of Heaven in issue #7, complete with a total swap to the art, with ink washes and vibrant color instead of hard shadows. What inspired that change?

I wanted to show something so different, something like Heaven, to show Hellboy, this is what’s happening, and then back to hell! The ink washes, I wanted to do it because it scared me. You make one mistake and you have to rework the whole page!

You’ve covered a staggering number of fairy stories, myths, legends, and folklore over 20 years. Any stories you wish you could throw the BPRD into?

My goal, ultimately, is to do stuff that takes place in every corner of the world. There’s a whole hell of a lot we haven’t touched on. Asia in particular has gotten a light treatment because I don’t necessarily understand the background behind it because those stories are so bizarre. One of the ideas with the Hellboy in Hell stuff, in my mind there are different neighborhoods, this is the Asian part, this is the Arabic part, it would have the flavor of Asian folklore filtered through my head. I want to do it all! I’ve got the books, here, there’s just big chunks I need to read. (laughs)

Hellboy’s slowly grown to encompass a number of books; two on-going, at least five or six miniseries a year from different artists and writers. How do you coordinate it all, and how do you choose who writes and draws what?

Logistically, it’s a nightmare for Scott Allie! Because we’re working with so many different teams, some artists are way ahead of other artists. John (Arcudi) and Scott had to coordinate miniseries that are out of order. I get confused! (laughs) So the coordinating was so tricky, and Scott has worked with John to coordinate to interact in the right way.

The trick will be to do something, my thinking and Scott’s thinking are different in the pace we have. The trick will be to get Scott’s moving faster and mine more contemplative. How do you bring somebody new in this late in the game? Really we’re the only ones who have that clear a picture of that whole world.

Hellboy In Hell #7 will be on stands and available digitally this Wednesday.