Interview: Mike Mignola Explores ‘Hellboy In Hell’

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During the thrilling climatic pages in “Hellboy: The Storm and The Fury”, the world’s greatest paranormal investigator was fighting to save humanity from The Dragon. At his most triumphant, Hellboy succeeded in stopping the monstrous and fiery behemoth. Like a lot of horror movies, the killer always comes back to life for one last kill. When Hellboy wasn’t paying attention, his heart was suddenly ripped from his chest and he was sent to Hell.

Writer/artist Mike Mignola chatted with Bloody Disgusting about the much anticipated “Hellboy in Hell”, which kicks off this week. Mignola talks about returning to the series in the art department and what Hellboy’s next chapter will be like as he takes a tour around Hell.

BD: Tell me what was the driving force in killing off Hellboy, your creation, and now resurrecting him?

MM: Well, I’m not resurrecting him. He’s still dead. He’s just in Hell. I kinda almost knew from the very beginning, that Hellboy would have a certain arc. Because I love the folklore, the mythology, and the supernatural stuff, I always felt I’d get to a point where Hellboy would have more in direct contact with that stuff, instead of that stuff coming to him. I kinda wanted him to go to it.

Also as an artist, I knew there would be a certain freedom in drawing Hell, an entirely made-up world, as opposed to the so-called real world. I didn’t know exactly when I was going to do it, but when I came up with the three book series that Duncan [Fegredo] drew, I kinda saw things go as far as they could. As soon as Hellboy went underwater and hung out with mermaids, I felt I had turned a corner into a more fantasy direction, with the King Arthur stuff. Once you turn Hellboy into the rightful king of England, you kinda go, “Eh!” I think it’s time to get ourselves out of this mess and just cut the ties, and send him home.

BD: What was it like jumping back into the art duties?

MM: I’ve been chopping at the bit for awhile. I’ve never really intended to be away from the art as long as I did. Originally, it was to keep the thing going while the movies were going on. I was also having trouble drawing myself. I was second guessing things. I was kinda driving myself crazy. I was happy being a writer for awhile. But more and more, as I worked with Richard [Corben] and Duncan, I was writing these guy’s scripts and going, ” Wow! That would be fun to draw!” Of course, when I saw I was going to kill him off, that’s when I thought it’s time for me to get back. I couldn’t have given it another artists to draw because the images I had for my version of Hell I just couldn’t explain to someone else. My version of Hell is made entirely of things I want to draw. There was no choice. It was exciting to be back. I was really rusty but the fact I was so excited to do it kind of trumped the rustiness. I gotta say I was surprised at how well it’s gone. I was really nervous about what it was going to be like, but I’m still having so much fun.

BD: One of my favorite Hellboy stories is “Heads.” I’ve never been to Japan but it feels like you’re there. Tell me about drawing the imagery of your Hell.

MM: It’s interesting you mention the Japan story, because I’ve been using that as a reference a lot lately. As I said before, Hell is made up of things I want to draw. There’s a lot of old crumbling buildings, a lot of architecture, dusty libraries. I love working from photo-reference. It’s not going to be rock, lava, and volcanoes. There might be some of that but it’s mostly cool stuff. But I also wanted to continue doing what I did where Hellboy did on earth, wandered the world, and went to places like Japan. There will be an Asian part of Hell, an Indian part of Hell. All of these different cultures will still exist there, but as an artist, I have the freedom to do my version of those places. Doing that story of Hellboy set in Japan, because I know nothing of Japan, I’ve never been to Japan, what was driving me crazy was things like drawing a Japanese house. How do the doors work? What does a room look like? It was supposed to be the real-world Japan. If I do the Hell version of Japan, it can be much like Japan as I want it be, but I also have the freedom to do a very loose interpretation. So maybe there will be bamboo and maybe part of this building will have the roof of a Japanese house, but it will be exaggerated and distorted. I will give it an Asian flair, but I will have the freedom to interpret it the way I want.

BD: Describe Hellboy’s state of mind as he journeys into Hell, after just having his heart ripped out.

MM: Initially, he seems to take it pretty well. It seems like another day at the office for him. The first four issues are Hellboy settling in. Some stuff happens when he gets to Hell that distracts him from his situation. But eventually, he does kinda have to sit and think about it a little bit. I never want Hellboy to be a brooding, morose character. But there is a moment where he has to kinda sit down and think about it and go, “Oh, I guess I gotta accept this situation.” This first four issues is really about getting him in there, introducing a bunch of characters, giving him a brief tour of Hell, and then setting him down and saying, “Ok. Get used to it. This is where you’re going to be.”

And then after the first four issues, I’d like to get him into a position, where he’s just having adventures. He kind of accepts where he is and then just, it’s hard to say, “enjoy it.” But to a certain extent, just enjoy it, walk around, and have these self-contained little stories.

BD: Will readers be seeing Alice Monaghan, who witnessed Hellboy die right in front of her, in the upcoming storyline?

MM: Well, I have ideas. I know where Alice is. I know what Alice is doing. Because of the structure of the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. world, I’m not sure where she’s going to show up. She’s not in Hell. My plan in “Hellboy in Hell” is not to reference the real world at all or not very much. At least right now, I have no plans to reconnect or reference her in “Hellboy in Hell.” She is separate and chances are, she will definitely show up somewhere else. She did show up in a short story that Duncan did that was in “B.P.R.D.” It was very important to me that she had to be the one to break it to Kate Corrigan that Hellboy was dead. We did that little story. But there is definitely stuff going on in England, with her, that just hasn’t been referenced yet in the “B.P.R.D.” world.

BD: What direction do you have in mind for Hellboy? Will he be going on solo missions? Or, will he be searching for answers to his past?

MM: Hellboy has never been a guy who searches for answers. He gets some answers in the first four issues. Eventually, there will be things he has to do. For the foreseeable future, I just want him to roam around. I’m going through a phase where I’m plotting a lot of stories. Some part of me wants those stories to start adding up into a big epic. I’m really trying not to make that happen. I’m sure the stories will add up to something, but I’d love to concentrate on one, two issue stories; for the most part, doing self-contained small, simple adventures in Hell.

BD: Are you working on any other projects?

MM: “Hellboy in Hell” is all my attention right now. I just started issue 4. I’m bound and determined to finish the fourth issue before the first issue comes out because the first four issues are monthly. But that’s it. There is a book, another comic series, I’m planning to write. It’s a ways off yet, but I’m really excited about it. For right now, “Hellboy In Hell” is all I’m thinking about.

Interview by – Jorge Solis

“Hellboy In Hell” #1 is in stores now!