Tomorrow, Hellboy turns 20, a benchmark that not many characters reach. Scott Allie, Editor In Chief at Dark Horse Comics, has had his hand in the Mignola world for over a decade, working closely with the Hellboy creator to bring the series to life. Scott not only writes the current “Abe Sapien” ongoing, but he works closely with all the other B.P.R.D. creators to ensure quality and consistency.
I sat down with Scott Allie to announce the new reprintings of “Hellboy: Weird Tales” and the “B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs” trade paperbacks. Allie also shares his feelings about working with Mignola on one of the most renowned creator owned horror comics of all time and the Hellboy Day celebrations. Check out the interview below, and Happy Hellboy Day to all!
Bloody-disgusting: Let’s start with the announcing the reprinting of Hellboy: Weird Tales that Dark Horse will be releasing.
Scott Allie: Back when the first Hellboy movie was happening, Mike [Mignola] was heavily involved, on set the entire time. So we were like, shit we’re not going to be doing any new Hellboy comics right at the time that interest is going to be highest, so what can we do that will be fun that won’t require a lot of work from Mike. We hit up everybody we knew to do short stories. We wanted to do a four issue miniseries full of great, weird, non-canonical Hellboy shorts. Word got out and then everyone started hitting us up, so we made it eight issues instead. At that time, back in 2004, a five-issue trade would have been cool, but we didn’t want to do an eight issue trade, so we did two collections.
We published the Weird Tales for eight months with all these great guests. It’s kind of on-the-side from all the other Hellboy books because we’re telling this big enormous story in Hellboy and BPRD, so these are just something else. Mike and I haven’t paid attention to this material for a while, but we realized there’s cool stuff there. Then, the other motivator for doing it as a new single edition is that when Mike was doing the Wild Hunt with Duncan [Fegredo], he was itching to do some short stories. He liked the idea of Wild Hunt being eight issues instead of six to make room for backup stories, and we did that and kicked it off with three backups from Mike and Guy [Davis] that dealt with some of Mike’s Russian mythology, and these were really cool and beautiful. But we never reprinted them; there was never quite the right place to put them. So Mike said, why don’t we stick those in the front of the Weird Tales collection, and give them a home. So that’s where those guys will be.
BD: Those were released a decade ago. I haven’t read any of them yet, but the list of creators is impressive. Do you have any favorite stories from the collection?
SA: I love the one Jason Pearson did. He drew me in it and beat the crap of me [laughs]. John Cassaday did something really beautiful as well. He did this eight-page Hellboy circus story that was pretty nuts, but also this newspaper Lobster Johnson thing that ran through the eight issues, and it’s the only through-line for the series. We just got a lot of cool people doing weird tales. We actually had to get a license to use the Weird Tales title. After we came up with the idea to call it Weird Tales, we couldn’t entertain calling it anything else. It is just weird, random, crazy stuff. So I don’t know, I have a lot of favorites. Some of the covers we got are also really cool.
BD: Would you consider doing another Weird Tales type thing?
SA: I don’t think we would do it again. Our world is so different now, you know? At that point we had been doing Hellboy for ten years, and for seven of them almost everything was just Mike. He wrote it, he drew it, until around 2001. Then we started BPRD so we started to bring a few other people in, but in limited doses. So doing Weird Tales was the only way at the time that we could open the doors to everybody. We got all these awesome people, but since then, the way the Mignola world has grown, we got a lot more opportunity to let other people come in. When we did Weird Tales, the mandate was that we want you to do your thing, not a Mike Mignola story. Some guys really did their Mignola style, which was cool, but everybody really came in with their diverse voices and had their way with our world. That was a great thing for us back then, but now the world we’re exploring is so big and complex that it wouldn’t feel right. We got Itty Bitty Hellboy, which, in a way, is the weirdest tale of them all. Those guys are doing something completely different than the real Hellboy stuff. Maybe after we totally burn the world to a cinder and end it all, we will just invite everyone in to do whatever they feel like, but there’s just too much focus right now.
BD: You’ve been working with BPRD and Hellboy for quite a while now and there’s a certain level of consistency that you see across all the titles, that you don’t get from, say, all the Batman books at DC. From and editorial perspective how do you work with the creators to ensure that there is a consistent voice maintained with the universe?
SA: The collaborations are really tight. Almost everything we do is written by Mike, John [Arcudi], or me. The three of us talk a lot. Everybody working on this respects what Mike has done. There was a really clearly established foundation by the guy who created it all. You can look at what he did and always use that as your touchstone. Even the first Abe Sapien miniseries was Mike solo, or the first Lobster Johnson series, or the first Witch Finder. So Mike has established the world very clearly throughout the years, and us other guys come in, it’s all there. Egomaniacs that we may be, we’re happy to dial into that voice and vision. We don’t come in to say, “Okay, now I’m doing my version of Batman. I gotta ignore all the previously existing cast and create my own cast for this book.” We know that this is an interwoven world, and unlike those other big titles, which have been done by six hundred people, or even today if you pick up two Batman books from two people this week, the character might be a totally different guy from one book to the other, and we’re able to avoid that. Our world is still finite. There is only one, maybe two, BPRD books. Abe is only in one book, not two books, written by two writers who don’t talk to each other. For example, John and I talk a lot about what Abe’s doing and where he’s going. We make sure the world and characters are consistent and we can’t have Abe going off on some subplot that doesn’t match what he’s doing in another book.
When we do occasionally bring in another voice, like when Gabriel and Fabio wrote Vampire, or Kim Newman and Maura McHugh are doing Witch Finder, everybody is still on the same mission. We all want to expand Mike’s world, not carve out our corner of it. There is a balance of the other voices coming in, being on board for the mission, but also those voices were chosen very carefully. When we ask them to come write a book, like the Vampire series, we knew they were the perfect creators to do that thing. So they get to do their own thing, while making sure the mythology matches. Like, if the twins are doing a vampire story, we say, here’s Mike’s version of the vampire, you can’t do Twilight or The Strain, but still tell your own story. So we pick our collaborators well, the ones we know we will be game. There are certainly amazing creators that we might have the opportunity to work with, but they would want to do their version to an extent that wouldn’t fit, and we won’t do that. We don’t want to risk something that’s been consistent since 1994.
BD: Before we talk about the Hellboy Day celebration, you guys are also reprinting the Plague of Frogs books?
SA: There came a point where John, Mike, and I were at dinner in Baltimore, talking about the direction of the BPRD series when Guy was halfway through his run. We were talking about the stories to come and we realized that it was this particular cycle of stories was going to climax in a three trade paperback story, and then we realized those were preceded by nine others. And we thought, wow, that divides easily into four collections. So we did these cool, big, fat hardcover books that offer the entire Plague of Frogs series ending with a really great climax where Liz destroys the Black Flame and kicks off the apocalyptic stuff going on today. So we wanted to replace the skinny trades with these nicely priced, $35, hardcovers that are 400 pages each. Those have been available for a couple of years now, and so now we are like okay, let’s get an even more affordable version of those out. So let’s keep these in print forever, or at least until we print books on holograms. We’re trying to make it a bit easier for new readers so they don’t have to track down a bunch of different books. So it starts with the first BPRD series, Hollow Earth, and ends with King of Fear. All of it will be available in these four fat-ass paperbacks.
BD: The Hellboy Day celebrations are going on this weekend. 20 Years is a milestone not many franchises make it to. How does it feel to be a part of it all?
SA: It feels crazy. It feels so good. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience, and we feel like we’re doing better than ever. Reviews are great; people seem to really like the books. I think Mike, with a little help from the rest of us, has achieved something completely unique in the history of comics. it’s linear in a way no other comics have managed to maintain over time. The story remains one single story, one vision, despite directions it may take. There is not an embarrassing fifty-issue run that we don’t talk about, or any of that stuff that some other titles may have. It’s a creator owned achievement and there’s nothing else like it out there. The vision, the quality, has been square on the target the entire time. As Mike has said in a few interviews, “we’re breaking things that can’t be fixed”, and I love that because it means there is no turning back. It’s not like one day the street will be swept up like Galactus was never here. We’re going full on with it. The story has some gravity and it’s truly compelling.
BD: Any other words about Hellboy Day?
SA: This weekend we have events taking place all over the world. Some in England, South America, Canada, a lot in The States. Just great events and stores are supporting it really well. Diamond said that, of it’s kind, this is one of the most successful events they’ve seen put together since Free Comic Book Day. Retailers got on board and helped us with this, which is so awesome. Most of our creators, wherever the hell they are located, will be in stores this Saturday to celebrate. I will be at TFAW in Portland, Dave Steward and Tyler Crook will be there as well. It’s just a nice way to honor Mike’s creation, and I’m glad to see it happening.