Itty Bitt Hellboy is back.
The art/writing team of Arthur Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, know as "Art and Franco" by fans, is bringing back Itty Bitty Hellboy as part of an all-ages series of Itty Bitty comics for Dark Horse, kicking off with November's Itty Bitty Mask.
The announcement of new Itty Bitty Hellboy adventures comes after last year's successful launch of the concept — so successful, in fact, that the original three-issue mini-series was quickly expanded to five issues.
Now the Itty Bitty comics will come out every month, and the tiny version of Hellboy characters will be part of the fun, starting with next year's ninth Itty Bitty issue.
The story of Itty Bitty Hellboy revolves around a tiny, troublemaker version of Hellboy, along with playful, young versions of his supporting cast and villains, including Liz, Karl, Herman, Roger and Baba Yaga.
Art and Franco just finished up a run on their recurring DC comic Tiny Titans, and have also been releasing their creator-owned Aw Yeah Comics, which was initially funded by Kickstarter. The pair co-writes the issues, usually talking through the plots on the phone, and then Art draws them, coming up with a unique style that mixes childlike jokes with adult-level parody of comic characters.
Newsarama talked exclusively to the pair about the new Itty Bitty comics and their return to Itty Bitty Hellboy.
Newsarama: Art and Franco, the first batch of Itty Bitty Hellboy stories seemed to be a success at Dark Horse, so much that they extended the run. Is that success the motivation for all these upcoming Itty Bitty stories?
Arthur Baltazar: Yeah, Itty Bitty Hellboy is coming out in a series of Itty Bitty comics. It'll be in 2015, and it's going to be part of a series of Itty Bitty comics.
It started during a bunch of different conversations we were having with Scott Allie from Dark Horse about possibly doing more Itty Bitty comics. And we kept coming up with ideas and going back and forth with him, saying, "How about we do this?" "How about we do this?"
And finally, they told us, why not do a whole bunch of different things and make it like a series? We're starting out with Itty Bitty Mask [in November], and we'll even be doing some of our characters. And then we'll put Itty Bitty Hellboy and some more of our characters. So it's kind of cool that Hellboy is mixed up in the Art and Franco Universe. The Itty Bitty Dark Horse Universe.
Nrama: You're including some of your creator-owned characters? Something you're including in the Itty Bitty universe?
Art: Yeah, we have some creator-owned stuff coming that's awesome. "Itty Bitty" would be the Dark Horse term, because we have different styles. We have the "Tiny" style, we got the "Family" style, we've got the "Itty Bitty" style and the "Aw Yeah" style. But it's all the same style. It just depends on who's publishing it. [Laughs.]
Franco Aureliani: The other issues in the Itty Bitty comics from Dark Horse are going to be announced this weekend [at New York Comic Con].
But we wanted to announce Itty Bitty Hellboy comics now and let people know he's coming next year, because he's the one who gave us the push at Dark Horse. So he's worth his own special announcement.
Art: Yeah, he's like the main star. And being back on Hellboy, it's awesome. We already wrote the first issue a few days ago. I didn't know when it would be coming back or when, but yeah, we're excited.
Nrama: So the series starts in November with The Mask in Itty Bitty form?
Art: Yeah, we broke out The Mask first, because it's his 20th anniversary this year. So him coming out first — he comes out in November and December so he could still take advantage of that 20-year thing. Otherwise, he'd be coming out in the 21st year anniversary.
So The Mask is the first four issues. And then Hellboy will be out with issue #9.
Nrama: You guys seemed to get pretty crazy in the first Itty Bitty Hellboy run. Is that the plan for all these Itty Bitt comics, and the return of Itty Bitty Hellboy?
Franco: What are you talking about, crazy? That's insulting, almost, I think. Unless it's meant in a good way.
Art: [Laughs] Yeah, I think once we wrote the Mask… the Mask is real crazy. We love making books where there's no bad guy, so the conflict has to come from somewhere else. So the conflict in the Mask issue isn't evil. It's just that things get out of control, out of hand. And that issue's real nuts.
And I know with Hellboy, the first time around, we got away with a lot of different things that I didn't expect them to…
Franco: Yeah, I thought they were going to say, "No, you can't do that."
Art: Yeah. "You can't send him to Hell." Or "He can't meet God." Well, I don't know if that guy was God he met. I don't know who that was.
Franco: We had a major character that didn't have any pants on for the entire run, and we were like, "They're OK with this?" So we decided to run with it.
Art: [Laughs] And yeah, we carry the "no pants" thing into the new series too.
Franco: We liked the fact that they let us have Roger with no pants, so we decided that we were going to add another Roger with no pants. So this time we decided we might add a whole island of Roger with not pantses. Rogerses with no pantseses.
Art: Yeah, I forgot what they call him. Humoculous?
Art: Homunculus, yeah. So there's a whole island of them you discover. And it's not a spoiler, because it's right in issue #1.
We're also introducing two new characters that weren't in the first series: Kate is coming in there. I know she's based on Mike Mignola, I think his wife? Or his daughter?
Nrama: I think it's his wife.
Art: Yeah, it's his wife.
Franco: Yeah, from B.P.R.D.
Art: Yeah, so she meets up with her friend Liz. And they have the same outfits. So she stylized hers a little bit. And then the new character is Ben, the giant jaguar werewolf Sasquatch kind of creature.
He's been in the series, and I've actually found out about this Ben character from fans, because they showed him to me to get me to draw him, at conventions. So I liked him, and I started researching.
I put a little twist on him. But he's based on a villain. I don't know the exact villain name. He turned into the were-jaguar, and I just liked him so much that I put him in the book. So he'll be in issue #1 also.
And it's going to be real silly, because he's not the way you know him in the Hellboy universe. He's going to be all crazy, Aw Yeah styled outrageous.
Franco: Oh, I don't believe that.
Nrama: I remember you had Lobster Johnson and Abe Sapien. Are they coming back?
Franco: Aw yeah!
Art: You know, in the first series, we created a brand new character for the series — Abe Sapien's little sister, Eve Sapien. I don't even know if the people at Dark Horse noticed.
Franco: They noticed. Mike was talking to me about that in San Diego.
Art: Oh, was he? Mike Mignola?
Franco: Yeah, yeah.
Art: [Laughs] 'Cause I threw it in there just to see, and yeah, it went off pretty good.
Nrama: So Mike OK's this stuff?
Franco: Yeah. I think he sees everything beforehand. We assume that if we didn't hear anything, then everything's OK. Or when the book comes out, if those pages are torn out, then we know we might have done something they didn't like.
Art: Or they'll black it out with a black Sharpie. We stopped asking permission to do stuff a long time ago, because you allow yourself to get a "no." So now, we just allow ourselves to get a "let me see if you can do that." Instead of asking, hey, can we put this character in there? Can we make up a new guy?
Franco: What's the saying? It's better to ask forgiveness than permission.
Art: So that's why we were so surprised at that first series, of what went in the thing. It was pretty crazy. We go all the way up to the line, but we never quite cross it. But we get people nervous by standing on that line. Kind of like when you tell your kid, "Get out of the front room!" And they hover their foot over, like, "I'm not in there! I'm not touching!" Standing up to the door. "I can still see you Daddy!"
That's how we treat comics.
Franco: You know, they said we came up with crazy stuff, but the house had chicken legs already. That's what I keep saying.
Art: Somebody asked me, why is Baba Yaga in a bucket? I looked at the real character, I forgot what she was in. She was on a pedestal or something. And I thought to myself, "I can't draw that every time I draw this character. So I've got to do something simple." So I put her in a bucket, and it was easier to draw. And if I needed to flop her around, or flip her, it looks the same. Symmetrical.
Franco: It's true.
Nrama: This Itty Bitty Hellboy is four issues. Is the story going to carry from one issue to the next?
Art: The books are going to have a slight continuity, but not a "to be continued" story. They'll be like the first one, where each story is kind of done in one issue. But it will be four issues long.
Nrama: But there will be running jokes.
Art: Yeah, yeah. It'll be good.
Nrama: Like the island of Rogerses.
Franco: With no pantseses.
Nrama: As you build this Itty Bitty universe, will the characters cross over into each other's comics?
Franco: Ooo! I can't answer that with a denial or confirmation.
Nrama: Crisis on Infinite Itty Bittys?
Franco: It's an Itty Bitty Crisis.
Art: Yeah! Some of the other comics — the creator-owned ones — will cross over. So you'll see that. And who knows? Maybe we can do the other characters at some point. The ultimate goal is to have Itty Bitty Hellboy meet Action Cat in his own adventure. We'll get there someday. See they don't even know we're thinking of this. But one day. One day. All we have to do is tell Mignola's daughter that we're doing this and we'll get approval.
Nrama: Is she the key to getting your stuff OK'd?
Franco: She used to come to our table in San Diego, and she would buy our books. And a friend of mine — I'm a fan of Mike Mignola and Hellboy and stuff like that, but a friend of ours is a super, super, huge fan. And he leans over to me one day and he goes, "Hey, dude, do you know who that is?" And he told it was Mike's daughter. And I was like, wow! You know, I was stunned, because I had seen her over and over again, but I didn't know it was her. And she was coming up to our table, buying our books and getting sketches from us all the time. So…
Art: Yeah, we would send her stuff. "Here, give this to your dad." So we kind of stalked him through the kid, you know?
Franco: In our defense, she was a fan of ours first. But then… yeah… we did…. we did stalk him through his daughter. But that's a good thing, right? Because now everybody gets Itty Bitty Hellboy.