C2E2 2010: MIKE MIGNOLA Gives You HELL(BOY)

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Mike Mignola opened his panel joking that we wasn’t a TV celebrity (“I wasn’t on Battlestar Galactica”) and throwing it open for questions.  When no one bit, he quipped, “We’re done then.”

Asked about the Hellboy universe, and if it were perhaps overwhelming, Mignola said that, “My Hellboy Universe is the comics.”  He believes that he’s done a good job of rolling the story out, as opposed to other writers than might want to give you 200 years of backstory by page two.

Mignola confirmed a new Witchfinder book for next year, taking place in the American west.  There’s also a new Abe Sapien story taking place in Russia (“which we’ve done very little with,” he noted).

His goal, he said, has always been to cover all the major folklore areas of the world.  There was about 50 years in the continuity where Hellboy just wandered the globe fighting monsters, and he uses that gap in that way.  Mignola points out that he’s done very little with Asia (though he did do Japan), and has actually done very little with America.  Part of the challenge there is that Mignola admits that he has a hard time drawing something like China, but would welcome an artist taking on that with him.

One fan asked if Mignola’s novel “Baltimore” was the same world as Hellboy.  Mignola said that the story, which deals with a vampire plague during world war, is not in the same continuity.  But there will be a comic at Dark Horse that ties in to “Baltimore”, covering ten years of the story in Europe.

Asked about selecting artists, Mignola allows that it’s a mixed procedure.  Perhaps he knows that one artist would be perfect for a certain tale.  In other cases, he’ll talk to the artist and try to combine things that they like to draw into the story.  Mignola may have half-formed stories or even fully plotted ideas in his head, and may then find an artist and shift the narrative to work toward the artist’s strengths.  With Richard Corben, Mignola would like him to do more, but he pursues this by asking him what HE wants to draw.

There won’t necessarily be library editions for B.P.R.D. since there’s not a direct movie tie.  Mignola did say that readers could ask, but that right now there are no plans.

Mignola feels that it’s important for his to give freedom to John Arcudi on B.P.R.D; he also wants him to be comfortable with the artists that he’s working with (whom are frequently chosen by the editor).

A reader asked about the illustrations that Mignola did for the Jim Butcher book.  Mignola said that he and Christopher Golden would be doing another book together, and that he’d be doing 75 illustrations for that.

Another reader asked about the Hellboy/King Arthur connection, and how long it had been planned.  Mignola joked that he should say that he had it planned from the beginning.  He allowed that it’s really been about five years.  Mignola likened Hellboy to a black hole that pulls in many ideas.  “Baltimore” sat on the edge and pulled away, but the King Arthur idea eventually got sucked in.  Mignola has a fantasy novel “sitting on the rim”, but thinks it’s separate.

He tied that to a conversation he had about “The Crooked Man”.  Someone told him that had he kept Hellboy out, he would have had another property.  Mignola believes that he needs many of these elements to actually get into Hellboy to touch these various areas or folklore and fiction that he wants to do.

One fan asked about a Hellboy role-playing game.  Mignola said that there was one, but that he didn’t think it was still around.  He mentioned that there were a couple of computer games “that no one liked”.

Mignola couldn’t recall passing on too many projects with Hellboy.  He noted that the movie “said yes” to a lot of merchandise that he himself wouldn’t have done.  His focus is “to kind of try to do cool stuff”.

Asked if there would be a crossover between Hellboy and Fafner and Gray Mouser, Mignola said that it was logistically prohibitive.  He joked that if their late creator could come back to do the work, then he felt like he’d have to do that project to make it worth his trip.

Mignola’s goals include doing some limited edition prints through his website, art pieces in addition to Hellboy.  “In a way,” he said, “the Screw-On Head book is a step in that direction . . . I’m definitely testing those waters.”

An audience member asked about the image of Hellboy in the comic versus that in the film.  Mignola said that he’s consciously tried to make Hellboy NOT to look too much like movie Hellboy.  His story “The Island” was an intentional refutation of a couple of things from the film to make those elements particularly unique to the comic.

Mignola doesn’t have any plans for a Johann mini, but there will be stand-alone B.P.R.D. stories collected for a trade.  There will be Liz and Roger stories there as well.  Maybe one of these days, Arcudi will have an idea, he said, and they could spin that into something, if the need arose.

He said that most of the stuff that he uses (mythology, fairy tales, legends, etc.) comes from books that he picks up at used bookstores.  This material has always been of interest to him.  He’ll occasionally take down books on other countries, folklore, etc. and run across things that might make for interesting stories.  “I’m not haunting archives in Prague with a monk,” he said to laughter.

Mignola admitted that he has occasionally “drug things on too long”.  In particular, he thought that he needed to speed up events that revolved around the acquisition of Excalibur.  In terms of long-term plotting, he noted that it’s sometimes odd to get to the writing of a scene that you’ve envisioned for a long time.

This also leads into Mignola’s assertion that “things change” in Hellboy.  Mignola pointed out “the illusion of change” that’s pervasive at the Big Two, whereas he can make real and lasting change to the characters and stories.

It was very comfortable for Mignola to start working with John Arcudi.  He wanted Arcudi to be able to make the book his.  Mignola made some suggestions of some things in terms of where to go, but Arcudi worked on the personalities and characters.  Mignola also encouraged the artist to design the headquarters, the uniforms, as such.  He believes that this does bring a richness to the Hellboy universe.

Mignola said that he sees work at other companies that’s technically beautiful, but not as exciting, partially because “it’s that guy’s job”, not necessarily his passion.

Asked about the things that influence him or the things that he likes, Mignola said that he does look at a lot of things outside of comics.  He liked Dave Cooper, Woodring, and more.  He likes things and creators with a unique vision, invoking “Cursed Pirate Girl” as an example.  “I want to see something that I haven’t seen before,” he said.  In terms of fine arts, he mentions Hopper, Van Gogh, the impressionists, and more, copping to the fact that he’ll “remember a whole list of names after this is over.”

Mignola said that he grew up reading Marvel and loving those characters, but the idea of Hellboy meeting “other guys” is something that he never aspired to.  He allowed that there is the possibility of a crossover with another “independent guy”.  He joked that he did “work for Marvel and DC for ten years, with varying degrees of failure.”

Inspiration is something that Mignola pulls from various places.  He talked about the reading and research, but he also mentioned that he made up a story with his daughter at dinner one night  that grew into something he used.

“Most of the work that I do in the sketchbook is solving problems for existing stories,” he said.  Mignola mentioned a sketch that he did of “a goofy looking elf guy with a big mouth” that did end up in “The Wild Hunt”.  He said that there’s not a “wealth” of this material, though he did conceive of an Image parody called “Lock and Load” at one point that would have two characters uniting to “have all the powers of A GUN.”

One fan asked if Hellboy had been shopped around, and Mignola said that Hellboy was created knowing that he and Art Adams and Frank Miller were going to Dark Horse with some ideas.  Mignola said that he was lucky to have John Byrne and Mike Richardson (who simply said, “Okay” when Mignola said, “Hellboy”).  Mignola also allows that “standing next to Frank [during a pitch] helps.”

Another question boiled down to “How do you do what you do?”  Mignola said that he has no formula, per se.  It’s just, as he said, “how they work . . . I have no idea to explain it.  As I’ve become more successful . . . established . . . I kinda get to do what I want.”

Mignola joked that there’s a misconception that he loves monkeys and frogs, but he “couldn’t care less about either one”, to much laughter.   With frogs, he thought of them as innocent and non-threatening things, but “What if they were creepy?”  In reference to the Conan story that he did involving frogs, that did come in part from an actual Howard story.  Mignola brought in the frogs for something with atmosphere.

He did do a Thor cover of Thor versus the Absorbing Man, but he said that was easy to decide since they were “great Jack Kirby characters”.  As for one of his lower points, Mignola recalled that he was on Hulk, then John Byrne ended up wanting it.  He was swapped to do Alpha Flight, and felt it was terrible.  Partially he felt it was a lack of connection to the characters, but that he “just wasn’t cut out” for that kind of super-hero book.

Overall, Mignola’s fans seemed to be the enthusiastic bunch.  The panel was well attended, and a number of questions focused on very specific elements, demonstrating that the readers are very well versed in the material.  It all points to one fact:  Mignola make take his fans to horror and Hell, but they don’t mind at all.

 

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