Although best known as the right hand man of the man with the right hand of doom, Abe Sapien is stepping out – or should I say stepping in - deep water in his new miniseries Abe Sapien: Abyssal Plain. While Abe continues to make his mark in both the Hellboy and B.P.R.D., this miniseries shows an earlier adventure – one of Abe’s first missions for the Bureau.
Scheduled to debut on June 30th, Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain shows Abe leading a naval crew in search of an ancient relic lost aboard a sunken Soviet U-Boat. But when this simple search mission finds a paranormal crime scene, Abe must find out the truth while finding a way to survive an underwater death.
Penning this tale is Abe’s creator Mike Mignola and long-time B.P.R.D. writer John Arcudi, who are joined by artist Peter Snejbjerg, who did B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs as well as issues of Preacher and Books Of Magic. For more, we talked with Arcudi about what to expect.
Newsarama: Back in the Abe Sapien: The Drowning, it was established that Abe’s very first mission with Hellboy was back in 1981. When does Abe Sapien: Abyssal Plain take place?
John Arcudi: This mission takes place in 1984 in the waning years of the Cold War. Abe has experienced failure in his life by this point, and through humility has become less tentative about his role in the BPRD. More philosophical. In some ways, his attitude reflects the zeitgeist of the times.
Nrama: Can you tell us about what Abe and the naval crew are going down below after?
Arcudi: It's a burgonet that had been used by an Italian Captain fighting against the Holy Roman Empire. It's alleged to have some paranormal powers (of course) but was captured by the Russians along with the rest of Hitler's occult loot (as seen in BPRD 1946) and then was lost at sea. Its value to the BPRD is in question, but risking Abe on this mission seems worth it to them.
Nrama: It sounds like it turns into a paranormal crime scene, with some heavy investigative work for Abe to do. Doing that underwater sounds tough – will Abe be dealing with the unusual nature of investigating things underwater?
Arcudi: There's not as much of that as you might think. The recovery process is physically exhausting, which is why a fish-man is the best guy for the job. He certainly encounters some unpleasantness below the waves, but the bulk of the story plays out where the whole cast can participate. Still, the deep sea is both an integral part of the story, and a larger metaphor that serves to enhance it... I hope.
Nrama: I looked it up, and “Abyssal Plain” isn’t just a morbidly cool sounding title but it’s an actual term for “flat or very gently sloping areas of the deep ocean basic floor” that are one of the least explored places out there. How’d you come to this for this story?
Arcudi: The Abyssal Plain has long fascinated me for the same reason it fascinates anybody. It's part of the world, our world, about which so little is known, and each new discovery it relinquishes is surprising and loaded with information. And as I said before, a hell of a metaphor. "What lies beneath the surface," and all that, but there is actually another reason I chose the title which won't be clear until the end of the series. Keep `em guessing, that's what I say.
Nrama: Since this is early on in Abe’s association with BPRD and since they for a time put him through a grueling round of research, would you say his relationship with the people in BPRD is different back then than in current BRPD issues?
Arcudi: Abe is now one of the real leaders of the group. Not a real hard-ass, but certainly a no-nonsense, get-the-job-done type. He's mature now and fit to be a leader, and the BPRD will follow. This story is the first real sign of that maturity as it blossoms. Not world-weary, but let's say world-wary. it makes him a better agent, and certainly worthy of the BPRD's trust to go ahead and head up a mission -- at least one perceived as low-level as this. It's the first stage in an arc of developing trust between the bureau and Abe that I hope to further explore in other "flashback" style stories.
Nrama: Many of the BPRD stories are about items, people and places from history coming back to haunt us in the modern day. Why do you think you and Mike are drawn to things like these, especially for the Hellboy stories?
Arcudi: For Hellboy stories, you'd have to ask Mike, but I will say that our attraction to history and the past is far from unique. Everybody looks to the past for meaning in his or her life, after all. People try to deny it, but it's inescapable. And there are very few stories which are not in some way about the past. The Star Wars trilogy is heavily informed by that world's past and they're better movies as a result than the next three where that past is acted out. "Moby Dick" is not solely a story about revenge, obviously, but without revenge it wouldn't even exist. Slumdog Millionaire actually uses items from the past to spark memories which drive the story forward. The comic Watchmen is like that, too. So pretty much everybody tells stories about some past or other. We just do it with ghosts and monsters.