SDCC '08 - The Hellboy Panel

On Saturday morning at San Diego, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, writer Josh Dysart, and Dark Horse editor Scott Allie met with fans of the character to hold a Q&A about upcoming projects involving Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. Things started off quickly with an immediate plug of B.P.R.D.: 1947 —continuing the history of the Bureau scripted by Josh Dysart with art by Eisner Award winners Gabrial Ba and Fabio Moon. Mignola hints that ‘young Hellboy’ will be making more of an appearance and that readers will be able to see the environment and people who shaped Hellboy into the man he becomes—eventually leading to his membership in the B.P.R.D. Dysart adds, “The best scene in this new series takes place with young Hellboy.

An audience member asked the panel about the origin of Lobster Johnson and plans for the character. Mignola laughed, saying, “It’s…pretty weird.” He went on to describe his feelings about definitive origin stories and how he thinks his characters’ origins are “too weird” to give to a reader in one dose. Scott Allie indicated that by mid-’09 there would be a Lobster Johnson mini. Mignola added that the Lobster Johnson story would be a “Year One” type of story—but won’t totally reveal his origin.

A question was asked about Agent Edward Gray to the delight of Mignola who revealed plans for two mini-series written with John Arcudi in 2009; Mignola elaborated, “We’ve penned the second mini-series—now I just have to take the time to write the first one!” causing the audience to laugh. Again, the first mini-series will be a “Year One” style story.

An audience member asked about how Josh and Mike had become acquainted. Josh laughed, “Thanks for asking me a question,” and he told an anecdote about how a mutual acquaintance of the two of them recommended that Mike contact Josh for collaboration. They joked that initially, there were thoughts that the two wouldn’t get along—as Mignola puts it, “Josh is very west coast and I am very east coast,”; he went on to praise Dysart’s work and explained that, because of their proximity, have established a great personal rapport for working on projects by meeting in person to talk about the direction of their work.

A couple of questions were asked in regards to the continuity differences between the comic books and the movies. Speaking initially on visual concepts, Mignola described the difference between working on comics versus movies by saying, “In comics, usually ideas you find are the initial and final concepts—in movies, things change constantly where a lot more hands touch the concepts—so there’s like 90% of a concept or design people may never see.” After, the panel discussed the differences of the two mediums and their paths—and how completely divergent the two projects have become—a good example being the use of Roger the Homunculus in the sequel and how his role was reduced to being a broken relic in the background of the second film. Mike described Guillermo del Toro’s close connection to the material and how, originally, the sequel was originally going to adapt ‘Almost Colossus’ but changed direction so that del Toro could carry out the continuity he created in the first film.

An audience member asked about futuristic Hellboy stories where he’s a little older, with gray hair—to which Mignola said in mock sadness, “I know that was aimed at me,” which caused a roar of laughter in the room. He went on to explain that future stories involving the character would divulge too much of what is coming in the near future of the line of books. Mignola added, “[Hellboy] is turning a corner to which there is no going back.”

Allie went on to describe a new eight issue Hellboy project entitled Wild Hunt destined for shelves in December with Duncan Fregado providing artwork. Allie eludes to the start of big changes with Hellboy by saying, “Wild Hunt will have huge ramifications.” Following Wild Hunt—the third part of this epic story, ‘The Sounding Horn’ will take the character farther down the impending dark path the three panelists mention throughout the panel. Josh Dysart laughed and began teasing the audience by telling them that he loves hearing Mignola’s plans for the end of Hellboy.

A question was raised about the origins of the folklore and myths in Mignola’s work. Mignola went on to talk about connections to Appalachian folklore in the Crooked Man story. Mignola noted that the upcoming Edward Gray projects will deal with Native American folklore. Mignola joked, “I have a library at home full of folklore—I just haven’t read all of it yet—so we’ll see what else turns up!” The panel mentioned that, in the immediate future, Hellboy will be coming in contact with English and Irish folklore involving Faeries—with Mignola pointing out that, “things getting really bleak when Hellboy reaches Norway.” Allie added that B.P.R.D.: 1947 will also be taking on a creepy 19th Century vibe—with Dysart compared the new title to the ominous Hellboy: Darkness Calls, “…but with more of a sense of immediacy.”

The panel shifted to talk about the aftermath of B.P.R.D.: The Killing Ground—in B.P.R.D.: The Warning with Scott Allie describing it as a resolution of themes that becomes “pretty apocalyptic”; with Mignola adding, “I really wanted to wreck stretches of the planet Earth.” The audience pandered for clues but all Allie would divulge was, “We’re going to start by losing a city.”

An audience member was curious about stories connecting to the death of the Elf King—with Mignola indicating that something huge was taking place between that particular death and the imprisonment of Hecate. He stated, “With the kings and queens of the supernatural world out of the way, it’s going to be very interesting to see who steps in and takes their places in the vacuum of power,” and finally, “and to see how comes out of that box,” which caused a hush to fall over the audience.

Following Hellboy: The Crooked Man, Scott Allie told the audience about the release of Hellboy: In the Chapel of Moloch in October — a one-shot which features Mignola’s return to penciling Hellboy—who blurted, “I just needed to see if I could do it.” Allie laughed and said, “Mike usually hates everything.” The two brought up an anecdote about Hellboy: The Corpse and how Mignola absolutely loved the work he was doing on the story until he looked at it when it was finished; with Mignola laughed, “Well, I just hope that this isn’t that bad.”

The panel was asked about how the aesthetic and vision of the Hellboy universe is drawn together. Mignola elaborated, “I write things vaguely and allow them to expand […] the breadth of time in between all of these stories allows the space to tell particular stories based around these initial concepts,” and then citing his own excitement for upcoming stories written by Josh Dysart involving the Cold War and the Soviet Union—which led to an audience member asking about the Black Flame—to which Mignola countered, “I think we will.”

Mignola went on to discuss the fact that he’s happy to have the concentrated effort of a few close collaborators because, “…I’m very careful with who does what when it comes to maintaining quality.” Allie also explained that John Arcudi has a lot of freedom in what he writes within the universe—mentioning, “B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs allowed John Arcudi to cut loose and do what he wants.” Mignola then stated that it gave him great pleasure to work with both Dysart and Arcudi, “I appreciate how much they have invested with these characters.”

An audience member asked about The Hellboy Companion and updates which elicited a chuckle from the panelists; Allie smirked, “Maybe every 75 years—it was so much to compile but it’s become an asset as a resource because of it’s ease of use,” as he described how difficult it had become leafing through piles of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics to find particular plot points. Dysart talked briefly about compiling the data into one slick volume and Mignola spoke fondly about being able to compile together notes and facts that would never become evident in the normal flow of the comics—as enrichment material; he said, “Everything is fleshed out to give a sense of arc to the characters that isn’t just info you already had from the comics,” and mentioned the fact that more is known about Agent Edward Grey in the Companion than anywhere else.

One fan mentioned The Amazing Screw-On Head—which caused another audience member to yell, “Where’s the action figure?!?” which gathered a laugh from Mignola. He countered, “I wanted an action figure,” but added, “I’m really happy with the way that particular book turned out—so I leave it the way it is. I’d like to write more things like that.” He described the plans to write a new book featuring the character—but only if he had other “curious objects” to write about.

An audience member asked about the development of Abe Sapien’s origin to which Mignola described a period of time in Prague, during the filming of Hellboy , where he had been stricken with the flu for four days and left in his room delirious. “I was locked in my room—working on The Island—which I dropped for a better version of the story.” He briefly reiterated his feelings about origins stories by saying, “I don’t like the whole ‘mystery solved’ aspect of those types of stories—and I kept thinking about that as I was struggling with my hotel window so I could chuck myself into the parking lot from being as sick as I was.”

When asked about writing Mignola was humble; telling the audience member that he had never set out to be a writer but, “if I wanted to draw the kinds of stories I wanted to draw—I had to be the guy to write them.” He talked about his initial pairing with John Byrne during Hellboy: Seed of Destruction—and how, over time, he grew more confident in his abilities and saw that he didn’t need Byrne’s aid.

When asked about their favorite Hellboy moments—Josh Dysart talked about Abe Sapiens origin story; saying, “I told Mike—what the hell do you need me for?” when I read this story. Scott Allie said, “I really like when Kate sees the ghost in ‘The Wolves of St. August’ when the creature says, ‘God hate me’—I still get chills…” Mignola mentioned a scene where Johann says goodbye to Roger the Homunculus and says, “I don’t know if you knew this—but I’m a big softy.”

Mignola was asked about the potential for a mapping the hierarchies of heaven and hell in the Hellboy book. “When you show how something works—you really demystify it. “It’s like, ‘Hey Look! God’s a robot!’ I don’t want to do that,” he laughed. He added that he is considering describing Hell but that big concepts are more manageable.

When asked about ‘the box’ and any connection to world myth or folklore—the panelists laughed with Mignola saying, “Not unless there is folklore out there about someone being cut up and in a box.” The same member asked about Liz Sherman’s connection to her powers and if her role would be increasing. Mignola responded, “I’d prefer that her place in the story develop naturally—she wasn’t bitten by radioactive fire and now she has powers,” to which the audience roared with laughter.

When asked about new characters for B.P.R.D. as the panel ended, Mignola said, “Well, there’s a mummy who lays in bed and plays with a cat…” adding, “It’s possible—I have someone on the shelf that I’d like to bring in but that’s always odd in my mind.” A moment later, he said, “That’s the thing about Retro-B.P.R.D stories and the beauty of what Josh does—he’s showing the first agents and what happens to a guy who spends his time being an agent.” Dysart goes onto explain, “the original B.P.R.D. is an ad hoc field team—loosely organized at best and these upcoming stories will show you what happens to guys like who become agents and how the career changes them.”

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