We mean literal-like

Hellboy got his heart ripped out last week.

Not figuratively. This wasn't a love affair gone wrong.

The character died after 18 years of publication in Dark Horse's Hellboy comics, as well as starring in two feature movies and several animated films. In last week's Hellboy: The Fury #3, Mike Mignola — Hellboy's creator — wrote the end of the character's life in a story drawn by Duncan Fegredo.

But the character's stories didn't finish. At the end of the issue, Dark Horse had a one-page advertisement for Hellboy in Hell, a new ongoing series that launches in 2012 with writing and art by Mignola.

The return to drawing comics is significant for Mignola, who for the last few years has been turning over the art duties on Hellboy stories to Fegredo and others.

With Hellboy in Hell, Mignola is hoping to create an artistic outlet that will allow him to experiment with drawing comics the rest of his life.

Of course, the death of Hellboy is also significant for Dark Horse, which publishes spin-off titles like B.P.R.D.. Newsarama talked with Dark Horse's Senior Managing Editor Scott Allie before the issue was even released, and he admitted there was a down side to having Hellboy killed and thrust into Hell.

"We make a lot of choices that don't have anything to do with the commercial consequences," he said. "Not that we're purely aesthetically driven on everything. But yeah, there is a down side, for sure."

Yet B.P.R.D., Dark Horse's successful Hellboy spin-off, will continue, with Allie calling 2012 a "big" year for the series. And Hellboy will continue to show up in tie-in stories that are set in the past — while he was still alive — like November's Hellboy: House of the Living Dead, a graphic novel by Mignola and artist Richard Corben.

But in the present-day universe, Hellboy is dead. And in hell.

As Hellboy fans both mourn his death and celebrate Mignola's return to art, Newsarama talked with Mignola about why he killed off his beloved character and what Hellboy in Hell means for his future as a comic book artist.

Newsarama: Mike, it was pretty rough for us Hellboy fans to see his heart ripped out of his chest.

Mike Mignola: Well, if it was rough, we did it right. It shouldn't be easy.

Nrama: It gives you hope in the end because there's a Hellboy in Hell series coming. Was this always the plan?

Mignola: It was almost from the beginning. A million years ago, I don't remember exactly, but I was conceiving this thing as a book that would eventually go in this direction.

Nrama: Why this direction in particular? To Hell?

Mignola: As an artist, I've never really been comfortable drawing the real world, so even though you don't see a lot of the real world in the Hellboy stories I've been doing, most of the stories were, up to a point, set in the real world. And I always felt just a little hampered by that.

The artist finally won. The writer can write about the real world, but the artist said, "If I'm going to draw this thing, I really want to eventually cut loose. Once I figure out what I want to do, art-wise, I want to be completely liberated from the real world."

So that's where we are.

Nrama: That immediately brings up, in my mind anyway, the question.... how much more creative can you be? Hellboy already bends the parameters of reality so much anyway.

Mignola: It's like... Hell is kind of like the inside of my head. It's made up of all these images that I've always wanted to draw. It's not going to be just smoke and fire. It's a lot more interesting. There are many different locations. And it's just a perfect setting to tell a million different kinds of stories.

It's not just Hellboy fighting a demon every week. He'll be meeting characters and learning their stories. I'm hoping for an Alice in Wonderland, dreamlike kind of feel, mixed with these certain old gothic novels where you're introduced to a character and you get caught up in that guy's story, and then within that, you see someone else's story. So there's this real interesting dreamlike story within a story kind of texture to it.

So yeah, I've got plenty of ideas.

And it's meant to be the book I do from now until I stop drawing comics. Everything I want to do, with maybe one exception, can be done within this book.

Nrama: So Hellboy in Hell is really an ongoing project for you?

Mignola: Yeah. There's no more mini-series structure. It's Hellboy in Hell Issue #1 through however many issues it goes.

Nrama: I know people are excited about you returning to drawing, but I didn't realize it was that kind of commitment.

Mignola: Yeah, and at least the first five issues, which is our first big story arc, will come out monthly. After that, it will come out whenever it comes out.

Hellboy in Hell

I'll be working on it full time, but I'm certainly not going to promise everybody a "monthly" book. What I will promise is that if it's a two-issue story, or a three-issue story, those will come out monthly. But I imagine there will be mostly one-issue stories. I don't want to leave readers with giant cliffhangers with a six-month gap between issues, where a guy's about to fall off a cliff.

But it's all in the relatively early planning stages. I mean, I'm drawing it now, and I know what these first five issues are. And I do have an overall plan as far as certain stories go eventually. But I'm giving myself a huge amount of room to wander around and kind of get lost in other stories.

Nrama: Does this completely separate Hellboy from things going on in the rest of the universe, such as in B.P.R.D. and other places?

Mignola: Well, nooo.... it takes place in the same time. And I do have ideas about how the books relate to one another still. And there are things that have been introduced in Hellboy that aren't resolved. So these first five issues will see some characters we've seen before, and will be advancing or, in some cases, finishing up some things that have been unresolved.

But beyond that, I can't really say anything without giving things away.

Nrama: Then will it not all take place in Hell? He left behind some people in the world. Will we see what's going on outside Hell?

Mignola: No, my plan is that it takes place entirely in Hell. There may be cases where we meet another character or Hellboy is telling a story about something that happened to him. And then we get stories that don't take place in Hell because two guys are, you know, telling a story that takes place somewhere else.

But as an artist, I want to draw my fantasy world. So I have no plans to...

Well, actually, things get complicated. But let's just say that for the most part, things take place in Hell.

Nrama: Let's go back to the moment you had to write his death. Was it tough for you to kill Hellboy?

Mignola: You know, it was very strange. It's one thing to say -- and I've been saying it for a long time -- that I'm going to kill him or I'm going to take his eye out. I would say, "Yeah, one of these days I'm going to do that." But it's very strange when you get to the point where you say, "Oh, I'm doing that today."

So it's strange when you write it. It's strange when the artist draws it. And it's even stranger when it's finally published.

I also had a moment where I had turned a corner and it was a realization that I can't turn back. I know some comics do that, where they kill the guy and brought him back, or they broke his back, but now he's OK again. But with Hellboy, I want to avoid that kind of stuff. So when I pop his eye out, his eye is gone. And when I kill him, he's dead.

So yeah, I kind of felt like, "Am I really ready to do this?"

The beauty of the Hellboy structure is that, since he's been around a long time, there's a giant chunk of time that he's been around. I mean, he's been around since the '40s.

So there's always been a lot of room to do stories set in the past, and I've been doing them. But there's still a lot more room to do stories set back when Hellboy was alive, before he was burdened with being the Beast of the Apocalypse and the King of England and all this other stuff.

We'll continue to do some of those stories. Probably won't do any of them within Hellboy in Hell, I don't think. Maybe we will, but that's not the intent right now.

Duncan Fegredo is going to be doing some graphic novels. Richard Corben has done a graphic novel that I think comes out next month. So these graphic novels will take place back when Hellboy was a regular guy, or at least as much of a regular guy as he ever was.

So we get to continue to fill in some holes in his history.

You'll basically have two types of Hellboy stories. There will be the fun, familiar, regular Hellboy stories. And then there will be the, I suspect, increasingly odd Hellboy stories about him being dead.

Nrama: Will he still have one eye when he's in Hell?

Mignola: Yeah, he'll still have one eye. When I did those changes to him, I wanted them to be permanent changes. In one way, it actually keeps things very clear. If he's got one eye in a story, if he's not dead, he was almost dead. It's a clear indicator that this character has gone through different stages in his life.

So yeah, the stories in the past will be easy to tell, because you'll say, "Oh, he's got two eyes!"

The question will be, how many times will I accidentally draw him with the wrong eye?

Nrama: Have you done it yet?

Mignola: Not yet! I don't think. But then, we're not that far into it.

I think in all the years I've been doing Hellboy, I've put his hand on the wrong arm, in print, twice.

And you know, a bunch more times where I caught the mistake.

So I assume eventually I'll screw up on the eye.

Nrama: Then to finish up, Mike, is there anything else you want to tell people about Hellboy in Hell? You've already given us an idea of the artistic ideas you're hoping to pour into this book.

Mignola: Yeah, I guess I've covered that at some length. You know, I've talked about this comic so few times, and I've been wanting to talk about it so much, that I haven't really figured out how to boil it down to something that's an easy summary of what I plan to do. It's so new to me still, so I'm just at the place where I'm thinking, "I have a billion things I want to do!"

I hope I live long enough to do all the stories I want to do.

Nrama: It just sounds like it's going to be a great creative outlet for you.

Mignola: Well, that's what I want. At this point, I think I've done enough Hellboy stories that I'm happy with. A couple of them I'm really happy with. And I can say, you know, I've done that about as well as I can do it.

Hellboy in Hell is this wonderful, especially from an art perspective, it's this really great uncharted territory where I can get in and experiment.

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