For Dark Horse Editor Scott Allie, B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth means creators get to not only expand the world of Hellboy, but also explore strange, unusual types of horror stories not common in mainstream comics.
By concentrating on some of the "side" characters from the B.P.R.D. organization, Hell on Earth is giving fans of B.P.R.D. the chance to see more monsters, more mayhem and a wider variety of horror stories than ever before with the series.
As this month sees Hell on Earth kicked off with B.P.R.D.'s The Long Death story, Newsarama is talking to the writers behind upcoming stories — while declaring this "Hell Week."
Among the upcoming titles we're profiling are:
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death, a Johann-centered story that started this month from Mignola, Arcudi and artist James Harren.
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror, which is due in March from Mignola and Scott Allie, with art by Jason Latour. The story details what's been happening with the vampires in Hellboy's world.
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell, a one-shot coming in May from Mignola and Allie with art by Max Fiumara.
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil's Engine, which begins in May with the regular B.P.R.D. team of Mignola, Arcudi and Tyler Crook.
- B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Exorcism!, a tie-in story that gives Mignola the chance to follow the story of Ashley Strode with writer/artist Cameron Stewart.
- Hellboy in Hell, written and drawn by Mignola, which picks up where the The Fury left off when Hellboy was killed. The story will start with a four-issue, monthly release, then will continue as Mignola completes future storylines.
In our first interview for Hell Week, we talked to Hellboy/B.P.R.D. creator Mike Mignola. In Part 2, we spoke to B.P.R.D. regular writer John Arcudi.
Now we turn to Allie, who is not only editing the Hell on Earth event, but is also writing a couple of the comic stories that tie into the event.
Newsarama: Scott, as both the editor and one of the writers involved in the Hell on Earth event, how would you describe what's happening with B.P.R.D. this year?
Scott Allie: We wrapped up what we considered the first major story arc of B.P.R.D. a year and a half ago with "King of Fear." In that story, Liz Sherman, in order to solve the problem that they were facing in the center of the Earth, she basically ignited the center of the Earth, which purged all the frog monsters and all this other underground stuff that they were dealing with.
But it also screwed with the structure of the planet in a way that released a lot of stuff that was hiding under the surface, at a time when an apocalyptic situation was heating up. Hellboy's battle in The Furty could have been the end of the world right there, but Hellboy sort of sidestepped it and caused it not to happen. But in the wake of that, the world is really starting to shift.
At the end of the Hellboy series, England is decimated. At the end of that previous B.P.R.D. series, other parts of the world are wrecked. And it's just going to keep getting worse.
Nrama: And it's significantly changing the world that's portrayed in these series, isn't it?
Allie: It is. In most ongoing comic book series like B.P.R.D., you get these fantastical characters in a world that pretty much looks like ours, with some minor differences. But what we're doing now is we're gradually moving away from that kind of thing, where the world more and more will look like how it would look if monsters were running around.
Major things are going to start getting upset. Like there's been a series of earthquakes in Texas with these terrible crab-type monsters coming out of the ground, there are both crafty and sort of cthulhu monsters at different points in Canada and California that have just crawled out of the Earth and are just waiting for something to happen.
The thing they're waiting for it probably the end of everything. And we're just going to keep inching in that direction, and all of our major characters are going to have a role in that. And they have different pieces of the puzzle, as far as what exactly is going to happen. And we're seeing this happen through one series after another.
Nrama: The first Hell on Earth story we'll see is this month's B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death. What will we see in that story?
Allie: It's going to resolve a conflict between two of our major characters, Captain Daimio and Johann. Captain Daimio appeared to just go off into the woods awhile ago. He comes back and has a major showdown with Johann, and it's a showdown that's been a long time coming.
Nrama: Then you're writing the next series, B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror. How does that fit into what's happening?
Allie: Yeah, I co-wrote it with Mike, and it starts to reveal what the vampires have been up to all this time.
Nrama: It's weird that we haven't seen more vampires in these comics.
Allie: Mike loves vampires, but you're right that there have been relatively few vampire stories in B.P.R.D. and Hellboy.
We're going to show why you haven't seen more of it. And where it's heading.
Nrama: What are the vampires like in your story. This universe's vampires are more traditional types, right?
Allie: They're really classic in nature. So they're not the modern, sexy vampire. They're a mix of the feral monster/vampires that you see in some folklore and the more sophisticated vampires you get from Stoker and things like that.
In the series we did awhile ago, B.P.R.D. 1947 with Gabriel [Bá] and Fábio [Moon], we saw that there was this sort of high council of vampires that call the shots for the rest of the major lines of vampires, and we saw that these guys are orchestrating something, but we didn't really see what.
In Pickens County, we're going to see what, but we're going to see it more from the point of view of this near-dark, trailer-trash, Texas Chain Saw Massacre group of vampires living in the hills in North Carolina.
So they're going to reveal some of the history of vampires, they're going to reveal the long-term vision of where the vampires are going, but they're also going to operate in a kind of Mignola, Lovecraftian mode that makes them different from any vampires you've seen before.
Nrama: You're also co-writing a one-shot called B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell. Is this filling in some of the blanks on his history?
Allie: Yeah, and he's a guy that's been around a long time. I think Mike introduced him in the first B.P.R.D. series that he wrote. And then John Arcudi and Mike have played with him here and there over the course of the series.
And he's just sort of this old weirdo running around the halls of B.P.R.D. And he seems to know some stuff about ancient magic, and he has a lot to say about how the world's going to end.
So of course he's going to have a role and an investment in what's happening as things start to go to Hell in B.P.R.D., so we had the idea to do this particular story and it shows how he wound up being a permanent member of the B.P.R.D., and how he wound up being such a nutty professor.
And so he and Hellboy go on a mission for the B.P.R.D., and things go really bad, and he's never the same afterward.
In this one-shot, the framing sequence takes place now, as the world is starting to fall apart, but it flashes back to, I think, the early or mid-'80s, when he first went through this transformation.
Nrama: Then in May, we'll see the return of the regular B.P.R.D. team of Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Tyler Crook, for B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil's Engine. This centers on Devon and Fenix after the earthquake?
Allie: Yeah, that story lets us see more of the devastation in Texas, and it really starts to ramp up some of the conspiracies that people are trying to hatch, knowing that the world is petering on the edge. Different people are going to try to take advantage of that. And we'll see more of that roll out in Devil's Engine.
Nrama: But with all these things building toward the end of all things, isn't it implied that, at some point, you're going to hit a reset button? That's how most comic series go in shared universes.
Allie: We will not hit a reset button. And you're right that it's what often happens in comics, like when Galactus comes and decimates New York but then everything's back to normal the next issue. Nothing's going to go back to normal here. Little things may happen here and there that would be considered "gains" for the good guys.
But there are going to be massive shifts. We're going to start losing parts of civilization, and we'll get monsters walking the Earth that aren't going to be just easily shooed away.
Nrama: How do you guys work together on this? Is Mike involved in all of it?
Allie: Yeah, he's involved in every piece of the big picture stuff, and then we talk about other elements back and forth during the process. I'm on the phone with Mike almost every day. And I think he's on the phone with Arcudi a couple times a week. I'm on the phone with Arcudi once or twice a week. We do a lot of email too.
Mostly, we do all the hardcore story planning over the phone. And then the real "big picture" stuff will happen when we're all at a convention together. Whenever we know that all three of us will be at a show, or us and our main artists, we make sure to get a dinner together where we can really talk about stuff.
Nrama: This year also emphasizes that there are a lot of different directions that the story can go when you're dealing with the B.P.R.D. There are so many corners of this universe to explore.
Allie: Yeah, I think one of the fun things about Mike's stuff has always been that the way he writes, he throws out little things you don't really know what they mean at the moment, and even he doesn't necessarily know exactly what it means at the moment when he threw it out, especially in those early Hellboy stories. And then it's just laying there for him to pick up later.
And then we are able to incorporate those things into later stories, giving the reader the sense that these things have been planned all along and they all work together, even if that plan wasn't complete at the time. Mike just knows how to set himself up that way, with things that are worthy of improv later.
One of the things that's fun about this year is the number of books and stories we're able to do. That's the real benefit of doing the Hell on Earth approach. Mike always has more ideas than he has time to do. When he was writing and drawing Hellboy, he had a million ideas, but he could only get it out so fast.
We've got some months coming out where we'll have three to five books in a given month that is allowing us to do this thing with the story where we're spreading it out like a big spider web in a way we couldn't have done before because there just weren't enough pages in the month.
But now, there are so many possibilities to pursue these different ideas about the characters. There's a series that we have coming late this year and into 2013 that we never would have done before. Stories that we would have wanted to tell, but we would have never done, because they get too far away from Hellboy himself. What we're seeing now is that there's enough interest in B.P.R.D. as a series on its own, and that readers are understanding how inter-connected this stuff is, that we can do a story that doesn't have Abe or Hellboy or Liz in it, and people will still value it and understand its connection.
There are some threads laying out there from 1947 and from some other stories that we're going to deal with. They're going to be good, weird horror stories.
While we're not going to hit a reset button, we do have to keep some of our characters alive, and we do have to keep the stories moving forward in an action-adventure way. But Mike and I really like weird horror stories. And it's hard to do stories like that where you have characters that last for a really long time. So by doing some of these offshoot series, these horror stories like Pickens County, we don't need these guys to live. We can take minor characters from the B.P.R.D. and put them off in these side stories, and they might not make it out.
And when you have a hero like Hellboy or Abe or Liz, you expect them to be a very active, driving force in their own story. And a lot of the time, horror stories don't work like that. A lot of the time, weird fiction — David Lynch kind of stuff — doesn't work like that. It's not about a character taking control and moving the world forward.
So we're going to get to do more stories that do that weird, Lynch-type thing, that let the story kind of ramble off in a dark and twisted way. We want to do horror stories where the protagonist doesn't necessarily get to decide what happens next.
- HELL WEEK: MIKE MIGNOLA Plunges HELLBOY Into Dark Future
- HELL WEEK: JOHN ARCUDI Builds B.P.R.D. To Year-End Surprise