Itty Bitty Hellboy isn't so itty bitty anymore.
The mini-series, which uses the Hellboy characters in an all-ages story, was originally supposed to be three issues.
But Dark Horse has told Newsarama that Itty Bitty Hellboy will now be five issues.
The expanding series is the latest success story from the creative team of Arthur Baltazar and Franco Aureliani (known as "Art and Franco" by fans). The two have been collaborating in indie comics for years, but started to build a huge fan base after they launched the long-running series Tiny Titans.
In March 2011, the pair opened their own comic shop with the help of Marc Hammond. The store, located in downtown Skokie, Ill, has won awards for its innovative business approach.
Then earlier this year, Art and Franco exceeded their goal after only a few hours of their Kickstarter campaign for a self-published Aw Yeah Comics series. They expanded the campaign and raised more than $47,000 just to make indie comics.
Then at C2E2, Art and Franco announced that they would be working with Mike Mignola's Hellboy, putting their own stamp on the characters made famous in various comics, spin-offs and movies.
It all started when Mike Mignola was at a convention and mentioned to Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie that he didn't have any comics to hand to kids at his table. They were familiar with the characters from the movies, but Mignola didn't really have any all-ages comics to share.
Allie and his wife were both aware of the comics created by Art and Franco, and after the offer was made for a "Aw Yeah" version of Hellboy, the rest, as they say, is history.
Now comes word that the three-issue series is expanding to five issues. And there's hints of even more to come.
Newsarama talked to Art and Franco and had one of our always entertaining discussions about Itty Bitty Hellboy, and much, much more...
Newsarama: Art and Franco, you guys had originally announced at C2E2 that you were doing a three-issue Itty Bitty Hellboy series. Now it's up to five issues?
Arthur Baltazar: Here's how it went. When we originally talked about it, they were thinking about doing a one-shot. And then they were thinking about what would be a nice collection to sell at Mike Mignola's table, at the convention, for kids.
And we all talked back and forth, and we decided to go three issues.
So I think the thing was, the only ones who knew us were Scott Allie and his wife, Elizabeth. They knew what we could do. But I guess the others needed convincing of the faith they had in us.
So they said, let's announce the three issues at C2E2. Then let the buzz happen and let the excitement build.
Shortly after that "buzz," they told us it was going to be four issues.
Then after the issues started coming in, and the fan reactions started coming in, they said, "hey, this is good stuff!" And now it's five!
Franco: The fan reaction fueled the decision to make more than three issues.
Art: Yeah, it was pretty cool. A nice treat.
Nrama: So it was three then four, then five. At that rate, could it become more than five?
Franco: [Laughs.] We're saying, "Five issues and counting."
Art: We're still at five! But hopefully, by the end of this interview, it'll be six!
But yeah, that's kind of how it's going. Right now it's a definite five-issue mini-series. But we could do another five-issue mini.
Nrama: Is it in the Art and Franco style? With an "Itty Bitty" universe populated with your versions of these characters from Hellboy?
Art: Pretty much, kinda, yeah. Even if our names weren't on this book, you would know that it came from us.
It's the way we make comics.
So it's a lot of Tiny Titans style. It's a lot of Aw Yeah Comics style.
Franco: I would go so far as to say now it's an Art and Franco style.
Art: Yeah, right. It's the same way we would make Patrick the Wolf Boy comics too.
Nrama: So who are the main characters in this comic?
Art: Hellboy's the troublemaker. All the stories revolve around him. But he's got his supporting cast, like Liz. She's always in trouble with him.
Franco: I like Baba Yaga.
Art: Yeah, Baba Yaga's in issue #3. We're making that book right now, and it's funny. She's kind of mad. She doesn't want to be bothered.
In issue #3, there's Baba Yaga and pancakes. I don't know why, but every book we do seems to have food and dancing. This one doesn't have dancing yet, but there's room to do it soon.
Franco: That's because food and dancing are what occurs in my every-day life, every day.
Art: People say, "Write what you know."
Franco: That's right. Food and dancing.
Nrama: A recipe for a long life. But since Itty Bitty Hellboy is an all-ages comic, are the villains very villainous?
Art: They're definitely bad guys. They're like the bad kids down the block.
In the first issue, the bad guys have a cardboard box fort. And they want to destroy the good guys' cardboard box. They want to steal their fort.
Hellboy and his gang don't really look at the other guys as "bad guys," but the bad guys hate the good guys. They're jealous. I guess they're angry.
Franco: Bad guys are always angry.
Art: Yeah, we have Herman, who's that head who bounces around on springs. He's in it. He's kind of recon guy for Karl. In the regular book, Karl's the militant leader evil guy. But in here, he still has the army suit and everything, but he's kind of like a ring leader, sending out his guys to go spy on Hellboy and his pals.
Nrama: You mentioned Hellboy and Liz. Who are some of the other good guys? Any favorites?
Franco: I like Roger. Roger has a lot of issues with his underwear.
Art: Yeah, Roger's pants keep falling off. So he's naked in a lot of the issues.
Nrama: A naked guy in an all-ages title.
Art: Yeah, but it's Roger.
Franco: What other all-ages book can you have a naked guy, and take the characters to Hell?
Art: Yeah, they go to Hell, but Hellboy said they can't say that. He goes, "Hey, we're not supposed to say that!" So they call it "Hades" and "Heck."
Lobster Johnson's in there. He gets irritated with these guys, because he's slightly older than the rest of them. So he doesn't have as much patience with Hellboy.
Franco: We took some liberties too and decided we needed some more characters, so we created a sidekick for Lobster Johnson called Lobster Smith.
Art: That's right. He's a blue lobster.
Nrama: What's it like to be able to work with some of these characters, and play with concepts created by Mike Mignola?
Franco: You know, guys like Mike Mignola are heroes to us. We started out independent. And when we saw him and the other guys break off, and the Legend line, and the Image stuff — that was cool for us! We were all over that stuff.
Hellboy is one of those characters that has lasted for 20 years or more, and he's been around the block a few times in movies and the books and stuff.
So we've been fans of Mike for a long time, even before Hellboy. And when he branched out and did his own independent stuff, it was like, "yeah, man, that guy's our hero!"
Art: He sets the standard for any creator. Anybody that you want to be like, as a creator in comics? It's him.
When they first asked us to do the project, we were like, "Really?
"Is this real? Is this email real? Mike Mignola's really copied on this? He said yes?"
So we have to pinch ourselves sometimes. It's real! It's happening! But it's unbelievable.
We're doing stuff now too — secret stuff — that he keeps approving of. And that's even crazier.
It's like, "all we need is for you guys to say yes... Mike Mignola already said yes." And we're like, "What?" So that's weird. It's weird to know people are talking about us before we even know about it. That's very strange. But it's awesome too.
Nrama: When you say you're doing secret stuff that Mike Mignola approved, do you mean with Hellboy, or something else?
Franco: Oh, I don't know.
Art: Oh, all kinds of stuff.
Nrama: Wow, you guys are good at keeping secrets.
Art: Yeah, we have big secrets.
Franco: Here's another secret. On August 31st, for the release of Itty Bitty Hellboy #1, we're going to have a Dark Horse Day at our store [in downtown Skokie, Illinois]. And we're going to have a whole bunch of Dark Horse people come down to the store in beautiful downtown Skokie. And Art and I are going to be there signing copies, and there might even be some different covers on some books or something.
Nrama: A secret variant cover?
Franco: I don't know. It's possible.
Art: It's going to be awesome. August 31st at Aw Yeah Comics.
Franco: Yeah, don't tell anybody, and if you write it in the article, tell people not to tell anybody.
Nrama: Yeah, Newsarama readers, don't put it on the internet or anything. Then to finish up, anything else you want to tell people about Itty Bitty Hellboy?
Art: Just that it's awesome. It started out that Mike Mignola wanted something he could hand out to kids. And now it's turned into five issues and the story has gotten so great. We're messing up the characters so much that you're going to wonder what alternate reality they're from. But it's all part of the canon. So you have to read it.