Thief of Thieves artist Shawn Martinbrough is stealing away some time from his main series to take a trip to the Pacific Northwest – and he has a motley crew coming with him.
On August 9, Dark Horse Comics will publish Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1955 – Secret Nature, a one-shot by Martinbrough and regular Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. writers Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson. Although Oregon is the home-state of Dark Horse itself, the one-shot’s subject matter is instead in the wilds of the Oregon countryside and the search for cryptids.
Sasquatch? … maybe.
Newsarama talked with Martinbrough and Roberson about this newly-announced one-shot, and how the pieces fell into place for this to happen.
Newsarama: Chris, what is the ‘Secret Nature’ about this upcoming Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1955 - Secret Nature?
Shawn Martinbrough: It's a fun, short story in which Hellboy and fellow B.P.R.D. agent Woodrow Farrier investigate an "odd" occurrence in Oregon and hilarity ensues.
Chris Roberson: Secret Nature is a one-shot story which finds Hellboy and fellow B.P.R.D. agent Woodrow Farrier in the Pacific Northwest investigating a strange “beast” that Farrier is convinced is a species of animal unknown to science, that is reportedly responsible for killing a lot of livestock in the area.
Nrama: So that’s what the 'Secret' Nature' referred to in the title is?
Martinbrough: I view the title as a not so subtle nod by Chris and Mike to the positive and negative aspects of human nature.
Roberson: Farrier is a biologist, and a big believer in cryptozoology, the study of animals whose existence hasn’t yet been proved (Sasquatch, anyone). The roots of the word are “secret” and “nature”, more or less, so on one level the title is a reference to cryptids. But on another level, it refers to depths that might lay hidden beneath the surface, whether of a person, or a situation, or a location, and the dangers of judging things solely based on their appearance.
Nrama: I have to ask: Dark Horse is based in Oregon - any chances for some in-jokes or overlaps in here?
Roberson: No in-jokes or Easter eggs, I’m afraid. In fact, the location was inspired by a road trip that I took with my daughter last summer. It was around the time I was working on the outline for this story, and needed a rural location to ground it, and I decided that the town I was driving past would fit the bill. So far as I know, though, there have been no reports of monster sightings in the real Sutherlin, Oregon.
Nrama: How does this connect to your previous Hellboy/B.P.R.D. stories from 1953 and 1954?
Roberson: The primary connection is probably the relationship between Woodrow Farrier and Hellboy. Farrier was introduced in the Black Sun two-part story last year, where again he and Hellboy were investigating a strange sighting that Farrier was convinced was a cryptozoological species. I liked the idea that this was a long-running debate between the two of them, making bets with one another when they went out into the field, on who would guess correctly what it was they were up against. But I’d also worked out a lot of detail about Farrier’s backstory, inspired by real-life stories of African American scientists in the ‘40s and ‘50s, that simply didn’t fit into the earlier stories that the character appeared in, and I saw this as an opportunity to explore that a little more. Also, monsters.
Nrama: Shawn, this is your first project outside of Thief of Thieves in four years. What's it like to switch gears, and what made this the ideal first project out of the gate?
Martinbrough: Mike Mignola has been a long-time influence on my work so when he invited me to draw a Hellboy story, I jumped at the chance. Building the grounded world of Thief of Thieves over the course of 37 issues has and continues to be great but it was a nice change of pace to draw this type of story. The challenge of visualizing the unique world of Hellboy in between illustrating the previous and the final arc of Thief of Thieves was really exciting.
Nrama: You're working off a script by Mike and Chris; have you had a chance to size it up yet? If so, thoughts?
Martinbrough: The script is smart. It has a great balance of humor, suspense, action with great social commentary as well. Chris's approach to dialogue really suits my style of storytelling. It was great to explore the character of Woodrow, his world view and his relationship to Hellboy. I see a buddy spin-off here.
Nrama: I believe this is your first time working with Mike or Chris, but what I'm most interested in is your pairing with Dave Stewart. Stewart is integral to the overall Hellboy house style, so what are you thinking about him coloring your work for the first time?
Martinbrough: I haven't seen Dave's colors over my art yet but I've been a huge fan of his colors on Hellboy. His technique and color palette are simply exquisite. I recently sent Dave a praise filled note about his beautiful work over artist Darwyn Cooke on Twilight Children. I can't wait to see what he does with Secret Nature. I only gave Dave one color note which was, "Have fun.”
Nrama: Chris, what's it like having Shawn here for this?
Roberson: I’ve been a fan of Shawn’s work for a while now, and jumped at the chance to collaborate with him when our editor Scott Allie suggested the possibility. And that was clearly the right call, because Shawn’s work on this issue is just fantastic. I know that Dave Stewart is going to work his signature magic with the colors, but it’s almost a shame that readers won’t see the inks in black and white. It really is gorgeous stuff.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with this one-shot?
Roberson: In some of the other Hellboy & The B.P.R.D. stories we’ve been digging into the unseen corners of Hellboy’s world, or gradually pulling back the curtain on bigger threats that we’ll be exploring over the course of the next few years. But with Secret Nature, the goal was to do a fun, old school one-and-done Hellboy yarn, with the big red guy and his pals out in the woods chasing after a monster.
Martinbrough: With any project that I illustrate, the goal is always to push myself as an artist. After drawing grounded characters in real-life fashions for years on Thief of Thieves, it's fun to show readers that I can tackle different types of subject matter. Plus, now I can cross drawing Hellboy off of my bucket list!