A new B.P.R.D. miniseries, The Devil You Know, debuted a few weeks back, but in an interview with co-writer/creator Mike Mignola, Newsarama has learned that it's the beginning of the end for the team.
No, that's not metaphorical. Mignola is ending the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.
In a wide-ranging interview talking about B.P.R.D., Hellboy, watercolor painting, his "retirement" (hint: he never retired), and the upcoming Hellboy movie reboot, Mignola shared with Newsarama his thoughts, plans, and ambitions for Liz Sherman, Abe Sapien, the other B.P.R.D.-ers past and present, and even the deceased Hellboy.
Newsarama: Mike, before we dig into things – what are you working on today?
Mike Mignola: Oh… I’m working on plotting the end of the B.P.R.D.
Nrama: … the very end? The finale?
Mignola: Yes, the very end. It’s something you do after a while.
I’m not saying that it’s coming soon, but I’ve had an idea for it for years now and I wanted to put it on paper.
The stories we’re doing now are building towards the end, and Scott Allie and I agreed that we needed to nail down the actual end so that we can work backwards. If we finalize where it’s going, we know how to pace it out. I want to make sure everything leads up to the end – all these plotlines converge neatly.
I’ve had the ending in broad strokes for years, but it’s one of those things – I’m going to sleep easier knowing exactly how it will work.
Nrama: B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know #1 came out last month, with Liz Sherman and a crew on a rescue mission. What can you say about that issue and what’s to come?
Mignola: I don’t want to give anything away, but…. You’ll just have to read it.
I think everyone will be happy with what’s going to happen – I’ll put it that way.
There’s a lot surprises in this series of miniseries coming up, so I have to really be careful not to say too much.
Nrama: This seems like a big transition point into the era co-written largely with John Arcudi to now you and Scott Allie.
Mignola: Yes, everything now is building off of where John Arcudi left off in “Hell on Earth.” We’re in the ruins of what’s left of the world.
When John decided to leave, the important thing was to let him wrap up what he was doing and then find a way to give the things going forward its own personality – continuing what John did, but in a slightly different way.
When John started working with me on these books, the plan was for him to carry through until the end. When he hit a place he wanted to leave, I had to figure out a separate characterization for this last chapter.
The biggest question became then, if John wasn’t finishing it, who could we get to write it, because this is something we’ve been working towards for 20 years. I didn’t want to run around and find a new writer, and Scott was just wrapping up Abe Sapien and that flows into B.P.R.D.. It was natural to bring Scott over to write B.P.R.D. since Scott’s been listening to my ideas, and helping to steer the book, as an editor for many years.
I didn’t want to bring in a new, outsider writer and say “We want you to write, but we already have mapped out what you you’re to write about” or something.
Nrama: The first issue didn’t say much, but who or what is “The Devil You Know” in B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know?
Mignola: I can’t talk about it too much – it’s open to interpretation. In the book, it could mean a couple definite things, such as this person or that person, but as the series goes on the title may refer to someone or something else.
Nrama: Even though you’re taking a hiatus from doing sequential art, you’re ramping up your writing – in comic books, some prose, and this upcoming movie. How does it feel to primarily be a writer and not an artist, hunched over the drawing board?
Mignola: I would rather be an artist hunched over my drawing board.[Laughs]
Writing… I’ve said this over and over… I love making sh** up, but I hate writing it down. I hate typing things up.
I’m most comfortable these days when I’m working with another writer, so I can just kind of talk through stuff on the phone and let them hammer it down into a plot. Most of the writing I’ve been doing has been that.
It varies project-to-project; in some books I have quite a bit of input, while in some of the stuff not so much. When John Arcudi was here, he was working off conversations we had two or three years ago and just following a general direction and running with it.
Koshchei the Deathless I’ll be writing myself, as well as the Christmas story with Adam Hughes.
Nrama: Hellboy: Krampusnacht.
Mignola: Yes, I’m actually writing that myself. I’ll be stuck at the computer, actually writing comics. I don’t have a lot of plans to continue doing that; I’d love to get through these books, then get back to being an artist.
Nrama: Not having the grind of drawing pages in front of you, have you found yourself doing more art for fun?
Mignola: When I wrapped up Hellboy in Hell, I said I’d take a year off and painting. It’s something I’ve never done before… but that lasted a couple months. [Laughs]
I rolled back into doing some comics things after that. I just wasn’t ready to step away completely and put all my energies into other stuff.
Now that I’m away from painting however, it’s kind of what I want to do again.
Mignola: I wasn’t quite ready then, but I’m getting ready again. Painting, not for publication, just painting for myself. That’s the goal.
Is it a year away…. Two years? I got some other kinds of comic projects in mind; really short and experimental things – I love the comic book medium, the art form, but as far as doing actual miniseries, that’s not something for me.
Nrama: Getting into that painting – what mediums were you using?
Mignola: Watercolors. The only painting I’ve done since art school is watercolor. I think I did eight or nine in a stretch, while before I used to average one painting a year.
After Hellboy In Hell, I did nine I was pretty happy with. Then just for whatever reason, I got the itch to do more comics.
But I think doing those eight or nine paintings, I got stuff I’m pretty happy with. Now to go back and just do more.
As a kid, my goal was to be an artist; I never set out to be a writer. So, I want to be an artist: to be a better artist.
Nrama: So, do you have the paintings sitting out where you see them all the time, or are they put away?
Mignola: I put them away. Everyone once in a while I pull them out, though. I usually don’t like my own work; generally, when I look at my old work, I don’t like it. But these paintings weren’t as bad.
I look at these eight or nine as the first step in something. The fact that I’m happy with them as I am – as opposed to hating them – is a pretty good sign.
Nrama: Any plans to show these off to the public in a show or something?
Mignola: They’re on my website now, there for people to see. And you know, eventually I can imagine wanting to do a show. There is talk of a show in New York sometime next year, and I’ll probably bring a few to be a part of that. I’m not burying them.
Nrama: Has taking a hiatus from sequential art given you a new perspective on those that still do it, like Laurence who has been doing it since the 1990s?
Mignola: Yeah. I have so much respect for people who can do the amount of work, and the quality level of work that Laurence, Tonci Zonjic, Ben Stenbeck… the level they can do.
For whatever reason, I think I’m such a perfectionist and it started to be like pulling teeth. I love doing it if I can relax into it. Working on Hellboy In Hell, I became so hyper-critical of my own work. It became hard to do.
I would love to just relax and have fun drawing comics.
I can write them, plot them, and its fun for me to break a story down into a comic, into panels, even if I’m not drawing the final product. That’s how I work – I need to know how something will break down into panels when I’m asking someone else to draw it.
Nrama: So, you’re actually doing rough comics for book production – thumbnails for it all?
Mignola: Yes, I always do that for myself when I’m writing for other people. It’s the only way I know how to plot a comic; to pace, I need to know if what I’m asking for can fit into a page. When I thumbnail, that’s how I figure out sequences and that kind of stuff.
In the past, when I first handed Hellboy over to Duncan Fegredo, I did pretty tight thumbnails as originally it was going to be drawn by someone whose storytelling I didn’t really trust. Ultimately Duncan became the artist, and he’s so good that I didn’t feel it was really fair to tie his hands by working off my thumbnails.
Nowadays, I thumbnail only for myself. I only share them when there’s something I don’t know how to explain in text; I draw out how it’s to happen. Or if an artist draws something that’s not working, I’ll do some thumbnails to work out the problem.
Nrama: Coming back full circle - Big picture, what are your goals for the B.P.R.D. title going forward into 2018 and beyond?
Mignola: Well, I mean… it’s always been kind of a family book. The B.P.R.D. – the main B.P.R.D. characters – turned into this family, and I think maintaining this is really important.
For 20-something odd years, the B.P.R.D. has been going someplace. There’s been a lot of threads we’ve started, and as much as humanly possible we want to wrap this book up and satisfy all the things that have been hinted at. There’s inevitably some line somewhere that didn’t get paid off yet, but as much as humanly possible we’re going to tie it all up.
I see it as one big story. All these things that have been said, none of it is nonsense, and it all means something. All the hints and prophecies are going in a particular direction. That’s my main goal: to tie this thing up and to give anyone and everyone following B.P.R.D. and all the related books a complete story.
I don’t know that it’s been done very many times: one big giant story over the course of 20-25 year comes together for one big ending, but that’s where we’re heading.