Word Balloons: 'Hellboy' turns 25 in year of new film release
Paranormal detective Hellboy comes back to theaters in a new film starring David Harbour, and while there’s some fan debate about the reboot given the success of the original films by Guillermo del Toro, there’s one near-universal agreement: Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy” comics are among the most successful independent creator-owned comics of the past two and a half decades.
The blue-collar paranormal investigator who hails from hell turns 25 this year. Hellboy was created by writer-artist Mike Mignola in 1994 and has appeared in comics, graphic novels, animated features and live-action films.
Hellboy was originally a baby demon summoned by Nazi forces near the end of World War II. He was rescued and raised in the U.S., eventually becoming part of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Development.
“It’s easily one of the best properties in all of comics,” Brian “Buck” Berlin, of Oklahoma City’s New World Comics, said in a previous interview. “Once you get someone to read ‘Hellboy,’ then they’re a ‘Hellboy’ fan for life.”
After appearances in a comic convention special and in “John Byrne’s Next Men,” Hellboy starred in his own series, “Seed of Destruction,” in 1994. The blue-collar hero with the body of a demon caught on with fans, as did Mignola’s atmospheric art. Mignola had been a professional artist starting in his early 20s, but the success of Hellboy moved Mignola to another level.
In "Seed," when Hellboy is sent to investigate a mystery with supernatural overtones, he discovers the secrets of his origins and his link to the Nazi occultists who promised Adolf Hitler a final solution in the form of a demonic avatar.
“Seed of Destruction” is currently in print as part of the “Seed of Destruction” Omnibus, containing Hellboy’s appearances from 1994-1997, which also includes the stories “Wake the Devil,” “Wolves of St. August,” “The Chained Coffin” and “Almost Colossus.”
Since those tales, Hellboy has appeared in dozens more comic books, and later this year, Dark Horse will release “Hellboy: 25 Years of Covers,” showcasing more than 150 pieces of cover art with the character. That book is set for July 3 release.
Mignola spoke about the success of Hellboy to comic book retailers at the ComicsPRO conference in 2014.
“The thing I’m most happy with is that at no point did Dark Horse tell me ‘do more,’ or ‘do this kind of thing’ or ‘do that kind of thing,’” he said. “They left me alone now for 20 years to do whatever I want, which I’m sure we’re all happy, Dark Horse especially, that it worked.”
Director Neil Marshall’s “Hellboy” film stars David Harbour, Sasha Lane, Ian McShane, Penelope Mitchell, and Milla Jovovich.
Matthew Price is an award-winning journalist who has written about the comics industry for more than two decades. He is the co-owner of Speeding Bullet Comics in Norman.