Change is coming to the Mignolaverse. As San Diego Comic Con kicks off this week, Dark Horse Comics is revealing some major shake-ups in Mike Mignola’s world, a universe that encompasses Hellboy, Abe Sapein, B.P.R.D., Frankenstein Underground, Lobster Johnson and Witchfinder — including the first ever Mignolaverse story co-written by Chris Roberson.
Roberson, co-creator of iZombie, will join Mignola for the upcoming Hellboy Winter Special: a 12 page story illustrated by Michael Walsh (Secret Avengers), due out January of next year. And while next year will also see the conclusion of John Arcudi’s acclaimed run on B.P.R.D., it will also see the debut of Roberson as the co-writer for Hellboy & The B.P.R.D., working alongside Eisner & Harvey Award winning artist Paolo Rivera (Daredevil).
“I was sorry to see John go and obviously, it was going to be a very big deal who was going to take over John’s role,” Mignola explains to EW. “And the reason why our stuff has worked for so long is that it’s only been a couple of writers on this stuff. Scott Allie was the editor, now he’s the writer, and then John and I. So the idea of bringing someone in this late in the game was really horrifying.” Despite that hesitation, it was Mignola’s previous relationship with Roberson that helped him realize he already had the perfect successor.
“We were looking awhile back for an artist to take over this Witchfinder comic of ours,” says Mignola. “And Scott suggested Chris. And when Chris wrote his outline, for the Witchfinder book, he went through so much of my stuff and connected so many dots and brought so many threads together. It was apparent right off that he wanted to play in this world — that he was willing to look at this world that we’ve been creating and pull bits of it together into something.”
“I’ve known Mike for several years, and had worked with Scott on an Aliens miniseries for Dark Horse last year,” Roberson says. “But I don’t think either of them realized what an enormous fan I am of the universe that Mike and his collaborators have created in Hellboy and the various spinoffs.” Mignola adds, “I wanted somebody who I knew would really embrace the world. We’d like to do something that’s different from everything we’ve done before, and what about exploring a couple of things that I’ve never gotten around to? And he immediately jumped on the chance to build on what had already been built, but taken in a different direction. One of the things that really important to me is someone I can communicate with. Someone who’s going to be excited about this stuff.”
It was that same gut feeling about bringing excitement and originality to his work that Mignola used when he decided to bring on additional collaborators Rivera and Walsh. “I think I’ve met Paolo once a billion years ago at a New York convention, and Walsh I only know from Facebook,” Mignola revealed. “But he’s got such a terrific storytelling sense that’s kind of what it came down to — you’re great, do you have any interest in these characters? And he said yes, and I said, well, let’s do something. And Paolo, the same thing.” According to Mignola, investing in artists that he feels confident in are key at this time of change, when thinking about the long-term creative prospects of Hellboy.
“It’s one of the things that’s really nice about this book right now…we’re getting different people to come on board for these different arcs,” he says. “I would love to have some of these artists return on a semi-regular basis but right now we just want to invite people we really like on board and hopefully one or two of them will stay so we have a little bit of continuity. But the days of, here’s an artist, he’s going to be with us for 20 years…we just don’t live in that world anymore. One thing that is really fortunate for me, and very flattering, is that a lot of artists want to try Hellboy for at least 1-2 issues.”
That fact is largely due to the fact that comic has been a mainstay for a number of years. But for those worried about if the story will change with new creators, don’t worry: Mignola has you covered.
“When I first spoke to Chris, I said, ‘here, I planted the seeds here in this first book. I’m not saying you have to build on all of them, but there should be something here to pick up and run with,” Mignola says. “The beauty of doing this this series is that we’re dealing with long stretches of Hellboy’s early history that have never been touched on, never been referred to. So I don’t want to give anything away, but there are things about that particular time period, political things that we said, boy, let’s embrace that.” On the artist side, there was additional anxiety for Roberson, in taking on responsibility for such a well-known series.
“There’s always a pressure when dealing with someone else’s creation to ‘get it right’” he says. “But one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about working with characters and concepts created by others is finding gaps in the existing work that might be filled with interesting stories, or finding connections that haven’t previously been explored. And a good part of the research for the job is rereading some of my favorite comics over and over again, which is never a bad thing.”
“While we want to do a recognizable character and a recognizable type of book, we want to explore certain types of stories that really haven’t been in the book yet,” Mignola adds. “The more you give a guy room to bring something to it, especially if it’s something he’s personally interested in, I think you’re going to get the best book.”
It’s that challenge of making the best book that keeps Mignola on his toes. “We’ve been doing Hellboy for more than twenty years, so you don’t want to be stale,” he says. “And I kind of wish I had planned this from the very beginning, but having Hellboy appear on earth in 1944 and then jumping to 1994 with the first story really worked out great for us because here’s just this ocean of untapped stuff. I’m writing a Hellboy story today, the first two issues of the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. in the 1953 series, where it’s Hellboy in England with Professor Broom. And this is stuff we’ve never seen before. This is father and son stuff. There’s this gigantic amount of stuff that is going to be new.”
“Mignola and his collaborators have created this incredible world filled with so many fantastic characters and concepts,” says Roberson. “And I think what I’m most looking forward to is the chance to use many of them in these stories, while at the same time adding new characters and concepts to the mix.” Mignola, likewise, is just as excited to work with Roberson on what he calls, “this gigantic chunk of unexplored territory.”
“If we continue the series the way we plan it, which is every 5-6 issues for a year, I’m really excited to get to the ’70s,” he says. “There’s so many periods where you can go, ‘Oh, we can do Hellboy in Mexico!’”
As for Roberson? To say the collaboration is a dream come true would probably be an understatement. “It’s been fantastic,” he shared. “Swapping ideas back and forth with him has certainly been a highlight of the job so far. Who wouldn’t want to talk about monsters and mythology with Mike Mignola?”
[ed note: the art depicted in this post is a piece by Rivera, however, this is not Hellboy as he’ll look in Hellboy and The B.P.R.D. 1953.]