The acclaimed creator explains how to end an epic.
After 10 issues and roughly four years, Hellboy is finally getting some rest.
Last year, acclaimed creator Mike Mignola announced that he would end his story of Hellboy in Hell, which debuted in 2012 after the character’s death and took the celebrated agent on a journey through the afterlife. Where do you go if you’ve already spent a lot of time in hell? While there are no immediate plans to continue Hellboy’s story in this capacity on Mignola’s end, he’s already got his next projects planned out…and they don’t include comics.
Mignola spoke to EW about why this was the right time to end Hellboy In Hell, and what projects await the newfound freedom that comes with being able to focus on one of his first loves — original art. Plus, we’re proud to reveal the cover to issue 10, the final issue of Hellboy in Hell.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So let’s start with the obvious. Why did you feel that this was the right time to end this series, or at least, end your involvement with it?
MIKE MIGNOLA: I just wrote a piece for the back of the trade paperback, so I just spent some time giving some thought to this. It was interesting because when I started the Hellboy In Hell stuff, I didn’t think it would go forever. I thought it would just be these odd little rambling stories. And then I did certain things in the book that I didn’t think would be a big deal, but they kind of turned into a big deal. And somehow, the dominoes started falling and I realized it’s not a bunch of unrelated stories. It’s one big story. And so I thought, well, that story is going to be this size. Well, things kind of work at their own pace, so things start happening faster than I thought they would…and I got to the end of issue eight and the last page of that issue, he’s sitting under at tree and I just went, oh, that looks like the end. I wrote the end on it, and I just went, oh no, that really does look like the end. I had all this other stuff I wanted to do, and it just felt like stretching out something that wasn’t quite done at that point, but I really saw I had done everything I wanted to do with this particular story. So I replotted a lot of stuff. Issue nine we have this nice conversation with his ex-wife and issue 10 was, here’s the ending that we wanted to do.
He’s been dead for a long time. It’s really hard to ever say something is completely over when the character has already been killed and continues to walk around. So while this story is done and I have no concrete plans to do any other Hellboy stuff myself, it does end in a pretty interesting way.
Looking back, did you ever think, “Wow, I had no idea this story could become so expansive?” Especially since you didn’t start it with the intention of making it a huge epic.
These things tend to take on a life of their own, if I do it right. I never set out to be a writer. When I finally started doing it, it was entirely a dodge so I didn’t have to draw stuff I didn’t want to draw. The fact that for 25 years I’d been writing my own stuff and for big long stretches I wrote for other people and I’ve actually done three or four things that I’m pretty happy with … it’s pretty easy for me right now to look back and say I’ve done so much more than I ever expected to. But part of my thinking right now is, yeah, but I always wanted to be an artist. Juggling art and writing for me means the artwork was starting to suffer a little bit and I’d just like to take some time right now to see what happens if I cut off the writing part of my brain and translate it into the art. The hardest part will be to just do artwork and not turn it into a story.
That’s a great gift, though — to be able to recognize when to walk away from something you’re passionate about and feel good about it, and also to have the opportunity to do something like take a year and say, “You know what? It’s time to focus on me.”
It was only in the past year and a half I started thinking I’d like to focus on personal art for a while. I’ve been averaging about one painting a year. If you only do a painting once a year, you kind of have to re-learn it every time you do it. So to buy myself this chunk of time and say for a year to carve out this big chunk of time, produce some work with no expectation and then at the end of the year, look at it and say well what did I do? Is there something here? And it’s been 25 years since I didn’t have any work lined up.
What has working on this series taught you as both a writer and an artist?
I don’t have any regrets about what I’ve done. What I’ve learned, especially since I’ve been doing the Hellboy In Hell stuff, is what I want to focus on as far as pictures go. It’s a gigantic stretch for me to do that, and I’m kind of chomping at the bit. And it did make the last issues of Hellboy harder to do because somewhere around issue nine, my brain got the message that we were finishing this thing, and my brain said, well, we’re finishing thing, well we’re done. So a lot of it was just begging my brain to give me enough juice to draw those last few pages.
So, because I have to ask, what will the ending of Hellboy In Hell mean for the Mignolaverse?
I suspect it will mean very little to the outside world because the Hellboy In Hell stuff has been coming out so slowly, I don’t think people will notice when it stops. Fortunately, we had already come up with the idea of doing this series, Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., so we had done a couple books about the B.P.R.D. when Hellboy was just a baby and then we thought it would be natural to come off of that and pick up Hellboy’s years when he was an agent. I got the ball rolling on that series and I still have a hand in that series working with Chris Roberson. Hopefully, that stays up and running.
Are you excited to see the fans’ reactions when it all comes to a close?
I don’t expect much until really issues nine and 10 come out. When they see issue nine and in issue 10, they’re gonna go, what?! Stuff happens in there that will hopefully catch people by surprise.