Before he won Best Director and Best Picture at the Academy Awards on Sunday, Guillermo del Toro directed two different Hellboy movies based on Mike Mignola’s comics. Del Toro won’t be making any more Hellboy movies, but a reboot is in the works, this time from director Neil Marshall and starring Stranger Things’ David Harbour as the big red monster hunter. In a recent interview with EW, Mignola explained his involvement in the new film.
“It’s funny, because my involvement has been very different than the Del Toro movies,” Mignola says. “The difference is I had known Del Toro for six years by the time we did the first movie. Neil I met a couple months before he worked on the movie. It was very different, but I have been involved ever since they said ‘Hey we’re gonna make another Hellboy movie, and we’re gonna do this story.’ I’ve bounced back and forth with them about how to adapt this particular Hellboy story. At various times I’ve jumped in and been much more active in the screenplay than I ever was on the Del Toro movies. But I did nothing so far as design stuff on the movie. Guillermo wanted me as a concept artist, but on this movie, there were other concept artists. I came in and I looked at some stuff, but they were trying to do something so close to what’s on the comics that they really leaned on what had been done by Duncan [Fegredo] and me in the comics.”
Del Toro’s first Hellboy film was based loosely on the first Hellboy comic series, Seed of Destruction. The movie sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, was more of an original story. By contrast, Marshall’s Hellboy film will be a much closer textual adaptation, based on a story told over three miniseries (Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, and The Storm and the Fury) written by Mignola and illustrated by Duncan Fegredo. It is the longest run of Hellboy stories not illustrated by Mignola himself, and it tells the story of Nimue the Blood Queen raising an army of demonic fairies to attack the mortal world in an apocalyptic conflagration. Milla Jovovich has been cast as the movie’s Blood Queen.
“The first film was based on one of the comics, but Del Toro was looking to reinvent everything. I think the difference is here, the bulk of the Fegredo arc takes place in the real world,” Mignola says. “So instead of making up a whole fantasy world, it was, ‘Let’s find locations that feel like these real-world locales that Duncan drew in the comic.’ I think the bulk of the characters in the film are established in the comic. It was insane for me to walk in there and see that someone did a really nice rendering of a creature I created or Duncan created. It’s got a whole different feel from the older movies. Duncan’s not working on it, but I did see stuff in the movie that was so close to what Duncan drew, more so than what was in the previous movies. It was pretty exciting. ”
At the same time, Mignola is currently returning to a leftover thread from the Fegredo stories with a new miniseries, Koschei the Deathless. The five-issue comic tells the backstory of the titular warrior, a figure from Russian myth who became immortal by hiding his soul inside an egg inside a duck inside a rabbit inside a goat. The witch Baba Yaga employed Koschei to attack Hellboy in Darkness Calls, but Mignola says he felt there were still some stories left to tell with the character. Even though Mignola has wound down his comics work as Hellboy’s story reaches its grand finale, this was one of the remaining stories he wanted to tell, alongside artist Ben Stenbeck.
“The Koshchei miniseries came about because I had done the origin for this guy, but there were so many other Russian folktales I wanted to weave in,” Mignola says. “In Darkness Calls, there are a couple throwaway bits. While Koshchei is fighting Hellboy, there are a couple skeletons on a hillside who say ‘I was with Koshchei when he fought the Nightingale’ and ‘I was with Koshchei when he went into the mountains to fight a dragon.’ So I always knew, well that’s at least two stories I have to tell. Of course, it turns out both those guys were lying because they weren’t there when those things happened.”
Koschei the Deathless #3 is on stands this week. Marshall’s Hellboy movie is currently set for a January 2019 release.