Comicscape: BPRD 1946, 1947, 1948 - Mania.com



Comicscape: BPRD 1946, 1947, 1948

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Comicscape: BPRD 1946, 1947, 1948

Ein neuer tag beginnt!

By Joel Rickenbach     October 17, 2012
Source: Mania.com

I ask you- is there a better backdrop for a genre story than Nazis and their obsession with the occult? There’s something about taking a real piece of history (the Third Reich, WWII), digging into all the strange things they were up to, and expanding upon them in a genre fashion, that makes for a potent mix which, in my eyes, never gets old. There are not enough dark rituals, robot apes, lost artifacts and hidden places to quench my thirst. I’ve spent many hours pouring over books, films and documentaries on the subject, but I would guess most of us were first really exposed to the idea by a man with a Fedora and a whip. Indiana Jones really set the stage for the boom of occult Nazi stories. Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade are seminal stories in this wonderful sub-genre. If there is anyone who picked up that torch and ran with it, it would be Mike Mignola. Hellboy and its family of comics have created a world of mysteries, the occult and folklore that is absolutely unrivaled in any medium. All the dark and frightening things the Third Reich tried to uncover and unleash are the core of the Hellboy universe, even in present day stories they are still uncovering many a dark thing the Nazi’s were responsible for.  In fact, Hellboy himself is a product of their tampering.

One of the coolest things about the Hellboy books is that there has never been a monthly on-going series. Every story is a finite arc, which allows us as readers to dip our toes into whatever offering piques our interest. There’s plenty of continuity to mesh everything together, but I believe you could literally walk into your comic shop, pluck a Hellboy trade off the shelf, and be instantly immersed without having to read years worth of stories. It also helps that Mignola has enlisted a pool of talent to bring his books to life that is staggering. He has a knack for finding writers and artists who fit the look and feel of his stories perfectly, and that’s no easy feat considering how much the Hellboy universe has expanded. The B.P.R.D., Lobster Johnson, Sir Edward Grey and Abe Sapien have all starred in multiple books, and the cohesion of all of them is truly impressive. 
The impetus for this article is the release of a new chapter in my personal favorite Hellboy Storyline- B.P.R.D. 1948.  The previous two volumes (B.P.R.D. 1946 & 1947, naturally) dealt with Professor Broom learning to live with his newfound ward, the eponymous Hellboy, and picking through the aftermath of WWII to find out what horrors the Third Reich were up to. 1946 & 1947 give you a wide breadth of the Hellboy world, the stories connect, but will give you plenty of occult thrills on their own. Both present us with a group of hapless soldiers who find themselves assigned to an odd new military division called the B.P.R.D. Professor Bruttenholm, who is himself just finding his feet, must ask these men to face horrors possibly even greater than what they experienced in the war. They all go in non-believers, but they come out changed men, if they even come out at all. Let’s take a quick trip back to 1946 and 1947 in anticipation of the eerie and horrific things 1948 is sure to show us.

1946 by Mike Mignola, Joshua Dysart and Paul Azaceta (5 issues) 1946 takes place shortly after the Third Reich has fallen. Professor Broom is in Berlin trying to beat the Russians to all the occult things waiting to be unearthed. Unfortunately, the Russians put far more stock and value in the occult, so the Professor is routinely beaten to the punch. Deciding to cut to the chase, the Professor goes to meet the Russian’s head of paranormal research, but what he finds is quite unexpected- a 6 or 7 year old girl named Varvara, who resembles the porcelain doll she carries around with her. It’s immediately obvious that there is much more to Varvara than meets the eye, and her child-like, carefree attitude in the face of gruesome things is more than a little unsettling. However, she likes the Professor, and they form an uneasy alliance. The Professor will investigate some unsavory places in exchange for anything the Russians find pertaining to the Nazi’s project that brought Hellboy to our world. What follows is the discovery of a Nazi final solution known as Vampir Sturm. Hitler had apparently held court with a vampire named Count Giurescu, and entertained the idea of creating an army of vampires. TheFührer soured on the idea of trusting the Count, and felt the vampire soldiers would be too hard to control, so he had Giurescu and his eight vampire brides burned, but not before ironically draining them of their blood. Even though Hitler shut down the project, someone continued the experiments, and there are hundreds of twisted, vampiric abominations in cold storage somewhere in Berlin, waiting to thaw and be unleashed into the world.
 
1947 by Mike Mignola, Joshua Dysart, Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon (5 issues) Nazi prisoners of war are being slaughtered across Europe, and to the allied forces this isn’t exactly a bad thing, but Professor Bruttenholm knows there are darker forces at work, and assembles a team of agents to investigate. Four soldiers, all somewhat damaged men, are enlisted for the mission- Normandy-survivor Jacob Stegner, Bomb-expert Frank Russell, Jungle warfare specialist Gabriel Ruiz, and Simon Anders, a merchant marine who spent twenty-four days in a lifeboat drifting in the South Pacific, not knowing if he would live or die.  All four men, despite their experiences in the war, decided to remain on active duty, and transfer to the B.P.R.D. Their search puts them on the trail of a vampire named Baron Konig (who briefly appeared in 1946), and the legend surrounding a party he once threw at a chateau. A composer named Jean-Marie De Grigney was at said party, and two years later created an opera based on the events that took place at Baron Konig’s gathering. The opera was only performed once, as the audience on opening night went mad and burned down the opera house. Our four brave soldiers find themselves entrenched in an evil older than the Third Reich, and get set adrift in the world of witches, rituals and the supernatural.

What’s so great bout 1946, 1947, and all the Hellboy stories, really, is that they’re not shy about the strange world they’ve created. Hitler meeting with an ancient vampire? Absolutely. A possessed, six year old girl leading the Russian paranormal department? You bet. Giant, half-robot apes? Of course. All of these ideas add up to stories that continually surprise and delight; they make you think about how far the mind can go in the name of science and conquest. The first two volumes transition nicely between the Nazi horrors and ancient supernatural forces. Varvara is particularly a joy to read, as she has all the trappings of a child, but speaks with authority and a complete lack of remorse. The human world is her plaything.  I’m happy to see her adorn the cover to the first issue of 1948, and can’t wait to read how she connects with what 1948 promises- Space travel, nuclear testing and strange monsters in the Utah desert. Consider me ready for active duty.

1946 & 1947 are available in trade, and 1948 #1 hits stands today.

 

New Comic Book Releases for 10/17/12:

COMIC SHOP NEWS
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B.P.R.D. 1948 #1 (Of 5)(Dave Johnson Regular Cover), $3.50
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Zombies Christmas Carol TP, $19.99

Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him on Twitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.  

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 0 of 0
1 
DarthoftheDead 10/17/2012 12:28:19 PM

 Lol, Nope, it never gets old to me either.....awesome article!!!!!!

shac2846 10/17/2012 12:49:58 PM

 I just finished Hellboy library edition volume 1 I am about halfway through 2 and I'm also about halfway through BPRD plague of frogs collection vol. 1. Awesome stuff. So much better than the movies. This is to me what a great creator owned book could be. A world so rich with mythology and characters that there are so man directions and so much story to cover. Great stuff. Good article. 

Joel have you read mignola's baltimore trades, are they any good?

CyanideRush 10/17/2012 1:26:42 PM

Joel, I couldn't agree more fully. I LOVE the Hellboy universe. I'm just so simply mad that Dark Horse won't get on the damned Comixology bandwagon. They're losing my money and I'm missing out on these serious because they're stubborn.

-Chuck

joelr 10/17/2012 1:34:48 PM

@DarthoftheDead- Thanks, man!

@Shac- Absolutely, Baltimore is fantastic! I also recommend tracking down the Amazing Screw-On Head one-shot.

@Chuck- I know, I wish Mignola would just tell DH that he's taking his stuff to Comixology whether they like it or not.

InnerSanctum 10/17/2012 4:19:06 PM

 I absolutely love the Hellboy universe.  Because it is "off and on" it is great that you guys give me a heads up on the new series.  I have to go back and pick up the 1946-47.  I somehow got lost when Abe got his own limited series and Hellboy started his walkabout.  I probably have missed a bit.  

shac2846 10/18/2012 10:55:45 PM

 Have screw on head, will definitely give Baltimore a try now.

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