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Hellboy Day 2014
By Joel Rickenbach
March 22, 2014
When Mania news Editor, Bob Trate, asked me to put something together for "Hellboy Day", my mind began furiously trying to come up with ideas to hinge the article on. Best Hellboy stories? Best villains? Rank the members of the BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense)? List foods better than pancakes (answer: none)? Then it dawned on me- isn't the fact that we can actually celebrate a “Hellboy Day” enough of a hook? We’re not talking about Marvel’s web-slinger, or DC’s last son of Krypton, we’re talking about Hellboy, and that’s really (REALLY) cool. It’s also a testament to the quality and popularity of Mike Mignola’s creator owned character, who quietly debuted back in 1993. He is the destroyer of worlds, the great beast of the apocalypse, the right hand of doom! But to you and I he’s just Hellboy, an often-heartbroken guy just trying to do his job who longs to fit in. And that, my friends, is something worth celebrating. So, what has made the Hellboy universe so special for all these years? Read on…
Yup, that’s pretty much the secret to Hellboy, thanks for reading!
Ok, maybe Nazis are only part of the reason we love Hellboy, but they’re an important one. Besides the fact that he was literally summoned into existence by Nazi occultist, Grigori Rasputin, it’s important to remember that it happening in the last days of World War II roots Hellboy and his mythology in a very important part of history. There are values and ideas from that era, which constantly pepper the Hellboy universe, and the vestiges of the Nazi’s occult dealings always make for exciting mystery and villainy. If Nazis and the occult are good enough for Indiana Jones, then they're good enough for Big Red.
Once we push past the Third Reich, we are greeted by a rich world of mythology and folklore that Hellboy and the BPRD must understand and combat. Some of the legends are pulled from real-world belief, and some of it is deliciously embellished or created by Mike Mignola and his incomparable band of collaborators. Sure, there are plenty of witches, ghosts and demons, but how often do you read about a Homunculus, or a were-jaguar, giant frog monsters, or the nightmare hut of Baba Yaga? And those are just the tip of the iceberg. What dark things lurk under the BPRD’s bed? It’s always a joy to find out.
Timing is everything
There really is no monthly Hellboy comic, and technically there never has been. These days there always seems to be a Hellboy book currently running, but they are all limited series’ that tell their story in 3-5 issues, and that’s important. Hellboy and his pals aren’t forced into an adventure every month, they only show up when there’s a story to tell. Not only does this make the ever-expanding Hellboy universe easier to follow, but it also gives the creators a chance to give each series it’s own flavor if they wish. Lobster Johnson can have a pulpy, adventure serial feel, while a BPRD book can mine the depths of lovecraftian horror.
It’s who you know
Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, is a legend in his own time. Few artists have had the influence and impact as he, and as a creator there are few who have achieved as much. But the real trick of the Hellboy universe has been who Mike Mignola has chosen to join his weird crusade over the years. Every artist and writer who has contributed to the universe feels like a perfect fit. Mignola doesn't just pick people who write like he does or draw like he does, he picks people who know how to establish the proper mood, and add depth to his already rich mythology. Names like John Arcudi, Joshua Dysart, Richard Corben, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Christopher Golden, and the glue that holds the right hand of doom together- writer/editor Scott Allie. Every time you pick up a Hellboy book you are treated to story and art of the highest order, and that is no small feat.
Hellboy's real name is Anung Un Rama, and he is the harbinger of the apocalypse. It has also recently been revealed that he is the last living descendant of Arthur Pendragon, and therefore the rightful king of England. He's big, he's red, he has two giant horns that have been snapped off, and a right hand made of stone, yet we identify with him because he simply wants to fit in with society, just like you and I. Push past the Nazi robot gorillas, and ancient gods knocking on the door of our reality, and you will find a guy who endlessly searches for his place in the world. He has a heart that can be easily broken and a spirit that doesn't want to conform to what other people and beings think he should be. And that goes for all the other characters who have found their way under Hellboy's wing. They are damaged, they have problems, but they still put on the trench coat to fight the unknown.
Hellboy and all the weird and wonderful characters that have been birthed during the last 20 years of stories deserve a day of celebration. Hopefully you can make it to your local comic shop and pick up a trade. Whether it's a core Hellboy or BPRD book, or one of the great expanded universe books like Sir Edward Grey, or Sledgehammer 44, you literally can't go wrong. Even if it's not today, give a Mignola book a try when you have a chance, and see what everyone is excited about. We're celebrating one of the greatest success stories in comics, we're celebrating imagination writ large, but most importantly we're celebrating good storytelling, damn good storytelling, and I can't think of a better reason to throw a party.
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