Do you read comic books? No? Well that’s alright. If you’ve never dabbled in the, frankly, bizarre comics industry it can be quite daunting to figure out where or what to start with. As a fairly recent comic book convert I would suggest picking up some trade paperbacks of comics that have been turned into movies. Since it’s October I’m going to send you in the direction of Mike Mignola’s classic Hellboy series. I myself have finally just gotten around to reading them and I’m FLOORED with how engrossing and amazing they are. Here’s what makes Hellboy absolutely worth reading (or re-reading) this Halloween season.
Hellboy is first and foremost a horror comic. It’s not overly violent or gruesome, but it’s more of a “creature feature” fans wet dream. I’m a monster kid at heart and Hellboy strikes a particular chord with me because of this. If you’re the type of person who loves The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, The Wolfman and others…you’re right in the target demographic of Hellboy. The fact that all of the good guys happen to be “monsters” is just icing on this already alluring cake.
Upon completing the first trade paperback a few things stuck out to me as very obvious inspirations for Hellboy. The first inspiration that hit me hard was Conan the Barbarian. Maybe not so much Conan himself, but there is certainly a pulp adventure quality to Hellboy that is almost impossible to miss. I fucking LOVE that. The next thing that stuck out to me was a subtle nod and wink of Batman. Hellboy himself is a paranormal investigator (not a detective), but it was more of the art style that made me think of The Bat. Certain panels jumped out as shadowy monster-y version of Batman and I don’t think it was a coincidence. I also noticed Hellboy’s trench coat looks an awful lot like Batman’s cape when he’s jumping around. One final and MAJOR difference that I noticed was that unlike the Del Toro version of the character Hellboy isn’t this wisecracking, funny jokester. He is more like a hard boiled 1950’s noir detective in the style of Mike Hammer. Sure he has a sardonic attitude, but his narration never feels funny. I dunno…coming from the films to the comics it’s like seeing the character in an entirely different light.
Hellboy is just flat our gorgeous. There are times when I’d actually catch myself just staring at a particularly beautiful drawing. The stark blacks that permeate every nook and cranny are offset with colors that explode and POP off the page. It’s striking. It’s not just the art, but the way the panels are framed and how different perspectives are constantly being used. You literally have no idea what to expect as you flip from page to page and that makes it exciting to read.
Hellboy battles the occult, Nazis, ancient terrors, and Lovecraftian cosmic horrors. It’s really an eclectic mix of horror and it works perfectly as mysteries are constantly unraveling to the reader. Lovecraft is much popular now than in 1994 when Hellboy debuted, but it’s still great to see the master’s influence all throughout Hellboy. In fact some of the more horrifying elements of the comic come from these very Lovecratian elements and Mignola handles them perfectly. You’re milage will certainly vary as everyones tolerance for undefined, indescribable, tentacled horror monsters is different. Me? I want all the tentacles all the time. Give them to me!
In case I didn’t make myself abundantly clear, Hellboy makes for a great read this Halloween season and if you’ve never dabbled in the world of the B.P.R.D. now is as good of time as any. I recommend just starting in order and getting the excellent Seed of Destruction trade paperback. If you like that just keep on devouring them in order. Let us know what your thoughts on Hellboy and please like/share this article. Keep spreading the word of the Wolf! See you next time.