By Mike Mignola, Fabian Nicieza, John Cassaday, Eric Powell, Tom Sniegoski, Tommy Lee Edwards, Randy Stradley, Joe Casey, Sara Ryan, Ron Marz, J. H. Williams III, Jim Pascoe & Tom Fassbender, Will Pfeifer, John Arcudi, Jill Thompson, Matt Hollingsworth, Alex Maleev, Jason Pearson, Scott Morse, Akira Yoshida & Kia Asamiya, Bob Fingerman, Doug Petrie, Evan Dorkin, Andi Watson, Mark Ricketts, Kev Walker, Craig Thompson, Guy Davis, Stefano Raffaele, Ovi Nedelcu, Seung Kim, Steve Parkhouse, Steve Lieber, Jim Starlin, P. Craig Russell, Simeon Wilkins, Roger Langridge, Gene Colan, Eric Wright, Dave Stewart, Clem Robins (Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1616555108 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-63008-121-8
After the establishment of the comicbook direct market system, there was a huge outburst of independent publishers in America and, as with all booms, a lot of them went bust. Some few, however, were more than flash-in-the-pans and grew to become major players in the new world order.
Arguably, the most successful was Dark Horse Comics who fully embraced the shocking new concept of creator ownership (amongst other radical ideas). This concept – and their professional outlook and attitude – drew a number of big-name creators to the new company and in 1994 Frank Miller & John Byrne formally instituted the sub-imprint Legend for those projects major creators wanted to produce their own way and at their own pace.
Over the next four years the brand counted Mike Mignola, Art Adams, Mike Allred, Paul Chadwick, Dave Gibbons and Geof Darrow amongst its ranks; generating a wealth of superbly entertaining and groundbreaking series and concepts. Unquestionably the most impressive, popular and long-lived was Mignola’s supernatural thriller Hellboy.
The hulking monster-hunter debuted in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2 (August 1993) before formally launching in 4-issue miniseries Seed of Destruction (with Byrne scripting over Mignola’s plot and art). Colourist Mark Chiarello added layers of mood with his understated hues. Once the fans saw what was on offer there was no going back…
What You Need to Know: on December 23rd 1944 American Patriotic Superhero Torch of Liberty and a squad of US Rangers intercepted and almost foiled a satanic ceremony predicted by Allied parapsychologist Professors Trevor Bruttenholm and Malcolm Frost.
They were working in conjunction with influential medium Lady Cynthia Eden-Jones. Those stalwarts were waiting at a ruined church in East Bromwich, England when a demon baby with a huge stone right hand appeared in a fireball. The startled soldiers took the infernal yet seemingly innocent waif into custody.
Far, far further north, off the Scottish Coast on Tarmagant Island, a cabal of Nazi Sorcerers roundly berated ancient wizard Grigori Rasputin whose Project Ragna Rok ritual seemed to have failed. The Russian was unfazed. Events were unfolding as he wished…
Five decades later, the baby had grown into a mighty warrior engaging in a never-ending secret war: the world’s most successful paranormal investigator. Bruttenholm spent years lovingly raising the weird foundling whilst forming an organisation to destroy unnatural threats and supernatural monsters – The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. “Hellboy” quickly became its lead agent.
Moreover, as the decades of his career unfolded, Hellboy gleaned tantalising snatches of his origins, hints that he was an infernal creature of dark portent: born a demonic messiah, somehow destined to destroy the world and bring back ancient powers of evil. It is a fate he despises and utterly rejects, even though the universe keeps inexorably and relentlessly moving him towards it…
Hellboy was swiftly attributed the status of ‘legend’ in the comics world, starting as the particular vision of a single creator and, by judicious selection of assistants and deputies, cementing a solid take on the character in the hearts of the public. That’s just how it worked for Superman, Batman and Spider-Man and a big part of the same phenomenon was the eagerness of fellow creators to play in the same universe. Just how that and this collection came about is detailed in Editor Scott Allie’s Introduction preceding a blazing welter of strange and bizarre entertainment…
Originally an 8-part comics series wherein a star-studded cast of creators tell their own stories in their own varied styles under the watchful supervision of the big cheese himself in his unique infernal playground, Hellboy’s Weird Tales was gathered into a 2-volume set in 2004. This luxurious hardback and digital reissue originated in 2014, supplementing the original miniseries with back-up stories from Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #2-4.
Dramas that add to the canon nestle alongside bizarre and humorous vignettes that simply live for the moment and begin with ‘How Koschei Became Deathless’ crafted by Mignola, Guy Davis, Dave Stewart & Clem Robins. The filler from Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #2 & 3 details the valiant trials of a noble warrior and the bad bargain he made, after which a crafty man turns the tables on the world’s wickedest witch in ‘Baba Yaga’s Feast’ (H:TWH #4).
The mother of monsters returns in Fabian Nicieza & Stefano Raffaele’s ‘The Children of the Black Mound’ wherein a future soviet dictator has his own youthful and life-altering encounter with the queen of magic.
John Cassaday spoofs classic newspaper strips with rollicking pulp science hero in ‘Lobster Johnson: Action Detective Adventure’, after which Nazi-bashing nonsense, Eric Powell explores Hellboy’s childhood and early monster-mashing in ‘Midnight Cowboy’ whilst Tom Sniegoski & Ovi Nedelcu raise our spirits with an older ghostbuster failing to tackle a playful posse of spooks in ‘Haunted’…
A classical doomed East/West war romance ghost tragedy is settled by Tommy Lee Edwards & Don Cameron in ‘A Love Story’, setting the scene for more Japanese myth busting in ‘Hot’ by Randy Stradley & Seung Kim wherein the B.P.R.D. star clashes with an unhappy Tengu water spirit inhabiting a mountain hot spring…
Joe Casey & Steve Parkhouse then celebrate the glory days of test pilots and the right stuff in ‘Flight Risk’, when Hellboy gets involved in a competition to see who’s got the best jetpack, after which ‘Family Story’ (Sara Ryan & Steve Lieber) sees him acting as counsellor to the mum and dad of a rather diabolical kid, before we slip into all-out arcane action to retrieve a time bending artefact from a Guatemalan temple in ‘Shattered’ by Ron Marz & Jim Starlin.
A stakeout with an over-amorous fellow agent leads to unanticipated consequences in ‘Love is Scarier than Death’ by J. H. Williams III, whilst Will Pfeifer & P. Craig Russell’s dalliance with an undying theatre troupe traps our hellish hero in a ‘Command Performance’.
The entertainment motif continues in John Cassaday’s ‘Big-Top-Hell-Boy’ as the B.P.R.D. try to exorcise a mass-murderous circus in Germany before Hellboy and Abe Sapien battle zombies in the ‘Theatre of the Dead’ by Jim Pascoe & Tom Fassbender, illustrated by Simeon Wilkins.
The aquatic avenger sort of stars in comedic daydream ‘Abe Sapien: Star of the B.P.R.D.’ by John Arcudi & Roger Langridge, after which Jill Thompson takes ‘Fifteen Minutes’ to offer us the other side’s view of the eternal struggle whilst Matt Hollingsworth &Alex Maleev show us that the struggle against evil starts before we’re even legally alive in ‘Still Born’…
Indomitable psychic firestarter Liz Sherman acknowledges personal loss and the dreadful cost of the job in Jason Pearson’s ‘The Dread Within’ before Scott Morse conjures up a calmer moment for Hellboy in ‘Cool Your Head’ before Akira Yoshida & Kia Asamiya return us to ghost-riddled Japan for an unconventional duel with childish spirits in ‘Toy Soldier’…
Bob Fingerman’s ‘Downtime’ pits the cream of the B.P.R.D. against the vexatious thing inhabiting the office vending machine, after which Doug Petrie & Gene Colan follow Liz and Abe on typical ‘Friday’, even as artificial hero Roger the Homunculus foolishly seeks ‘Professional Help’ during a devious demonic assault (as recorded by Evan Dorkin).
Andi Watson tackles Hellboy’s infernal heritage and possible future during a social function where he is – as always – the ‘Party Pooper’, after which team leader/psychologist Kate Corrigan endures an acrimonious reunion with her dead-but-still-dreadful mother in ‘Curse of the Haunted Dolly’ by Mark Ricketts & Eric Wright, whilst Kev Walker pits bodiless spirit Johann Krauss against a thing from outer space in ‘Long Distance Caller’.
The narrative portion of this stellar fear & fun fest rightly focuses on Hellboy himself as Craig Thompson takes the warrior on an extended tour of the underworld in ‘My Vacation in Hell’ but there’s still a wealth of wonder to enjoy as Mike Mignola’s Hellboy Weird Tales Gallery offers a selection of potent images by Cameron Stewart, Maleev, Dave Stevens with Dave Stewart, Steve Purcell, William Stout, Leinil Francis Yu, Phil Noto, Gary Fields with Michelle Madsen, J. H. Williams III, Rick Cortes with Anjin, Galen Showman with Michelle Madsen, Ben Templesmith, Frank Cho with Dave Stewart, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Lee Bermejo with Dave Stewart and Scott Morse.
Baroque, grandiose, scary, hilarious and even deeply moving, these vignettes alternate suspenseful slow-boiling tension with explosive catharsis, and trenchant absurdity, proving Hellboy to be a fully rounded character who can mix apocalyptic revelation with astounding adventure to enthral horror addicts and action junkies alike or enthral jaded fun-lovers in search of a momentary chuckle. This is a classic compendium of dark delights you simply must have.
™ & © 2003, 2009, 2014 Mike Mignola. Weird Tales is ® Weird Tales, Ltd.