Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola

On the last day of Emerald City Comicon, Mike Mignola and I met for an early morning interview, and we spoke while vendors and guests set up their booths and wares.  Eventually, a line formed in front of Mike's table--before the show even opened--but we still had time to cover the world-changing events that occurred in both Hellboy and B.P.R.D. in 2010.  As Mike reveals below, though, 2010 has nothing on 2011 and the future of his universe is primed for a big state of flux. The B.P.R.D. panel this weekend was a shocker with two big announcements. The first was that Guy Davis is leaving the title. What does this mean for the series?

Mike Mignola: You know, we hate to lose him. Guy’s been on the book for something like eight years, punching it in almost on a monthly schedule, which nobody does anymore. Guy has done amazing stuff; he’s made that book his. We’re sad to see him go, but I certainly understand it. There were certainly no hard feelings or anything. It was like, “Guy, believe me, we certainly understand. It’s time. You want to go and do other stuff? That’s cool. You ever want to come back? We hope to see you again.”

But it did mean a scramble to find somebody else, and we did. He’s not that young a guy--he’s certainly younger than me, named Tyler Crook. I loved his work. It’d been so long since I’d seen a guy that I was this instantly excited about. As soon as I saw his work in Long Beach and met him--he’s a real good guy--I went home and looked him up on the internet and contacted John Arcudi--you know, the real writer on B.P.R.D. I said, “Look this guy up.” So then when Guy decided to leave, Tyler was the first--and really only--guy we thought of. It’s a bit of a shock to the system, because at this point the guy has done one, maybe two books for Oni [Press], neither of which [is] published, so to the large world out there he’s pretty unknown. But his stuff is fantastic. It’s not like Guy’s, but it has a certain similarity to Guy in that he’s not a superhero artist. He’s a really good people artist. His stuff has a wonderful energy; it’s has a slightly indie kind of feel. We’re just really excited to see how the book shapes up. The second big bit of news is that you are returning to artistic duties on Hellboy. What changed in your life and schedule that allows you to pick up the pen again?

Mike Mignola: It’s funny, because I’ve heard a couple people say that this is “news,” but I’ve been saying this for the last two years at shows. “I’m coming back to draw the book. Please, this time believe me!” Yeah, I never planned to be away from the drawing for this long, and for at least a year or so I’ve known that when Duncan [Fegredo, artist] finished up his latest storyline, I would take over drawing the book, and Duncan’s almost done. So, I’ve been scrambling for the last six months to get through the writing I’ve got to do and the covers I’ve got to do--get all that stuff out of the way--so I can focus most of my energy back in drawing and writing the comic for myself. There are three new Hellboy stories coming up: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish, Being Human, and The Fury. Are you planning to draw any of these?

Mike Mignola: No. Buster Oakley is a oneshot comic drawn by the legendary Kevin Nowlan. Being Human is another oneshot done by Richard Corben, and The Fury is the sequel to last year’s The Storm and is the last of Duncan’s miniseries. [The Fury] is the biggest thing; the other two are nice, but The Fury is the biggest thing I’ve ever done with Hellboy, the capper to the whole thing we’ve been doing for the last four years, and it sets the stage for me taking over the book. In 2010, there were revelations in Hellboy: The Wild Hunt and B.P.R.D.: King of Fear and you introduced a new character, Witchfinder. How does it feel to finally put to bed some of the mystery in Hellboy’s origins and bloodline?

Mike Mignola: When you actually start putting that stuff to paper, you go, “Am I really going to do this? Am I really going to make [Hellboy] the king of England? Am I really going to pop out his eye?” It’s strange when you write that script, it’s strange when you see the artwork, and then it’s strange when it goes out there. I always say the book is supposed to change and evolve, but when you do those big ones, it’s always a little nerve-wracking. But those changes compared to what we’re doing this year in The Fury are, like, nothing. When we last spoke, you talked about wanting to break things that can’t be fixed in B.P.R.D.: King of Fear, but where do you go next?

Mike Mignola: Yeah, same kind of a thing. We’ve turned corners in B.P.R.D. that we’ve been talking about for years. The Hellboy changes are kind of global, but B.P.R.D. deals with the changing geography of the world. The fact that we’ve destroyed a big chunk of Houston, you know--those kinds of changes. We just did a comic here with a monster wrecking Seattle. Now, if Marvel or DC does that...some monster blows up Seattle, but the next week or so Seattle’s pretty much OK.

With B.P.R.D., I kind of wish we were doing three books a month because the changes are so big and there are so many ramifications, and the dominoes are falling faster and more dominoes are falling all the time. It’s a gigantic, global story. In 2010, you did a palate-cleanser story in B.P.R.D.: 1947, where you took a break from all the big events and focused on a smaller story. Do you have any plans for a similar type of breather in 2011?

Mike Mignola: We have a two-issue Abe Sapien miniseries, and I know we do have plans for B.P.R.D.: 1948-- Awesome.

Mike Mignola: But I don’t think that’s on schedule for this year. One character we will be coming back to next year is Lobster Johnson. We’ve had a Lobster Johnson miniseries in the works now for a year or so, and we finally got the artist working on it, and it’s beautiful stuff--but that’ll be a big thing for 2012. You mentioned we’d introduced Witchfinder, and I’d love to write more books on that character, but I just don’t have the time. There will be a lot more focus on Lobster Johnson in the future. Witchfinder does have a quasi-sequel by John Arcudi in the works, correct?

Mike Mignola: It’s funny how that came about. John Arcudi did a B.P.R.D. book with the legendary John Severin, and they got to talking and Arcudi said to me that he’d love to write a western with Severin. John Severin is the best western artist in the history of comics. And I said, “Yeah, but it’s unfortunate that we don’t have a character in the universe that takes place in the Old West. But you know what? I’ve got this Victorian occult detective I wanted to do something with. Why don’t you write a western where that character goes to the Old West?”

John got moving on that, and then I thought, “Geez, that shouldn’t be the first Edward Grey, Witchfinder miniseries. He’s an English occult detective. We should probably see what it’s like being an English occult detective.” John had already started the western before I started the first [collection], In The Service of Angels, so that one was done to establish the guy before we did the fish-out-of-water, Old West story.

In the B.P.R.D.: 1947 book that you mentioned, there are two or three different characters introduced who all kind of want to spin off into their own books. So, there’s talk of some things spinning off of B.P.R.D.: 1947. At the panel, a fan commented on the evolution of your artwork. With your return to illustration, are there any subtle or obvious changes planned for your style?

Mike Mignola: There’s really nothing I’ve got planned. I’ve played with the idea of changing technique a little bit, like doing a story in pencil and having Dave Stewart color over my pencils. I’m used to doing it a certain way. I’m not looking to experiment; I’m very happy with the way my stuff’s been looking lately. I’m just excited about getting back and writing and drawing for myself all day long.


So long, ECCC 2011.  For more comics talk, see also our interviews with Guy Davis, Dave Stewart, John Arcudi, Scott Allie, and Chris Roberson

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