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Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part Two)

In Part One of our interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, we discussed the recent original graphic novel, The Midnight Circus, and his narrative influences. In Part Two of our spirited conversation, we explore the forthcoming Hellboy in Hell storyline, the changing status quo of his universe—where Mike gently corrects my understanding about a particular character—and our favorite new vampire film. 

Alex Carr: While young Hellboy begins his adventures in The Midnight Circus, his career, as we know it, ends in Hellboy in Hell. What awaits him in Hell?

Mike Mignola: A lot of family stuff; I’ll say some old “friends” with quotations marks around it; a lot—a lot of stuff [laughs]. The first volume of Hellboy in Hell is really settling him into Hell. We get a tour of that world—not the complete world, but Hellboy gets shown around a bit. We get to see a little bit of how my version of Hell works. And most important, we see that by Hellboy appearing in Hell, major changes have happened with the guys who have been running Hell. Hellboy gets in there and throws a pretty big rock in that pond.

There are some major changes that happen, and really, after that first volume I want to focus on doing smaller stories for a while and go back to my spin on fairy and folk tales. My long-term goal with Hell—we’ll see the Greek underworld, we’ll see the sort-of Asian underworld of Hell so I can do Asian-related fairy tales and folklore and use the creatures from those mythologies.

AC: There’s an apocalyptic theme running through your entire universe at the moment. We’ve got Hellboy in Hell, and in B.P.R.D. there’s a multi-year arc called Hell on Earth. Why so grim?

MM: You know, things do look pretty grim, but I think there are more laughs in Hellboy in Hell than there are in B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth. I think Hell is getting nicer and Earth is getting worse [laughs]. Once we figured out what we were doing, the whole point of the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. stuff has always been evolution. The kind of evolution we’re seeing on Earth is nasty evolution—part of this kind of evolution is that you have to wipe out what was there before you can replace it.

In B.P.R.D., a lot of the old ways of doing things are being replaced, and people are going to struggle against things like, you know, giant monsters coming down to re-pave the planet. Human beings are going to try to stop that. Can they do it? I don’t know. Everything is changing, and there’s a lot of destruction that goes along with it.

AC: Amidst all these changes, two characters remain unaffected so far: Lobster Johnson and Lord Baltimore. These are more peripheral characters in your universe—

MM: Baltimore is a totally unrelated series from Hellboy. Do you mean Witchfinder?

AC: I’m sorry. I thought Lord Baltimore fit in there somewhere—

MM: No, no. If, in fact, World War I came to a screeching halt because vampires starting overrunning the world, people would reference that.

AC: [Laughs]

MM: Baltimore is another kind of apocalyptic book.

AC: Thank you for the correction, Mike.

MM: I hope it doesn’t hurt sales! If people think it’s a part of the Hellboy universe, maybe that’s why it sells as well as B.P.R.D. [laughs]. And that’s fine.

AC: They’re all resonating with readers, and when you create characters, be they leads or peripheral, is there a thread you recognize that makes for particular favorites among fans?

MM: I wish I could say I had any idea what I was doing when I designed characters. I just take things I like and make my version of it. Baltimore was never intended to be anything other than this original novel that Chris Golden and I did together. There was never any thought of this thing going on and becoming a series. If there’s any common thing between these characters, it’s that they weren’t anything I was seeing in comics. Almost everything I’ve done is something I wish somebody else was doing, because it’s what I’d like to read.

Way back when, Hellboy was entirely the comic I wish someone much more talented than I was doing, because I would have been a huge fan of that comic. But nobody was doing it, so it fell to me to do it. Baltimore, maybe on some level, is a reaction to how romanticized vampires are portrayed today. I’m a fan of the old-school supernatural stuff. So, the idea of glitter-y vampires and romance-y vampires…not my favorite thing. I was very happy to create a book that was completely on the other end of that spectrum.

AC: I agree, and I’m going to break here and ask if you’ve watched Kiss of the Damned. It’s a new vampire film—

MM: I have.

AC: Is that the kind of vampire you love, because I thought it was very old-school.

MM: Yeah, I thought that was great. I usually don’t like things with a modern setting, but that I liked. That one had nice relationship-stuff but it didn’t take the teeth out of them. My daughter is reading various YA [Young Adult] vampire stuff, and I ask her, “Is there even a bad vampire in the story?” There’s always a good vampire now, but do any of them sleep in coffins? And I would bring her down to my library and say, “Here’s every classic vampire literature. There are coffins, there’s this, there’s that,” you know? “When you get to the YA stuff, you may try some of this stuff just to see where it came from.”

AC: Reading The Midnight Circus felt like such a fine way to end autumn, and your stories play so well to that season—maybe it’s Dave Stewart’s colors. Are you a fan of that season and the Halloween celebrations?

MM: You know, I don’t do anything for Halloween. I carry Halloween inside of me [laughs]. I don’t do costumes, I don’t do sh_t like that. But certainly to look around my house—it’s not decorated like Halloween—it’s all fall colors. I love Halloween as a concept, but do I actually go out and do things? No. Trick or treating? Pain in the ass. Hate answering the door all night long. I do love fall, which is bad because I live in Los Angeles [laughs]. 

---

Many thanks to Mike Mignola and Dark Horse comics for this opportunity to speak again. For more from Mr. Mignola, please see previous interviews with him here and here 

--Alex

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