Mike Mignola’s work has taken a noble, if somewhat unusual path in the quarter-century that he’s been making a living as a cartoonist. The artist began his professional career first inking and later drawing mainstream superhero franchises like Daredevil, The Incredible Hulk, Alpha Flight, and Batman. Where an impressive spread of titles like those would have no doubt satisfied a good number of professional comics artists, Mignola found himself restless, eager to work on his own creations, through less tightly controlled and more independent channels.
In this second and final part of our interview, we discuss how Mignola’s work with Marvel and DC lead to the birth of his most famous creation, the ways in which the two cinematic adaptations of the character have influenced their source material, and what sort of bleak future awaits his ever-expanding universe.
You have a history of working with more mainstream superheroes. Was Hellboy something of an attempt to work within the genre, while breaking away from some of the clichés?
Yeah. Being a mainstream comics guy who was never really cut out to do mainstream comics, the mainstream stuff couldn’t help but influence the way that I did Hellboy. I am a guy who likes drawing bigger-than-life stuff. As a reader myself, the book I would have done would have been a regular guy who was an occult detective. That was my original idea, but I knew that I would have gotten bored drawing a regular guy. I needed to make it fun to draw, and I think that’s the formula that works. Comics is a visual medium. A guy wearing a suit and a tie is going to be boring.
Unless you’re Will Eisner.
Yeah. But you make him a big character, and it’s going to attract a little more attention.
What were you not cut out to do in terms of mainstream comics? Working with existing franchises? Working within a strict system?
I just never was never really comfortable drawing superheroes. I grew up reading superheroes, but it just never really fit what I do. Batman was fine—I didn’t really read it as a kid, I was a Marvel guy, but he was dark, moody, spooky, and the less you drew of him, the better he looked, but someone like Superman or Captain America, it’s such real comics, with the real square jaw, no-genital-exterior-underpants stuff. I mean, I love when Jack Kirby does it, but it never really worked for me. I need the weirded stuff. I’m much more comfortable making up a world than drawing Gotham City or something.
So it’s mainly from an artistic standpoint that you had trouble with it?
Yeah, because when I was working on that stuff, I was just an artist, so as long as someone else was writing it, fine. Actually, even as an artist, when I did the Hellboy/Batman crossover, which I didn’t write, it was a pain in the ass for me, because I’d have to ask DC for references. “What does Comissioner Gordon’s office look like?” and stuff like that. Once you get used to the idea of making up your world, it’s really difficult to have to rely on other people’s references for stuff like, “what does this guy’s car look like?” I wouldn’t ever want to go back to that.
It’s got to be even more difficult to do that from a writing stand-point, I imagine.
And that I couldn’t do. People have asked me to write comics, periodically, and I’ve never really thought about it. Taking over, say Teen Titans, or something, you’d have to go back and read a billion issues of that and find out the whole story. I just can’t imagine. I’d constantly be second-guessing. If it’s my thing, then my word is law.
Do you ever look back at all of the Hellboy books and think that you’ve got to reign them in, a bit, that perhaps its turning into an industry unto itself, like Superman?
You know, it’s easy to get carried away, but the thing we haven’t done is say, “there’s a new movie coming out, quick, let’s put out an extra 200 Hellboy books.” I think I’ve kept a pretty tight reign, and I think the one thing I haven’t done is make any change to Hellboy to make it more like the film, or in any way change the storyline I have planned for Hellboy. I’m still doing the story I planned to do. I’m going to make some radical changes to Hellboy, in the next couple of years, that won’t jive at all with the character in the movie, and that’s fine. I view them as completely separate things. The movie is a great thing for attracting attention to Hellboy as a character, but the comic is what the comic is.
Where there plans to make eventual make sequels to the film from the beginning?
We never really talked about it that much. Clearly we wanted to do a second one, and there was some discussion of making three films. There no talk from the studio or from us about Hellboy 5, 6, and 7. That’s never been discussed. We worked on the second film, and things that couldn’t make it in, Guillermo said, “that will go into Hellboy 3,” but there’s no real discussion about a third one. If the second one does as well as everybody hopes, maybe there will be seriously discussion about a Hellboy 3. One thing at a time.
Being that he’s a character over whom you have so much creative control, would you want Hellboy to live on beyond you, way into the future?
There’s a real interesting thing built into Hellboy. It is a finite story. It’s not designed to be around 50 more years. Part of that is I can’t write a character that doesn’t continue to change. Hellboy will continue to change, and there is an ending. You’ll see, even in upcoming B.P.R.D.s where you’ll go, “oh, that’s changed the world.” I’ll change the physical landscape of the world. I’m only going to live to be X number of years old, I might as well destroy the world, up until then. It’s our world. It’s not the DC Comics world, it’s not the Marvel Comics world, where, if Galactus comes down, you’ve got to get into a spaceship and have him leave again. What if Galactus just stayed there? So we’re starting to change shit in the upcoming B.P.R.D.s, so the readers know we’re not fooling around.
How concrete is the end for you? Do you know when and where it will all tie up?
No—it’s not that carved out. I know where things are going, but how long it’s going to take me to get there, I don’t know. I know the last Hellboy scene. Whether that’s the last Hellboy story, I don’t know, but I do know where he’s going.