23 December, 1944.
The battle in Europe is coming to a close. The Nazi war-machine is grinding to a halt under the constant harassment of the Allies. However, on an isolated island off the coast of Scotland, top-level German scientists are in the midst of a project that will culminate in the Third Reich turning the course of the war in its favour once again.
A Russian mystic, long thought dead, a group of occultists and an elite team of Nazi Storm-Troopers are performing a ritual that will see the minions of Hell, perhaps even the Devil himself, join the Nazi fight for world supremacy.
But as luck would have it, a small band of British Paranormal Researchers and a group of US Special Forces soldiers have discovered the plan: they attack the Germans as the ritual nears its end. Amidst the confusion of battle a creature is summoned - a small demon, perhaps even a child. A boy. From Hell.
And so Hellboy is born. One of the world's greatest, and perhaps strangest, superheroes.
Who is Hellboy?
Creation of graphic novelist/artist Mike Mignola, Hellboy is a hulking character. Standing well over 7 foot on cloven hooves, a trench coat hides much of his muscular form. He holds a hand-made pistol of immense calibre in his left hand; while his right hand is larger than his head, made of stone and ten times as tough. Bright, intelligent eyes smoke sullenly under a forehead that two large lumps grace; the vestiges of horns that are a reminder of his curious heritage, along with his demon tail and brick-red skin.
Taken under the wing of the newly-formed Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence (BPRD) not long after his 'birth', Hellboy has spent much of his life hunting down and dealing with not just Nazis, but also various demons, goblins, ghouls, ghosts and other supernatural nasties that threaten the world. While preferring to work alone, Hellboy has teamed up with other members of the BPRD in his long and incredible career. Among them are: Abe Sapien, a humanoid fish creature who has a remarkable resemblance to the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but infinitely more mysterious; Elizabeth Sherman, a young woman with amazing pyro-telekinetic1 powers; Dr. Kate Kerrigan, who can only be described as a hands-on crypto-zoologist2; Lobster Johnson, a legendary crime fighter; and an altogether stupendous variety of other people and things. All have aided Hellboy in defeating his many enemies, such as numerous insane Nazi scientists, the "mad monk" Rasputin, Baba Yaga - witch of legend, and the more than occasional demon and alien. While Hellboy was created in the pits of Hell, his upbringing has lent him a human conscience. However, his constant fear is that perhaps he is simply a demon, the Right Hand of Doom, Destroyer of Worlds. Only time will tell if he is...
Hellboy's astounding adventures, along with those of his friends and enemies, can be read in the following anthologies published by Dark Horse Comics:
Seed of Destruction
Wake the Devil
The Chained Coffin and Others
Right Hand of Doom
Aside from Mike Mignola, other writers have lent their own pen to the legend that is Hellboy, including Christopher Golden (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel Comics) and Poppy Z. Brite (Lost Souls, Exquisite Corpse) in:
The Bones of Giants
The Lost Army
B.P.R.D; Hollow Earth and Other Stories
The Art of Hellboy
Mike Mignola's artwork is remarkably dark and atmospheric. His angular take and use of light and shadow, coupled with negative space and a limited narrative give Hellboy tales the appropriate ambience of the supernatural, so much so his talent has been put to good use for the graphic novelisation of Francis Ford Coppola's film Bram Stoker's Dracula. The storylines, whether short tales or continuing sagas, are reminiscent of HP Lovecraft with references to world folklore and mythology recurrent. There is a black humour, yet compelling insights into human behaviour, that make the Hellboy graphic novels easy to read and enjoy.
Mignola has proved his influence on contemporary writers and artists with many lending their skills to spin-off Hellboy comics: Hellboy Jr and Hellboy: Weird Tales. Contributors to these alone include Bill Wray (Ren and Stimpy) and Dave Cooper (Futurama), while Hellboy has also been seen working alongside various comic book heroes including Batman, Starman and Madman. Other names to add to the flock of artists and writers associated with Hellboy are Mike Allred (Madman), James Robinson (Batman/Starman), Eric Larsen (Spider-Man/Savage Dragon) and Frank Miller (Daredevil/Batman/Sin City).
Hellboy in Other Media
There are games available to play on both PlayStation and PC - Hellboy: Dogs of the Night or Hellboy: Asylum Seeker; and a game in which the characters of the Hellboy graphic novels can be played against each other or other characters from various comics in a system called HeroClix.
Hellboy and Mignola have also captured the imagination of Film Director Guillermo Del Toro (Cronos, Blade 2) with Hellboy making his big screen appearance mid 2004, Ron Perlman (The City of Lost Children, Alien 4, Blade 2) in the title role, with plans for a trilogy of films to be released. The stars of the Hellboy film have also lent their voices to the animated movies Sword of Storms and Blood & Iron, whilst a second live-action film, Hellboy 2 - The Golden Army, goes into pre-production early 2007.
Mignola is also the creator of the comic books:
The Amazing Screw-On Head