In part two of our interview with Hellboy creator and Frankenstein Underground writer Mike Mignola, Mr. Mignola discusses how the Hellboy universe has allowed him to explore a plethora of genres, as well as his proudest achievement in creating the extended cast of characters in Hellboy’s world. We also have a first look at the covers of June’s Mignolaverse titles!
FreakSugar: We discussed how you introduced the Frankenstein monster to the world of Hellboy. Are there any other classic monsters or other sub-genres within the horror storytelling realm you would like to try your hand at writing?
Mike Mignola: I kinda like to touch on everything. One of the things we talked about with the new Hellyboy and the B.P.R.D. series, with the stories set in the 1950s, was, when we started, I wanted to do a string of stories that felt like 1950s monster movies. It’s something that keeps it fresh for me, to say, “You know, we haven’t done a Creature from the Black Lagoon kind of thing.” Would I used the Universal Pictures movie The Creature from the Black Lagoon? No, but it’s such an archetypal creature at this point, let’s do a story that’s a nod to that. Let’s do story that’s a nod to Edgar Allen Poe. Let’s do a story that’s a nod to this or that. There’s a ton of that stuff we haven’t done. And it’s fun to say at this point that I want to do my version of this movie or that story.
So, the whole point of Hellboy from the very beginning is that it was my place to do whatever I want. It is kind of narrowed down to the horror stuff, but within that we’ve done westerns, we’ve done war stories. There’s so much to do. I don’t imagine another case of bringing in a literary character. It was never my intention to do that. The Frankenstein thing just kind of happened. But I don’t imagine doing a Hellboy/Dracula crossover unless there’s a way to do it that’s completely different. Maybe the historical Dracula, I don’t know. But I don’t want it to become a parade of recognizable monsters, but to do my spin on recognizable monsters, I think, is part of the game.
Now I’m going to be thinking about doing a Creature from the Black Lagoon story because we haven’t done that. [laughs]
FS: How did Ben Stenbeck become involved in the book Frankenstein Underground? Had you two been talking about it or did you write the story and it was the case that he became the right fit?
MM: After I realized the House of the Living Dead graphic novel I did and realized that was the Frankenstein monster, I thought that was interesting, but I had no burning desire to do the book. But somewhere along the way, the title Frankenstein Underground popped in my head and the simple idea that Frankenstein meets Edgar Rice Burroughs and you file it away. Then, when Ben was looking something different to do, we talked about two or three different things in the Hellboy world that we could explore. And then I said, “And there’s this thing Frankenstein Underground” and he said he wanted to do that.
So, that’s when those projects become real. There are a lot of things you make up just as an exercise. “Nothing’s been done with this guy. What if we do this and this?” And then you put it on the shelf and if the right artist comes along and is looking to do something specific like that, you go, “Good, we’ve got one of those.” But Ben reacted to Frankenstein Underground. Originally we were going to do a series of books, but as the plot shaped up and became something other than Frankenstein tripping through a parade of monsters, when I brought in the Victorian stuff and the center of the world stuff from my Hellboy mythology, that story closed up. It just became one book. If at some point, if we come up with another idea, we can do it, but I was content with it being just one book. Which meant, then, I had to make up some other book for Ben. [laughs] I do want to keep him happy and I do want to continue to keep him happy. So I came up with another thing for him that we’re both pretty excited about.
FS: I’m glad you’re keeping him happy because the art really matches the subject material.
MM: Yeah, it’s hard to say exactly what makes Ben perfect for this, but his stuff is grounded in a kind of realism, a kind of humanity. He brings a wonderful humanness to his characters. It’s funny that for the Frankenstein monster, someone who can do human is so important. He was perfect for it.
FS: Hellboy has been around for a couple decades now. Reflecting on the extended universe that you’ve created, what is your proudest achievement?
MM: We’ve done so many characters and stories that we’re proud of. But what’s been hitting me the last few years is that we’ve done all of these books and done them very organically. This thing that started with Hellboy has ballooned into 20 years of continuity that’s created this world that I’m really excited about. And that there’s so much room to grow and so many more stories to tell, I think that’s the thing I’m most proud of.
I was reading Marvel comics in the 70s and it’s very weird to me that the Hellboy universe has been around longer than the Marvel universe was when I was reading Marvel comics. That’s really crazy to me. The Marvel stuff felt like it had been around forever. But what I loved about the Marvel comics is that you felt like there was one world. The fact that Nick Fury was the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., but there were comics with him in World War II, it had this wonderful big world, big history kind of a feel. And the fact that I think we’ve created something similar to that, that’s what I’m most proud of. And the fact that I’ve gotten to work with the guys I’ve gotten to work with, it feels like an accomplishment to have done it.
And at the end, it will be nice to say that we told a finite story. What’s got me especially excited right now is that we’re starting the last third of the B.P.R.D. series, where things get to where they’re ultimately going. And with Hellboy, there was an arc to his life and there’s an arc to his afterlife.
Be sure to check out part 1 of our interview with Mr. Mignola as well!