20 years is a long time in comics, in a medium that has arcs that can take less than a year to complete the long term nature of characters can be problematic. One option is the constant reinvention and retelling of stories especially origin tales. There is of course another option and that is to create a universe for your character to live in, this is where we find Hellboy.
2 decades ago Mike Mignola transformed an idea into a movement in comics that has endured. His original Hellboy which is pictured in the book and in (Fig 1) was shaggy and slightly resembled Beast of X-Men fame. However the final depiction of Big Red is very similar to the one we can see today (young Hellboy being the exception). The first picture was actually created in 1991 but from that point on we get a steady stream of images from 1994 to 2013.
In terms of art Mignola can be a little marmite, those who love him tend to follow his work with passion but some may be put off by his use of darkness and stylised character models. I am a fan I admit and found this tour of art fascinating but it may not be for all. Art books tend to pick and choose the best art from an artist’s back catalogue. This can cause problem if art has been sold to collectors and I’m not sure if that is the problem but there seems to be sparseness in the early years of the book. The first 8 years are represented by 9 pieces but from 2004 onwards the stream of pictures gathers pace.
The art is a mix of completed pictures as well as sketches, these show the creation process and it’s interesting to see the mix of hard and soft lines that together form the final character (Fig 2 & 3). I would have loved a brief piece of narration on these images but that is probably just a little greedy. We do get some narration in the book in the form of an Introduction by Peter de Seve and a foreword by Mike Mignola. Both help to set the scene for the book and Mignola does thank a lot of people in his page of writing but after 20 years there must be a lot of people who collaborated on his works.
Overall this is a wonderful book and well worth the price of admission, I would easily recommend this to fans of the Mignolaverse. If you are new but love art then this could be a good purchase as it shows one of the best artists doing his thing. Hellboy does seem like a labour of love for Mignola and thankfully there is a promise of more to come. With any luck we will be back in 20 years for another anniversary edition.
Issue Rating 4.5/5
The Comic is available in both print and digital from Dark Horse comics. Follow this link for more details.
More from the pages of Hellboy
Images courtesy of Dark Horse Comics
Comic - Provided by Creator
Comic - Provided by Creator