Wake the devil

What first got you excited about comics?
Boy, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that! My cousin was a comic-book reader, and I was exposed to great Marvel comics—Stan Lee, Jack Kirby stuff—when I was really young, and while I didn’t really become a comic book collector until later, like in junior high school, the bug kind of hit me early that there was this whole world I was unaware of. As I got a little older, I sort of rediscovered this stuff I’d been exposed to as a young kid, and I was just hooked.

What was it that appealed to you? Was it about getting away from reality?
Yeah, it was a real spectacular kind of fiction—there’s the art and the story, and I was drawing since I was tiny, and so the art obviously appealed to me—but it was mostly the mythology.

So what inspired you to go from being a fan to writing and creating your own stories?
From an early age, partly fuelled by comics, but also from the books I started reading, I always loved the supernatural—I always loved monsters—and as I went through art school, my goal was to somehow make a living drawing monsters. There aren’t a lot of jobs doing that! [laughs] And I’d actually gotten out of comics, and wasn’t really following them at that point.

I was gearing myself towards becoming an illustrator, but at some point you realise there aren’t a lot of jobs for an illustrator that wants to draw monsters. So as I came out of art school, I started looking at comics again as a place where I could get away with drawing monsters. I didn’t think I was good enough to draw comics, but I though that by getting in there and inking other people’s work, slowly, little by little, I would eventually be able to get a job in comics, drawing covers or something like that.

I thought that was the only outlet for what I wanted to do. It never even occurred to me to write my own stories at that point. I was in the business for ten years before I started even playing with the idea of writing my own stuff.

What prompted you to start writing?
Well, after ten years in the business, drawing a lot of stuff that didn’t have monsters in it [laughs], I realised that the only way I was going to get to draw the stuff I wanted to draw was to make it up myself.

There was actually a Batman story that I wrote with someone else, but it was my idea, so basically “here’s a list of the things I wanna draw”. I drew it and someone else scripted it, and it was a lot of fun.

Suddenly, I was sitting there thinking that was kind of nice, getting to do my subject matter, so why don’t I, instead of making up other weird stories like this and trying to stick Batman or some other established characters into them, make up my own characters specifically for the purpose of doing these kinds of supernatural stories?

I knew the kinds of stories and subject matter I wanted to do, so then it was just a matter of making up a character to base these stories around. Hellboy isn’t a character I’d planned to do—not something I’d made up as a little kid. I’d done one or two drawings of a character kind of like him, and on one drawing I’d tacked on the name Hellboy, just as a joke.

I actually wanted to do a cult detective kind of character, and I would have made him a regular human being, except I knew I’d get bored drawing a regular human being, and so I just thought why not take this fun monster and make him my main character, because I won’t get bored drawing him!

With thanks to Mike and Christine Mignola, and the guys at Dark Horse. The official Hellboy website can be found at hellboy.com.

Hellboy week navigation:
Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6