Blood and iron

Hellboy 2 noticeably moves towards the mythology angle evident in the comics, instead of concentrating on the action and ‘Lovecraftian’ elements of the first.
That was a conscious decision that Del Toro and I both made, because the one element that was not in the first film at all was the folklore and mythology stuff. There was Lovecraft-meets-pulp-magazine-mad-scientist stuff. And so we decided for the second film to do the other side of Hellboy, the folklore and mythology. If you look at the two films together, you kind of see the range of Hellboy.

I was very happy to go in this direction, especially once we’d seen Pan’s Labyrinth, which I hadn’t seen when we made up the story. And maybe it would have been difficult, but when we went in and explained it to the studio—because we’re pitching a story where Hellboy fights fairies and elves, and no matter how much we tapdanced around, sooner or later someone would have to mention fairies or elves, and the other guy would have to jump in and say “It’s not what you think! It’s going to be really dark and really scary”—after Pan’s, it was a lot easier. We could say it’s kind of Hellboy meets Pan’s and everyone knew what we were talking about.

And when I actually saw Pan’s, we were going through a phase where the studio that was going to do the picture wasn’t going to do the picture, and it looked like it wasn’t going to happen. So suddenly all these things that I was reading in the screenplay where I was going “this is cool, but I’ve never seen them doing anything like this,” and “I wonder what it could look like”, once I’d seen Pan’s, I was like “Oh my God—now I see the flavour of Hellboy 2”. To see Pan’s and think we’re not gonna get a chance to make Hellboy 2, that was kind of a rough evening.

It’s kind of funny having to excuse your inclusion of elves and fairies. If you read the old myths, they’re dark and evil creatures.
Del Toro and I understood that, but people either think of cute fairies down the bottom of the garden or they’re thinking Lord of the Rings. With elves, people think of pointy ears, and when you talk about fairies, they only know cute ones. Well, they’ll see a nasty kind of fairy in Hellboy 2! It’s just not what what the film audience is used to, and it’s certainly not a guy sitting in a studio office is used to!

Hellboy also had an animation spin-off, with two DVD features. Where did the idea of that come from?
Well, Del Toro had talked about an animation a lot, but I think it was Revolution Studios that set up the whole animation thing. I wasn’t the driving force behind it—I’m never the driving force behind anything other than the comic. And so when I heard they wanted to do animation, I knew that there was a Hellboy fan named Tad Stone who’d been at Disney for years, but who was now available.

The first thing I said was: “Listen, if you guys are gonna do animation, hire Tad Stone, so someone up there understands the comic.” Because, clearly, Del Toro wasn’t gonna have the time to devote to the animated thing, and I didn’t have time and I’m not an animator. I knew what I’d do story-wise, but again it’s a different medium than the comic, so we needed somebody up there who knew animation, and knew the material and I that I could work with.

Fortunately for me—although I think the fans feel otherwise—they also said they didn’t want it in Mignola style… That was a studio decision, which I was fine with, because if it was in my style, I’d sit there going “Oh, they don’t understand it, they’re not doing it right!” Like when I see people imitating my work, I just see the mistakes. So when they wanted a different style, I thought this was great—one more thing to distance it from the comic and make it an alternate version of Hellboy. Just like Del Toro’s Hellboy is the live-action Hellboy, the animated Hellboy is the ‘Tad Stone’ Hellboy. Both of them are really faithful to the spirit, and the animation is probably closer to the stories that I did, but they’re both their own thing.

How do you personally correlate all the different versions of Hellboy, and which for you is the definitive version?
For me, it’s the one that came first—the one that I do—that’s the definitive version. There are things that I got to do in the animated films that were actually cooler than what I came up with, especially in the third film that it doesn’t look like we’ll get to do, but which was written. It was kind of a retelling of Hellboy’s origin, and a fun opportunity to revisit my material and do it differently.

But the way I did it in the comic is the real Hellboy. It’s my version, and my version has a beginning, a middle and an end that I hopefully will get to one of these days! What’s weird and takes a lot of getting used to now—and this is a good warning for people who are going to go into having work adapted—is that the real version, my version, is the version that the general public will be unaware of. I said to Del Toro the last time I saw him, when we were discussing our various ‘legacies’, that when I die—if anybody remembers and if Hellboy’s still a going concern—and someone says the creator of Hellboy died today, they’ll show a clip from the movie! They won’t show a panel from the comic, because that’s not what the public will know.

It’s funny how many people still don’t see comics as just another storytelling medium. In the UK and USA, you get people flocking to comic-book movies—many of which are actually dumbed down—but they won’t pick up a comic book!
Yeah, there’s still a prejudice against the subject matter, which is why it’s kind of funny they’re flocking to see something that they wouldn’t read, and that they think they know. Maybe with things like Spider-Man and Batman, they saw it as a kid—like the TV show or read the comics. But, you know, those things are in pop culture.

What’s a much bigger struggle is selling a movie like Hellboy, a character that the audience doesn’t know. How do you make it something that more than the 25,000 people that are buying the comic want to see? How do you get beyond that audience?

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

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