ComicMix Six: The Best ‘Hellboy’ Stories
In previous editions of ComicMix Six, we’ve rounded up everything from Political Campaigns in Comics to Celebrity Team-Ups. This Friday marks the newest milestone for Mike Mignola’s Hellboy franchise, with the movie sequel Hellboy 2: The Golden Army hitting theaters, so this week’s list focuses on Mignola’s most popular creation.
The evil-fighting demon named "Hellboy" has been one of the most successful new superheroes introduced in the past 20 years, first appearing as a joke illustration from Mignola in the early 1990s and then evolving into his current incarnation to debut in a full-fledged Dark Horse comics series.
Now the Hellboy world is huge, comprising several Hellboy books, the B.P.R.D. line, video games and the Hellboy movies.
Picking through all those 15-plus years of content, here are the six very best Hellboy stories, from epics to little fairy tales, from Cavendish Hall to Hell on Earth, and everywhere in between (Note: Only Hellboy-specific stories are included in the list).
Read on for the ComicMix Six: Best Hellboy Stories.
SEED OF DESTRUCTION
This is the book that started it all, beginning with Rasputin’s creation of a portal at the end of World War II, bringing a young Hellboy to earth. After the attack of the frog monsters, Hellboy is started on a path of realizing his intended purpose, to bring about the end of the earth.
While Mignola’s art isn’t as sharp (at least not at first) as it eventually became, this story has all the essentials: monsters, hints of Ragnarok, pithy dialogue, huge fights and more smarts than a book like this should have.
Much of this comic served as the basis for the first film, though a few of the more odd elements were taken out.
Of Note: I had forgotten this, but John Byrne scripted this initial miniseries for Mignola.
One of the highlights of the Hellboy comics over the years has been how Mignola finds random, dark pieces of folklore and twists them into fresh stories for his big red protagonist.
This is perhaps the best of the straight folklore stories (the story is Irish), pitting HB against a demon… but with a twist. To heal a possessed baby, Hellboy has to bury a corpse in a limited amount of time, and of course no shortage of supernatural roadblocks get in his way.
Of Note: The fight against the giant warthog. Awesome.
HELLBOY (THE MOVIE)
An even greater story of triumph than Hellboy besting the frog monsters is the epic tale of Mignola and director Guillermo del Toro shepherding this story to screen without conceding to the studios.
Battling against demands that someone more famous than Ron Perlman take the lead role, the two managed to make this very weird story into a pretty weird movie that ended up having a decent box office run.
Del Toro also deserves credit for tweaking the story enough to make it accessible without losing the essence of the character. And the DVD is worth buying just for the documentary on how he had a team of designers build the monsters instead of relying on CG.
Of Note: In the comics, Professor Broom dies right off. But in the film, John Hurt’s Broom lasts a good while and cements a place as one of the best sage characters from an action movie.
Any story that begins at an explorers’ club with a talking mummy whispering a secret to Hellboy has to be good stuff.
This 2007 story sees Hellboy whisked off into an African dream world, where he envisions a great creation myth but with himself at the center of the story. It doesn’t tie into the grand Hellboy mythos, but it’s a good standalone yarn.
Of Note: This was Hellboy’s only trip into Africa.
This 2005 story appears in the collection The Troll Witch, which came out last year. Mignola lists it as one of his favorite stories, even though fans didn’t particularly love it.
It’s a pretty simple tale, of the fight between Hellboy and a ghoulish man who keeps himself from aging by feasting on corpses. If that sounds disgusting, just wait until the giant maggots come in.
As gruesome as it is, The Ghoul is one of Mignola’s most narratively ambitious projects, intertwining lines of poetry and layers of storytelling with the macabre action.
Of Note: The two poems quoted in the story are The Pleasure of Melancholy and The Grave.
This might be the most famous Hellboy short, and for good reason. Hellboy’s in Japan and he fights demonic floating heads.
Let me reiterate: DEMONIC FLOATING HEADS!
Those three words pretty well encapsulate what’s so great about Hellboy, and the scene of big red whacking them with a stick is just gravy.
Of Note: Hellboy’s quotes are always great, and this issue has some quality ones, including: "You guys were gonna eat me? … I’ve had enough of this crap."
Want more ComicMix Six? Check out the ComicMix Six Archive for previous editions of CM6.