I started reading Hellboy comic books when I was still a teenager (thanks to this guy) and I think they’re the greatest thing ever. They’re like Batman meets Raiders of the Lost Ark meets The X-Files, with lots of cool, creepy mythology and globe-trotting supernatural goodness thrown in for good measure.
You can check out writer/artist Mike Mignola’s official Hellboy website here.
Hellboy is actually a demon/devil named Anung Un Rama who, as an infant, was conjured from Hell by Rasputin and a bunch of Nazi wizards and nut-jobs near the end of World War II as part of Project Ragna Rok. But the ceremony was interrupted by a group of American soldiers and Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm, a member of the British Paranormal Society who’d previously been assigned as an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when it became clear that Hitler wanted to use the occult to win not just the war but the world.
So instead of being raised by hateful Nazi psychos who would use him to unleash Hell on Earth, little Anung Un Rama was adopted by Professor Bruttenholm and raised with love and care to become the World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator. Yes, he could still bring on the end of the world if he wanted to. But he’d rather fight monsters and buy you a beer.
It’s one of the best concepts ever.
Hellboy works for the BPRD — the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense — with a team that includes an amphibian fish guy called Abe Sapien and a pretty pyrokinetic named Liz Sherman.
I kind of didn’t like the Hellboy movie that came out in 2004. Ron Perlman was awesome as Hellboy and the rest of the cast was impeccable — John Hurt played Professor Bruttenholm, Doug Jones inhabited the Abe Sapien costume (with David Hyde Pierce providing the voice) and Selma Blair played Liz. I liked how they made Nazi crony Kroenen more menacing than he is in the comics, and I particularly liked a lot of the dialogue. But I didn’t like that too much of the movie took place in New York City (when most of the comics take place in creepy old European villages) and I especially didn’t like how the movie forced a romance between Hellboy and Liz (when the fire/water dynamic between Liz and Abe was always a lot more interesting anyway). And it ended a little too abruptly.
But Perlman brought Hellboy to live more powerfully than I could ever have hoped, and did a fine job acting through all that makeup. It was good, and it had a lot of heart. I just felt like it could have been more.
But writer/director Guillermo Del Toro just keeps getting better with every film. Check out Pan’s Labyrinth, for example. And now he’s hard at work filming Hellboy 2: The Golden Army in Budapest, and what’s going on over there sounds not only amazing but infinitely bigger and better and scarier than the first movie. With more monsters! The storyline is that the mythical realm rebels against humanity to try to take over the world, and Hellboy has to stop it. Sweet.
Check it out!
If you haven’t been reading the comics, you should be. Mignola puts out Hellboy stories intermittently, anywhere from two to six issues at a time. They’re all collected chronologically in really nice softcover trade paperbacks. Or, you can wait until spring 2008 when Dark Horse Comics will begin releasing them in extra-nice hardcover “library editions.”
This is excellent news, as I’ve read my old paperbacks until they’ve almost fallen apart.
You can also check out the two animated movies — Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron — that feature the voices of the movie actors. (Doug Jones does the voice of Abe instead of David Hyde Pierce; Doug will also be taking over the voice of Abe in Hellboy 2.)
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army smashs a giant, red right hand through the wall of the theater near you on July 11, 2008!
(That’s only a week before Batman.)