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Mike Mignola famously created the character of Hellboy, but in doing so he also created a community of creators he has collaborated with for almost three decades working in the "Mignolaverse." Since 2016, the prolific writer and artist has shared illustrating duties with various artists writing and developing new storylines. Not a fan of reboots, Mignola prefers to push the boundaries of existing characters in new directions.
Sir Edward Grey: Acheron (Dark Horse) the first in a series of one-shots, is a prime example of this. It is also the first comic Mignola has written and drawn himself in five years, since his definitive Hellboy in Hell.
This new story picks up right after the end of Hellboy in Hell and could easily be called "Acheron in Hell," as the sorcerer never leaves the confines of Hades for most of the story. Hellboy is gone, and the B.P.R.D.is underground. So it's up to Grey to fight a powerful demon that threatens to undo everything that his predecessors saved.
Most Hellboy fans are familiar with Sir Edward Grey in one of two ways: Mignola's Witchfinder series, created with longtime collaborator Ben Stenbeck (Baltimore, Hellboy), which follows Grey during his time as a paranormal investigator in Victorian era England. Other readers know him as the masked, cloaked figure in Hellboy in Hell, where he was dragged to the underworld and cursed with eternal life and occult powers, turning from hunter to hunted. Grey became a silent observer of Hellboy's life, keeping busy with the machinations of hell until forced to save the demon.
Mignola has also been busy over the past year, releasing a Quarantine Sketchbook, the Hellboy & the B.P.R.D. 1950s stand-alone one-shots and curating Hellboy Universe Essentials, (a great way to jump into the Mignolaverse if you're new to Hellboy, by the way). He's also writing and drawing a creepy retelling of Pinocchio published through Beehive Books next year. There's even a documentary of his life in the works.
Mignola pulled away from his packed schedule to talk to SYFY WIRE about Sir Edward Grey: Acheron and share exclusive pages with us. In this interview, he discusses why Grey was the character that encouraged him to illustrate for the Hellboy universe again — and why he might not play in the Hellboy universe for much longer.
What made you stop drawing Hellboy? Was it hard coming back to writing and drawing sequentials?
It was really hard. I remembered why I hadn't done it in so long. For the past 10 years or so I've really enjoyed working with these other artists and I'm very happy to give stories to them. It's not just laziness on my part. If Ben Stenbeck he wants work, let's make up projects for him. If we want to keep this guy busy, want to keep that guy busy? Let's do it. And before you know it we'll have two or three different projects going.
But every now and then there is [a story] that I want to draw. That I really want to draw. And the closer I get to it, the more my "writer brain" starts taking over saying, "Well, then if we're going to do this, we need to do that." But that's not always what my artist brain wants. So if the writer in me still likes it, but it's no longer a fun thing for me to draw, I'll leave it to someone else to illustrate. And, honestly sometimes I find someone that would do draw it better than I would.
What is it about Sir Edward: Acheron that made the artist and writer in you agree?
Acheron is the one thing I came up with where I was just itching to draw a comic. And I liked that whole world of Hell, but the thing I keep trying to do these last few years is figuring out a way to end everything [happening there]. And it's hard to end characters that you've established, they can't die or are already dead. So Ed Grey is one of those characters where I left back in Hellboy in Hell.
But I knew Ed had things to do. And when I figured out where he was going. I wanted to do it myself because the one thing I was dying to do was just have a magic fight. That's really why I drew it. "It'll be fun to have two guys fight!"
Turned out to be not the biggest part of it.
Many have said that this book brought you back to work with colorist Dave Stewart. but you never really stopped working with him did you?
We work together all the time. Even when I'm not doing a comic, I'm always doing covers and stuff like that. So, this was a big chunk of pain per day because, a cover is one thing but when he hit 22 pages of solid torture, that's something. Because I talked through every single panel for color. And then once it's lettered, we [repeat the process]. The fact they tolerate me after so many years is just one of the great mysteries.
But we never disconnected, Dave is my right hand. He colored Pinocchio.
Speaking of Pinocchio, that is not the Disney character that most folks are used to.
Read the original, [by Carlo Collodi]. It's a mess. It's all about how if you're bad, you'll kill your parents. It's terrifying.
But it's kind of perfect for the Mignola-verse isn't it?
Yes. For years I've been saying Dracula was the book that changed my life, which is very much true. But recently, I realized it was Dracula plus Pinocchio because Pinocchio was just so odd. It is so dark and funny, I mean, really weird, funny. and it's really informed very much the way I think. But since the original work had over 9,000 illustrations, it's been a hard project to do.
Compared to Pinocchio, was Sir Edward Grey: Acheron easier to work on after that because it was a one-shot?
Well, we keep saying it's a one-shot, but it's actually stranger than that. Ed Grey's book, in a way, is a sequel to Hellboy in Hell, but it's also chapter one of somebody else's book. There's just a couple of characters that got stranded in hell, so I've just kind of figured out a way, not in a teamup kind of way, to [tell their stories]. But you have to read this one first.
So Sir Edward Grey cannot die — ever?
But I can, apparently, turn him into a river. I've punished Ed a lot. I really like these characters, and I want to put them to bed someplace comfortably. And you don't want their whole story to be just horrible and painful all the time. I would kind of like to retire these guys to a nice, pleasant place. But Ed's not there yet. He's getting there but I think he might have a couple hiccups along the way.
Ed Grey simply refuses to go away.
That sounds like you might be drawing the Hellboy universe to a close. Is that what's happening?
I'm trying to get out of this thing. Honestly? It's been 27 years [of Hellboy] and I'm tired. I have a billion books in my house I want to read, I have an entire walk in closet of movies I want to watch. I just want to wrap it up in a bow and say, "There you go." Let me go. I've done enough.
Fans will probably be pretty sad to hear you say that. Is it possible that you can oversee the work and the stories live on?
What I would love ultimately is, rather than a million more Hellboy stories, Abe Sapien stories, or Liz Sherman stories, go create something new that takes place in this world. Very much like when people do their own Lovecraft stories. They're drawing on the Lovecraft mythology, the world, the Necronomicon and Arkham and all that kind of stuff. But they're making new stories about new characters. So I would love the Hellboy universe to expand that way.
You are already working with artists and writers in this way, correct?
Yes, even with some of the artists and writers I work with, it's basically about finding a way where they can create their own corner of the Hellboy universe. I've kind of helped them set it up, but then I can kind of get out of the way and just tell them, "That character, that world, this period of time, now go do what you want."
So, are you ready to retire?
I've been saying for the last five or six years that I'm somewhat retired. I still work seven days a week. What am I going to retire from? I make up idiotic stories about monsters in hell, running around and weirdly religious symbolic stuff about vampires and Cowboys. So what I'm really trying to do is not make up new stories.
That pile of papers on your desk says otherwise.
Yeah. And it's a big pile.
Like Acheron, it looks like you're almost done. But not yet.
Yeah. There are a couple more things [I'm working on] that are so odd and amazingly weird. I can't wait.
Sir Edward Grey: Acheron comes out on Dec. 1.