Exclusive preview: 7 pages of Hellboy spin-off The Visitor #1

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Feb 16, 2017, 7:00 PM EST

In a world populated by countless monsters, magical beings and one very important demon hero, the aliens in the Mike Mignola-verse of Hellboy might be the most mysterious. Until now.

In The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed, a new five-issue series from Dark Horse Comics debuting Feb. 22, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and iZombie co-creator Chris Roberson co-author a story that explores the enigmatic aliens that appeared 23 years ago in Hellboy's first mini-series.

Briefly introduced in 1994's "Seed of Destruction" (shown here), the aliens on a space station seem to have the inside scoop on Hellboy's destiny and the imprisoned Ogdru Jahad.

The next time they appeared was in 2001's "Conqueror Worm" arc. In Issue 2 of that story (which you can check out pages from here), Hellboy encounters a man in chains in Hunte Castle who says he witnessed Hellboy's arrival on Earth and, disguised as a U.S. soldier in World War II, was sent to assassinate "Anung Un Rama, the Destroyer."

Instead of carrying out the task, the soldier claims he saw Hellboy had free will and potential to do good, so he spared his life -- and went on to witness our hero slay a dragon and observe lilies grow where Hellboy's blood had spilled. The soldier provides Big Red a trap to battle Ogdru, then dies at last ... revealing himself as not a man but an alien.

Within the pages of The Visitor, Mignola, Roberson, artist Paul Grist and colorist Bill Crabtree explore who these aliens are, the reason they set out to kill Hellboy, why one defied orders and what this alien assassin had been up to since.

To celebrate this untold chapter of the Hellboy story, Dark Horse has provided Syfy Wire with an exclusive seven-page preview of The Visitor #1. Also, I'm excited to show off the very rare Mike Mignola variant cover of the issue, only available at the ComicsPRO event in Memphis this weekend.

I also caught up with Chris Roberson for a fast five questions about his work writing The Visitor and going back to Hellboy's roots. See what he has to say about the story's origins and inspirations and soak up the preview below -- and if you're digging it, pick up The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #1 next week.

Discuss the conversations you had with Mike about tackling this assassin. Was he reluctant to unravel the alien's mystery?

Chris Roberson: The story grew out of a conversation that I had with Mike and [Dark Horse editor ] Scott Allie over a long lunch the winter before last. I asked if they'd ever thought about revisiting the alien briefly seen in "Conqueror Worm" and exploring what he'd been up to during his time on Earth, and Mike just kind of lit up. He and I went on to have a number of long phone conversations about the idea in the weeks that followed and the story quickly came into focus.

How involved was Mike on the process of writing this?

Roberson: Mike was very involved from the earliest stages of the process. The basic structure of the five-issue storyline grew out of that series of phone conversations that we had early last year and there are a number of key moments in the miniseries that were in place from the very beginning. Then, as the story developed, I worked with Mike and Scott to flesh out a detailed outline, and from there we went to script. As always, working on a project in the world of Hellboy is an incredible amount of fun, as a large part of the job is just talking with Mike on the phone about monsters, and who wouldn't enjoy that?

Why do you think this is a different kind of Hellboy story and corner of the Mignola-verse to cover?

Roberson: In large part it's because of the nature of the character. The Visitor himself, as he is always referred to in the scripts, starts off as a fairly passive observer of Hellboy and his world, but as the story progresses he is gradually changed by what he experiences and ends up having a much more personal connection to the human world. Tonally it's very different from the other kinds of stories that have been set in that world, a lot quieter and more introspective than Hellboy and BPRD stories tend to be. Which was one of the reasons why we thought that Paul Grist would be a perfect fit for the book, because his style is so striking and unique and he is one of the best visual storytellers working in comics today.

What's the appeal of investigating aliens within the Hellboy world and why are these creatures a good fit for a universe defined by magic, occult and horror?

Roberson: These aliens have been in Hellboy's world since the very beginning, having first appeared in the pages of "Seed of Destruction," but they've largely remained a mystery before now. Much of the magical and occult elements of Hellboy's world can be approached from a science fictional angle, though. I think it's largely a matter of perspective.

What are the other classic aliens in movies, literature, etc. that you'd want this Visitor to exist alongside? For instance, are you more of a Victorian H.G. Wells fan or maybe a Ridley Scott xenomorph fan?

Roberson: I'm a fan of both of those examples and hundreds of others as well, but the classic alien that was foremost in my thoughts as we were working on the series was actually the titular character from Nicholas Roeg's film adaptation of Walter Tevis' The Man Who Fell To Earth, as played by David Bowie. Both are aliens who come to Earth to accomplish a particular mission but get sidetracked along the way and both stories center around the ways in which they are changed and affected by their experiences dealing with humanity.