We got some classic good new/bad news earlier this week when it was announced that there is movement being made on a new Hellboy film ... but that it would be the beginning of a new series and not the ever-elusive third entry in the previous film franchise.
I'm of two minds on the matter, personally. I was a big fan of the first two movies: Ron Perlman was as perfect as the role could be cast and director Guillermo del Toro did a commendable job taking the source material and making it his own without losing what made it special.
However, they never quite captured the tone of the Hellboy comic books or the unique visual style of creator Mike Mignola.
I think a new movie is a chance to start fresh and do it even better this time.
With that spirit in mind — and Hellboy is all about spirits — I decided to spell out the seven things that I want most from a new Hellboy movie: from characters to settings to story and even to breakfast food. The world of Hellboy is one of the richest in comics, which means there’s still a lot left to be explored on the big screen. Check out my ideas for the franchise's future and then let us know yours in the comments.
In the original Hellboy films, the looks of the characters are more or less faithful to the Mike Mignola designs, but when it comes down to the visual style, they're all del Toro. That's not necessarily a bad thing — Guillermo del Toro is one of the most visually interesting directors out there — but it does feel like the world of Hellboy loses a little something because of it.
There are not many properties that are as defined by a particular visual style as Hellboy. It's like gothic Kirby (whose aesthetic fans are already responding to in the Thor: Ragnarok trailer), with hard angles and heavy shadows filling the pages, along with religions and paranormal iconography and old, intricate architecture. The style of Mike Mignola is certainly a hard one to replicate for live action, seeing as how specifically it's designed for the comic book page.
My fantasy way of best capturing that in an adaptation is by making it an animated Genndy Tartakovsky cartoon. That’s not happening, but I think a cinematography style along those lines would be a good starting point. Tight, lingering shots on environmental details, shadow-filled frames with small spots of radiant color and lots of quiet shots in silhouette would go a long way to giving it that Mignola feel.
Roger the Homunculus
We got Abe Sapien and Johann Kraus in the originals but we were missing my favorite oddball agent of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense: Roger the Homunculus. Roger is a hulking artificial man reminiscent of Frankenstein's monster (who's also in the Hellboy universe) whose character arc mirrors Hellboy's own struggle to find his humanity.
The story Roger debuted in, "Almost Colossus," would be an emotional, creepy, self-contained and fun choice for a Hellboy movie. It would also feature a huge action sequence for a climax when we're introduced to Roger's much bigger brother, a towering colossus that Roger is instrumental in taking down.
A Shared Universe ... or at least the feel of one
Don't worry, I'm not asking for an announcement of 15 Hellboy spin-offs before this movie even premieres. But Hellboy does have one of the most interesting expanded universes in comics and would be a perfect fit for that type of storytelling. It doesn't even need to be a lot of set-up for other stories, just the sense that the setting is populated by a lot more strange goings-on than we're seeing on screen. Use the expanded Hellboy mythos to give a feeling that there's a big weird world out there that we're only scratching the surface of.
Part of the way to get this across is to start small, something that the Hellboy comics do exceedingly well. Use the one-off tales of Hellboy to sprinkle in world-building elements. Maybe have the movie open with a simple scene of Hellboy walking through a forest in search of a wyrm like in "The Nature of the Beast" before we move on to the larger plot. Or perhaps we hear tales of a haunted suit of armor fighting the Nazis back in the war that stopped the same threat Hellboy is fighting now.
Things that make Hellboy seem like just a citizen in a huge world of strangeness, and not him being the main weird thing about it, will make the viewing experience more engaging, and the setting more unique.
And yes, it could provide a foundation for spinoffs like Sledgehammer 44, Lobster Johnson, B.P.R.D. or Witchfinder. Sorry, I'm only human.
Almost all of my favorite Hellboy stories are ones that begin in media res, with Hellboy already fist-deep in a supernatural mystery. Hellboy works best as an investigator going to far-off places and stumbling into weird things that the people who hired him failed to explain properly. While the big world-ending events are certainly there, they shouldn't be at the fore of the films -- they should be built up in the background before coming to a boil a few movies down the line.
I'd personally love a completely self-contained movie, that, like I said in the previous section, stays small. Obviously there needs to be a driving plot for the movie, but having it made up of several smaller mysteries or situations in various global locales would be a breath of fresh air from the normal superhero movie structure and would put the character in the type of narrative structure that he really thrives in.
When it comes to punching Nazis, Hellboy is second only to Captain America. Not that anyone needs another reason, but Hellboy’s hatred of Nazis is deeply personal, as the whole reason he was brought to Earth was for the Nazis to use as an instrument of destruction. The original movies weren't short on Nazis, but seeing '50s and '60s-era Hellboy fighting leftover rogue Nazi contingents carrying out wild occult science plots is quintessential Hellboy, and so there's no reason to do it some more. Plus, when you have fist as big as Hellboy's, there's really no other appropriate course of action than to punch as many Nazis as possible with it.
And if you're going to have Nazis, you simply have to have …
Lobster Johnson is pulp-inspired vigilante who burned his mark — a lobster claw — into the foreheads of his enemies, who were often mobsters, but once he became employed by the government they also included plenty of Nazis and all the supernatural weirdness they brought with them. The Lobster is one of the most outlandish and fun characters in the Hellboy world and it would be a shame if he didn't get to pop up on the big screen at some point. The best course of action may be a loose adaptation of "Conqueror Worm," which sees Hellboy and Roger sent to the castle where the Lobster perished, and teaming up with his ghost in order to stop a Nazi group from completing the mission he stopped decades before. Whether it's alive, as a ghost or as a movie Hellboy — who was a huge fan of his as a kid — is watching, Lobster Johnson deserves his time to shine.
The turning point in Hellboy's life came when he was only two years old and tasted pancakes for the first time. It was at this moment that the young demon was completely won over to the side of good and would never again return to the destructive destiny he was cursed with. This was outlined in a two-page comic story, appropriately called "Pancakes," that needs to be included, verbatim, in the new movie, or it simply won't be the quintessential Hellboy film.