There is no denying that the upcoming Hellboy film from director Neil Marshall continues to live in the shadow of the two Guillermo del Toro adaptations of Mike Mignola's devilish character. However, the production behind the reboot, which is gunning for a hard-R rating, did not allow the Ron Perlman version to influence its new visual style for the supernatural comic mythos, and that meant looking beyond both del Toro and even Mignola himself.
"We didn’t reference the del Toro films at all," the film's head makeup artist, Joel Harlow, tells SYFY WIRE. "What we did is we referenced the comic art, we referenced Mike’s illustrations and a number of the other artists that have done different versions of the same character in their styles. We referenced the artwork, but what we wanted to do with the character was to make him feel grittier, to feel not so much like a comic character — what would this character look like if he was in the real world? Hence the addition of the scars and the addition of the hair and the overall sort of weathering on him that you do find in the illustrations."
One such reference was the Hellboy drawings done by Richard Corben, an Eisner-winning artist known for iconic illustrations in horror publications like Eerie and Creepy magazines. Indeed, his Dark Horse work on Hellboy nabbed him not one, but two Eisners for Best Limited Series in 2009 (Hellboy: The Crooked Man) and Best Single Issue/One-Shot in 2011 (Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil), respectively.
"He’s been a favorite of mine since I was a kid," Harlow says. "When he started doing [artwork for] Hellboy, it was really a match made in heaven."
Of course, Mignola's contributions were the most important, since he did create the character in the first place. Some of his biggest input revolved around Hellboy's rock-encased Right Hand of Doom, the key to releasing the Ogdru Jahad, a collection of Lovecraftian dragon creatures that want nothing more than to bring about the end of the world.
"I found every aspect of the character off [Mike Mignola]," Harlow adds. "Mike’s input was vastly important in that sort of translation process... Even going from Mike’s illustrations, you still have to take liberties to make it work in the real world, to make it move, to make it breathe."
Starring David Harbour (Hellboy), Ian McShane (Professor Bruttenholm), Milla Jovovich (Nimue the Blood Queen), and Daniel Dae Kim (Ben Daimio), Hellboy smashes into theaters everywhere April 12.