Hellboy. The Amazing Screw-on Head. Abe Sapien. Baltimore. B.P.R.D.
Each of these unique characters came from the head of Mike Mignola. Last week, Bill Kroyer’s Digital Arts students hosted Mignola, as he gave an in-depth talk about his career and fielded questions from the audience.
When he first started out 30 years ago, Mignola was an inker.
“All I wanted to do was draw monsters,” he explained. “I couldn’t draw real world stuff, like people or houses. Just crazy monsters. I wasn’t cut out to draw anything else. I let someone more talented do the actual drawing, and I’d just fill in the details.”
However, at one point, an editor asked him to step up to be an artist. Since he felt he wasn’t suited for most of the stuff Marvel was offering at the time, he instead took over a four issue limited series of Rocket Raccoon, and then on to the Hulk. Soon, he left Marvel to draw fantasy books full time, while occasionally working for both Marvel and DC Comics.
“I was getting known for super hero stuff, and I hated it. I really wanted to do gothic and mystery stuff instead,” he said. He eventually drew for Gotham by Gaslight, a Batman versus Jack the Ripper tale, since it was more attune to what he wanted to do. Soon after, he was asked to do Sanctum, another Batman story.
However, it was a one-off sketch at a convention that would change his life.
“There was no drawing or photo of me in the convention guide, so I drew this thing on a whim that I labelled as Hellboy,” Mignola said. “Years later, the design stuck with me, so I decided to make him a character and give him his own story.”
Mignola’s plan was to make a list of everything he wanted to draw, and somehow incorporate it into the Hellboy story. His goal was never to write, but only to do art. However, after doing a few issues with John Byrne, he realized he did like his own writing, since Byrne helped him to develop it.
“My first time as a solo writer was a nightmare, but the third one was
, which is still a fan favorite today,” Mignola said.
It was shortly after that he began working with filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro. Mignola did some character designs for
, and the two became close. When Dark Horse optioned Hellboy’s film rights, Del Toro was the one who lobbied hard to get it made. It took 6 years, but eventually it hit the screen.
“See if you can get a movie made, because it does help with comic book sales,” joked Mignola.
After the film, Mignola began to hate his own artwork, and took a break. Instead, he just wrote for the comics, which is why other artists took over for a bit. When he finally did get back into writing, he decided to kill off his most famous creation and send him to Hell.
“Basically, I was tired of drawing everything else, and just wanted to draw the stuff I wanted. Again, I wanted monsters. So, my version of hell is made up of stuff that I wanted to draw,” Mignola said.
In addition to Hellboy, Mignola has created an entire universe, shared with some other famous characters.
For example, the Amazing Screw-on Head was something he did just because he wanted to do something fun.
“I thought it was so stupid,” he said. “But it was optioned for TV anyway!” He was happy with how the story came out, which is why he hasn’t gone back to it.
When asked about how he created Hellboy’s voice, he explained that he just wrote what he thought
would say in a situation. And when it came to another B.P.R.D. character, Kate Corrigan, he just wrote what he thought his wife would say.
He finished up by pushing the students toward their goals.
“I never thought I would be doing this. My entire career has been spent tricking other people into doing the things I want to do. Don’t give up on your dreams. Make them happen.”