Artist Profile: Mike Mignola
The first time I encountered Hellboy (debut 1994), I assumed it was an obscure older comic, possibly from the Golden or Silver Age of comics (early to mid-twentieth century). Obviously I should have known better, but the comics seemed old because they had a certain “timeless” quality due to their constant Shakespearean allusions and references to mythology. The author obviously had an endearing affection for myth and tradition and classic literature, including Scripture. Considering the incredible popularity of the character, it is somewhat surprising to me that more authors have not tried to imitate the Hellboy formula. The only other franchise I can think of that is obviously inspired by Hellboy is Gary Gianni’s Monstermen.
I was somewhat surprised to discover that Hellboy was an ongoing story. By the time I discovered it, the saga still had a few years left before Hellboy more-or-less wrapped up in 2016. And Mignola is still creating Hellboy-related stories to this day.
Mike Mignola is one of those mythical creatures who is both an amazing artist and an amazing storyteller.
Mignola’s famous style can be considered an evolutionary development from a mainstream style common in the 80’s. His work from that time period bears a lot of similarity to the work of other artists in that era such as Arthur Adams and Rob Liefeld.
Whereas mainstream comics have evolved along a more “realistic” route (“American” comics style) since then, Mignola’s work diverged from the norm and became increasingly stylized, relying heavily on angular silhouettes and negative space.
Mignola got his start as a comic book artist drawing various books for Marvel/DC/etc in the 80’s and 90’s. His earliest work listed on his bibliography is a Rocket Racoon limited series from 1985. But by 1990 his style was beginning to crystallize into something unique with Wolverine: The Jungle Adventure, in which Wolverine crash-lands in the Savage Land and becomes the chief of a tribe of Neanderthals. Mignola's style was now distinct, but his faces were not yet as stylized and as heavily shadowed as they would later become.
Then in 1994 the publication of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction signaled the creation of the “Hellboy-Comics Universe”, which eventually grew to include titles and characters such as Abe Sapien, Lobster Johnson, B.P.R.D., Plague of Frogs, The Incredible Screw-On Head, The Visitor, The Black Flame, and many others. The popularity and demand for these titles eventually led to Mignola having to employ other artists to draw the stories, some of whom chose to imitate Mignola’s style (with great success) while others brought their own quirkiness to the art.
In my estimation, the Hellboy character is a sigma, as he is confident, self-motivated, successful with women, and sets ambitious goals for himself but does not seek leadership positions. He generally wants to be left alone. He is constantly rejecting positions of authority which he could legitimately claim:
-After finding a defeated Satan and killing him, Hellboy could claim the throne of Hell.
-Possessing the “Right Hand of Doom” and being some sort of prophesied “Destroyer”, he could release the monstrous dragon ‘Ogdru Jahad’ and use it to conquer the earth.
-As the last living descendant of King Arthur, he could claim Excalibur and the throne of England.
But rather than becoming a leader, Hellboy would rather wander around having adventures and helping people.
Although Mignola’s style is most prominently displayed in the Hellboy-universe, he has also used it bring other stories to life, such as the official comics-adaptation of the Francis Ford Coppola film Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a Xenomorph adventure called Aliens: Salvation written by author/artist Dave Gibbons. The comic version of Dracula rubs me the wrong way for some reason, possibly because Coppola does not respect the source material, which is very unlike the rest of Mignola's work; but the Xenomorph adventure is excellent.