In 1993, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy debuted in the pages of John Byrne’s Next Men #21. A year later, the demonic detective hero received his own title, in the hit miniseries seed of destruction (by Mike Mignola, John Byrne, Mark Chiarello and Matt Hollingsworth) which would serve as inspiration for the 2004 film.
Almost thirty years later, the classic Mignola franchise is still the best horror monster comic on the market. Covering dozens of adventures, including a trip to hell itself, Hellboy kept readers on a constant diet of action, adventure, horror, and monsters. Not to mention some interesting spin-off projects and plenty of fun guest writer spots who all brought their own unique style to the occult sleuth, including Geoff Johns and Joe Casey. 30 years and a series of stories have helped make Hellboy a pop culture icon, even beyond the comics.
The Hellboy The format is essentially a one-shot style, with an ongoing subscription split into a slew of miniseries and one-shots. The title caters to both short-term and long-term readership simultaneously, with the contained nature of its miniseries format. The Hellboy universe also has a myriad of other fun characters, such as Abe Sapien, Johann Krauss and Ben Daimio, all of whom have featured in their own BPRD stories. These characters helped enrich the universe and give it a sense of size, with the BPRD also having been well explored before their discovery of Hellboy.
Hellboy brings a number of unique strengths to the table in the comic book market. Its occult subgenre makes it a rarity in ongoing superhero comics, with most of these titles usually being miniseries. The combination of occult style with a detective touch makes Hellboy’s adventures one of the most enjoyable to read. Its format also makes it just as easy for readers to collect. As entities like the BPRD have their own appeal, Hellboy has seen many successful spin-off titles, featuring protagonists such as Frankenstein, Lobster Johnson, and Abe Sapien. The latter boasted of a lengthy solo title.
As far as monster comics go, the big two have big hitters. The phenomenal good Maestro veteran Hulk writer Peter David’s trilogy delivered jaw-dropping moments of monster mania, including Kaiju-style threats. The tastes of Pontoon and Venom also give readers a book about Marvel monsters. Not to mention some of DC’s own attempts, with the likes of their Monsters of Gotham City miniseries. However, none of these efforts have matched the consistent quality and unique nature of Hellboy, nor the spooky tone the series often takes, often focusing more on action where The Hell Guys its strengths lie in mystery and suspense.
The titles of the big two are often limited by the events of the main universe, as well as the more traditional superhero rotation. Mike Mignola, meanwhile, seems limited only by his own imagination, which after 30 years is still going strong for Hellboy and his fans. Among his best stories are Beyond the Fences, Long night at Goloski station, and his 2014 Hellboy and the BPRD series. Despite the limited page count, Mignola seems particularly adept at crafting strong, self-contained one-off adventures for his demonic detective.
Hellboy also saw some enjoyable crossovers, meeting Image’s Savage Dragon and DC’s Batman and Starman. Now with the return of Batman/Spawn, it will be interesting to see if Mignola has any new crossover plans for his hero. Proving a versatile character, he pairs particularly well with other detectives and mystical heroes. Hellboy has also shown itself to be adaptable to other mediums, with action and animated films. Its retro vibe, with the series set in the 1950s, also provides a unique setting in comics, giving the title room to explore history.
Hellboy masterfully channels the same energy and appeal seen in franchises like Supernatural and X-Files, setting the formula for supernatural-themed comics. Fans have flocked to “X-Cops” since the phenomenon began in the 1990s, and Hellboy has certainly rode that pop culture wave to great effect. Since then, Hellboy has become one of the most iconic indie superheroes of all time, perhaps competing with Todd McFarlane. Spawn for the title of the most iconic indie comic book series. Despite both facing mystical threats, Hellboy offers a more traditional spin on the dark horror tone of Spawn.
Mignola has also made it a point to bring a multitude of artists to its great red hero, with the anthology-like series Hellboy: Strange Tales using a dynamic palette of illustrators. This range of talent included the pencils and inks of Alex Maleev, Matt Hollingsworth, John Arcudi and John Cassaday. The limited series explored new and unique spins on the world of Hellboy and BPRD, bringing readers a number of short stories. Whether your supernatural tastes lie in ghost stories, occult thrillers, or demonic horror, Hellboy has something for you.
Mignola and his occult hero have proven to be incredibly versatile over the years, with widespread appeal and mainstream recognition. Mignola’s ability to make each storyline both new and refreshing is responsible for this strong stamina and enduring fan love. Despite a poorly received 2019 film, it would be good to see future attempts to adapt more Hellboy stories for mainstream enjoyment, hopefully taking influences ripped from the pages. After all, Mignola has decades of unused source material.
With no sign of letting up anytime soon, Mignola continues to bring readers the best monster title to be found in comic book stores. Readers should be on the lookout for the easy-to-collect title, which can be found in comic book stores every month. Hellboy’s ongoing history remains the go-to book for fans of all things occult and supernatural.