Hellboy universe, ho! With the onset of Abe Sapien’s own series, DARK AND TERRIBLE, we chatted with Dark Horse protégé, writer, and editor Scott Allie to get updates on where Hellboy and his spinoffs are at the moment. We also delved into the Dark Horse influence of H.P. Lovecraft, seeing as FM’s current print issue is dedicated to all things Cthulhu, and the BPRD has been dealing with some horrifying and insanity-causing creatures lately.
Famous Monsters. People who have only seen the HELLBOY movies might not understand how expansive the Hellboy universe has become. How does your upcoming Abe Sapien series fit into this universe? Are there any other specific titles that you would call a prerequisite to understanding the state of things?
Scott Allie. Well, in the last few years, Hellboy has died, and the B.P.R.D. are fighting what feels like an unwinnable war as monsters spew out of the earth, something that some people think has to do with Abe Sapien—who himself has recently mutated further, to look sort of like a string bean. So Abe, having learned of Hellboy’s death, and finding out that some people think he has a role in the bigger picture, decides to high tail it out of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense lest he become a new research project.
In this way, the various Mignola books are more tied in together than they’ve ever been. World ending events, with repercussions beyond earth, are drawing the storylines together, and I think readers are starting to see how reading B.P.R.D. offers revelations about Hellboy, and how each book does that for the other.
FM. The B.P.R.D. “Hell on Earth” storyline reads a lot like what would happen if the “stars aligned” and Cthulhu woke up to wreak havoc on the universe. I know Mike Mignola has mentioned his Lovecraft allegiance in the past, but are the there any specific stories or creature designs that you’ve turned to recently?
SA. We don’t refer to existing art for this stuff. Inspiration comes from a lot of places, but there’s no specific “Lovecraft artist” out there that influences us. I think we’ve evolved pretty far from homage and pastiche, although Mike and I were looking at his HELLBOY IN HELL #1 cover, and those shrimp-cuttlefish things owe a bit to Cthulhu…
FM. Were you a Lovecraft fan before working for Dark Horse? Have you seen his influence pop up in any of your other titles?
SA. Oh, yeah. I grew up in Massachusetts in a town that featured in Lovecraft’s stories. I discovered him through Stephen King, and he’s been a strong influence. I’ve worked with Kelley Jones and Richard Corben. I’ve brought Lovecraft into my own stuff. We did a HPL-themed issue of Dark Horse Presents many years ago. I think Lovecraft has a nice little place in the Dark Horse rogues gallery.
FM. What made you decide to bring Abe back [out of a coma, that is, for new readers] for his own series? What makes this character popular enough, in your opinion?
SA. The plan was always for him to eventually wake from the coma, changed and unsure of his status in the new world. Originally the plan was for that to happen within the monthly B.P.R.D., but we realized there was a whole other story for Abe, and that he deserved his own book. I think the popularity of the character starts with a great design and a surprisingly down-to-earth character, as established by Mignola, and developed over time by [John] Arcudi. People love the contrast, the humanity. He’s the character most like Hellboy in many ways, with a design that’s arguably just as good.
FM. How collaborative are the Hellboy universe comics? Does Mignola give his stamp of approval on everything, or has it got away from him and taken on its own life?
SA. He’s involved in everything. The form that his cowriting takes is different from title to title, but he’s involved in all of it. Every book results from some series of conversations between Mike, John, and myself. I think the books feature a unique form of collaboration, in that we feed each other a lot of ideas. I picked John’s brain about stuff with Abe, Mike contributed a lot of the basic shape … there are no clear lines, sometimes, to how the work breaks down. Mike and John and I all feel that we’re fairly lucky to be in a situation where we all trust and respect each other enough that we can collaborate in the way we do, give each other space, get out of each other’s way, and make all the stories sync up the way they do. It’s not always easy.
FM. What can you tell us about upcoming story arcs? Will HELLBOY IN HELL have any lasting repercussions?
SA. In the first issues of Abe, you’ll see some things that connect it to what’s happening in Hell and what’s happening in BPRD. As the stories proceed, you’ll learn a lot about what’s happening in the different books, and what happened years ago to get us here. In Abe, we’ll get into a lot of different mythologies and how they tie in to the end of the world, and we’ll twist those mythologies to make them tie into Mignola mythology. We’re going to see the devastating effects of what’s happening in the Gulf of Mexico, New York, Chicago, Seattle. You’ll find out how hard it is to get a cup of coffee at the end of the world.
Hellboy himself is not going to be leaving Hell anytime soon, so it’s not just the repercussions of that series—this is what our boy is doing for the foreseeable future. And being in Hell, he might not even have the worst of what’s going on…
ABE SAPIEN: DARK AND TERRIBLE launches on April 3rd. Meanwhile, stay tuned to for a “Hot List” of hooawesomely designed creatures from Abe’s monstrous universe!