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Hellboy's Mike Mignola By Dan Epstein
Mike Mignola: artist/writer/inker. I have known of this manís work mostly since Gotham By Gaslight. He has worked with nearly every single major character in the Marvel and DC universes and since the early nineties has been working almost entirely on his creator-owned book, Hellboy. His only diversions have been into the dark realm of Hollywood, working on such big-budget features as Disneyís Atlantis, and most recently on Blade 2.
Many comic fans will be pleased to know that when watching the credits of Blade 2, Mike Mignolaís credit is given its own special spot.
We talked about much of his work, Hellboy comics and novels, and the wildly unpredictable book called The Amazing Screw-On Head which was just solicitated.
Dan Epstein: Hellboy: The Conqueror Worm, starts off with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe. Was he a big influence on you?
Mike Mignola: No, only in that he is the big influence on everyone who does this subject matter. Itís a great title that I always liked and it was a happy accident that upon rereading the poem it fit the opening images of the comic. It lent an air of class to an otherwise B-movie Roger Corman storyline.
DE: Do you really consider Hellboy to be B-movie like?
MM: So much of the Hellboy stuff is. I always thought I was doing stories that Ed Wood would have come up with. Then I treat it as an art film. So you lose perspective of how silly the story is, so you attach all kinds of pretensions to it that it doesnít deserve. If I have a formula thatís it.
DE: Are you interested in doing A-movie or non-genre type stuff?
MM: I hate to say it, because it kind of makes me sound like a retard. I donít have that much interest in non-genre type stuff. Iíve always wanted to draw monsters and ghost stories since I think sixth grade. I read Dracula then and I just said, "Thatís what I want to do." Thereís just so much material to work with. I want to do everything from fairy tales, folklore and Victorian folklore.
DE: So no autobiographical stuff coming anytime soon?
MM: I canít imagine.
DE: Was the character of Lobster Johnson based on [Lee Falkís] Phantom?
MM: Lobster Johnson is based on all those guys. So much of what I do is based on what I read in high school. I read Doc Savage and stuff like that. I always loved that pulp magazine time period. I wanted a character that was a real obvious nod to that stuff.
DE: What came first, the design of the worm or the name?
MM: I guess as soon I realized that I was going to do a story with a big worm that image was pretty much in my head. When I actually designing the worm I found that what I had in my head was a caterpillar and not a worm.
DE: Worms arenít scary.
MM: Exactly, theyíre not very interesting either.
DE: What will Hellboyís first adventure in Africa be like?
MM: I was originally going to do a short story that took place in Africa. Then I realized that that short story was too silly. That it would be better as part of a bigger story. So the next Hellboy miniseries, which I am finishing the last page of, will start in Africa and move to the bottom of the ocean.
DE: No more Nazis, huh?
MM: No more Nazis, Iím pretty much done with that. Theyíre great villains in that pulp magazine kind of way. There may be mentions of them along the way but I donít have any plans to focus on Nazis anymore. I never really planned to use the Nazis that much except as a background for where the character of Hellboy came from. Once you make up a character of a Nazi head in a jar you kind of say ďI want to use that guy again.Ē The Conqueror worm seems to be the one where I really dealt with the Nazi super-villain thing. Theyíve appeared in other miniseries but that one is the only where Iíve used them as the main bad guys. That being done I donít really want to repeat myself. So now Iím moving away from the mad scientist stuff to the purely supernatural.
DE: How involved were you with making the Hellboy novel, The Bones of Giants?
MM: With that one I was actually very involved. The first one, The Lost Army, I had almost no involvement other than reading it and putting my two cents in. But it was Chrisís [Golden] idea. The second one was an idea I had for a Hellboy miniseries. But that one was an idea I didnít think I would ever get around to illustrating. So I gave Chris sort of an outline. I definitely had the opening scene and a few bits in between down on paper, something with Frost giants and Thor being found on a beach somewhere and the idea of Thorís hammer being welded to his hand. That was what I had, I turned it over to Chris who is very keen on Norse mythology and he added everything else.
DE: I just finished Neil Gaimanís novel, which also used Norse mythology in it. Is that ground not too tread upon by Marvelís Thor comic book?
MM: I donít think so because there is so much in Norse mythology. Since Thor was my favorite comic book growing up and probably was what led me into a lot of the folklore in my work. So if I was draw that miniseries instead of it being a novel, I might be included to lean towards Jack Kirbyís Thor visuals in there. Norse mythology is so rich. It can never be overused.
DE: Where did you first meet Chris Golden?
MM: I believe he was one of the guys, way back when I was first doing Hellboy, who wrote a real positive review of Hellboy for some magazine. He contacted me about doing a prose back-up feature in Hellboy. We kicked the idea around a little bit. I read some of his novels and the idea of the back-up feature blew up into a full-blown novel.
DE: You arenít writing or drawing BPRD. Are you doing the plot?
MM: I pretty much plotted the first one; I had ideas of where certain characters were. I was never going to get around to dealing with them with the direction Hellboy was going to go. I recruited Chris and told him what I knew about the characters and the idea I wanted the series to deal with. I probably gave him about half the plot. He and co-writer Tom Sniegoski expanded it, added stuff. Then once they scripted it, I went back in and fixed the bullshit history of the world stuff that comes from me. Plus I tinkered with the dialogue because I do know how these characters talk. Itís hard for somebody else to write your characters. And every time someone else writes Hellboy, Iíve gone in and touched up the Hellboy dialogue and I did the same thing with BPRD.
DE: Whatís it like creating this whole Hellboy universe?
MM: Well the frustrating thing is that you do create this universe but I think faster and faster but I draw slower and slower. So thatís why its nice to have someone else do some of the work. Iíve got ideas for half a dozen more characters. Each one of them could be 100-page miniseries, but when the hell I am going to do these things?
DE: How fast do you draw now?
MM: Very slow. If I pencil a page in a day itís a really good day.
DE: Youíve said youíre getting slower and slower as well.
MM: Also running this Hellboy empire, youíve got to see this, approve that, so many things take away from actually drawing the books. For years I would wake up and think, ďOh crap, Iíve got to send the whole day sitting at the drawing table.Ē Now when thereís a day without any interruptions, like my daughters at school, Iím thrilled.
DE: How come you left New York City a few years ago?
MM: Well my daughter was born. We were living in Brooklyn and my wife wanted to stop working. I started liking Portland, Oregon; Dark Horse was out there. I thought it was a good time to move out there and bond with my publisher. Also they have the best used-bookstore in America called Powellís Books. We ended up living about three blocks from there. My daughter is older now, and my wife wanted to go back to work, so we came back.
DE: Portland has built a bustling comics scene with Dark Horse and Oni Press. Did you hang with a lot of creators?
MM: Not really, they werenít in my neighborhood. I knew guys, I wasnít far from Dark Horse but mostly I stayed by myself in my studio.
DE: What made you bring Hellboy to Dark Horse Comics in the first place?
MM: At the time there werenít that many places to go. I started Hellboy a few years after Image blew the whole creator-owned concept wide open. Image was the example in a way. Everyone was creating their own stuff and I was at a point in my career where I had done a lot of interesting stuff. The idea of creating my own thing just seemed like the next logical step. There was a discussion, not with me, at Dark Horse about Art Adams, who had just started creating his own stuff. He and I lived in the same area in San Francisco at the time. We were talking and Image was talking to him. They threw him an offer to come to Image and the offer was extended to me. But Dark Horse always felt like a more comfortable fit. With the Image guys, itís a different generation really. Dark Horse was publishing Frankís [Miller] Sin City and doing work by Geoff Darrow. It just seemed like I would rather be associated with that material rather than the work at Image.
We [Art Adams, John Byrne] cobbled ourselves into this little group and said to Dark Horse, ďGive us the same deal you're giving Frank and weíll be happy.Ē It was very easy. In fact, Dark Horse asked what I was doing. I said Hellboy but they never asked what it was, they never asked to see anything, they just said sure. Unlike a lot of the other guys in that group I didnít have the track record of an Art Adams, Frank Miller or John Byrne. In the beginning I benefited from Legend probably more than anybody else. It put me into a class of guys that I had never been associated with before.
DE: What happened to the Legend imprint? Was it that Byrne left Dark Horse?
MM: It had nothing to do with that. Legend, in my mind, was never intended to be anything other than a symbol we slapped on our books. It was never supposed to a wing of Dark Horse. John had different ideas about what Legend should be. John and Frank owned the copyright. John was starting to say things like ďthis has to happen, you canít do this or that.Ē Instead of everyone functioning independently certain people started getting into other peoplesí business.
In a way I donít think Legend could have ever worked unless we just minded our own business. There was supposed to be a Legend card set and that was the death of Legend. I didnít want to do this thing. I figured if we tried to do something where we are all contributing, someone would be saying, ďthis can be there, and this canít.Ē If somebody dictates, that it will end up being a problem. I knew that I would spend a week on these trading cards, no one will ever see them, and I will be pissed and thatís exactly what happened. No one has ever seen my Legend trading cards. The whole thing blew up over these trading cards. Thatís the way I remember it. It got really ugly. Certain people stopped talking to one another.
DE: Thereís always so much intrigue and controversy within this little industry.
MM: Well itís all just stupid. If we could all just mind our own business and just do what we do, itíd be fine. As soon as someone says, ďI think the whole thing is supposed to be thisÖĒ Donít foist your idea of what it's supposed to be on me. In fact when Dark Horse said that they were going start Dark Horse Maverick I thought, ďOh shit, itís going to happen again.Ē Fortunately Maverick is just defined as the creator-owned imprint of Dark Horse. There are no meetings, I donít know half the people that are doing Maverick, and itís just a title that Dark Horse slaps on stuff. The way Dark Horse explained it it's because they do so much different stuff, itís their way of saying that they still support creator-owned material, which most publishers donít. Certainly if I look at the work of guys who are under that Maverick banner, I am honored to be associated with guys like Craig Russell.
DE: So are you and Frank Miller still cool with one another?
MM: We are totally fine with one another. It's funny, Frank lives in New York City and now so do I, but I talk to him even less than I did when I lived out of state.
DE: When did Hellboy first go from pencil to paper?
DE: Was it just one of your many sketches or you specifically wanted to create a character?
MM: I had done a Batman book that I plotted; a one shot Legends of the Dark Knight (issue #54 co-written with Dan Raspler) and it was Batman talking to a dead guy. A weird ghost story. Like I said, I plotted it and had a really good time. I was really happy with the way it turned out. I consider that the first Hellboy story. I felt like I wanted to do more stories like that. Rather than come up with more stories like this and try to shoehorn Wolverine or Batman into these kind of stories, I felt that if I wanted to do more like this I will make up a character to put into them. So I had the idea of the kind of stories, then coming up with a character -- one that would be fun to draw.
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DE: John Byrne was the scripter for the first Hellboy miniseries. Why did you need him to do that?
MM: I had never scripted anything and I didnít think I could. Since I was afraid of writing, my idea was to tell John that I want to do sort of Frankenstein thing. Before I threw the thing over to John, little by little I started putting ideas together then more and finally I came up with a whole plot. Then I had pretty much had to script it because I never told John what the story was. Then, nothing against John because I couldnít have done it without him, in so many cases John would change what I did but I would think that I liked what I did better.
Also, John had a first-person narrative in there, which I believe was my idea. It didnít work so the first miniseries was an example of what I didnít want it to sound like. I wanted John to script it because I wanted it sound like a professional comic. At the end of the day I thought it was a little too slick and polished. I wanted something a little bit more wonky, with more of my personality in there. John knew thoughout the whole process that I would end up writing this thing. Now there's a lot of writers I could think of who would have gone it and make it theirs or combination of me and them.
The beauty of having John on that miniseries is that he always approached this thing as if it were mine. He helped me out but never tried to foist his ideas on it. As the miniseries went on I started editing what John wrote. He would write all these captions and I'd take a bunch of them out. He never squawked about it. I canít think of too many writers who would be so cool about that. "The Wolves of Saint August," which I did for Dark Horse Presents [issues #88-91], was the first one I did myself. That was rough and scary but I donít know if itís got any easier.
DE: Whatís up with the Hellboy movie?
MM: The fact that that wasnít the second question, Iím pretty impressed. I donít know. Everyone knows as much as I do. Weíre waiting until someone gives it the green light. From what Iím reading lately and from my last conversation with the director [Guillermo del Toro] he really wants to do this as his next picture.
DE: If Blade 2 is successful, will that help?
MM: Already the word on Blade 2 is so good and the critical acclaim from his movie The Devil's Backbone. My feeling is that, if itís going to be made, now would be the time. I would love to have him do it. He has the exact right take on the material. When we first met we agreed on who should play Hellboy.
DE: Did you agree independently though?
MM: He told this story fairly recently and it's exactly the way I remember it. We sat down for breakfast the first time we met. We both knew independently who we wanted and it was just a case of whoís going to put their cards down first. We almost said ďRon PerlmanĒ at the same time. So we were off to a good start. At one point, Guillermo said, ďI want to make Hellboy the Last Emperor of B-horror movies.Ē That was exactly my formula. Perfect. In a way his thought processes are similar to mine. He wants to do these genre films but with a real art film mentality.
DE: Heís an illustrator himself.
MM: There are things he came up for Hellboy that I go, ďI donít know about that.Ē But I trust his vision. If he could pull that off I would l love to see him do it.
DE: Will you still own the character if the movie gets made?
MM: I should know the full answer to that. I wouldnít own it as much as I do now. They are certain rights that would be surrendered to the studio. I donít believe anything would happen that would make it impossible for me to do the comic. And thatís my main concern. If I sell the film and animation rights, thatís fine. As long as I can continue doing what I want to do: the comic book. I think my lawyers will carve out something so I could still do limited-edition portfolios, things like that. Iím not going to go out and make the sequels myself, so if they want those rights, let them have them.
I had a very interesting conversation with Todd McFarlane. He approached me about doing a Spawn cover for issue #100. I drew Spawn with his cape all nicked and dented up. Todd asked me to change the little dents. At first I got indignant as only artists can, ďtake your money back, give me the artwork.Ē Todd explained to me that New Line owns the dented and nicked up Spawn, but he owns the smooth Spawn. Itís a such stupid thing.
DE: That must have taken the lawyers 10 hours straight to think of.
MM: One thing thatís been thought of it is to make Hellboyís stone hand switch from his right hand to his left hand. In a way I kind of like that because it differentiates the comic book Mignola Hellboy from the Guillermo del Toro movie Hellboy. Itís all very complicated. There are teams of lawyers involved. Iím not really concerned with that stuff. What I would love to do is just get a chance to work with del Toro on the film.
DE: If he couldnít do it would that be the end of it?
MM: Not necessarily. He wants to do it, I want him to do it and thatís where it stands right now. Heís a sweet guy, I worked with him on Blade 2 for a couple of months. We had such a good time. It would be a fun time to do Hellboy.
DE: Did you get to go to Prague to work on Blade 2?
MM: I did but not for the filming. But I went over with del Toro to help scout locations. It was pretty weird. I didnít know Iíd be doing that when I woke up one morning. I thought I was going to Los Angeles to work on the film and then work from home. When I get to LA they tell me Iím going to Prague. That was great.
DE: What did you do exactly?
MM: I was kind of like at Guillermoís beck and call. Anything he came up with -- costumes, sets or whatever -- he would throw that stuff to me and a couple of other guys. I would do drawings that would then be turned over to the costume designer or the production designers. So I was sort of the link between Guillermo and the people who have to make it happen.
DE: What were you credited as?
MM: I got a visual consultant credit. I have no idea what that means.
DE: Did you work on the designs for the Reavers, the mutated vampires?
MM: Well before Wayne Barlowe, the monster specialist, came in we worked on it. But he was the expert and he came up with what was inside their faces when they split apart.
DE: Iím a big David Cronenberg fan and the production designer for Blade 2 is Carol Spier (production designer for Crash, Naked Lunch, The Fly). What was it like working with her?
MM: She was great. Again I had the easy job. I got to design stuff with no restrictions. Then I would give the stuff to Carol and she say stuff like, "How the hell am I going to do this?" I designed this giant laboratory and she looked at the drawing and said, ďYou were in Prague, you saw the soundstages, where the hell would I build this?Ē My job was to imagine and Carolís job was to deal with the earthly reality. She was great to work with and to hang out with.
DE: What did you design exactly for Blade 2?
MM: Well one character (Lighthammer played by Daz Crawford) uses a giant hammer with a spike on it. I designed the hammer. Also thereís an autopsy table that Blade lays on which pops up and holds you down. That was mine. Also one of the laboratories was mine, Iím not sure which one. The cool thing is the website has sketches of mine which del Toro voices over.
DE: What do you think of the Marv Wolfman controversy over Blade? (When the first Blade movie was released, Marv Wolfman, who co-created the character in the comic book Tomb Of Dracula in the 1970ís, sued Marvel charging that he owned the character. He lost the case)
MM: I really donít know much about since I had nothing to do with the first film. Iíve never encountered a situation where characters Iíve created take part in something that makes someone else a lot of money. Sure Iíve worked for the big companies but I understood what I was working. But I feel bad for anyone who is placed in that situation where the rules werenít as clearly defined as they were when I was started working in the business.
DE: Why wasnít the Hellboy PC game released in America?
MM: I have no idea what happened with that game. Something weird happened there. Iíve never gotten a straight answer about this. These guys who were working on it were somehow part of Dark Horse. Then I forgot all about because the creation of the game went on for so many years. Then when I asked about the video game the company making it had moved back to France or it had become a separate company. No one knew anything about it and no one seemed willing to deal with it.
In fact the game was made. I do have a copy of it but Iíve never seen it. Computer games arenít my thing. Iíve never seen a dime for it discounting the original sum I was paid for the rights to do it. I believe thereís some kind of ugly situation surrounding it. There were little stupid things they did which they didnít have permission to do. They did a mousepad and stuff like that, which I specifically did not grant them permission to do. I also have heard is that the game isnít any good. Probably when they started out the technology was on par with what was being done but by the time they finished the sophistication of the game technology was quite behind the times. I think everybody at Dark Horse wants the thing to dry up and blow away. Hopefully somewhere down the line we could do an American game.
DE: I saw that you did a Deadman cover for this month.
MM: Yes, I did a string of three Deadman covers.
DE: So obviously you still get calls from the big companies to do work.
MM: Not very often. Almost never from Marvel. Maybe once every two to three years. DC called me to do those covers and because they called me, foolishly I was thinking it was Deadman the horror comic, like when Kelley Jones did it a few years ago. I agreed to do it because I thought it would be fun to do. Then when I saw what the comic was, I realized that it wasnít a horror comic. I didnít really think I was suited for it. I did manage to do three covers. But thatís it for the Deadman covers. It seemed like a case of false advertising.
DE: Is he a superhero now?
MM: I donít even know what the hell he is. It looked like one of those comics where people get in and out of cars and walk down hallways. Not creepy stuff like haunted houses and graveyards.
DE: So you havenít been asked to do any full books from anyone?
MM: Iíve gotten the impression that if I wanted to do something I could. But it's pretty well known that I donít have any interest in doing that stuff. Once youíve had the experience of doing your work where you could do anything you want with your own character it's very hard to put that aside and work for hire where there are a lot of rules. Itís just so much easier to say, ďI know what has happened.Ē
DE: Is it easier doing work-for-hire for the Disney movie Atlantis?
MM: Well, thatís fun. Itís such a completely different experience. The Disney and Blade experience were so unique in that I was part of a team of guys working on something. The idea of getting paid by the hour to sit down, toss ideas around and not necessarily draw but just to bounce ideas back and forth.
DE: What was it like working with people who were trained by Disney to draw like you?
MM: I donít know how many people were involved. They were teaching people to draw like me, to what degree of success I donít know. What struck me is when I walked into Disney there were diagrams laid over comic book pages explaining how I do it and what I do in terms I didnít even understand. It's very weird seeing yourself dissected.
In fact Ricardo Delgado (Age of Reptiles) was the guy they got to teach the class to draw like me. They didnít ask me and quite frankly somebody else would be better at it then I would. Being more or less self-taught, I have no idea why I do what I do. But for someone else to have to figured it out to instruct others is very strange.
DE: Were you disappointed in the Atlantisí lack of success?
MM: Yeah, it would have been nice if it were a gigantic hit. The beauty of that kind of stuff is that it wasnít my movie. It was a fun experience; I was on it off and on for a year. So by the time it came out, maybe two years since I finished work on it, it was so far in the past you just hope for the best. But seeing the DVD, which has so much of me on it -- they give me credit for so much stuff, and they show my production design and me making a fool of myself in meetings and stuff -- has been a thrill. It's very bizarre to be given credit on a project like that. Iíd love to do it again.
DE: Have you noticed your style in any other movies you werenít involved with?
MM: Not really. Usually other people will tell me things like, ďThat guyís doing you.Ē I donít tend to recognize it. I have certainly heard that in other animation studios they have a lot of my work hanging on the walls. I havenít seen anything and gone, ďWhoa that looks too much like me!Ē
DE: Why was your project, Joe Golem, shelved?
MM: Well, Joe Golem is a project thatís been floating around for years. The latest incarnation of Joe Golem was going to be set in New York. I was about to start on it when I moved back here. The splash page was going to be the view outside my studio window. But in the story some disasters in the past had turned New York into this disaster area. I was about a week away from starting the book when 9/11 happened. I did not feel like drawing disaster area New York in a partially-destroyed New York. So I just jumped right into this new Hellboy instead. There are elements of that story I still want to do. Whether they will get folded into Hellboy or another incarnation of Joe Golem we'll see what happens.
DE: Do you ink all your own work now?
DE: Would you ever let anyone else ink your work?
MM: As a novelty. For example, if there was a guy whose style was radically different and we wanted to see a combination of our work. But, at this point, with the way I draw for somebody else to ink it I would really have to change the way I draw so the inker would know what the hell to do with them. My stuff is really easy to ink so itís easy to do myself.
DE: Your style is so unique. When did you recognize it and begin to develop it?
MM: Probably when I was doing the book Cosmic Odyssey (with writer Jim Starlin) for DC. I donít know what it was. Maybe because I was drawing a lot of Kirby characters and I was sitting there for months at a time with Kirby stuff in front of me. That was very liberating because I had been trying to draw stuff ďcorrectly.Ē Having Jack in front of me made me realize that it's more effective to draw in these exaggerated ways. Looking at the New Gods stuff of Kirbyís really makes me redefine what weird is. While Iíll never be up to what he did, it does free me up to exaggerate.
DE: I donít get to talk too many Kirby fans that are as well known as you and your work. What is it about Jack Kirby?
MM: Sadly itís almost impossible for me to explain. He did so many things so well. He understood this medium and that beautiful drawing is secondary to getting your point across. The exaggeration and gesture is so important. Iíve gone through phases in my career where Iíve come up with thumbnail drawings and I try so hard to get muscled arms and legs perfect. There are guys who are great at that but itís not as effective for the stories I was doing. It didnít have the power that Jack brought to the page. The fact that Jack did as many things as he did and went through so many interesting phases, he really is unique. Probably nobody has defined as many things about the medium as Jack. No one will ever touch his volume of work. Itís so frustrating to me to have all these ideas and not to have the time to do them all. Jack broke that time barrier. It seemed like he was putting that stuff on paper as fast as he thought of it. We will not see his like again. But itís a different time and a different business.
One thing I havenít done with Hellboy that I really want to do is do a Kirby monster story.
DE: There wasnít enough arms on the conqueror worm for a Kirby monster.
MM: I know. The conqueror worm was me but I would love to do some Hellboy stories in the future where this one is obviously a Hammer horror film and hereís one that is a Dr. Strange and another that is a Kirby monster story. I would love to do my little tributes to those kind of things. Itís on the list of things to do.
DE: Your first brush with Hollywood came when you did the Topps Comics adaptation of the Francis Ford Coppola movie Bram Stoker's Dracula. Was Coppola aware of your work and thatís why you came aboard?
MM: He certainly did not recruit me. Topps had called me while I was living in New York about doing a movie adaptation of Dracula. I knew that movie adaptations are horrible things to do but it was Coppola and Dracula, so I thought I would stick my neck out and see. Around that time I moved to San Francisco so I was around the corner from Zoetrope Pictures (Francis Ford Coppolaís production company). I went to the set, I met Francis, and he looked at my work. Then it came up that there was a model for Castle Dracula that Francis wasnít a 100% sold on. Iím convinced they called me in because they had my number, I was drawing the adaptation and I lived around the corner. They brought me in to work on this model. It was an interesting problem because the model was already built. I made some suggestions but they shot it down with ďthatís too expensive.Ē But that got me in at Zoetrope. They were great with giving me reference material as well.
DE: Did you like that design for Dracula with the buns on his head?
MM: It was weird and interesting. Nothing I could have ever imagined.
So, after the film was pretty much done, Francis called me for a screening for the rough cut. I get up there and the only people at the screening are Francis, me and George Lucas. Clearly still the weirdest night of my life. Dinner with these guys, then the movie and then after it was Francis and George discussing what the picture needed.
DE: Didnít you get into an argument with George Lucas?
MM: Not really. We disagreed on a few things.
DE: Like what?
MM: Cutting Draculaís head off at the end of the movie. As George Lucas said, the rules say to kill a vampire you have to cut off its head off. I know that, but it was a beautiful romantic scene and suddenly she [Winona Ryder] just jumps up and cuts his head off. Itís going to take some of the romance out of the scene. I didnít agree with that.
DE: But it ended up staying in the film.
MM: Thereís a scene where Anthony Hopkins has gone in and killed these three vampire women. Originally you didnít see him do that. Winona Ryder wakes up, she looks around and Anthony Hopkins comes walking out of the castle carrying these womenís heads. Heís got a big knife in his hand, blood splashed all over him and the heads. I just thought ďThatís cool.Ē George thought that the audience would be confused because you didnít see Anthony Hopkins actually cut the womenís heads off. My argument was, ďWhat are they going to think? He found them on the kitchen floor, heís got blood on him and knife in his hand.Ē But it was Georgeís thing that you needed to see him go in and chop the heads off.
DE: And then you never worked on a Star Wars comic. [laughs]
MM: Well, that has nothing to do with it. It was really interesting to be in a room with these guys. How did I get there? I had never worked in the film business and suddenly Iím watching a picture between the guy who made Star Wars and the guy who made The Godfather. You donít expect to ever be in that spot. I know a lot of guys in the film business, and theyíve never been in that spot. I stumbled into the movie business, from the top. I did work on some storyboards on some scenes that they discussed. There has been some exaggeration as to what my involvement in Dracula was. It was very brief. Thereís a castle that you see in a flashback and that was a castle I partly designed. Thatís pretty much it.
DE: You wrote but didnít illustrate The Doom That Came to Gotham with a Victorian-age Batman. What is like not illustrating your writing?
MM: Itís a lot more difficult because I know what I have in mind but itís just a pain in the ass writing it down for somebody. Iím doing the same thing right now. Iím writing for that same artist, Troy Nixey, and it's just so much easier to take the idea from your head and put it on paper yourself.
DE: Does your daughter read comics?
MM: My daughter is aware of them but she doesnít read them. Sheís actually writing one with me. I promised Diana [Schutz - senior editor at Dark Horse] a six-page story for a Maverick anthology. I didnít really have an idea and my daughter came up with an idea. I thought ďwow,Ē thereís something so visually striking about those images. I wanted to see if I could take her story idea and translate it into a comic. Itís a peculiar one.
DE: You drew the first Elseworld before it was even Elseworlds, (Batman: Gotham By Gaslight). Did you know you were breaking new ground?
MM: Maybe I did at the time; I donít remember that much about it. That was a big one for me because I was just coming off Cosmic Odyssey where it was all these superheroes and I never wanted to be a superhero artist. I liked the dark moody supernatural stuff. When Gotham By Gaslight came to me I thought, ďHereís a project where I can establish a reputation for this kind of work.Ē
DE: I want to talk about The Amazing Screw-On Head because I just read it in black and white and it's wild. It felt like a fever dream. Tell me about it.
MM: Somebody told me the other day after reading it, what they liked about it was that when I make a Hellboy storyline and I tell people what I am going to do, it's much crazier than the way it ends up on the page. So Screw-On Head sounds like the way you tell the story orally. Screw-On Head is as crazy as I said it would be. It was just a fun experiment to create this other world and to do that kind of pacing to the action.
DE: Most of your creator-owned stories are so humorous but your art isnít. Itís a great contrast.
MM: What I originally had in mind for the Screw-On Head book to look like was that it would be done in an animation style. Certainly it would be drawn a lot faster, ultimately I ended up doing my art job but I hopefully kept the humor and the pacing.
DE: One thing I noticed about your art is that people donít open their mouths when they talk. Do you know that?
MM: They probably donít. Hellboy does sometimes but his mouth is just a slot.
DE: Or theyíre gritting their teeth.
MM: Iím not one of those facial expression guys. There are some guys who are like that. If you look at the Adam Hughes school of art with these wonderful subtle facial expressions, itís not what I do. And in a way, Hellboy was created to be the ultimate Mignola character - he has almost no facial expression. But yet I can convey everything I want to with the way that character is put together.
Looking at BPRD by Ryan Sook, thereís so much more subtly in his drawings, in the little character stuff. I do my subtly differently, I do it with more panels to establish mood and things like that. While he can do a lot more with one panel. I've never claimed to draw that well.
DE: A lot of creators I talk to seem somewhat bitter about their place in the industry. As a successful and critically-acclaimed creator, how do you feel about your place in the industry?
MM: Well Iím certainly not bitter. Iím thrilled to death. Iím doing exactly what I want to do and Iím able to make a living from it. I have nothing to complain about. I do complain but Iím careful about who I complain to because I realize how lucky I am. Iím doing so much more than I ever expected to do in the comic book business. Iím discounting the Hollywood stuff, which Iíve fallen ass backwards into. Within the comic business I thought I would be an inker. The last conscious goal I had in this business when I was an inker was that maybe someday before I would die I would pencil a ten-page story, just so I could say I drew a comic.