December 17, 2017

 




Interview:
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.


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