December 14, 2017

 




Interview:
Mike Mignola

By Dan Epstein



 

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?

MM: 1993.

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.

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 the 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.


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