December 17, 2017

 




Interview:
Mike Mignola

By Dan Epstein



 

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?

MM: Yes.

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.

DE: Mike, thank you so much.

MM: Thanks, Dan.

Mike Mignolaís website is www.hellboy.com.
Check out Horse Comics website at www.darkhorse.com.

Blade 2 opens on March 22nd.



Hellboy.com
Discuss this article on the Slush Forums!




 

Additional Mike Mignola Buys:

Hellboy: Right Hand of Doom
Hellboy: Odd Jobs

Hellboy: Book One: Seeds of Destruction

Corum: The Prince With The Silver Hand

Hellboy Lunch Box

Atlantis DVD: Collector's Edition