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The Art of Hellboy (2003)

This is The Art of Hellboy (2003). I’ve been obsessed with Mike Mignola’s art since his adaptation of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser with Howard Chaykin in 1991. Hellboy, which started in 1993, was a perfect marriage of pulp, horror, folklore and comic book adventure. There is something about Mignola, both his distinct style and his arrangement of panels (those little asides to skulls or architectural details or animals whispering “doom”), that imprints in people’s brains, changes how they think about spaces and pacing and how atmosphere is conveyed. I’ve never thought of Lankhmar or any other fantasy city the same after seeing his and, in a lot of ways, his approach to cosmic horror (and a lot of other things) in Hellboy warped my mind’s eye further.

It is wonderful to see these pieces on big pages without cover copy and such. That ghost werewolf woman has been burned in my brain for decades (Mignola is one of the other very few artists who consistently nails werewolves). The fancy dress Hellboy is also a fave (another Mignola thing I love – small objects hanging mid-air over heads). Of particular interest to D&D folks is the inclusion of Goetia demons in the pages of Hellboy (he’s got a little tiny crown!) – they’re a criminally under-used gang of rogues.

Anyway, Mignola is a living legend who, for me at least, rewired the way my brain thinks about fantasy and horror. I suspect that is true of many of you as well.

Oh, funny story about this book. When it came out, I couldn’t get to the book signing because I was stuck at work (huge bummer), so my friend Joe picked up a copy for me. He got his own, and got them both signed, but I got what Mignola called “the lesser of two Hellboys” sketched in mine because I didn’t have the good grace to actually be there. A few years later (circa Hellboy 2), I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing him for the NY Daily News and he was kind enough to sign the book again (with a better Hellboy sketch, even), thus rectifying my regret of having missed him back in 2003.

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