Archive for Hellboy

Damn Everything but the Circus


Hellboy: The Midnight Circus

If it’s Halloween, it must be time for a new Hellboy graphic novel. This one is written, as always, by Mike Mignola, with illustrations by Duncan Fegredo and lovely coloring by Dave Stewart.

Our story is set in 1948, when Hellboy was just a little kid. He’s stuck in the BPRD’s headquarters all the time, and everyone treats him like a baby — and he’s decided he wants to get out, for just one night, and do his own thing.

And then Hellboy runs across a circus — A.T. Roth‘s Circus Spectacular! “From the clock strikes midnight — to the fearful crack of dawn!” A whole big circus, operating only at night, with almost no publicity, out in the middle of nowhere. Sounds wholesome, doesn’t it?

It’s pretty obvious that this isn’t a normal circus, as the clown who starts the festivities does so by causing the demonic performers to appear out of thin air in the middle of the big top. He’s enticed by a sultry succubus, but rescued by the ringmaster. Hellboy tells the ringmaster about reading the story of Pinocchio — the artificial boy who wants to be real, turns into a donkey, and is then restored when he’s eaten by a fish.

While Professor Bruttenholm and the rest of the BPRD look for him, Hellboy is shown nightmarish visions by the ringmaster. He flees the circus, pursued by demonic animals — and then gets cornered by evil spectral hobos. Can Hellboy survive the night? Will the forces of Hell turn him to their side?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A great multi-layered story by Mignola. The bit about Pinocchio seems like a throw-off bit, but the theme keeps reappearing in ways both obvious and subtle that make great sense for the story.

And Fegredo’s art is just absolutely monumental. The center ring of the circus, with the flame and lightning and demonic elephants, is stunningly beautiful. The undersea voyage, the hobo camp, the attack of the animals — all simply gorgeous. You’ll want to read this over and over just so you can glory in the artwork.

And it’s Kid Hellboy. In a circus of fear.

That’s what Halloween is all about.

Go bug your local comic shop ’til they order you a copy. You won’t regret it, children.

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Friday Night Fights: My Pet Demon!

Baby, it’s mid-October, it’s the weekend, and we need some comic-book violence to get things started right. Break into your secret stash of Halloween candy, children, ’cause it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from October 2010’s Hellboy/Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice by Evan Dorkin, Mike Mignola, and Jill Thompson, as Hellboy, with ample encouragement from the monster-fighting pets of Burden Hill, goes to town on a monstrous golem!








Boom indeed!

That should do it for us for this week. I’ll see y’all back here on Monday.

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A Little Bit of Hell


Itty Bitty Hellboy #2

Art Baltazar and Franco’s tribute to Mike Mignola’s pulpiest creations continues, as Lobster Johnson arrives on the scene, with his talking blue pet Lobster Smith. They’re on the lookout for the Sasquatch, so all the Hellboy kids gleefully offer to help out. Apparently, looking for Sasquatch involves doing lots and lots of yelling, which bothers Johnson more and more as time goes by. Meanwhile, the bad guys disguise themselves as woodland creatures, Liz starts some fires, and Roger’s underwear continues to be hilarious.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The only thing I have to say about this one is that it’s adorable and funny and awesome. If you loved Tiny Titans or Superman Family Adventures or Patrick the Wolf Boy, you should definitely be reading this.


Young Avengers #10

Mother, the horrible interdimensional parasite who has bedeviled the Young Avengers, matches wits against Loki, gets fairly freaked out by the zombiepuppet version of Patriot, and plots with Leah, who, in her guise as Hulkling’s counselor, works to lead the teen shapeshifter astray.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very interesting focus on different characters — Mother and Teddy are the two who get most of our attention, but the brief snippets of Loki’s devious mind and Leah’s ruthless deceitfulness are also quite enjoyable. And the art is beautifully done, as is the case in every issue of this series.


Wonder Woman #23.2

Apollo turns some L.A. gangsta girls into his oracles so he can see the full history of the First Born. Basically, he was Zeus and Hera’s first kid, they threw him out of Olympus, he built his own empire of pain and murder, and then the gods laid the smackdown on him.

Verdict: Thumbs down. This could’ve been told within the regular Wonder Woman comics. And it should’ve been, too.

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Cute as Hell


Itty Bitty Hellboy #1

Do I really need to introduce this one? It’s Art Baltazar and Franco doing Hellboy in the style of Tiny Titans. Of course we’re all going to love it, right?

Rasputin and his not-really-nazi minions plot to replace their dishwasher box fort with the much larger refrigerator box fort owned by Hellboy and his friends. Roger the Homunculus constantly loses his underwear. Johann Kraus keeps sneezing himself out of his containment suit. Herman von Klempt hops around on his preserved head. And we get treated to the sight of Karl Ruprecht Kroenen wearing only Roger’s underwear. Ewwwww!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Again, it’s the Tiny Titans guys doing Hellboy. Everything here is awesome, and if you’re not getting it, I have no idea what’s the matter with you.


Atomic Robo Presents Real Science Adventures #10

The evil Triumvirate makes plans to destroy the economy and take over the country with the technology they’ve stolen from Tesla, but they’ve become overconfident, so Tesla and his associates in the Consortium of Science are easily able to sabotage their plans. But the Consortium is a bit overconfident, too, and they’re much more vulnerable than their enemies.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m really loving this story. It’s so cool to have a pulp adventure tale starring people like Nikola Tesla, Harry Houdini, Winfield Scott Lovecraft, Wong Kei-Ying, Charles Fort, George Westinghouse, and Annie Oakley.

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Cold Cuts


Colder #5

Nimble Jack has Declan trapped and paralyzed, rapidly dropping to his deadly freezing point, while he drags him on a guided tour of his own life before he finally cracks his skull open and feasts on his madness. Does Declan have any chance against Nimble Jack? Or are he and Reece doomed to get eaten alive by the villain?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Oh, man, I want to spoil so very much of this story, ’cause it’s so very, very good. You know how a lot of horror series start off really great, then never manage to sell the deal at the end? This is not one of them. This one hits on all cylinders all the way to the end. You get creepiness, you get action, you get buckets of gore — including the scene promised on the gruesome cover of the first issue. You even get good characterization and a few precious nibbles of humor. I’m going to trust that y’all have been reading this entire series — but if you haven’t, you’d better keep your eyes peeled for the trade paperback. If there’s any justice, Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra are gonna win some awards for this one.


Hellboy in Hell #4

Hellboy is rescued from another tight spot by the mysterious figure who has aided him before, and this time, he learns his benefactor’s identity: Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder. Grey reveals how he disappeared from history and how he ended up trapped in Hell — and he offers Hellboy a chance at freedom and a new life. Can Hellboy take the bargain?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s really great to see Edward Grey again — I really enjoyed his previous series. I don’t know if this is the last issue of this series — if it is, it’s not a bad place to leave Big Red. If it isn’t, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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Colder #4

Nimble Jack has kidnapped Reece into the dimension of crazy, and Declan has to find a way to get her out, all while making sure his body temperature, which drops every time he uses any of his special abilities, doesn’t fall below zero, which would be the point where he dies. He hitches a ride on a passing dog-phobic nutcase to track her into the other dimension, but runs into plenty of problems, including a horde of hellhounds, gigantic monsters, and Nimble Jack himself. Can Declan find Reece? Even if he can, will either of them be able to escape?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Brilliant imagery in this series — the design of the hellhounds is great, and the monsters formed of fingers and fangs are also magnificent. The characterization is good, too. The action is alright, but what this series does so well is weird horror and paranoia. Paul Tobin did some really interesting research on this project — check out some of it here.


Hellboy in Hell #3

Hellboy is, well, still stuck in Hell, learning more about his demonic family. He learns that his father, as punishment for creating him and giving him the Right Hand of Doom, has been frozen in a block of ice for millennia. He tangles with two of his brothers, intent on killing him, cutting off his hand, and claiming it for themselves. And he learns that he might’ve killed someone very important, and messed things up really badly.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is ominous and spooky, with Hellboy finding himself way over his head. And again, the real selling point for this one is Mike Mignola drawing Hellboy, so yeah, probably worth picking up.

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To Rule in Hell


Hellboy in Hell #2

Hellboy continues his trek through Hell, guided by a trio of spirits — who may not actually have his best interests in mind. He is shown the seats of power, which he insists he will never accept, they offer him the chance to murder Satan himself in his eternal sleep, they show him the damned as they are forged into Hell’s army, and they show him his conception, his birth, and the creation of his Right Hand of Doom. What revelations lie ahead? And what temptations?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m really enjoying the history and the heavy gravity of what we’re seeing in this story — but I still gotta say, I’m most enjoying seeing Mike Mignola drawing Hellboy again. That don’t happen much anymore, and it’s a glorious thing to behold.


Colder #3

Nimble Jack is on the trail of Declan, the ice-cold immortal, and Reece, his former caregiver. He wants to drive Reece insane, then eat her soul — and she and Declan are the only people who can see him. Declan drags Reece back into the world inside crazy people to escape, but Nimble Jack is able to follow them there, too. Desperate for a way to get away, Declan uses his abilities to make the crazy people around him even crazier, so Jack will eat them instead, but that ends up causing too much upheaval and wrecking the crazy world around them. They escape back to the real world… but it was never a real escape at all. Reece may really be crazy now, giving Nimble Jack a surefire beacon he can follow back to them.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nicely disturbing stuff all over this issue. Colossal surrealism and suspense, too. You can hardly blame Reece for feeling crazy, ’cause reading through this comic will make you feel a little unbalanced, too.

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You Can’t Take the Hell Out of Hellboy

Hellboy in Hell #1

Here’s something we don’t see often enough anymore — a comic written and drawn by Mike Mignola. Hellboy is dead, and like all good demons, he’s ended up in Hell. While one demon tries to beat him to death (again) with a hammer, a warlock tries to defend him, and a puppet show performs Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Hellboy tries to make some kind of sense of everything going on around him.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’d be a thumbs-up just for Mignola’s wonderful artwork. But the writing and action and humor are all primo, so there’s another reason to go get it.

House of Fun

Evan Dorkin throws a whole lot of funny strips in here, including Milk and Cheese, The Murder Family, The Eltingville Club, and a huge number of short newspaper-style strips. No, I’m not telling you more than that — it’d spoil all the fun.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Ye gods, like I should have to tell you Evan Dorkin is funny? Go get it, you mooks.

Colder #2

Well, at least it doesn’t have another cover as gross as #1! Okay, that’s damning with faint praise, and this is actually a very nice comic. Declan is walking around and talking like a normal person, which freaks out Reece, the nurse who’s been his guardian for the past few years. And what really freaks her out is when Declan uses a crazy street person to give her a glimpse into what the world looks like for people who are insane — a mad Jenga game of skyscrapers and monsters — and he gives her a look at what his life used to be like in the asylum. Meanwhile, Nimble Jack drives a fairly normal agoraphobic completely ’round the bend so he can feed on her madness.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Incredibly disturbing horror — the vision Beth, the agoraphobic, has of an audience full of cyclops-monsters is just amazingly freaky, and everything else is just a shade off-kilter, leaving you feeling a bit unbalanced by the time it’s all over…

Worlds’ Finest #7

While Huntress and Robin fight off deadly wolves from Apokalips, Power Girl has to deal with a bunch of child soldiers armed with Apokalips technology. Not really a lot more than that going on in this one.

Verdict: Thumbs down. The art by Kevin Maguire and George Perez is still gorgeous, but this feels like a series that isn’t really going anywhere.

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House of Hellboy

Hellboy: House of the Living Dead

This came out last year, and somehow I missed it entirely ’til just a couple months ago. It’s yet another installment in the always-enjoyable collaborations between writer and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and horror-art legend Richard Corben. Even better, it’s a direct sequel to their glorious “Hellboy in Mexico” one-shot from a couple of years back.

Let’s look at some of the backstory here: in the 1950s, Hellboy spent time in Mexico, drinking and fighting vampires with three brothers who were luchadores — masked Mexican wrestlers. But one of the brothers was turned into a vampire, and Hellboy was forced to destroy him in a wrestling bout in an ancient Aztec temple surrounded by zombies — and the guilt sent him into the bottle for several years. This is a story from that era of Hellboy’s history.

So Hellboy is now supporting himself and his drinking habit by wrestling as a luchadore himself. He’s visited by a man who offers him the chance to wrestle his employer’s champion — and if Hellboy refuses, he’ll kill an innocent girl. And Hellboy soon finds himself dealing with a genuine mad scientist, his genuine crazed hunchbacked assistant, and a genuine Frankenstein monster — who Hellboy must defeat to save the girl. And even if he can stop the monster — which isn’t guaranteed — he’ll also have to deal with a werewolf, vampires, and demons before the night is through.

Verdict: Thumbs up. An excellent story, action-packed, funny, melancholy, and crammed to the gills with everything you’d want in a Halloween comic. Mignola claims to have never watched any of the classic Mexican luchadore-vs.-monster movies, but what he’s created here is at least as good — you’ve got spooky stuff from all the monsters and ghosts, but you’ve also got a massive dose of atmosphere by setting it back in 1950s Mexico — earthy, poverty-stricken, traditional, and largely focused on luchadores.

Corben’s art is, as always, phenomenal — beautiful as the innocent Sonia, depraved as the mad Tupo, gruesome as the stitched-together brute, menacing as the revitalized vampire and his brides — he even manages pure simple blandness in the dimly obedient Raul. It’s at turns gorgeous and brutal, and you couldn’t look away if you wanted to.

It’s a grand comic, perfect for Halloween or any time you need awesome monsters and luchadores to get through your day. It’s definitely worth picking up — go bug your local shop for it.

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The Hero Sandwich List of Favorite Comics for 2011

Well, everyone else is doing end-of-year best-of lists, so I reckon I will, too. What’s Newsweek magazine got that I ain’t got, right? I mean, the way magazine readership has been falling, there’s a decent chance that I’ve got more readers now. ZING! Oh, Newsweek, you know I kid ’cause I love.

Anyway, this is not a list of the very best of all comics. I haven’t read all comics. I haven’t even gotten close. This is my list of the comics I read that I enjoyed the most.

Also, I don’t think I could manage to say which of these is the best — so I’d rather just arrange them in alphabetical order.

So here we go: The 16 comics I enjoyed reading the most in 2011.

American Vampire

This series by Scott Snyder is still carrying the torch for serious vampiric horror with great characterization, boundless imagination, and really awesome bloodsuckers.

Atomic Robo

One of the best comics out there — this one packs in action, humor, and mindblowing science into something that is always fun. Fun cameos by the famous and infamous, and an incredibly cool lead character.

Avengers Academy

Thank goodness someone still remembers how to do a good teen comic. You can do teen angst without it turning into a bloodbath. This series combines a great concept with outstanding characterization.

Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth

The most audaciously imaginative comic of the year, thanks to its seven-year-old writer. Loved the drama, loved the action, and laughed out loud at the humor.

Batgirl (pre-Reboot)

Stephanie Brown’s tenure as Batgirl was marked by great writing, excellent action, and a very strong sense of humor. Stephanie is still MIA in the new DC, unfortunately.

Batman comics by Scott Snyder

Whether it was on Detective Comics prior to the Reboot or on Batman afterwards, Snyder wrote some of the most engrossing tales of the Dark Knight.

Batman Inc.

Reading Grant Morrison’s Batman has been a treat for years, and it was fun to watch him create the new Batman megacorp.


J.H. Williams III’s writing has been fine, but his art is simply breathtaking. This was absolutely the most beautiful comic book on the stands in 2011.


Daredevil? I’ve never cared for Daredevil in my life. But this one is a blast. Writing and art are incredible. Humor, action, characterization — and again, fun. You can make a pretty good comic if you make it fun, ya know?

Dungeons & Dragons

Did anyone ever expect a D&D comic to be this good? Excellent dialogue, humor, action, drama, suspense — all while doing a pretty good job spotlighting the RPG it’s based on. Best fantasy comic of the year, right here.

Hellboy: The Fury

Mike Mignola has enjoyed another excellent year of comics, and I could’ve put almost any of his B.P.R.D. comics in here, but this one — Hellboy’s last hurrah — was really something special.

Knight and Squire

Paul Cornell’s miniseries focusing on London’s version of Batman and Robin was fun storytelling, along with a quick course in British pop culture. Excellent characters and adventures, and a wonderfully created setting.

Secret Six

Gail Simone’s awesomely epic series of supervillains occasionally doing the right thing had some of the funniest, saddest, most dramatic, most astounding moments in the comics world. Absolutely grand characters, too. Losing this series was one of DC’s biggest mistakes of the Reboot.

Supergirl (pre-Reboot)

After years of being the DC Universe’s version of the useless mallrat in a belly shirt, several creators finally realized they could make the character awesome by treating her more like a real person instead of an MTV stereotype. Yes, DC, character is everything!

Tiny Titans

The best all-ages comic on the market. Still can’t believe they’re going to let something this awesome go.


One of the weirdest comics to come out this year. There was usually at least one really mind-blowingly weird thing in every single issue. Beautiful art, too, along with great writing and dialogue. It was a joy to read.

And one more little category? How ’bout Publisher of the Year? DC and Marvel are out — they’ve spent the past 12 months pandering to the worst in comics, cancelling great series, and randomly insulting their readers. IDW, Dark Horse, Red 5, Image, all the other independents came close, because they’re doing more of what good comics publishers should be doing — gunning for new readers, pushing the artistic and storytelling envelopes, making excellent comics.

But I think the Publisher of the Year is Archie Comics. What? But I don’t read any Archies! But Archie is doing even more than the other independents to push the creative and social envelope. They’ve gotten lots of publicity with their Archie marries Betty/Veronica comics, but they also had a great crossover with the Tiny Titans. And who would have ever imagined that staid, conservative Archie Comics would end up being the most progressive comics publisher — whitebread Archie Andrews has recently dated Valerie Brown, the African-American bass player from Josie and the Pussycats, and Kevin Keller, Archie’s first openly gay character, has become more popular and more prominent in the comics. Archie Comics is outpacing all the other independent publishers and rocketing past the Big Two in terms of how much they’re moving the comics industry forward.

So there we go — 16 grand, fun comics series. And I think I’d still have to declare 2011 one of the worst years for comics we’ve seen in a long time. Almost half my list is made up of comics that were cancelled, will be cancelled in the next few months, or are in continual danger of being cancelled. DC enjoyed a nice sales surge in the first few months of the Reboot, but the numbers on many of their series are already dropping back to more normal levels. And they spent months alienating and angering long-time fans in one public relations disaster after another. Not that Marvel has fared much better — they’ve been cancelling comics hand over fist. The independents have a better track record for producing good comics — but of course, they’ve also had more trouble getting those comics sold.

2011 has been an awful, terrifying, depressing year for comics fans. I’d like to tell you that I think 2012 is going to be better. But I don’t think I’d get my hopes up very high. No one’s learned any lessons from this year’s catastrophes, and I’m not even sure the Big Two are even capable of doing anything other than shooting themselves in the foot.

Let’s just hope the non-comics portions of 2012 will be better for all of us. Y’all stay safe, buckle up, call a cab if you need to.

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