Archive for Mike Mignola

Batman vs. Cthulhu


Batman: The Doom that Came to Gotham

This is normally something I’d prefer to review before Halloween. But DC, in its infinite anti-wisdom, chose to release this last week instead of in October, and I’d rather not wait ’til next Halloween to review this. Heck, it took us 15 years to even get this collection, so who knows if DC will leave it in print for the next ten months.

So the plotline? Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City after years exploring the world and discovers a secret conspiracy stretching back years that threatens to destroy the city, if not the rest of the world. So far so typical? Sure, sure, almost every Bat-storyline reads something like that.

But in this case, everything’s been crossed over with H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. You’d think that’d be a strained concept, but it works out amazingly well.

Oswald Cobblepot is a mad professor, waddling naked around the Antarctic with a bunch of tumor-covered penguins. Mr. Freeze has more in common with the cold-dependent Dr. Munoz from Lovecraft’s “Cool Air.” Killer Croc is a mutated Deep One. Poison Ivy shows up as a seductive plant monster. Barbara Gordon is a literal Oracle, interacting with the spirit world to see the future. Ra’s Al Ghul shares an origin with the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. We get appearances from Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent, Jason Blood, Oliver Queen, and more, all twisted around the axes of pulp fiction and cosmic horror.

Verdict: Thumbs up. If you’re not a Lovecraft fan, you’ll get a very good pulp horror story. If you are a Lovecraft fan, you’ll get shivers of joy every few pages whenever a new permutation on HPL’s creations appears. It’s really pretty amazing how perfectly some of Batman’s rogues gallery fit into Lovecraft’s archetypes.

This was written by Mike Mignola and Richard Pace, and though the art is by Troy Nixey, it’s clear that Mignola dropped some heavy hints about what the art should look like, ’cause it’s very Mignolian (Mignolanian? I don’t know.). Of course, Mignola specializes in pulp, especially pulp horror, and some of the images we get here are just gloriously creepy — Cobblepot wandering in the Antarctic, Wayne’s ship frozen in the bay, Harvey Dent’s transformation.

The only villains we don’t get are the two we might most expect — there’s no Joker, and there’s no Cthulhu. Perhaps Mignola planned them for an eventual sequel?

Again, this series has been colossally rare for the past 15 years — the few copies for sale online would cost you about $50 for each of the three issues. But here it is, all collected into a single volume at last. If you let this one slip away from you this time, you don’t need cosmic horrors to drive you mad.

No Amazon link this time — it’s brand new, so check at your local comic shop.

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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.

Today’s Not-So-Cool Links:

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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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Mister Mignola’s Magnificent Mythological Madness

The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects

I meant to review this a few weeks ago when it first came out — but it turned out to be a lot more popular than the stores in North Texas were prepared for. Every new shipment they’ve gotten was sold out by the time I made it to the store, so I had to wait ’til last week to pick it up.

This is a collection of a lot of Mike Mignola‘s non-Hellboy stories, especially the ones that are very, very weird and funny. We get, obviously, the Eisner-winning “The Amazing Screw-On Head” from 2002, about a robot hero called forth by Abraham Lincoln to fight the evil Emperor Zombie. We also get another Eisner-winning story — “The Magician and the Snake,” a short tale co-written by Mignola’s seven-year-old daughter, Katie. And besides that, there are the fantastically bizarre and wonderful tales of “Abu Gung and the Beanstalk,” “The Witch and her Soul,” and “The Prisoner of Mars.”

Verdict: Thumbs up. Well, first, if you’ve never gotten to read “The Amazing Screw-On Head,” this is a perfect opportunity to remedy that little empty part of your life. Screw-On Head, Mr. Groin, and Mr. Dog and their valiant struggle against Emperor Zombie and his undead hordes as they quest for a magical item in the Aswam Valley (“generally considered to be the worst place on earth”) is a masterpiece of quirky humor and Victorian action, and it certainly measures up with a lot of the best Hellboy stories.

The other stories are also very enjoyable. “The Magician and the Snake” is by turns funny and tragic and dragon-on-a-skateboard awesome, which is quite a feat for a five-page story. “Abu Gung and the Beanstalk” is a fantastic twist on Jack and the Beanstalk, with some brilliantly funny lines. “The Witch and her Soul” features the Devil and a couple of puppets, and that’s pretty nice right there. And “The Prisoner of Mars” is entirely bizarre, with a Munchausenian plot and clinically insane characters.

It’s a very attractive hardcover, and it’s great fun to read and re-read. Heck, it’s probably the type of thing you could read to your kids if you want them to start exercising the really weird parts of their imaginations. And you do want them to start exercising the really weird parts of their imaginations, ’cause that’s where all the fun stuff lives.

Go pick it up. If your local shop doesn’t have a copy on hand, they’ve probably got some more on order…

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The Monster Show

What’s that ya say? Tomorrow’s Halloween? Well, by gum, let’s dig up some nice monstery comics and see how they look?

Hellboy: In the Chapel of Moloch

Hey, Mike Mignola is back writing and drawing Hellboy again! The technical term for this is: “totally sweet.” Hellboy investigates a case where an artist of middling talent takes up residence in a spooky church and sculpts up a honkin’ huge statue of a demon called Moloch. And the statue actually bleeds when you cut it! Turns out the church was the headquarters, centuries ago, of a Moloch-worshiping cult, and the forces of Hell still have influence here. Will Hellboy go for a simple, quiet exorcism? Or a great deal of smashing and breaking and shooting?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Man, it’s great to see Mignola drawing Hellboy again. He ain’t lost a trick, either — this is spooky, moody, eerie — and yeah, very action-packed stuff. And the writing remains top-notch. Mignola drags up all kinds of creepy historical and semi-historical tidbits to help move the story along. A cult that roasted babies alive? A saint who fought in the Crusades even though he’d been decapitated? Ooky, and fun. More please, Mr. Mignola.

Monster-Size Hulk

Four different stories as Hulk fights… MOOOONSTERRRRS! We get one where Hulk takes on Frankenstein’s Monster, possibly even returning him to standard Marvel continuity. The second story features Werewolf by Night. The third one is a short little two-page comedy starring Marvel’s classic giant monsters. The last one is neat — mostly text by Peter David, with a couple of illustrations, as the Hulk takes on Dracula himself.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I loved the one with Frankenstein, and I thought the story with Dracula was outstanding. This is the Dracula from Marvel’s classic ’70s series “Tomb of Dracula” with a ruthless, megalomaniacal, grandstanding Count Dracula — a character I’ve long enjoyed.

Marvel Adventures: The Hulk #13

Marvel’s all-ages books all seem to be exceptionally good, and this one is a lot of fun. The Hulk tangles with the Living Pharaoh, and he’s managed to enslave most of Marvel’s heroes by turning them into mummies! And they’re pretty creepy mummies, too! Can Hulk, Rick Jones, and their pet monkey (Um, what?) figure out a way to stop the Pharaoh in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m impressed that they managed to make what’s basically a kids’ version of “Marvel Zombies.” Yes, it’s a little scary, but still fun.

The Goon #29

Skinny is back from the dead as Mr. Wicker — he’s basically a wood-covered, burning zombie. Yeah, takes all kinds. And the orphans get a new playmate — Merle the Werewolf’s son, Roscoe the Werepup. Roscoe claims to be able to fart and whistle at the same time — we’ll see if this amazing talent eventually becomes useful.

Verdict: Thumbs up again. This one has zombies, werewolves, wood monsters, and more. Great, if slightly crude, Halloween reading. But you wouldn’t want the Goon to be anything but.

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Sunday Leftovers

I found a couple Mike Mignola comics I’d forgotten to review last week hidden under a pile of papers, so let’s go ahead and take a look at them real quick.


B.P.R.D.: 1946 #1

A new series, written by Mignola and Joshua Dysart, and illustrated by Paul Azaceta. It focuses on the early history of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, or the BPRD. This first issue is set in post-war Berlin, split between the Americans and the Soviets. Trevor Bruttenholm, Hellboy’s “father,” has come to the city to try to catalog the Nazis’ occult research. Unfortunately, the Americans can only spare him a group of five sad-sack soldiers with little-to-no experience with research, while the Soviets have an extremely well-organized operation that’s easily snapping up all the best artifacts.

So far, the best moments involve Bruttenholm going to visit the Soviet side of Berlin, discovering how far out of his league he is compared to the Russians’ progress, and meeting Varvara, the person in charge of the Soviets’ research operation, who is apparently a vodka-chugging little girl. Later, Bruttenholm and one of his assistants visit a secret Nazi laboratory that has been deserted… or has it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story gives a good idea of what post-war Berlin felt like, the characters are pretty fun, and the story is pretty creepy, especially at the end. Looking forward to the rest of this series.


Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #5

As much as I enjoyed the previous four issues of this comic, this one let me down a little. The evil Fu-Manchu-esque villain sticks Lobster with some mystical talisman that’s supposed to make Lobster his slave, then he gets captured by Nazis and mobsters, but escapes to pursue the Nazis as they prepare to bomb New York City from a U-boat. A pretty cool underwater fight ensues between Lobster and a Nazi. Lobster realizes that the mystic talisman is actually a conventional explosive preparing to blow up, so he ties it to the sub and destroys it. A lengthy wrap up follows.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It just didn’t excite me the way the other issues did. This may be one of those stories where the end makes better sense when you read the entire thing together. But the ending is unexpectedly vague, and the “Iron Prometheus” of the title doesn’t really appear at all in this ish.

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Light Meat vs. Dark Meat

No, we’re not talking about the turkey you’re gonna be shoving down your gullet tomorrow — we’re talking comics with light-hearted themes and comics that are wallowing in the bleak and horrific side of things. Let’s go with the light stuff first…


Captain Carrot and the Final Ark #2

Frogzilla’s back, and the Zoo Crew’s best chance of beating him lies with… Alley-Kat-Abra?! But isn’t she in prison for murder? Turns out that the evil wizard Feline Faust created an evil doppelganger of Alley, and she did all the bad stuff while the real Alley was trapped in a prison dimension. Umm, yes, sounds likely, ya think? Once Frogzilla is turned back into J. Fenimore Frog, the Zoo Crew head for the ocean depths to track the undersea terrorist Salamandroid. Unfortunately, it’s a trap, and the team is attacked by Starro the Conqueror’s face-hugging starfish. On top of that, Vicuna Pacos is revealed as the mad environmentalist immortal Rash Al Paca, and he has plans to flood the entire planet!

Verdict: Thumbs up. The art is wonderful, the puns are wonderful, the jokes are funny, and I’m still pretty happy with the story — though I gotta admit I’m worried about the conclusion next issue. This is a “Countdown” tie-in, and all the “Countdown” comics seem to be designed to be depressing and horrible. I hope this series bucks the trend.

Now for the dark stuff…


B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground #4

Okay, this one’s got more shocks than a toaster in a bathtub. Brace yerself, kids.

A bomb has blown up in Ben Daimo’s room, and the mysterious man who’s been stalking the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense’s compound… well, he stands there and lets Abe Sapien shoot a hole through his chest. What the heck did he want? We don’t have time to find out, because Daimo comes out of the bombed-out firestorm that used to be his quarters… and he’s turned into a nine-foot-tall ravening monster!

Liz Sherman goes catatonic while the sinister mastermind in her head tells her stories of armageddons. The Daimonster starts tearing soldiers apart until Johann Straus, wearing his superstrong body, shows up to beat the stuffing out of it. Unfortunately, the monster manages to rip Johann’s throat out. His body’s dying, but he’s really just a spirit inside of a body — his ectoplasm emerges and — wait a minute, that’s not Johann Strauss! That’s… Lobster Johnson! Then he runs into the infirmary and shoots Liz!

You are probably now asking yourself, “What is this amazing spicy sandwich I’m eating? What is this sammich with a kick like a mule and all the sweet, confusing joy in the universe crammed inside?” My friends, that is one of Mike Mignola’s signature OMGWTFBBQ sandwiches, and your taste buds will never be the same again.

Verdict: Thumbs up. No, I have no earthly idea what the heck was going on. But holy moley, what a ride! Is this Mike Mignola’s best year ever? And one more issue of this storyline to go? Do not miss out on this one, folks.

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Mignola Monday

We’re getting close to Halloween, so it’s a good time to look at a couple of new comics from Mike Mignola, creator of “Hellboy” and the industry’s foremost horror writer.


B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground #3

The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense is under siege from within, thanks to the untimely escape of a murderous wendigo. Multiple people have died, Liz Sherman is seeing an ancient sorcerer who keeps showing her images of the Apocalypse, and Ben Daimio is hearing voices from a dead monster-monkey in his quarters. And there’s someone with a serious grudge against the entire BPRD stalking the facility.

Unlike some previous “BPRD” series, “Killing Ground” has had a lot less overt supernaturalism — sure, there’s the wendigo and the mummy in the medical ward, but most of this has been about ratcheting up the pressure on the characters. Most of these characters are either professional soldiers or have had some military training, and this story has mostly been about a military organization in collapse. Not that there isn’t some really creepy stuff — the carcasses the wendigo leaves behind are pretty stomach-churning, and the thing in Daimio’s room just keeps getting more disturbing every time you see it.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I get the feeling this story is going to change the series’ dynamic forever, and I have no idea what’s going to happen next.


Lobster Johnson #2

This is a bit less horror and bit more classic ’30s pulp fiction. Lobster Johnson and his cohort Jim Sacks, the man with the high-tech powered armor, are on the trail of the dastardly souls who kidnapped Sacks’ benefactor. Lobster must contend with some villains he thought he’d already destroyed, while Sacks discovers the real reason why evil masterminds cultivate an image of ominous menace — it makes it easier to get you with the knockout gas.

Verdict: Another thumbs up. Really, if you love the crime pulps of the 1930s and ’40s, you should pick this one up — I have zero doubt that you’ll enjoy it.

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