Most superhero films come from DC Comics or Marvel Comics and have a history that dates back to before most of their fans were born. Hellboy is an exception. The comic was founded in 1994 and has been distributed, since its inception, by Dark Horse Comics, itself founded in 1988.
The first Hellboy film, which premiered in 2004, was a collaboration between Mexican writer/director Guillermo del Toro and its comic-book creator Mike Mignola. The two men got back together for Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which comes out on Friday (July 11). Mignola says that having a film based on your comic book brings more awareness to your characters and that the trick is to make sure you don’t lose perspective.
“The film did shine a big light on the comic and it brought new readers and it bumped book sales radically in the short term,” Mignola says. “But it didn’t cause me to change the way I did the book. I didn’t alter the story that I had been telling to take the movie into account. They are still separate entities, but it did make Hellboy a known thing.”
Del Toro admits that it isn’t easy trying to take someone’s creation away from them and that you have to know which battles to fight.
“In the first movie, there were two visual things that Mike fought for and I acquiesced because I felt he was right,” Del Toro explains. “When I don’t think he is right then it is in the movie. In this film, we created [an underground world called] the Troll market. He said ”˜ohmigod, I don’t think that should be there.’ But I said ”˜It will work’, and there were other moments like that where I had to say ”˜trust me.’”
Like some literary critics, who worry that too many novelists are writing books so that they can sell the movie rights, Mignola has reservations about taking comic books to the large screen. He says that although there appears to be a renewed interest in the writing of comic books, many new writers and artists are designing their comics so that they can make the transition to film.
“I think there is good and bad about comic books being turned into films,” Mignola says. “It wasn’t that long ago that people were saying that comics were going to go away. Sales got bad and there was a feeling that it was a dead art form.
“But they will continue to exist because Hollywood is making movies from them. The bad news is that people are doing comics with the intention they will be films and so you see that people’s creations are tailored toward what they think the movies want.”
Mignola also feels that we are far from the end of the comic-book-as-movie trend. He says that the success of this year’s crop will probably lead to Hollywood taking more comics off the shelf and putting them into production.
“When something does well more things get greenlit. Right now a lot of things are being greenlit based on the success of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. So it’s possible there will be even more in a couple of years, although it’s hard to imagine more than this year.
“At the same time I think it’s great that our film is associated with all these big superhero films that are being released this summer. As a comic-book guy, Iron Man and Hulk and Batman are things I grew up with. I think it legitimizes us when people are calling this ”˜the summer of comic book heroes’, and are mentioning Hellboy alongside Hulk and Iron Man and The Dark Knight. It puts me and my book alongside these books that I grew up reading.”