More Hell To Pay
♦ 2018 is the 25th anniversary of the first appearance of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and we are representing a series of classic Tripwire interviews on Hellboy. Here’s one where he talks about Almost Colossus back in 1997…
To Hell And Back
♦Hellboy has become a regular fixture on our shelves since Mike Mignola created the character several years ago. TRIPWIRE caught up with Mike to get the facts on Almost Colossus, the latest two-parter coming in June from Dark Horse.
TRIPWIRE: What’s the story behind Almost Colossus then?
MIKE MIGNOLA:Let’s see. In issue three of the last miniseries, Wake The Devil, I introduced a homunculus character that killed a guy and jumped out through a wall. It was also in this scene that Elisabeth Sherman was fucked over, so I am dealing with that. Liz Sherman is dying from something and the only possiblity of curing her is to track down this homunculus and reverse what’s happened. This is kind of like my big Frankenstein epic. It’s not a big epic, it’s only two issues but that’s the kind of imagery I’m playing with and the idea of artificial man.
TW: Is it a quest story at its heart?
MM: Not really.This is the first story I’ve ever done when Hellboy actually has to go out and save a friend of his. I’ve got to say that when I first sat down to do this thing, I was going to kill Elisabeth Sherman. It really didn’t occur to me until this story was all plotted and thumbnailed that it would actually be a stronger story if we didn’t give her up for dead on page 1. It slipped my mind that he’d really want to get this homunculus if there was some chance of saving this woman’s life. I thought ‘Waitaminute, maybe he could save somebody’. Other than that baby in ‘The Corpse’ he hasn’t really gone off and tried to save anything . Generally he just goes someplace and he survives because he’s tougher than everybody else. I got a lot of grief from people for the last miniseries because I killed off so many people. So I thought that maybe we needed a more positive one.
TW: Isn’t a homunculus like a demon?
MM: A homunculus actually is created by alchemy. It’s, as I said in the last mini-series, like a medieval version of a test-tube baby.
TW: Like a golem?
MM: But it’s generally a really tiny one. Whereas the Golem is a magic thing, the homunculus is an alchemy creation. Those little characters in the jars in ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ are homunculi. It’s just a word I’ve always liked.
TW: Why is the story called ‘Almost Colossus’?
MM: There’s a wonderful story by Clark Ashton Smith called ‘The Colossus of Ylourgne’ . It’s the story of this evil dwarf who gets all the local dead guys, deceased people to come up to his castle and he melts them all down and makes them into a giant human living flesh colossus. So this story is very heavily inspired by that.
TW: How does the homunculus come into the story?
MM: He meets another homunculus, his brother homunculus, and this guy has a scheme to make them into more than just two separate lonely miserable unhappy Frankenstein monster homunculus.His scheme is to make them become one big giant.
TW: Who made the homunculus that attacked Liz Sherman?
MM: They never mention his name. He is referred to as the man and as the creator. We don’t get his name. It’s not really that important to the story. Information like that I would love to give but it just didn’t work. What I would love to do somewhere down the line is a card set that would be all the extra information about guys like that. We’d have a card about a book mentioned in the Wolves of St August and it would be a nice appendix to the Hellboy stuff. So someday we’ll find out.
TW: So Almost Colossus goes some way towards fleshing out Hellboy’s emotional landscape and character a little?
MM: I guess so. Hellboy isn’t a guy who talks about his feelings too much. If he talks about his feelings, he talks about them to Abe Sapien the fish guy. In this one he doesn’t really say much. At one point the character he’s travelling with turns to him and says ‘You’re thinking about Liz’ so he says ‘Yeah’ and that’s the extent of it. But we’ll get to see Hellboy really angry in this one and usually he doesn’t get really angry, he jokes stuff off. This is something I have to keep reminding myself about: he’s got to treat this stuff very very seriously in this one because there is his friend’s life hanging in the balance. But he’s seen so much of this horrible crap that he accepts it and doesn’t generally get himself too worked up about it. But I would imagine that, if you were in this guy’s job, you would need to have that kind of detachment.
TW: So Liz Sherman is dying from the poison of this homunculus?
MM: It had something sucked out of her. She’s definitely dying of something. She’s had something removed from her, something that’s invisible.
TW: Are you talking about her soul?
MM: Something like that.Her powers are gone. For all these years she’s hated these powers she has and they’re gone now,and apparently she can’t live without them. That was an idea that was touched on in the last miniseries, the whole idea of accepting what you are and making the best of it.
TW: The irony is that now she’s got rid of it she can’t live without it.
MM: Exactly. That’s really what it comes down to. So if she got rid of it into the homunculus, then we’ve got to somehow get it out of the homunculus, and we don’t even know where the homunculus is and then, if we do find him, how the hell do we get this thing back out of him?
TW: So how do you get the ball rolling, with them looking for the creature?
MM: Hellboy and Kate Corrigan, who was in The Wolves of St August, are just out there looking around and they come across a string of cemetaries that have all been desecrated. Something has gone in and dug up these cemetaries and it’s all happened in the last week or so, which is the amount of time that this homunculus has been out there. Is he doing this and if he’s doing it, why ? How is he doing it? There’s hundreds of bodies that have all disappeared. Where would he be doing whatever it is that he’s doing? So they have to look for a big haunted place where no regular humans would go and then they run into all this spooky stuff.
TW: So the homunculus does have quite a significant amount of knowledge of alchemy and magic?
MM: There’s two homunculi and one of them knows a lot. I really like this story because, as it’s growing on me I realise that, after this one I will have created a really good villain that can come back, and I will have created a really good good guy. So there’ll be an extra team member.
TW: How, with a story as potentially ambitious as this, do you keep it under control?
MM: Well, it’s a pretty small focused story, unlike the last miniseries, which involved so many people.This one is much more along the lines of ‘The Wolves of St August’, where we just have two characters and they go into some big creepy place and some awful shit happens. So it’s not nearly as ambitious as I make it sound. There’s a lot of ideas in it but it goes pretty fast.
TW: So after this will there be a one-shot next year?
MM: Yes. I’m really excited about the next one-shot, which’ll be along the lines of ‘The Corpse and The Iron Shoes’, except it’ll be two stories set in Japan. The two stories are ‘The House of Seven Heads’, which is very much based on a Japanese folktale and the other one is going to be a little short story called ‘The Kapa’ which is a mythological Japanese creature that’s particularly fond of cucumbers. I feel like I’ve strayed off the folklore path a lot and I’m going to go back and forth. There are so many different things I want to do with Hellboy. Almost Colussus is dedicated to Boris Karloff and James Whale. I want to do more things like the last miniseries, a UFO story, a subject that I’ve never been that keen on before and I want to do the folklore stuff.
TW: Are there any plans to do other work?
MM: I’ve got two other paranormal investigator characters I want to do. But I don’t have any immediate desire to do them. I’ve got so much Hellboy stuff right now plotted out that I want to do that these other characters can wait. I’m just waiting for the right opportunity to do them. I’ve also got at least one solo Abe Sapien story that I’d like to do. The next long Hellboy miniseries, after the Japanese thing, is the origin of Abe Sapien and a lot more of the origin of Hellboy sort of. Hellboy is killed and goes to hell and meets his relatives. So I’m really excited about that one. It will flesh out the Abe Sapien character sufficientlyso that there’ll be enough background to Abe Sapien that I feel comfortable doing a solo story. I’ve got at least five miniseries plotted, it’s just a matter of juggling what order to do them in and there’s so many short stories I want to do. It’s just a matter of how much time I’ve got and I’m hoping that the comics industry doesn’t disappear.
TW: I was wondering if you thought that things were in a slightly better state than when we spoke six months ago.
MM: I haven’t heard anybody say that they are. I’m waiting. Every time I go into a comic book store I ask people “Is there any good news?” and I haven’t had anybody say “yes“ yet. So I sure wish they were in a better state. But I’m in no hurry to do anything but comics and I’m in no hurry to do anything but Hellboy. I’ll do it as long as I can. Until the wife looks at me and says “We haven’t fed the baby in a couple of weeks”. On that happy note I’ve probably said all that I can about Almost Colossus and Hellboy.