Hellboy by Mike Mignola.
|Publisher||Dark Horse Comics|
|First appearance||San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2 (1993)|
|Created by||Mike Mignola|
|In story information|
|Alter ego||Anung un Rama|
|Team affiliations||Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense|
|Notable aliases||The World Destroyer
The Great Beast
The Beast of the Apocalypse
The Right Hand of Doom
Son of the Fallen One
|Abilities||Superhuman strength, stamina, healing and durability
Knowledge of the occult, and ancient magical languages
The Right Hand of Doom
Hellboy is a fictional character that appears in comic books published by Dark Horse Comics. The character first appeared in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2 (1993) and was created by writer-artist Mike Mignola. Hellboy has since appeared in a number of eponymous miniseries and one-shots, as well as some crossovers and a spin-off series focusing on the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, of which he is a member. The character is a demon who fights for the U.S. government and himself against dark forces, in a series of tales that have their roots in both folklore and pulp fiction, battling a range of enemies from Nazis to Baba Yaga. His adventures have also been captured in various media including live-action films, animated films, novels, and a range of merchandise.
A demon whose true name is Anung un Rama, Hellboy was brought to Earth as an infant by Nazi occultists. He was rescued by the Allied Forces, and Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, who formed the United States Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). Professor Bruttenholm having no children of his own and being unmarried, raised him as his own son. Hellboy became a Christian by Prof. Bruttenholm’s teachings, saving his otherwise evil soul for the cause of good and justice. In time Hellboy grew to be a large, red-skinned demon with a tail, horns (which he files off, leaving behind the signature circular stumps on his forehead, to make his appearance more “normal”), and an oversized right hand made of stone. He has been described as smelling of dry-roasted peanuts. Although a bit gruff, he shows none of the malevolence thought to be intrinsic to demons, and works with other strange creatures in the BPRD. Hellboy has been dubbed as the “World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator”.
The character has been featured in a sequence of comic book mini-series published by Dark Horse Comics, influenced by vintage adventure and horror fiction.
The comics were adapted into a 2004 film starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy with a 2008 sequel, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, and two straight-to-DVD animated films, the first of which, Hellboy: Sword of Storms, was released on February 6, 2007.
According to Mignola’s commentary on the Hellboy film DVD, various aspects of the character’s looks and personality were inspired by his own father, a cabinet maker who often returned home from work with tales of horrific on-the-job accidents, told in the nonchalant, unflappable manner that would eventually become characteristic of Hellboy.
Hellboy debuted in 1993 in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2, published by Dark Horse Comics for distribution at the eponymous comic-book fan convention held in San Diego, California. Created by writer-artist Mike Mignola, the stories have a flavor of supernatural adventure with a dark mood embodied by Mignola’s line-work, and his distinctive balance of heavy shadows and colors.
Most of the Hellboy and related Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense comics have been collected as trade paperbacks, and some later stories have been crafted by creators other than Mignola, including Christopher Golden, Guy Davis, Ryan Sook, and Duncan Fegredo. Golden has also written several novels about the character.
Hellboy’s adventures span the 1940s to the present day, and involve investigations into the paranormal, including sorcery, Nazi occultism, the Thule Society, hollow earth explorers, werewolves, vampires, and ghosts. Of particular note is the recurring machinations of the Ogdru Jahad, malevolent deities akin to Lovecraft’s Old Gods, and the key to their release, the Right Hand of Doom, a relic adorning Hellboy’s arm.
Hellboy is a creature summoned or perhaps made in the final months of World War II by the historical figure Grigori Rasputin on Tarmagant Island, off the coast of Scotland, having been commissioned by the Nazis to change the tide of war (“Project Ragna Rok”). He appears in a fireball in a ruined church in East Bromwich, England, on December 23, 1944. Proving not to be a devil, in the traditional sense, but a young, devil-like creature with red skin, horns, a tail, and an abnormally disproportionate right hand made of red stone, he is dubbed “Hellboy” by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm.
Taken by the United States armed forces to an Air Force base in New Mexico, Hellboy is raised by the United States Army and by the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD), a federal agency dedicated to combating occult threats.
As an adult, Hellboy becomes the primary agent for the BPRD, alongside other human and quasi-human agents that include Kate Corrigan, a professor of folklore at New York University; Abe Sapien, an amphibian humanoid (Ichthyo sapien); Liz Sherman, a young pyrokinetic; Roger, an unusually large homunculus; Johann Krauss, the spirit of a medium kept in a containment suit; and Captain Ben Daimio, a special operations man with occult experiences, the latter two of which have not met Hellboy due to Hellboy’s resignation from the Bureau.
During a visit to Bromwich Church (the place of his “birth”), Hellboy learns he had been conceived 300 years ago by a witch, Catherine Tanner-Tremaine, and a demon Prince of Sheol. At this time, Hellboy had not existed as a baby in the “real” world; the prince’s “favorite son” was considered to be “a power waiting to be born.” Hellboy’s “mother” also had children: a nun and a priest who would later haunt the church, dying in an attempt to stop the demon from claiming Tanner-Tremaine on her deathbed.
Hellboy is regarded as a minor celebrity, having been granted “honorary human” status by the United Nations in 1952, and is known as the “world’s greatest paranormal investigator”. As such, he interacts regularly with humans, primarily law enforcement officials, the military, and various “scholars of the weird”, most of whom are not presented as overtly reacting to his strange appearance. Conversely, the film adaptations depict Hellboy living at the BPRD with limited access to the outside world, and considered simply an urban legend by the general populace, until he, and the BRPD by extension, are exposed to the media in the second film.
Similar to other comic book superheroes such as Batman, Wolverine, and Daredevil, Hellboy is constantly haunted by the knowledge of his past. In Wake the Devil, the second graphic novel, he says of his past, “I like not knowing. I’ve gotten by for fifty-two years without knowing. I sleep good not knowing“.
Hellboy’s superhuman abilities presumably stem from his demonic nature, though the specifics of these powers and their limitations have not been explicitly described.
Among his more obvious powers are superhuman strength and resistance to physical injury. Hellboy has been shown to tear down a large tree and hurl it as a weapon, as well as cars, and toss opponents weighing several hundred pounds many yards away with one hand. He can withstand powerful blows that would severely injure or kill a human, such as being repeatedly struck by a superhumanly strong opponent, with little or no discomfort. Nonetheless he is far from invulnerable, and can be injured by conventional weapons.
Hellboy possesses an accelerated healing factor that rapidly heals his body, repairing damaged tissue and quickly generating new blood. In “The Lost Army”, he rapidly heals from being shot many times in the chest with an MG-42 machine gun before destroying the gun. He has also withstood being impaled through the chest with a sword, healing completely within a matter of minutes.
Hellboy also seems to age differently from humans. In the story Pancakes he is two years old but appears to be far older. In the story Nature of the Beast he appears to be a full grown adult, but as this story is set in 1954 he is merely ten years old. His rapid maturation is in contrast to his actual rate of aging, which seems to be much slower than normal. Throughout the sixty-year span of the comics, he has not aged beyond the point at which he reached physical maturity.
In addition to his natural physical abilities, Hellboy carries a variety of items in his utility belt that can be used against various supernatural forces. He has been known to carry holy relics such as bones from Saints, horseshoes, various herbs, and demolition tools like grenades. He commonly carries an oversized pistol referred to as the Good Samaritan. The gun uses specialized bullets, typically of his own design, incorporating silver, garlic and even holy water making them effective against demonic or supernatural foes. The Samaritan is fashioned from melted church bells and contains fragments of the True Cross. By his own admission, however, Hellboy is a lousy shot and prefers to tackle opponents hand to hand.
Hellboy’s right hand, referred to as the “Right Hand of Doom”, consists of a large forearm and hand that seems to be made from red stone. The Hand is dexterous enough to catch a fly, but its large size causes Hellboy to prefer his normal-sized left hand to operate weapons and devices. The Hand is effectively invulnerable and feels no pain, serving much like a sledgehammer when used to punch an enemy.
As revealed in the graphic novel collection Strange Places, the Right Hand of Doom was formerly the right hand of one of the “greater spirits” that watched over the burgeoning Earth, and the hand the spirit used to create the dragon Ogdru Jahad. With that same hand, he bound the dragon, but then his fellow spirits turned upon him for his deeds, and destroyed him utterly – save for his right hand, which was kept and preserved by many races throughout history, including the first race of man. As the hand which created and bound the Ogdru Jahad, it is also the key which will “loose and command” them; in other words, it is a catalyst that will bring about Armageddon. The comic books themselves never mention how the Right Hand of Doom would actually perform these tasks; it is only ever announced that this is the case and that someone or something intends to do it with or without Hellboy’s consent. It is made clear that it is not even necessary for the arm to be attached to Hellboy at all, even on its own it would perform its tasks. However, it has been suggested that if Hellboy dies while the Hand is attached to him, it would become useless. He has thus come to the conclusion that the only way to prevent it falling into the wrong hands is to keep and protect it.
In Seed of Destruction, Hellboy is confronted by Grigori Rasputin and begins to find out what he is doing on Earth and who summoned him there. His purpose will be to command the powers that Rasputin is about to unleash upon the world. Hellboy denies this version of his destiny and refuses to be controlled. Attempting to release the Ogdru Jahad, Rasputin is killed, harpooned through the chest by Abe Sapien under the control of the ghost of Elihu Cavendish.
In Wake the Devil, Hellboy meets the goddess Hecate. Addressed as “Anung un Rama”, he is told that his arrival on Earth signals its end. At the climax of the story, Hellboy is swallowed by Hecate in the form of an iron maiden and some kind of otherworldly conflict ensues, in which he is told that his right hand is a key to open the pit. Again Hellboy refuses, this time breaking off his newly re-grown horns.
In Box Full of Evil (collected in the The Right Hand of Doom TPB.), Igor Bromhead gains power over a demon, Ualac, by using that demon’s name. Hellboy is also bound by his name, “Anung un Rama”, and the Crown of the Apocalypse, which he wears but is invisible to him, is taken. In taking the crown, Ualac is changed into a much more powerful demon. Hellboy finds out that “Anung un Rama” is a literal translation of “…and upon his brow is set a crown of fire…” – and as Ualac has seized the crown, this is no longer who he is. As this is no longer his name, he is no longer bound, and thus able to defeat Ualac. The crown is kept for Hellboy by Astaroth, in Pandemonium, the capital city of Hell; and a seat is reserved for the former in the House of the Fly.
In Strange Places, Hellboy’s apparent destiny as the on-bringer of the Apocalypse continues to attract supernatural attention. After seeking advice from a fabled African witch-doctor, Hellboy dives to the treacherous ocean bottom. The Bog Roosh, a sinister sea hag, manages to capture him using an enchanted nail and a trio of flighty mermaids. The Bog Roosh then reveals her plan to prevent the end of the world by dismembering Hellboy and sending his Right Hand to the deepest depths, robbing the Ogdru Jahad of their key into this world. With the help of the third mermaid, Hellboy manages to defeat the hag, but is lost beneath the sea for two years.
After washing up on the shores of an unknown island, Hellboy inadvertently resurrects an ancient mystic who alone holds the knowledge of the secret history of the universe. The origins of God, angels, the Earth, the Ogdru Jahad and their spawn are revealed, as well as the exact source of the Right Hand of Doom. Unfortunately for the mystic, he’s been brought back to life by Hellboy’s blood, and is driven insane by its demonic nature. Hellboy manages to defeat the increasingly malevolent being, as well as destroy the gargantuan Urgo-Hem, an Ogdru Jahad spawn that prowls the island. These struggles are watched with great interest by the Daoine Sidh, especially a certain changeling with an old grudge against Hellboy. The denizens of this faerie kingdom realize that Hellboy has left whatever destined path was meant for him, but none seem to doubt that the Ogdru Jahad will make use of his Hand in one way or another. The goddess Hecate seems content to simply wait for the end of the world to which she will bear witness, but Gruagach the changeling will not bow out of existence peacefully.
It is seen in the opening of the film Hellboy II: The Golden Army that the hand was about the same size in 1954 when Hellboy was ten and in the present when Hellboy is over sixty.
Mignola’s stories are heavily influenced by, and have been dedicated to, H. P. Lovecraft, Jack Kirby, Edgar Allan Poe, and other authors. Horror stories of the Weird Tales variety are another influence. Hellboy stories have drawn on folklore from countries such as Russia, Ireland, Norway, Japan, and Malaysia.
Guillermo del Toro co-wrote and directed a film adaptation titled Hellboy in 2004, sharing the credit with the original screenwriter Peter Briggs. Del Toro, a fan of Mike Mignola’s work, had previously written the preface to Hellboy: Conqueror Worm.
The film starred Ron Perlman as Hellboy (the favorite of both del Toro and Mignola for the role), Selma Blair as Liz Sherman, Rupert Evans as FBI Special Agent John Myers (a character created for the film), John Hurt as Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, Doug Jones as Abe Sapien (voiced by an uncredited David Hyde Pierce), Karel Roden as Grigori Rasputin, and Jeffrey Tambor as FBI Senior Special Agent Tom Manning. The film received generally positive reviews, and a fair performance at the box office. However, the film debuted in theaters as The Passion of the Christ was still playing, and, according to del Toro’s DVD commentary, some theaters would re-title the film on their signs, or outright refuse to play it to avoid running a “devil” movie against Passion.
A sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, was shot in Budapest by del Toro, and features the returning talents of Perlman and Blair. Jones also returned not only in the role as Abe Sapien, but in two other roles: The Angel of Death and The Chamberlain. Columbia Pictures decided not to continue the franchise, and Universal Pictures had picked it up instead. The plot is a shift to more folklore rather than action, with heavy European overtones. The character of Johann Kraus was added to the team, voiced by Seth McFarlane. The character Roger the Homunculus was not, but he was written into the plot as a very prominent character in early drafts of the script. (Roger can be seen as a lifeless statue in the background of one shot in the first film.) The character of Agent Myers from the first film does not return, his absence being explained by Liz remarking that Hellboy had him transferred to Antarctica out of jealousy.
A Hellboy video game called Hellboy: Dogs of the Night/Hellboy: Asylum Seeker was released for the PC and the PlayStation, by Cryo Interactive/DreamCatcher Interactive Inc. It has no relation to the movie series.
On April 6, 2005, Hellboy movie director Guillermo Del Toro announced on his official site that he had made a deal with developer Konami to create a new Hellboy videogame based on the movie version of the character and his world, featuring new monsters, new villains, and a new storyline. Herman von Klempt and his war ape Kriegaffe #10 are slated to make appearances.
On May 9, 2006, it was revealed that the Hellboy game would appear in summer of 2007, on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PlayStation Portable, released on June 24, 2008. It is being developed by Krome Studios, and published by Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc.. As well as single player campaign where the player gets to play as Hellboy. The game will also feature co-op play, featuring the characters Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman. It is called Hellboy: Science of Evil
The Hellboy Sourcebook and Role Playing Game, based on the GURPS role-playing game system, was published by Steve Jackson Games in August 2002.
On November 9, 2005, IDT Entertainment issued a press release  announcing that the company had licensed the rights to develop “animated content for television and home entertainment” based on the Hellboy comic. Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Doug Jones (Abe Sapien), and John Hurt (Professor Trevor ‘Broom’ Bruttenholm) have all voiced their respective characters. Actress Peri Gilpin joined the cast as Professor Kate Corrigan.
The first two 75-minute animated movies, Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron, were aired on the Cartoon Network before being released on DVD. The first one aired October 28, 2006, and the second aired March 17, 2007.
Both stories have much more in common with the comic-book Hellboy rather than the film – Abe Sapien is not psychic, for example, Hellboy and Liz are just friends, and the artwork and color palette is derived very closely from Mignola’s original artwork. The DVD of Sword of Storms was released on February 6, 2007; it contains documentary material commentary and a Hellboy comic, Phantom Limbs.
After the intitial release some stores included exclusive giveaways with copies of Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron DVD:
A “Hellboy 2 Pak” limited edition DVD set was released July 1st, 2008 that contained both films and a 7″ figure.
A third animated Hellboy film, The Phantom Claw, has been announced. Tad Stones, director and writer of the DTV movies, says the film will star Lobster Johnson and will have some familiar characters, but Abe and Liz will not be in the film.
Hellboy is featured in WizKids’ Indy Heroclix line with several different booster packs. He also has his own Heroclix/Horrorclix cross-line collector’s set called Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.
Hellboy was also part of Upper Deck‘s VS System card game as the first non-Marvel Comics or DC Comics character.
The stories are collected into trade paperbacks:
Note: Although it is still not clear whether or not the majority of the Hellboy prose novels are part of the official Hellboy story canon, it has been confirmed that Christopher Golden’s first two novels, The Lost Army and The Bones of Giants, are. The events of both these novels are listed in the comic’s official timeline featured in The Hellboy Companion. The Golden-penned character of Anastasia Bransfield was also described in the Companion, despite her never having actually appeared in a Hellboy or BPRD comic.
The character and titles have received a good deal of recognition. The miniseries Hellboy: Conqueror Worm won a 2002 Eisner Award for Best Limited Series, while The Art of Hellboy won an Eisner in 2004 for Best Comics-Related Book. Mignola won a 2000 Harvey Award for Best Artist based on Hellboy: Box Full of Evil.