Hellboy has traveled across the globe and across the 20th century. From Scotland in the '40s to Antarctica in the '90s to, well, Hell itself, so you'd think there would be little left of the world (and the 1900s) for them to explore. But on February 17, creator Mike Mignola is proving that sentiment wrong with Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land, a four-issue series set not only in an unexplored place, but in a barely explored period in Hellboy's history: his childhood.
Mignola is co-writing Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land with Tom Sniegoski, and enlisting Craig Rousseau on interior art and Matthew Smith on covers.
Newsarama spoke with Rousseau, Sniegoski, and Smith about this wide-eyed (and fully-horned) Hellboy and what it meant to send him to The Hidden Land. Read on to hear what they had to say.
Newsarama: Craig, correct me if I'm wrong, but Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land is your first time working on Hellboy, right? What's going through your head as you're adding your own work to this character's legacy?
Craig Rousseau: You are correct! Long time fan Hellboy fan, first time Hellboy creator. I was a BIG fan of Mike's work well before Seed of Destruction; that Rocket Raccoon miniseries in the early '80s is where his art really hooked me.
Nrama: Tom, we're mostly familiar with Hellboy as an adult. Beyond a few flashbacks and short stories, we don't see much of his youth. So for readers who aren't super familiar, what's Hellboy like as a kid?
Tom Sniegoski: The adult Hellboy is kinda world-weary, he's pretty much seen it all, and just goes about his day. He's going through the motions. The younger version is still filled with a kind of wonder… so much of the world, and the crazy stuff he's seeing, is all totally new. In the miniseries, we get to see a Hellboy with fresh eyes. He is still filled with a sense of wonder, the world hasn't had a chance to grind him down yet.
Nrama: At the time when you've set The Hidden Land, how aware of his destiny is Hellboy?
Sniegoski: He doesn't know much at this point. Sure, there have been hints of things presented here and there, but nothing that weighs on him. This is a Hellboy without the heavy weight of his destiny. Life is still new and exciting with cool crap to look forward to.
Nrama: Speaking of destiny... Craig, what's going through your head as you're adding your own work to this character's legacy?
Rousseau: Going into this project with Tom and Mike, my main goal was to be able to bring "my" style to the story and not feel so intimidated by trying to draw like Mike and Duncan and all the others who've drawn young Hellboy (it took a while, but I think I'm there…).
Nrama: Without spoiling anything, how do the events The Hidden Land inform Hellboy's grown-up personality?
Sniegoski: I have to be careful because I don't want to spoil anything. Let's just say that what the younger version of Hellboy encounters in his Hidden Land adventure helps to shape him into the kind of person he will become. It's kind of a warm-up to what he has to look forward to.
Nrama: Hellboy books have dabbled in every kind of story (scifi, horror, mystery, etc.), but The Hidden Land is rooted firmly in the adventure genre. As an artist, what do you have to do to tell a great adventure story?
Rousseau: Right, The Hidden Land is straight up, wild jungle adventure… and my goal is to capture that in the art and storytelling. The action needs to read clearly, and the art should always be in service of the story, not just cool images strung together (luckily, the script has plenty of story AND cool images).
Nrama: Without spoiling anything, which piece of this story was coolest to draw?
Rousseau: There's plenty I won't spoil, but really… just drawing young Hellboy is the coolest.
Nrama: Let's loop in Matt Smith now, who is drawing the main covers for the Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land series.
Matt, what do Hellboy fans expect from a Hellboy cover?
Matt Smith: Being a Hellboy fan, I know what I expect from a classic Hellboy cover. A beautiful design with just enough story elements to hint as to where Hellboy will be and what he is up against. Works like a charm every time - always grabs me.
Nrama: Are you taking notes from Hellboy covers of the past, and if so, to what degree?
Smith: This was an interesting assignment because the tone of the book is intentionally different from other Hellboy stories.
This is a Hellboy who has yet to see the world and far from being confronted with his intended purpose. I ended up looking to Tintin more than anything else as those covers evoked the sense of danger and adventure I was hoping to get at. Also along Tintin-ish lines was having a scene from the story as the cover, as opposed to a collage of story elements. I love that collage style but I thought the scene approach was fitting for this particular series.
Nrama: Hellboy covers are famous for eliciting a mood from their viewer. What moods will your Hidden Land covers elicit?
Smith: Again, I'm hoping the mood lands somewhere between the lighter, youthful adventure of a Tintin cover and the darker overtones of a 'classic Hellboy story.' The story itself has a more youthful and wide-eyed Hellboy but it certainly also has the darker, spookier elements that Hellboy will come to deal with on a regular basis as he grows up.
Nrama: The last question is for all of you: In your opinion, which other comic character deserves the Young Hellboy treatment? That is, to star in an adventure as their younger selves?
Rousseau: Besides the SHAMELESS plug of saying Kyrra: Alien Jungle Girl is perfect for a story or two about her youth, I'd say my top choices have been done already with Wonder Woman and Thor, but I'd love to see more…
Sniegoski: Hmmmm. Some of the ones I'd like to see, we've already seen glimpses of here and there... I'd love to see more young John Constantine, maybe the Goon and Frankie.... a young demon Etrigan could be pretty cool. We could show him working his way up the hierarchy of Hell, learning how to rhyme.
Smith: It could be interesting to see Gamori, Hellboy's sister, at that age.' We'd get to see more of Hell, which would be great. There could be a sub-theme to her main story in contrast to Hellboy's path.' No pancakes for Gamori.
[Editor's note: Although Hellboy creator Mike Mignola wasn't available for this interview, he couldn't pass up answering this final question of who else deserves this 'Young Hellboy' treatment]
Mike Mignola: Ed Grey fought a werewolf as a kid and then was possessed for a while. That was covered in just a couple of panels in one of the books, but something like that might deserve a bit more detail.
Hellboy is one of the most popular superheroes outside the walls of Marvel and DC - but who else is there, and where does the Red Right Hand of Doom land? Check out Newsarama's list of the best non-Marvel or DC superheroes of all time.