Mike Mignola is expanding his creator-owned empire, with not just a new group of heroes but a whole new universe separate from his long-running Hellboy family of titles affectionately known as the Mignolaverse. What's coming now is the Outerverse.
Built out of his and long-time collaborator Christopher Golden's prose novels Baltimore and Joe Golem and the Drowning City (and their ensuing individual comic book series), the Outerverse is becoming real with a new series of comic book limited series and one-shots with characters from those titles getting a solo spotlight.
This week's Tales from the Outerverse: Cojacaru the Skinner #1 (of 2) picks up on the story of a young girl named Crina who readers first met in the Joe Golem prose novel, but we're fast-forwarded past her prime human years and into her afterlife as she's brought back from the dead as a revenant when Europe needs her. Like the King Arthur or Charlemagne mythology, only more gothic and dark.
With Cojacaru the Skinner #1 imminent, Newsarama spoke with co-writer Christopher Golden about this series with Mike Mignola and artist Peter Bergting. We go into the massive world-building underway, the story of Crina (a.ka. Cojacaru the Skinner), and the possibility of more stories - maybe even some connected to Mignola's other fictional universe.
Newsarama: Christopher, the foundation of Cojacaru the Skinner is built on this 'Outerverse' you and Mike have built. When was the moment that you knew Baltimore and Joe Golem were part of the same universe? Or did you always know?
Christopher Golden: When we did the Joe Golem novel, it was definitely not in the same universe as Baltimore. But once we started actually writing Joe Golem comics, as we went on with the concepts and things, especially with the Outer Dark, it started to feel natural that they should be in the same universe.
Why couldn't it be? I started layering in hints about the past in Joe Golem, and eventually we tied them together in a way that was direct, but you had to be paying attention to see it.
When it occurred to me that the final blow struck between Baltimore and the Red King could easily fall on the same moment as the cataclysm that caused the flooding of New York, we realized that it was a single global event, and then the Outerverse really came together. It's been growing rapidly and organically ever since.
Nrama: Why do you think this was the perfect time for both franchises to launch this cohesive line, Tales From The Outerverse?
Golden: It's really the direct result of that moment of epiphany I was talking about. When we talked about Lady Baltimore, and how that's a natural next chapter of the Baltimore story, we wanted to create a playing field where all of the major concepts and characters of the Outerverse could exist simultaneously, so we could put all the toys in one box.
That got us talking about the nature of what Lord Baltimore is - what happens to him and what it means to be a pawn of the Powers That Be in this universe, and who else might have been one of those chosen champions for the light in a universe where the darkness is constantly encroaching.
It's incredibly exciting once you start building a universe and a mythology and things naturally grow. Mike tends to not like defining things, but what we've found on this is that the more we've defined, the more of the unknown of this world has opened up, so there's always mystery and weirdness yet to come.
Also, so much of what we now understand of the Outerverse is just for us, not necessarily things we're sharing.
Nrama: Getting to the inaugural Tales From The Outerverse limited series, this week Cojacaru the Skinner launches. What excited you to tell the story of Cojacaru the Skinner in particular?
Golden: Crina first shows up as a little girl in flashbacks of the Golem's life in Joe Golem. It was clear while writing those scenes that she would one day take up the Golem's crusade against the witches, and it was just about the time we were talking about what it means to be one of those chosen champions.
What was exciting to me, especially, was the idea that we're skipping all of the more familiar stuff. We saw her as a little girl, and instead of then telling the stories of her heroism in defending the world against evil as an adult woman, we're seeing her centuries later, as a revenant who has already lived that life, but now has been summoned back in Europe's time of need, almost the way legends of Charlemagne promised he would return.
There's so much to be explored in this character, including in her friendship with the Golem, and in what she'll become now in this world of 1938 and the dawning of a world war.
Nrama: You've been working with Mike Mignola since the late '90s; how has your collaborative process evolved over the years? How has it affected your work on Cojacaru the Skinner?
Golden: I've said many times over the years that though Mike and I are very different in our approach, we share a lot of the same frame of reference and the same interests, which really drives all of this stuff.
We've been working together for 25 years now, and over time there's just a comfort level that grows. When there's a story that he really wants to bring to life, I think he trusts that I'll do everything I can to be true to that, and when I've got stories I want to tell or narrative threads I want to chase and build to something bigger, he's happy to let me go for it.
The way Cojacaru grew out of Joe Golem is so much a product of 25 years of that collaboration.
Nrama: Why do you think Cojacaru was the perfect tale to launch the Outerverse proper?
Golden: It's actually just a matter of how events unfold in Lady Baltimore. You don't have to read that series in order to read this, but it's a richer experience if you do.
The order of the Tales from the Outerverse issues is entirely to do with when concepts or characters appear in Lady Baltimore.
Nrama: The Tales from the Outerverse titles are short - two-issue series like Cojacaru, or one-shots. What made you want to use a shorter format for these stories?
Golden: More than anything, after all the time when Baltimore and Joe Golem existed in the same universe but readers didn't know it yet, we wanted to showcase this world we've been building behind the scenes, to give readers a look at the scope of what we've got.
While plotting out Lady Baltimore and knowing these characters would be appearing there, I hated the idea that there wasn't room for side stories to shine the spotlight on them. These stories do that, and also really give the reader a look at the bigger picture of what World War II in the Outerverse looks like. I love these characters so much and I wanted to share that.
Nrama: Will Tales from the Outerverse have any connections to your newest limited series, Lady Baltimore?
Golden: Absolutely. The Tales from the Outerverse issues can all stand on their own, but they're part of a bigger picture with Lady Baltimore, and all of these characters do appear in Lady Baltimore as well.
Nrama: What plans can you tease for the future of the Tales from the Outerverse?
Golden: We've got huge plans, but of course we need the readers in order to make them happen.
Nrama: Can you see these stories ever crossing over with Hellboy?
Golden: I saw an illustration Ben Stenbeck did recently that had both Hellboy and Baltimore in it. While I loved that image, I honestly doubt we'll ever cross them over.
Nrama: Beyond what's announced for Outerverse solo books, are there other Outerverse characters or settings in discussions to get their own comic?
Golden: We're always talking about ideas. There are a lot of projects coming up for us together in the next few years, but as for stories within the Outerverse…the toy box is overflowing, so stay tuned.
Tales from the Outerverse: Cojacaru the Skinner #1 (of 2) goes on sale April 21 at participating comic stores and digital platforms. For the best digital comics experience, check out our list of the best digital comics readers for Android and iOS devices.