He’s an ancient demon whose actions span centuries. But in human terms Hellboy has been around a mere 25 years.
Created by Mike Mignola, he and his employers at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense have been battling the worst the underworld has to offer to the delight of fans worldwide, and the saga shows no signs of stopping.
As he reaches the milestone of a quarter century, here are five fiery facts about this beloved anti-hero…
He could have been a DC Comics character
Writer and artist Mignola has a track record working for comic book giants like Marvel, DC and Dark Horse. When he first came up with the idea of Hellboy he took it to DC.
The character was pitched as the offspring of a demon and human woman. Hellboy’s entry to the world was a tragic and violent one. In 2018 Screen Rant wrote, “Being a half-demon, his ensuing birth resulted in a burst of flames and [mother Sarah] Hughes died shortly after.” DC found the Hell element uncomfortable so they passed.
1994 saw publisher Legend release Seed of Destruction, the first Hellboy series co-written by Mignola and John Byrne. This introduced the big red superhero as a child, who is taken in by mentor Prof. Trevor Bruttenholm. The Professor went on to give him his famous name (his demonic handle being Anung Un Rama).
Hellboy wasn’t planned as a franchise
Mignola was surprised the concept took off the way it did. Seed of Destruction could well have wound up a one-off, with the artist simply looking to create his own project.
In general the creator is known for having low expectations of himself. “He wasn’t confident in his drawing abilities,” Medium wrote last year, “and loitered in the halls of the Marvel offices waiting for work as an inker.” Mignola himself quipped, “When you’re terrible, it helps to be close.”
Hellboy helped shatter those illusions, putting Mignola on the map. He was admired by visionary director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), who made the first big screen movie in 2004, followed by sequel The Golden Army in 2008. Animated films were added to the mix, alongside a plethora of talent who wanted to work on Hellboy in print.
Aside from the fact he’s a demon with sheared horns, the most noticeable thing about Hellboy is his red right hand. Resembling a huge catcher’s mitt made of stone, it comes in very “hand”y for smashing up bad guys. But what is the real story behind it…?
Essentially this isn’t Hellboy’s hand but an artifact called The Right Hand of Doom. Quite literally handed down through generations, it used to be on the wrist of the being Anum. Screen Rant described it as “the sacred object of Hyperborea that created and then bound the dragon Ogdru Jahad… the stone object is said to be the key that could bring about Ragnarok (basically the end of the world).”
This explanation has ties to Greek mythology, myths playing a major role in the background of Hellboy. He has connections across the globe, including to the best-known legend of ancient Britain…
He’s related to King Arthur
The Wild Hunt story arc of 2008 – 2009 gave the character a revelation about his human heritage. This UK-based chronicle is an action-packed narrative which embeds elements of Arthurian lore.
In 2013, the Sequart Organization website wrote, “Mignola finally brings in the Arthurian legends to the forefront of the Hellboy mythos. We see many characters such as Merlin being discussed, the armies of Arthur, and especially Excalibur.”
Hellboy is pivotal as it “is revealed that Hellboy’s mother, Sarah Hughes, is the descendant of Mordred. This makes Hellboy heir to the Excalibur and therefore the throne of England.”
The UK side of the infernal equation is explored in the latest cinematic outing, set for release next month…
There’s a new movie coming out
Guillermo del Toro made two films, treating them as a labor of love. He wanted to shoot a third but despite pressure from fans and original star Ron Perlman it wasn’t to be.
The reins were handed to British-born director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers) and Stranger Things’ David Harbour took over the role of Hellboy. The plot takes elements from The Wild Hunt storyline, bringing in Milla Jovovich as ancient enchantress and main villainess Nimue, aka “The Blood Queen”.
Whereas de Toro’s take on the material was fantastical, the new film attempts to capture the horror element of Mignola’s books.
In conversation during a 2017 Post Mortem podcast and quoted by Collider, Marshall commented, “We’ve been granted permission to do it R-rated, which for me is just like taking the cuffs off… if it happens to come out that way, just because of my own sensibilities, then fine… when you go back the original material, it is kind of bloody, so I’m going to embrace that.”
Speaking to Empire, Harbour revealed, “In our movie Hellboy’s younger. He’s rougher. He’s much more of a teenager. He’s really struggling with the idea of whether or not he’s a good person.”
Audiences will find out soon whether this version of Hellboy is going to set the box office ablaze. Ian McShane plays Bruttenholm (previously portrayed by the late Sir John Hurt) with Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church, Sophie Okonedo and Stephen Graham rounding out the cast. The movie arrives on April 12th.