Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hellboy Turns 15

It was on this day in 1993 that the character of Hellboy debuted at the San Diego Comic-Con. He first appeared there in the pages of San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2. The creation of writer and artist Mike Mignola, Hellboy is a demon brought to Earth during World War II as a child and raised Professor Trevor Bruttenholm to use his powers for good. As an adult Hellboy would first fight demons, goblins, and other critters that go bump in the night with the U.S. government's Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence. The appeal of Hellboy isn't simply that he is a demon who uses his powers for good, but rather he comes off as an average, working class joe. He can be gruff, nonchalant, and unflappable, yet he shows unswerving loyalty to his friends and family. He loves cats (in fact, he owns dozens of them), smokes cigars (which he lights with a Zippo), and uses a rather huge gun with bullets especially made for supernatural menaces (it is named the Samaritan in the first Hellboy film). His other weapon is his right hand, huge and made of stone, often called "the Right Hand of Doom." Supposedly, its purpose is to serve as the catalyst for Armageddon.

Although the character is owned by Mike Mignola, Hellboy has been published by Dark Horse Comics for his entire history. In fact, he might be their most popular character. In 1993 He apepared in Next Men #21, December 1993. Nineteen ninety-four would see Hellboy titles finally appear, with the mini-series
Hellboy: Seed of Destruction
(it was this miniseries that was the basis of much of the first movie). In all Hellboy would appear in around ten miniseries and several individual stories, not counting guest appearances in other magazines.

The popularity of Hellboy would naturally result in the merchandising of the character. Even before the film, there were Hellboy T-shirts, licence plates, a lunchbox, two Zippos (the BPRD Zippo and the Hellboy zippo). Of course, once the first film came out, there would be even more Hellboy merchandise.

It is perhaps a mark of Hellboy's success that, even though the character was only eleven years old at the time, he had a major motion picture based upon him. Hellboy's path to becoming a film star was not smooth. Guillermo del Toro had long wanted to direct a feature film based upon Hellboy, but could never secure studio approval or a sufficient budget. Fortunately, the success of Blade II finally gave him the chance to direct Hellboy. The film proved moderately successful at the box office and sold very well on DVD. This would result in a sequel, although it would be delayed for a few years. Revolution Studios, the original studio which had produced the first film, had planned to do a sequel, but went out of business before they could do so. Universal Studios would then pick up the project. Hellboy II: the Golden Army came out this past summer.

There have also been animated features for televison based upon Hellboy that have come out. In 2005 IDT Entertainment announced that they had licensed the rights to develop Hellboy animated content for television. The first feature, Sword of Storms, aired on the Cartoon Network in 2006 and was released on DVD shortly thereafter. Mike Mignola co-wrote the script, while Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, and Doug Jones provided the voices of their characters from the movie. A second feature, Blood and Iron, debuted in 2007 on the Cartoon Network and was released on DVD not long thereafter. Mike Mignola once more co-wrote the script. The actors from the movie once more provided voices for their characters, including this time around John Hurt as Professor Bruttenholm. A third animated feature, The Phantom Claw, has been announced.

In a mere fifteen years Hellboy has risen to heights that few comic book characters of recent vintage ever have. In fact, he may be one of the few comic book characters whose name is recognised by the average person, although it is probably due to the movies more than anything else. He has a large readership when compared to other comic book characters. In fact, his following can aptly be described as a cult following. There is one thing for certain. Hellboy will be around for many years to come.

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