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INT: Mike Mignola

03.30.2004

To put it kindly, comic books adaptations have had a spotted record in recent years. There are the obvious successes (Spider-Man, The X-Men), the so-so (The Hulk), and the disasters (just about everything else). As such, it’s understandable that any comic book creator would be a little wary of handing his baby over to Hollywood. Nobody wants to see their life’s work butchered on-screen, no matter how sizeable the paycheck is.

Mike Mignola, the creator of HELLBOY, is somewhat of an anomaly – a comic book creator who not only participated in the making of the film, but – get this – is actually pleased with the results. As Co-Executive Producer and Visual Consultant, Mignola was a regular on-set and a constant resource for director Guillermo del Toro, who was eager to have Mignola’s blessing on virtually every aspect of the film.

Will HELLBOY successfully make the leap to the big screen?  We’ll find out this Friday. In the meantime, check out what Mike Mignola has to say about the making of HELLBOY!

MIKE MIGNOLA

A lot of comics have been butchered in the process of adapting them for the screen. Were you worried about this with Hellboy?

In the case of Hellboy, when I met Guillermo, because I’d seen his first two movies, I said, “I like what you do. You can do anything with this character. I’ve done my version. Go on and make it Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy.”  I’d rather see a director make the movie he wants to make, especially a director like Guillermo. When he said, “No, I want to do your character,” then we got into “Ok, if we’re doing my character, let’s make sure we do this, this, and this.” But initially I said, “Whatever you want.”

Wasn’t it difficult to “let go,” so to speak?

I think I was looking for a way to let myself off the hook and not worry about the movie, and if (Guillermo) was making something radically different, then I could just sit back and cash the check. It separates me from the movie, which makes it a lot easier emotionally. I won the lottery with Guillermo, because he understood the material and he loved the character. We sat down and agreed on what things should be changed for the film, certain things that, in the comic, were just too odd. They wouldn’t translate to the screen. I was very content to sit back and say, “You’re the filmmaker.”

How do you think the hardcore fans of Hellboy will react to the movie?

There are hardcore comic fans that want comics to stay comics, and there are a lot of people that want to elevate comics to something else. If they like it as a comic, (they want to) elevate it and make it something more by making it a movie. Sadly, even a lot of time creators feel the same way, and we’re embarrassed by our own profession. Whereas, the more I work in Hollywood, the more I appreciate going home and working by myself and doing comics, because it’s the only place where you have complete control. If it’s somebody else’s money, ultimately it’s going to be their movie. You’re not calling the shots, whereas if I’m home alone in my studio, I can do whatever I want. And I know that if I draw a page, unless I cut it, it will be published as is.

I wasn’t focused on my particular style being on the screen. That never occurred to me. When we talked about Ron as Hellboy, I said, “That’s the personality of the character.” I was much more concerned about the personality of the character showing up, not particular lighting or color, etc.

Guillermo mentioned that his first and only choice to play Hellboy was Ron Perlman.  Did you feel the same way?

I tried not to ever think about the movie as something that would really happen. I really didn’t believe it would ever happen. When Guillermo and I met, I found myself thinking, “Wow, this guy would really be great for this. But don’t get your hopes up; it’s never gonna happen. It’s too good to be true. This guy (Guillermo) is too good to be true. We see eye-to-eye on Ron and how the story should be done.”

Somewhere along the line, in the first few years of development, someone said to me, “You know who should play Hellboy is Ron Perlman.” And that clicked instantly. At that point I didn’t have any ideas about somebody playing this character, and I just thought, “Yeah, Ron would be perfect.” And when Guillermo and I sat down, the first thing we said to each other was “I know who should Hellboy.” And we just put our card on the table at the same time.

Why did you chose Rasputin to be your main villain?

Well, he’s such an archetype. And it saved me the trouble of making up a name. (Smiles) I’m fascinated by history and these kind of historical characters. In fact, in the first comic book series, I never named Rasputin. I knew it was Rasputin and one or two times in the comics he spelled out certain bits of his history, but it was done almost as a joke, or a thing to see if the audience would pick up on who it was.

I like working history in to kind of blur that line. It’s happened in two or three different books I’ve done, where people say, “We don’t really know what you’re making up and what you’re not.” You put in enough history to confuse the hell out of people.

There are also the World War II elements.

I grew up reading Marvel Comics – Captain America and that kind of stuff – where the best heroes were guys hanging out with American G.I.s, like Captain America, and the villains were Nazis. And I just said, “Man, I want to root my thing in that world.” Because that, to me, is where comics work the best.

But don’t you think that comic book writers tend to see the world in a rigid, black and white sense, in terms of good versus evil?

Well, I think actually the opposite is true now, because I think so many guys want to do comic book characters like the Punisher – he’s a good guy, but he spends most of the time shooting people. It got so clichéd and corny to have a Captain America kind of character, so people swung so far the other way. What I thought was interesting with Hellboy was to begin it in that real good/evil world, and then create a character who should be evil, like the worst thing on earth, but he’s so clearly a good guy. To kind of get both those elements stuck together in one character.

If the studio opts to make a sequel, where would you like to see the filmmakers take Hellboy, as far as the character is concerned?

I really haven’t thought about it, because clearly the main arch of this character was done in the first film. It took me like two books to do what Guillermo did in that first movie. The one element I would love to see brought in, what I did in my second book, would be to have other supernatural characters relate to him, and basically say, “You’re not one of them. You’re one of us.”

What did Guillermo bring to the mix?

He upped all the human stuff, all of the warmth between the father and son character. It’s stuff that I get very nervous about. It’s just not usually what I write. If I do one panel where a guy puts his hand on the other guy’s shoulders, to me that speaks volumes. Also, because I’ve been doing to book for ten years, I’m able to establish relationships between characters very slowly. Guillermo had to kind of fast-track all of those relationships. And then, of course, the relationship he did between Hellboy and Liz Sherman, which was never in the comics. But it made a wonderful...at the heart of the film it became this wonderful thing about relationships between the character, which my comic never was. It was always an excuse to draw monsters beating the crap out of each other. (Laughs)

Was it always your ambition, to draw comic books?

It wasn’t even to draw comic books – I just wanted to draw monsters. I never really thought I would be good enough to draw comic books. All I could do is draw, and the only interest I had outside of drawing was reading. And both involved monsters. Somewhere in art school I said, “Well ok, you’ve focused on drawing monsters, but there aren’t that many places where you can make a living drawing monsters. Maybe the closest you’re ever gonna get is working in comics.” And that’s how I ended up in comics, because I figured that’s where I’ll get a chance to draw monsters part of the time. When I created Hellboy, it really was, “Boy, if I could pull this off – I’m drawing a good guy that’s a monster fighting bad guys that are monsters – I will really have achieved doing nothing but drawing monsters.”

Who was your inspiration for the Hellboy character?

I didn’t really realize this until about a year ago, but Hellboy is very much my father. It’s my voice, because as an inexperienced writer, the only way I knew how to write somebody was, “What would I say?” So, that part is me. But my dad is a tough-as-nails cabinet maker, and he would come home and sit down at the dinner table and his knuckles would be shaved off, or he would have these big cracks in his hands with all this dried blood all over them. When I’d asked what happened, he’d say, “Ah, I had to push this board through this big machine and so the big blades came down and cut my knuckles off.”  And I was just thinking, “Wow. Nothing will ever kill this guy. He’s like the toughest monkey on earth.” I didn’t consciously sit down to put that into Hellboy, but I did realize that I think that’s where it came from.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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