It remains for me and a lot of people, including Mike Mignola the creator of Hellboy, the preserve of the comic books which spawned him to explore the true nature and depths of the character. I think my first exposure was The Chained Coffin & Other Stories and the whole style of both the artwork and the storytelling captivated me — one of my favourite bits being the pamcakes.
The movies are great, don’t get me wrong — I love Del Toro’s vision and version of the character but there are sacrifices to the integrity of the whole idea that have to occur in order for the big screen version to be made. If the movie makes it possible for more and more books to keep coming out it can’t be a bad thing and if they have to be changed then that they are changed into something from the mind of the man that gave us Pan’s Labyrinth is more than anyone could have ever hoped for.
There are layers upon layers being built into the universe Hellboy exists in, both in his own titles and those of The BPRD. I suppose I am lucky in a sense that I am not trapped into the position of hating a film of something just because it is not an exact replica of the film but it means I like them for different reasons. The comic book goes places a Hollywood blockbuster would never go.
Mignola gives us in Hellboy a noirish supernatural comedy that has the scope to be funny, serious and limitless in potential. Hellboy isn’t just a wisecracking, monster-bashing guy with red skin; and he isn’t your typical action movie hero either. The comics happily bounce around through the history of the character drawing in mythologies from every corner of the globe and they all effortlessly slot into the jigsaw. All the stories are self-contained but they also generally add to the main arc — so you can start anywhere but I say save up and go and buy them all and read them in order because once you have read one you will be sucked in and want to read the rest.