Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Comics That Deserve Greater Recognition Pt3

Now, I know what you're saying - "Hey! Hellboy's already pretty popular! What gives?"

It's a valid point, but my response is thus:

1) Like you can ever say enough about how awesome Hellboy (and Mike Mignola) are
2) There's a couple things I (and maybe no one else) have never said about Hellboy, so I'm going to take the chance to talk about them.

The first thing I want to say is that I have to sit in awe of Hellboy's success. If you think back to the Nineties (and for some of you that might be hard, what with being very small and all) Hellboy would not have appeared to be a likely candidate for a long and prosperous franchise; after all, it was a new property being marketed by a company best known for comic series based on licensed properties from other media. It was complex, drawing on multiple levels of mythology, history (both real, mythical and totally newly crafted), in a series of mini-series, one-shots and trades, with a semi-regular schedule. It was a dark story, with an uncertain future and a mature direction. All this in the age where Spawn, Youngblood, and Cable ruled the comic racks.

Funny how things work out, no?

I think it's a testament to the purity and long-term thinking Mignola put into this, clearly his life's work, that he didn't take any shortcuts or compromises. As the song goes, he did it his way. And the results? The franchise has never been more popular and it's spawned (ba-dum-buh! I'll be here all week folks!) spin-offs in both animation and of course, two really cool movies, with more hopefully to come.

The other thing I want to comment on is the cleverness of the concept and how it's evolved. At first, the entire concept could have been easily summed up. "A demon gets raised by the government, grows up, and fights other demons." Simple. Gets to the point. And even after nearly 20 years of publication, that's still true - but the layers and evolution of the character (and the rich, detailed world Mignola has crafted around him) have been slowly revealed, while not allowing the core concept to waver even a millimeter. Think about how that compares to other comic concepts, that have completely upended their original mission statement (*cough cough* Authority *cough*) to the point that all the extra detail has actually removed what made the property work.

All this sends a very positive message that bears repeating and shouting from the rooftops: Play the Long Game, and stick to your guns, and you'll win.

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