Sunday, July 11, 2010

Viva Hellboy !

So it´s our second entry for WORLD WITHOUT SUPERHEROES and it´s another title published by DARK HORSE. So sue me, I don´t get that many non - superhero titles.

Originally I wanted to write something about my first review copies but then I realized that I still need some info for that. So instead we will be talking about one of my favorite comic genres that doesn´t get enough attention here : horror comics. I already wrote a bit about Richard Corben´s work on HAUNT OF HORROR : H.P. LOVECRAFT and today we´ll be taking a look at his collaborations with another Master of Horror : Mike Mignola.

It´s kind of funny how all this came about because initially this would have just been about HELLBOY IN MEXICO but it has become much longer. I got my copy online but then I decided to to get another one for my brother as a gift for driving me around in Erlangen this year. I know that he sooner or later gets all the Hellboy comics in the german translation - which is one of the reasons I don´t write that much about Hellboy. It´s really my brothers series and I read the new books he gets which usually is around Christmas as presents by my brother and me.

Anyway, I had to get to a different online comicshop because...I don´t know. Either my usual online comicshop didn´t have it anymore or the other one was cheaper or something. In any case the online comicshop where I ended up had an extrra section for Hellboy one - shots where I found THE BRIDE OF HELL another Mignola / Corben collaboration. Back in the day I had written it down for my order but somehow I forgot all about it.

So I got another Richard Corben HELLBOY comic because I wanted to do something good. There´s a lesson about karma somewhere in this. In any case when I prepared for Today´s post I was researching some preview pages and found out that besides MAKOMA there was ONE other joint effort of these two comic greats : a three issue series called THE CROOKED MAN. Sadly I didn´t find the single issues but I ordered the trade from ( which once again was cheaper than both online comicshops ).

Initially I wanted to wait with my review until I have read this story as well but as the first topic for this post fell through I decided to switch back to plan A. I also thought about reviving one of this blog´s favorite sections : COMICBOOK BABE BATTLE.

Yes, I got more comments on those posts than anything else and it´s just a lot of fun to do. I already have all the picture material prepared ( there are some hot pics in there, massita ) but I´ll save that for next week. I said I wanted to get my post quota per month up so maybe I can do a post ( or a few if, as usual, I can´t wrap it up in one post ) about COMICBABE BATTLE during the week and do the usual comic review on the big Sunday post.

So let´s get started with HELLBOY IN MEXICO and see how far we come this time.


As I said in my last post even though this is a month where I try to avoid all things involving superheroes there are some cases where I have to mention them. I´m still writing about other kinds of comics - horror comics in this case - but superheroes will be mentioned.

Me and Mike Mignola go waaay back, all the way back to the 80s. At that time I was just discovering american comics and buying them at the train station in Stuttgart where one newsstand was getting them. This was way before getting my first real subscription ( and you may skip this part if you have read it before ) at a real comicshop and I just bought anything I could get my hands on.

This doesn´t mean that the comics weren´t good. I got FANTASTIC FOUR by John Byrne

THOR by Walter Simonson

X - MEN by Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri

AVENGERS by Roger Stern and John Buscema

.....and HULK by Sal Buscema with covers by Mike Mignola who later on took over the art with issue 311 - only to switch to ALPHA FLIGHT after issue 313. I don´t remember why the change was made only that John Byrne took over HULK and Mike Mignola came aboard ALPHA FLIGHT. Back at that time money was not an issue like Today - for one, comics were cheaper then, and I also had more money at that time - so I got both series.

I had been reading scattered issues of ALPHA FLIGHT before. In fact the very first american comic I bought at a train station was ALPHA FLIGHT issue 20 with Gilded Lily although it wasn´t in Stuttgart.

I was visiting an aunt and on the train station on the way I found the newsstand with the american comics. Which gave me the idea to look for such a newsstand in Stuttgart. When I think about it the biggest part of my comic collection goes back to me visiting an aunt.

Anyway, Mike Mignola and superheroes. There may be people who don´t want to hear it but Mike Mignola started out as a superhero artist.It would be years till I got his stuff for DC but when I think about Mike Mignola the second thing that pops into my mind are those great HULK covers and his interior pages for HULK and ALPHA FLIGHT.

What´s the first thing ? Well, a flying raccoon in space, of course.


I don´t know what it is with WORLD WITHOUT SUPERHEROES month but somehow we always get to the topic of animal comic characters. In the last post we had a ronin bunny samurai in feudal Japan, this time it´s a science fiction raccoon with a jetpack and laser pistols from outer space ( not to mention that Thor was transformed into a frog during the Walter Simonson run ). Of course I´m talking about the cult series ROCKET RACCOON, one of the most loved series by Mike Mignola fans ever. In fact the series has such a strong resonance with comic fans worldwide that to this day he still gets the odd issue to sign at conventions.

Rocket Raccon had already appeared in INCREDIBLE HULK 271 released in May 1982 so I don´t know if his 4 issue limited series ( back then most miniseries were 4 issue limited series ) that followed in 1985 pandered to some kind of trend.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES was big, USAGI YOJIMBO was also up and running and a lot of comic companies were doing animal characters. In the end it doesn´t matter if it was just Marvel´s way of following a trend the series that was written by Bill Mantlo with art by Mike Mignola became an instant classic.

Recently Rocket Raccon has resurfaced in the ANNIHILATION books and became a valued member of the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. On an odd note Rocket Raccon issue 4 has been mentioned last Wednesday over at Random Longbox, just if you think I´m the only one still obsessed with that series : covers so good they bleed excitement

Back to Mike Mignola, I´ve followed his work ever since on books like GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT or COSMIC ODDYSEY where he already showed hints where his art was going before finding the unique style that would later become his signature style on the adaption to Francis Ford Coppola´s DRACULA movie. Now many people see Mike Mignola as the big superstar with this worldfamous franchise, but when he started it he wasn´t so sure he would succeed.

Going away from the big two to do his own thing - and pulp horror comics to boot - and betting his future on it all was a big gamble. Thankfully it has paid of even if he doesn´t do all the art himself anymore. From time to time he can work together with some really talented artists and the list of collaborators reads like a Who´s Who of comic artists. Although it´s understandable that Mike only let´s the best of them take care of his baby. And let´s be realistic....somewhere deep inside we´re all Hellboy fans. Like Richard Corben which finally brings us to HELLBOY IN MEXICO.


The first thing for which I have to give kudos to Dark Horse is that they managed to get the issue released just right on time for the Cinco de Mayo. Of course the comic is not only enjoyable by people of mexican heritage but I guess they get a special kick out of it, not only because the story takes place in Mexico but also because Mike Mignola integrated such important parts of mexican culture like katholicism, aztec gods and - most important - wrestling or like it is called by mis paisanos : lucha libre.

From the few mexican wrestling programs I watched on spanish tv ( back when they were showing them ) I learned that pro wrestling in Mexico is quite a bit different than it is in the United States, it's not that they " think it's real " but things are taken VERY seriously. Not in the kind of seriousness like in Japan where I thought the loser has to do harakiri ( at least that was the impression I got after seeing the first match ) but that it is like a religious and spiritual experience. The characters are generally bigger and more super - heroic / super - villainous and they set more emphasis on flashy costumes and even flashier athletics. It’s definitely more in line with pro wrestling’s vaudevillian roots and pays homage to the historical significance that masks have in Mexican culture, dating back to the Aztecs.

Teotihuacan / Aztec Sun Mask with Jaguar ( handcrafted )

It´s a me, SuperMarioXatotl ! The aztec god of games !

Masked luchadores are treated as folk heroes fighting for justice and often appear in comic books and on film.

For a masked luchador, the mask is a point of pride, a sign of their honor ( which is very important for mexicans - or people in Spain for that matter ) and they never remove them in public. The legendary El Santo and Blue Demon were even buried wearing their masks.

It's considered extremely dishonorable to try to remove an opponent's mask during a match.

Luchadores are often real folk heroes, like the mentioned El Santo there were a few of them who appeared in movies like El Mucho Grande, who also appered in a comic book a few years ago. Then there are other wrestlers like the famous SUPERBARRIO, a Mexican " real - life superhero " celebrity, satirist, and organizer. Superbarrio, a high school dropout, wears red tights and a red and yellow mask. Rather than fight crime and corruption with violence, he uses his image to organize labor rallies and protests, and file petitions in his hometown. His real identity was unknown for a long time, but he has been revealed to be Marco Rascón Córdova.

I don´t want to spoil too much about the story but I will say that it involves everything typical about Mexico like three wrestling brothers sent on a monster hunting mission by the Virgin Mary teaming up with Hellboy or a wrestling match over one ma´s soul against a bat demon creature out of real aztec folklore. If you already know HELLBOY I don´t have to tell you how perfect Mike Mignola blends elements of actual folklore, cheap pulp comics, comedy and - in this case - lucha libre into a seamless tale that really touches you. And I also shouldn´t need to tell you what an astonishing artist Richard Corben is. There have been some people who say he´s been slacking the last year but here he hits it out of the ballpark once again.

If Mike Mignola ever decides to leave the art to another artist for the rest of the series I hope Richard Corben is on the short list. He´s like the ultimate Hellboy artist. As someone else noted : The only negative thing I really have to say about this issue is that it seems to just end. After re - reading the last few pages the ending seemed to make more sense, so, maybe I just liked it so much I was sad it was over.

If you never read an issue of HELLBOY this tragic tale ( ever noticed how Hellboy always gets the short end of the stick ? ) is a perfect first experience. It´s funny, it´s all - out - larger - than - life - action and it also has a message about the negative effects of partying too hard. This comic comes with the highest recommendations.

At this point I would like to end this post, as it has once again become larger than expected. As usual, I never know where these little essays take me, and I didn´t expect to take the detours about Rocket Raccon and Lucha Libre.

We will get to THE BRIDE OF HELL and THE CROOKED MAN in another post, probably when I have finally read them. Before closing I wanted to add some links for a few reviews where I got some pointers for this post, like some of the facts about mexican wrestling from the review at Mania and the roundtable discussion at Comic Alliance that really analyzes the comic in - depth :

review at IGN / review at Comic Vine / review at iFanboy

review at Weekly Comic Book Review

review at mania ( that also looks at the wrestling aspects )

a roundtable review ( with spoilers ) at Comics Alliance

blog about an art exposition about El Santo

Rocket Racoon - the Wolverine that never was

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

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