If you held a gun to my head and demanded that I prove my theory that pop art based in paranormal or occult themes has the power to become a form of magic itself I would ever so gently point the gun towards the floor, amble over to my bookcase and pull out my Mike Mignola Hellboy books. Mostly those drawn by Mignola himself, but also a few stories drawn by one of Mignola's inspirations, the great Richard "Gore" Corben.
But mainly the Mignola material. No one has been able to reproduce his voice, or the synergy that can only come when a single creator is riding all of the horses. Comics are a form of creative alchemy in and of themselves- a series of random hashmarks and swatches of verbiage our imaginations assemble into narrative. It's also a still-undervalued medium, even though the crippling stigma of the second half of the Twentieth Century towards comics is finally limping off to its well-deserved death.
It's not that the Hellboy stories drawn by artists like Duncan Fegredo or the BPRD spinoff drawn by Guy Davis aren't very good comics, it's that they're not magic. They still draw upon Mignola's frighteningly-encyclopedic knowledge of occult lore (which makes sense since most of the spinoffs are written by Mignola himself), but they lack that quiet certainty, or that ineffable power that proves that somewhere along the line, something very deep, dark and strange burrowed itself in Mignola's consciousness.
Very much like Mignola's literary hero, H.P. Lovecraft. But whereas Lovecraft was (more or less) content to bluff his way through occult history by inventing his own, Mignola's considerable research chops give his yarns that much more kick.
And Mignola brings the visual punch of Jack Kirby (whose series The Demon was a obvious touchstone for the Mig) and Frank Frazetta to the table, along with his own collection of murky dungeons, dead-eyed demons and candlelit temples. Lovecraft, Kirby, Frazetta, Corben- it's a very strange brew, but it works.
Hellboy is far better known in his feature and animated film incarnations but when you're talking about magic, that stuff is HINO- Hellboy in name only. The demands of the multiplex masses don't allow for the the dark, still, quiet nights in which Hellboy does his dirty business. They don't allow for the occult ephemera, conspiratorial politics and arcane sigils with which Mignola weaves his spells. In the comics, Hellboy's villains are always still, calm and quiet because they don't have to prove that they want to wipe the rest of us off the face of the planet in tribute to some dark alien demon or another. They just do.
Hellboy stories are often hilariously funny in spots, which just deepens that creep-out effect.
Maybe a lot of you out there aren't really interested in comics, or have seen the not-great movies and are turned off to the concept. If so, that's a real shame. I'd recommend Mignola-drawn Hellboy books to anyone interested in the cryptic tryst between entertainment and the esoteric even if they've never read a single comic book in their lives.
It's not that there aren't artists working in other mediums that aren't doing great work, but certainly no one can beat Mignola at summoning strange energies from the ether (and putting them on paper with a dizzingly-minimalist visual vocabulary, I might add).
Words and pictures- funny, the ancient Egyptians understood the power of that alchemical marriage, didn't they?
Bonus factoids: Mignola has done design work for Bram Stoker's Dracula, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and the upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit.
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