One Hell of a Character
Mike Mignola’s Hellboy stands as one of the most powerful testaments to the success of characters not owned by a large company like DC or Image. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that Mike Mignola perhaps crafted the greatest creator-owned character in the history of comics. Yes, Hellboy is definitely better than Spawn, no matter what those bearded jackasses whose brains have been melted to pulp by 90s comics might say. And you might say that it’s blasphemy to invoke Mignola’s devil (see what I did there? ha!) as the greatest independent character of all time, given that Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead put Image Comics on the map, but I’d beg to differ: The Walking Dead has yet to stand the test of time, given that it’s only about two decades old right now. It’s at its peak right now, and looking at the previous season of the TV series’ huge fumble, it’s just a matter of time before the craze becomes less a worldwide phenomenon and more part for the course. Hellboy, on the other hand, has more or less weathered the challenges that came with its more than three decades of existence in popular media. Suffice it to say that where Spawn or The Walking Dead reached their peaks at one point or another, Hellboy’s presence was a constant and welcome one in the industry; the Mignola masterpiece was always there, not quite always in the center but never in the sidelines.
The thing is, whenever I look at Hellboy, I don’t see this character as some sort of generic property that is aimed at kickstarting a franchise; he has, still is, and hopefully will always appeal to a certain niche of comic book lovers that enjoy good stories outside the capes and tights fare. But, I have to be fair and say that by no means is Hellboy not a franchise, because it is. The only difference is that it’s a franchise that doesn’t necessarily exist in order to rake in cash by the billions. Come on, even the movies – which could be loosely considered the peak of the Hellboy property – didn’t have the same amount of fanfare as pre-MCU superhero flicks like Raimi’s Spider-Man. Their release was more akin to when V for Vendetta came out in theaters: it’s this different movie from what the other screens are playing.
Now, of course it would be a sight to see, not to mention it’ll be immensely good for Mignola himself, if Hellboy got even bigger than it already is right now, but everything’s all well and good with where his characters are right now. And in retrospect, the movies just made Hellboy make its cult of devil worshippers wider, but still a cult nonetheless.
Perhaps the best way to put it into words is this: whereas other creator-owned properties, such as the ones I’ve mentioned earlier, are products of their time, Mike Mignola’s seed of destruction has already proven that it is timeless indeed.