Sketch Friday #58 – Hellboy

In my teens, the art of Mike Mignola was a hard sell for me. Admittedly, I categorized him as one of the “weird” artists––where Mignola was joined by the likes of Jae Lee, Brian Stelfreeze, Sam Kieth,Larry Stroman, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Dave McKean––that is, artists who didn’t follow the norm of Jim Lee-styled superheroics and, as a result, were rebuffed of my attention.

However, Mignola stands out from those other artists in that I came around to his style earlier than many of the others. Though he didn’t draw in the highly-rendered hyper-realistic style of the Jim Lee school of comic art, his blocky, high-contrast approach to covers and interiors retained the heightened melodrama that I enjoyed with more mainstream art.

Hellboy as drawn by Mike Mignola.

To that end, I did immediately respect Hellboy when it first appeared. Though I probably overestimated its value as I compared it to the more mainstream work of Marvel’s X-Men books and their Image Comics clones in WildC.A.T.s––so, I lumped Hellboy into the comics-as-art (to my teenage brain) pool populated by Concrete, Love and Rockets, Cerebus, and even Bone (admittedly, my scope on the medium was rather myopic as a youth).

Probably my earliest exposure to Mignola, his cover work on the X-Men Classic reprint books.

Now, I find myself following the abstracted leads of art like Mignola, drawing from their stylized compositions to find new and interesting ways to present not only my own characters, but my art in general. It’s due, in part, to Mignola’s work that Long John volumes 1 & 2’s covers are the way they are. If not a direct inspiration, learning to respect the work of Mignola and his “weird” kin really opened my eyes to the possibility of comic art and finding inspiration beyond those whom I simply wanted to emulate or aspire to. In fact, following these esoteric trails pushed me to change my goals and find new, personalized, and unique paths to travel down.

After struggling to find mainstream work in the early nineties––he hit some high notes with things like World of Krypton and Gotham By Gaslight for DC Comics as well as drawing the Rocket Raccoon limited series and a lot of cover work for Marvel––he found a home with Dark Horse Comics that gave him the platform to literally make a comic about whatever he wanted. As noted in many interviews, he said that he knew he liked to draw monsters and so he created a book that allowed him to do just that (which also shows why he and Guillermo del Toro got along so well).

Twenty-five years later, Hellboy is probably the most well-known independent comic book creation in popular culture. So, a victory for Mignola and Hellboy is a victory for all independent creators.

Lineart of this week’s Sketch Friday.