Stephen Weiner, Jason Hall, Victoria Blake, and Mike Mignola’s Hellboy: The Companion

Stephen Weiner, Jason Hall, Victoria Blake, and Mike Mignola (writers) and Mike Mignola (illustrator)

cover, Hellboy The CompanionIt’s really hard to do a companion to a long running series well. Roger Zelazny’s The Amber Chronicles was well served by Theodore Krulik’s The Complete Amber Sourcebook. And Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series got a better than decent look-see in Hy Bender’s The Sandman Companion: A Dreamer’s Guide to the Award-Winning Comic Series. But I hope we see an annotated Sandman someday as there’s much not discussed in Bender’s work. What had not seen a companion text was Mike Mignola’s Hellboy / B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) stories, which have spawned graphic novels, prose novels, lots of short prose fiction, not one but two critically acclaimed live action films, and two rather well-done animated films. Oh, did I mention a cornucopia of action figures? All of which is why Hellboy: The Companion exists!

Okay, you might well ask what qualifies me to review Hellboy: The Companion. Well, I’ve read all of both the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. series that have come out in trade (as I hate waiting for each chapter monthly), have seen the first Hellboy film more times than is probably a sane thing, loved Hellboy II: The Golden Army, watched the two animated films multiple times, and have read most of the prose fiction. Oh, and I purchased an eighteen-inch Hellboy action figure (the movie version) which stands on the office desk. Yeah, I have geek cred on this!

If you look up Hellboy: The Companion on any of the various online retailers, you’ll get this description:

This volume offers a thorough documentation of the Hellboy universe. It compiles the many complex pieces that make up the life of the World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator into an easily understandable format and condenses Mignola’s masterful storytelling into an encyclopedic reference guide–including previously unrevealed secrets! From the hidden history of Abe Sapien to the secret origin of the world, this complete compendium is every hardcore Hellboy fan’s key to the mind of Mike Mignola, and the ultimate introduction for anyone looking to begin their journey in the weird and wondrous world he has created.

Accurate, but rather dry. Now, it is correct that it is “every hardcore Hellboy fan’s key,” as there’s more than enough information here to situate the most voracious of appetites for information about Hellboy and his ‘verse. It is not by any means where a new reader should start as it will scare them off very fast as there is a wealth of information that could easily confuse a newcomer to the Hellboy ‘verse!

What’s worth singling out here? First and foremost, the chronology is amazing — everything is put in its proper time frame. (There is an anomaly in Hellboy: The Companion‘s chronology that suggests someone should’ve checked the text better – Kate Corrigan has a different birth date by decades here than she has cited elsewhere. Likewise the timeline for the conception of Hellboy and the seduction of his Witch mother; two dates are given – 1574 and 1547 (see pages 140 and 141). I suspect that the 1547 is the correct one as that is the one in the graphic novels with second being a copyediting error. Tsssk!) Regardless, I read most of the chronology in a single setting – it’s that good!

Also worth your time are the character profiles as there’s an amazing amount of information here that’s useful once you’ve read the two series to date. Why not read all this material before the two series? SPOILERS! MORE SPOILERS! Just take the matter of how Abe Sapiens came to be… Oh, never mind. Or Lobster Johnson and his amazing… Oh, that would be telling…

Safe to read before delving into reading these tales is “the Literary Heritage of Hellboy” essay as it puts the Hellboy ‘verse in its proper context as a modern day pulp. (Arguably all the best comic series are pulps but we’ll leave that discussion for late in the Green Man pub!) And the bibliography is a must for serious fans as it lists everything published in the Hellboy ‘verse.

Bottom line? A must purchase for serious fans of the Hellboy ‘verse.

(Dark Horse Comics, 2007)

Cat Eldridge

I'm the publisher of Green Man Review. I do the Birthdays and Media Anniversary write-ups for Mike Glyer’s, the foremost SFF fandom site. My current audiobooks are Simon R. Green’s Jekyll & Hyde Inc., Robert J. Sawyer’s Red Planet Blues and Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time. I just read Kathryn Kristine Rusch’s Ten Little Fen which was most superb. My music listening as always leans heavily towards trad Celtic and Nordic music. I’m watching my way though all twenty one seasons of the British forensic series Silent Witness. Yes, twenty one seasons. And I keep adding plants to my flat here, up to nearly thirty now including a miniature banana tree which is growing nice and my first pineapple bromeliad.

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