Has it really been a quarter of a century since Hellboy landed, right hand of doom first on an unsuspecting world? I wish I could say that I was there in the beginning and that I emerged from Forbidden Planet tightly grasping the first issue of Seed of Destruction at the time, but the truth is I was too busy fronting a local punk rock band and doing a low rent impersonation of GG Allin, albeit without the nihilistic coprophilia, to pay too much attention to comics during the mid-nineties. Not being the hippest or most switched on of individuals, it took me nearly six years to catch up with Big Red, but when I finally did and fully immersed myself in his adventures, I nearly lost my mind. Hellboy was a conglomeration of the things that I loved but didn’t dare talk about in polite punk rock company for fear of being resoundingly mocked by my fellow scenesters, who despite trying to portray an image of open mindedness and acceptance to the wider world were incredibly cliquey and elitist. The last thing that the rule oriented punk scene would have, and wanted to, understand or accept at the time was geek culture. So I kept my mouth shut, my head down and read Hellboy and the other books on my pull list, played D&D and spazzed out to professional wrestling in secret. It was safer that way.
Like I was saying, Hellboy thrived on a mythology that could have been built with me in mind. Drawing from the Lovecraftian and pulp traditions, his was the story of the ultimate outsider. A demon draw to Earth by the panicked machinations of the Nazi’s in the closing years of the Second World War who was found by a small group of allied commandos, supernatural advisors and a costumed hero, Hellboy would later go on to lead the fight against all things monstrous, demonic and supernatural as one of the leading agents of the BPRD, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence. While not being human, Hellboy fights for humanity because he understands the human condition, what it means to forever be on the outside looking on, to feel alone and how flawed the species is. But mainly he fights because he can and because someone has to.
To celebrate a quarter of a century of Hellboy, Dark Horse have released a special Anniversary edition of the first issue of Big Red’s own book, Seed of Destruction. And it still looks and feels every bit as special as it did the first time I read it nearly two decades ago. It’s a high velocity two fisted tale that details Hellboy’s origin on Earth, introduces villains most foul, documents a mysterious expeditions and the resultant loss of Hellboy’s “father” and sets in motion the events that would go on to slowly develop over the course of more than twenty years, proving without a shadow of a doubt that Mike Mignola is the master of the long game. The narrative flow, plot and characterisation are pitch perfect with Mignola and Byrne working in flawless harmony, while Mignola’s distinctive art and Chiarello’s colours introduce the definitive version of Hellboy’s world. Featuring additional notes and art, this anniversary edition is must have for long-time Mike Mignola and Hellboy fans and if you’re new to the idea of monsters, demons and all the things in between, this is the first step that you’ll need, and want, to take on the journey that’ll change your life. It’s time to bump back against the darkness… Tim Cundle