Jeannette Mooney ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Comic Books Staff Writer
The Hellboy universe, written largely (though not exclusively) by Mike Mignola, began in 1994. It is chiefly about the adventures of Hellboy, a demon summoned by Nazis to destroy the world who ends up working for an American government agency to do the exact opposite.
Over the years, the single Hellboy series has grown into a vast extended universe. Unlike the other larger comic universes of Marvel and DC, however, everything in the Hellboy universe has been either written or approved by one person: Mike Mignola. As a result the characterizations, art, and tone of all the installments of the Hellboy universe never contradict each other. The result is a comic universe with extremely interesting lore and art, and great characters who are rarely mischaracterized. There are also many recurring themes in the Hellboy universe, such as destiny, freewill, and Nazi-punching. While the content of the events in the Hellboy universe can get dark and heavy, the majority of the titles in it have a sense of humor capable of lightening up the darker stories without creating tonal whiplash.
The best place to start reading the Hellboy universe would be the beginning. Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is the first arc Hellboy was a part of. After that, Hellboy: Wake the Devil, Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others , Hellboy: Right Hand of Doom, B.P.R.D.: Being Human, and Hellboy: Conqueror Worm.
After the events of the Conqueror Worm arc, Hellboy left the government agency he was working for, the B.P.R.D. The main Hellboy title continued, but left the B.P.R.D. characters without a comic to be in. Mignola and other Hellboy writers decided that these other characters deserved their own title, so B.P.R.D. was made into an official ongoing series in 2004.
The Hellboy universe has a lot to offer in terms of tone, scope, and character. For those who are interested in reading the big events, save the word scenarios, the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. titles may be a good choice. For those who are interested in hearing about the lore of the universe, Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder, B.P.R.D.:1946, and Hellboy in Hell are recommended.
While it is true that Hellboy and B.P.R.D. are the universe’s main series, the various spinoffs are not to be dismissed. The previously mentioned Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder title is one of such spinoffs. Another title of note is Lobster Johnson, which is about a paranormal detective in 1930s America, before Hellboy is born. The title is a great homage to pulp comics and novels made during that time. While both comics have leads that appear in the main timeline, neither are necessary for enjoyment of the other titles.
Jumping into a new universe can be daunting, especially when said universe is decades in the making. Fortunately, while reading previous comics in the Hellboy universe will certainly increase enjoyment, it is not strictly necessary. One can pick up a random issue of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. and still appreciate the story, art, and characters. As it just so happens, a new major arc of the latter comic has just kicked off, titled B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know. The book’s third issue was released October 25, 2017. The arc is still new, but looks very promising and should be a good Halloween read.