I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink this season talking about how much I love Kelley Jones’ work, especially on Batman (in posts here and here), but there’s another artist whose work is synonymous with horror in my mind: Mike Mignola. The genius behind Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. has done all sorts of work in the comics world and this post will give some love to a few of his other works that are lots of spooky fun! Here are some interesting comics you might want to check out if you don’t want to dive too deeply into those sprawling epics.
The first of three Mignola comics I read was the Amazing Screw-On Head And Other Curious Objects book I got from the library. This includes the title one-off as well as a few short subjects, a redrawn existing story and a few all-new creations just for the collection. Though only tangentially connected, these are fun short stories that show off Mignola’s unique storytelling techniques as well as his ability to create worlds that feel enormous even when you’re only experiencing them a few pages at a time. I mean, other creators would have turned The Amazing Screw-On Head into a long-running book, but Mike just did a one-off and was happy (though there was an animated pilot that aired, but didn’t go beyond that).
My personal favorite piece in the book is “The Magician And The Snake.” Like a lot of the others, it’s a fantastical tale about the supernatural and talking animals, but what sets it apart for me is that he based it on a story his 7-year-old daughter told him on the way home from school! In the back-matter he explains that she told him that story after he had already agreed to be in a Dark Horse anthology and went with it for his entry!
From there I wanted to check out a hodge podge of Mignola’s work, so I went on over to the DC Universe app and found that he’d co-written and drawn Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight #54 with Dan Raspler. I’d never heard of this comic from 1993, but it was kind of a revelation! This same year, the world would come to meet Mignola’s Hellboy, but this story very much pre-sages that work. In it, Batman tries stopping one maniac who inadvertently sends him to a hellish dreamworld where he encounters the demonic Drood. Like a lot of the Hellboy work, this one-off features old magic and dark deals, but also a hard-headed hero who wants to smash evil! This is an absolutely perfect one-off Mignola Batman comic that everyone should read!
Finally, I decided to read a book I’ve been flipping through for years: Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph And Torment with Roger Stern. Published in 1989, this graphic novel finds Dr. Strange agreeing to help Dr. Doom save his mother’s soul from the depths of hell. Before that, you see Strange actually earn the title Sorcerer Supreme and then go on the odd-couple journey through hell. It’s interesting seeing Mignola’s work from this era and when he was working at the Big Two because it’s generally so much brighter than you might be used to from his later work.
I feel like your enjoyment of this story — beyond the wonderful art — will rely on how deep your Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom knowledge is. I’ve written about both of these characters quite a lot in recent years, so this one-shot covered a lot of the ground I’d already tread, so I did a fair amount of skimming. However, I think Triumph And Tragedy makes an excellent showcase of both of these characters and their very different approaches to the supernatural. Plus, seeing Mike Mignola draw a super hero battle in hell is a treat you should put in your eyeballs! This book is available on Marvel Unlimited. Oddly, I found it through the app, but not on the web version.
I could not recommend Mignola’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D. work more. I’m glad he’s found collaborators he enjoys working with so we can keep getting more tales from his mind, but there’s something so special about the stories he does that are all on his own. He builds mood better than most. However, since those can be a much deeper dive, I’m glad that there are still so many other Mignola comics out there, like these, that I can experience for the first and eventually, the fiftieth time.