Written by Mike Mignola
and John Arcudi
and drawn by Guy Davis, Tyler Crook and a number of similarly excellent artists, B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth
follows the adventures of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, a variously freakish team of supernatural investigators on a mission to protect the world from infernal forces of every kind. Like Mignola's Hellboy
before it, B.P.R.D.
has been popularly described as "an ongoing series of miniseries,"
with each major movement of the story ultimately taking the form of a graphic novel that stands on its own while serving a function in the larger serial that we talk about a lot
. Beginning with the third issue of October's B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Return Of The Master
, publisher Dark Horse Comics is getting serious about the "ongoing" part of that popular description, and for good reason: that issue will mark the 100th installment of B.P.R.D.
since the Hellboy spinoff began in 2003.
The book will be released formally as B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth
#100 with the subtitle "Return Of The Master, Part 3 of 5," with subsequent storylines following suit permanently
as the book continues its increasingly riveting march towards what series editor Scott Allie described simply and ominously as "the end."
We spoke with Allie
about the thinking for B.P.R.D.
renumbering plan and took a first look at in-progress artwork by frequent series artist Tyler Crook
ComicsAlliance: The various Hellboy and B.P.R.D. titles have distinguished themselves from other comics in a myriad of ways, but for commercial purposes the most obvious difference is the series-of-miniseries model, which has been touted as a favorable format by creators and readers. Much has been made by readers of other series about the phenomenon of renumbering, which usually takes the form of resetting a long-running series to #1. B.P.R.D. seems to be doing the opposite, renumbering from a big number like #100. What was the thinking behind the series renumbering?
The reason to make the change was in part how many times [San Francisco retailer and industry pundit] Brian Hibbs told me, "Well, really B.P.R.D.
is an ongoing..." And he's right. Another part of the reason is that as we've moved into doing more short stories -- two- or three-issue stories -- we get those new issue #1's too often. You do new #1's to give readers jumping on points, but when they're coming so quickly it becomes more confusing than anything else. Depending on how retailers rack, you could have two or three B.P.R.D.
#1's on the shelf at a time, and it's hard for readers or retailer to know what to read next. So while I know it will cause a little confusion to suddenly have #100 out there, a few months down the road it'll make everything simpler.
Also, we are just sort of proud to have hit a hundred issues of this title. For all the changes the book has gone through, we're still telling the same story, we're still moving in a fairly straight line, as opposed to a book that has to hit the reset button every couple years. Our Conan
series is hitting the same anniversary, #100 of our main monthly Conan
book, now written by Brian Wood after Kurt Busiek, Tim Truman, and Roy Thomas. With that one we're not changing the numbering, because the numbering there is working fine.
Layouts by Tyler Crook (click to enlarge)
CA: As you said, the last year has seen a blitz of B.P.R.D. projects in particular: lots of minis, one-shots, two-shots, etc., and by a variety of creators in addition to the core team. Is B.P.R.D. consolidating into a single monthly title going forward, or is the renumbering more ceremonial?
Almost. B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth
is consolidating into a single monthly title going forward, one comic a month. We have B.P.R.D. 1948
coming up, and part of this renumbering is to help make the distinction that when we do a historical story, something set way in our past, it's separate. Looking back to earlier this year, the stories I wrote, [The Pickens County Horror
] and [The Transformation of J.H. O'Donnell
], those are part of Hell on Earth
, and going forward, those would fall into the monthly. Anything in the present will be in the monthly. When we have a flashback series to do, like 1948
, it'll be on the side. Not saying there'll be many of those, but there are a couple...
Pencils by Tyler Crook (click to enlarge)
CA: B.P.R.D. has become one of the few creator-owned series I can think of that's made it to 100 issues (much more if you count the various Hellboy and Abe Sapien and Lobster Johnson releases, of course). Briefly, what's the state of the Mignolaverse Union? Where are you going next, particularly with B.P.R.D.?
Where we're heading with this is simple: the end. There have been a lot of prophecies, a lot of omens, in the Hellboy books, including B.P.R.D.
and all of this, and the omens have not been good. The idea is not that the reader can have a perfectly clear vision of where this is all heading -- a lot of interpretation goes into these prophecies, and a lot of the interpreters are wrong. But we are stepping things up and heading to the big payoff. The slogan for B.P.R.D. this year was, "It's all going to hell in 2012." Well, then what? Then you're in Hell for a long, long time, and our guys have to deal with that. Things have gone too far for them to hit the reset button and say, "Phew, handled that, all better now." Readers are going to see how things in Hellboy
, Lobster Johnson
, Abe Sapien
, even Witchfinder
, will just keeping coming together more and more over time. The payoff for [longtime Mignola readers] like you, Andy, is gonna be huge, and not all in one burst.
Inks by Tyler Crook (click to enlarge)
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #100 goes on sale in October in finer comics shops and online from Dark Horse Digital.