Hellboy is not your typical comic book character. His stories often dabble in paranormal, mysticism, and occult themes, and he is regularly pitted against creatures of the dark such as ghosts, apparitions, werewolves, zombies, goblins, demonic monsters, mad scientists, power-hungry wizards, vampires, witches, etc., etc., etc.
Take a bit of H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos, a splash of Edgar Allan Poe’s dark romanticism, and Jack Kirby’s inventive knack for storytelling, and you get Hellboy.
To date, Hellboy has won more than 20 Eisner Awards, including Best Writer/Artist (Mike Mignola), Best Limited Series, Best Single Issue, Best Colorist, Best Publication, etc.
And even if you have not read any of the comics, you have probably seen the various critically acclaimed Hellboy feature films or animated movies that have come out over the years.
In short, Hellboy is one of the biggest names in comics. Which makes the fact that many people don’t even know which company publishes and owns the rights to this fantastic and interesting hero somewhat unfortunate.
So, is Hellboy a Marvel or DC Comics character?
Hellboy is neither Marvel nor DC. The Hellboy character belongs to Dark Horse Comics, the largest comic book publisher outside of Marvel and DC. While he has crossed over with some characters from the DC universe in the past, Hellboy is owned by Dark Horse.
In case you’re curious about the origins of our beloved horned friend, and how the character arrived at Dark Horse Comics, join me after the break. Today, we celebrate Hellboy and Dark Horse Comics for giving us one of the century’s best comic heroes.
Mike Mignola, Hellboy, And Dark Horse Comics
When Mike Mignola arrived at founding Dark Horse Comics in the early 1990s, he had already enjoyed a successful career at both Marvel and DC Comics. Mike had developed a reputation for being able to do first-class inking and was one of the most prominent promoters of a simple yet realistic chiaroscuro style.
Comics fans who wanted to consume work that featured faithfully realized dark and gloomy art knew to go for the Mike Mignola art.
It was around this time that Mike Mignola set out to change the status quo a bit and create a character that would encapsulate the dark and perverse themes of Lovecraftian mythos, of which he was an avid fan, but that did not stray far from the superhero genre in which he was well versed.
Mignola had already had some experience in adapting other writers’ work who shared his penchant for the occult and the mystic.
Readers of his work on the Chronicles of Corum in 1986, as well as his work on Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in 1990, would have seen the initial clues of what would eventually become Hellboy’s signature graphical style and a mixture of antediluvian horrors and modern sensibilities.
Now at the helm of his own Dark Horse project, Mignola was interested in exploring a major character that allowed him to live out his Lovecraft meets Poe meets Indiana Jones fantasies, in a fully realized world replete with occult rites and mythical beings.
(Mignola had pitched the idea for Hellboy at DC, but the studio felt that the involvement of Hell made the comic a risky proposition and turned Mignola down)
Finally published in 1994, Hellboy’s Seed of Destruction introduced the world to a blood-red-skinned half-human/half-demon with a complex moral and ethical compass, and a biting sense of humor and wit.
That character was Hellboy.
Some of you might be a bit confused because you have read the Batman/Hellboy/Starman miniseries. This limited-issue miniseries was a co-publication between Dark Horse and DC Comics that featured Hellboy joining forces with DC powerhouses, Batman and Starman.
Video game lovers might also point out that Hellboy is a playable character in 2017’s Injustice 2 for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
However, these types of crossover events are very common in the industry. Hellboy remains a Dark Horse Comics character through and through.
Who Are Dark Horse Comics?
The history of Dark Horse Comics is long and complex and differs a bit from the traditional trajectories most comic book companies follow on their race to success or obsolescence.
While some comic book publishers ride on the laurels of a single popular publication, or with the help of a subsidiary transnational conglomerate, Dark Horse Comics has steadily galloped their way to becoming one of the world’s most important independent comic book publishers.
In 1980, a comic book retailer by the name of Mike Richardson founded a store called Pegasus Comics as the keystone in a planned chain of stores called Things From Another World.
However, Mr. Richardson’s plan was always to move beyond the world of comic retailers and into the world of independent publishing. So, once he had made enough money from the vastly successful chain of stores, Mike Richardson created Dark Horse Comics.
The very first title published by Dark Horse Comics was called Dark Horse Presents, a wonderfully inventive Anthology title that quickly garnered attention from critics and loyalty from fans.
What truly elevated Dark Horse Comics, however, was their conscious decision to team with important figures in the industry such as Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Matt Wagner, and Sergio Aragones.
If you love everything you have learned so far about Dark Horse Comics and Hellboy, let me tell you about the other great publications that are available thanks to this legendary comics company.
Best Dark Horse Comics Titles
Thanks to Dark Horse Comics, comic book readers around the world were able to enjoy such seminal titles as Sin City, 300, The Mask, Aeon Flux, American Splendor, Polar, and many, many more which would later reach mainstream audiences via successful Hollywood adaptations.
Dark Horse Comics also holds editorial licenses for such popular franchises as Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Predator, and Aliens.
Additionally, Dark Horse Comics has been integral in bridging Western audiences closer to emblematic manga, including Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo, Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow, Gantz, Trigun, Berserk, Astroboy, Cardcaptor Sakura, Hellsing, etc.
As if that weren’t enough, Dark Horse Comics also publishes various highly successful Korean manhwa titles such as Banya: The Explosive Delivery Man, and Hanami: International Love Story.
Darkhorse is also known around the industry as the go-to publishing house for video game comics. The most popular titles include World of Tanks, Call of Duty, Dragon Age, Plants vs. Zombies, Tomb Raider, Halo, and many others. They also publish a multitude of titles related to the world of cinema and television, including a Fight Club sequel written by Chuck Palahniuk himself.
The characters of Dark Horse Comics have become legendary and extremely popular cult figures that have delighted generations and will continue to do so, thanks to their engaging stories and masterful art.