There's no doubt that by now you've probably seen the latest trailer for the new Hellboy flick floating around the internet. "It's bloody!" we said. "It's darker than those other Hellboy movies!" they said. It's true, and it looks awesome.
The new movie, directed by The Descent director Neil Marshall, is taking the character back to his darker origins, and Stranger Things's David Harbour is taking over from Ron Perlman as the crimson hero himself. Overall, it looks like a wild ride.
But who is Hellboy, and why should you care that he's making his big-screen return with a new film this April? The half-demon, blood-red character is instantly recognizable, even if you don't typically read comics or follow action flicks, but it's understandable if you're not quite sure what to think about him or his decidedly hellish universe.
No need to Google around. We've got you covered on all the essentials about the Horned One.
Who is Hellboy?
Hellboy is the half-demon hero protagonist of a comic series created by Mike Mignola. The character has since inspired tons of comic books and three films in all — and he's made appearances in video games, too.
The character made his comic debut in 1993 but wasn't seen on the big screen until 2004, when Guillermo del Toro kickstarted his popularity with the beginning of an action-packed film franchise. Marshall's 2019 Hellboy reboot has nothing to do with del Toro's previous two films; instead, the tone of the forthcoming film has been described as darker and more imbued with the horror elements from the comics.
OK, so what else do you need to know about the character?
His birth name isn't Hellboy. It's actually Anung Un Rama, which means "and upon his brow is set a crown of flame." That doesn't have the same ring to it, though. Born to a witch named Sarah and the demon Azzael, a duke of Hell, Hellboy's right hand was removed at birth and replaced with a relic: the Right Hand of Doom, tied to the Hellboy series' antagonists, the Ogdru Jahad — something akin to the Eldritch abominations of the Cthulhu Mythos.
Luckily, the Nazis didn't get their chance to utilize Hellboy, because the Allies got to him first. With Hellboy on their side, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) was created. Now, this is where his story really begins.
Lead by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, who took Hellboy in and raised him as if he were his own child, the organization acted as a bastion of safety for the half-demon hellspawn as he began working as the protector of humanity — against bad guys like the Nazis, and whoever else seeks to destroy that good thing we've got going here on Earth.
Of course, demons don't exactly grow up the same way humans do. Because of this, Hellboy matured physically a lot faster than his mind did — so he's a little bit of a loose cannon when it comes to certain situations, but that's part of what makes him relatable and entertaining.
Hellboy is extremely powerful (due to his demonic abilities) and can heal himself when injured. He's a snarky, one-liner-spouting guy who loves to have fun, though he just wants to feel "normal" sometimes, too. While he's not in danger of taking crap from anyone, he's also empathetic and feels for others, thanks to his human upbringing. Think of him as something like a more demonic and stronger Deadpool. Fun, right?
Who are some of Hellboy's allies?
Hellboy has hobnobbed with several characters over the years, but two important names to keep in mind are Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman, both of whom were heavily featured in the previous Hellboy film adaptations and comics. As far as the new film goes, it doesn't look like they'll be appearing, but they're extremely important parts of the universe just the same. Here are some of Hellboy's compatriots that you should know about.
Abraham Sapien, born Langdon Everett Caul, takes his name from "Ichthyo sapien," or the species designation given to him by his colleagues, mixed with former president Abraham Lincoln. He resembles a "fish man," though he wasn't born that way.
Dabbling in the occult with the bizarre organization called the Oannes Society resulted in him being turned into the amphibious creature after an arcane ritual went wrong. He retained no memory of his past life and was given his new name upon joining the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. When he was destined to be vivisected, the benevolent Hellboy instead saved him, after which Abe joined the BPRD as a field agent.
Elizabeth "Liz" Sherman is a human woman with pyrokinetic powers and another field agent working with the BPRD. She's been grappling with her powers since she was 11, going so far as to destroy an entire city block, as well as her parents and younger brother. She grew up as part of the Bureau, and joined forces with Hellboy and the rest of the team to help protect the world from other supernatural threats.
She becomes something of a younger sibling figure to Hellboy after he was the one to successfully pull her out of a dark depression she found herself in, after she believed herself to be a danger to those around her. She and Hellboy are quite close, as a result.
Professor Trevor Bruttenholm
Professor Trevor Bruttenholm was an important member of the British Paranormal Society and advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt — yes, the president. When the Allies happened upon Hellboy and wrestled him away from the Nazis, he was placed under the care of Bruttenholm. The English academic raised Hellboy as if he were his own son, and did a fine job of doing so. He was the father the half-demon never had, and as such he was an important positive force in Hellboy's life all the way through his adolescence.
So why should I care about Hellboy?
Well, we can't tell you what to watch, obviously. But if you're a fan of snark, humor, action, and the supernatural, Hellboy is a series that you're going to want to sink your teeth into. He's a no-nonsense demon slayer who acts like more of a rebellious teen and he gets himself into some particularly unbelievable situations. If you're a fan of big-budget comic movie flicks and want a new fandom to get into, Hellboy is a good choice. There's plenty to read, watch, and explore, and it'd be kinda weird if you said you weren't really into the story of a big, horned demon dude. Just look at the guy.
Where can I check out Hellboy's adventures?
First, you might want to watch both of the Guillermo del Toro-directed movies, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Hellboy is based on the graphic novel Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, and its sequel compiles a variety of ideas culled from the entirety of the Hellboy lore.
There are over 15 years worth of comics that you can delve into, with over 20 trade paperbacks in print and many others on the way. But a great starting point is undoubtedly Seed of Destruction, which finds the half-demon spending most of his childhood and teenage years under the watchful eye of Army scientists and his adoptive dad Trevor Bruttenholm. It inspired the first Guillermo del Toro film, and won several honors, including Eisner honors for "Best Writer/Artist" and "Best Graphic Album: Reprint."
When you've torn through that, check out Hellboy: Wake the Devil, which finds Hellboy and the BPRD searching for a vampire scouted by Hitler himself during World War II. It was used as the basis for the animated film Hellboy: Blood and Iron, which is absolutely worth viewing as well.
Then, before you know it, it'll be time to jump into the 2019 flick later this year. You've got a ton of comics to pore over first, though. Diving into a new fandom isn't easy, but this is a foolproof way to prepare with a modicum of knowledge about the character you're going to fall in love with.