October isn't just a time for dressing up in costumes and sipping Pumpkin Spice Lattes: it's also the kick-off of "13 Days Of Hellboy," an event that celebrates creator Mike Mignola's signature big, red character. And to help get the festivities started just right, MTV News is pleased to officially reveal the latest title in the Mignolaverse line of comics: "Frankenstein Underground."
The five issue miniseries is written by Mignola - who will also provide cover art - with interior art by Ben Stenbeck. And though it's not the first time Frankenstein super-fan Mignola has written the character - he briefly debuted way back in 2011 "Hellboy" graphic novel "House Of The Living Dead" - it's really the first time a classic monster has shown up in such a big way in the "Hellboy/B.P.R.D." line of books.
To find out more about the book, and how it reveals a huge key to the mystery leading to the "Hellboy" endgame, we talked to Mignola over the phone... So read on, and happy Hellboy-ween:
MTV News: I was a big fan of the original Frankenstein's monster story in "Hellboy." How much of this new series comes out of that original story, versus forging its own path?
Mike Mignola: It's very strange how it came about, because even as I did that story with [Richard] Corben, "The House Of The Living Dead," I thought it was just a Frankenstein-like monster, a generic sort of one of those creatures.
It was only when we had to write the back cover copy… I was going to list all of these different monsters in there, and saying, "a Frankenstein-like creature" didn't work. So I just said, "Well, I guess he's Frankenstein."
So I never really knew he was Frankenstein until we had to write the back cover for the book. But once I did that, it was like, well yeah, that's such a great character to have. He's such an icon. I've avoided those icon characters and making them part of my world. But once I realized I had the Frankenstein monster in my book, somewhere along the line the title "Frankenstein Underground" really struck.
I did really know what it was, but I loved that idea, or I loved the title. There was some other imagery I had been playing with, this underground, Victorian era expedition going down into caverns, and it wasn't really a story, it was a bunch of visuals.
So I didn't really start with the character of Frankenstein, so much as the title, and these particular images. Then being able to go into the character of Frankenstein - and I knew who he was – it all started growing out of that. But it started with these mismatching pieces, and figuring out how to fit them together.
I suspect scripting it, which I haven't done yet, that's where it will really take on that Frankenstein character. There's nods to Mary Shelley's novel, but there's probably as much the tone of the Karloff Frankenstein, that's kind of the voice I hear in my head. "Bride of Frankenstein" is still my favorite monster movie, and that's the voice I hear when I think of the Frankenstein monster talking.
MTV: I've been hearing you use them interchangeably, so do you have a stand on the "Frankenstein" versus "Frankenstein's Monster" debate?
Mignola: Obviously he is Frankenstein's Monster, but when I wrote the script I called him Frank, because "Frankenstein's Monster" is a lot of typing. So yes, he is Frankenstein's Monster, he doesn't have a name, but the title of the book, "Frankenstein's Monster Underground" isn't quite as striking as "Frankenstein Underground."
The title is misleading in that Dr. Frankenstein isn't underground. But, you know, what are you gonna do.
In another book I happen to be writing at the exact same time, I had Frankenstein monster-like creatures, and I do have someone refer to them as Frankensteins, and somebody in that book does correct that guy, saying, "Actually, Frankenstein is the name of the doctor."
These two books will be out there in the next year, and at least in one of them someone will correct someone and say, "You know, that's Frankenstein's monster." And in this book, nobody is going to call him Frankenstein. There will be a clear definition of who Frankenstein is, versus the monster. It just makes for a better title.
MTV: It's interesting to hear you say that the monster was determined by back cover copy, or the title influences the take on the book… Your worlds are so meticulously created, but from everything you're saying there's also a fair amount of real world consideration and improvisation inherent in the books, as well.
Mignola: The trick is always to make it look like its been planned from the beginning, but if you plan stuff from the beginning, it's too rigid, it's going to break, it's going to collapse. You can't stick to these rigid plots – certainly you can't do it over 20 years. I certainly never projected this far.
The trick is, when you write this stuff, to write it vague, to write it in a direction you're going, but to allow a lot of room for things to move around.
There is an ultimate end to the Hellboy world, to Hellboy, to the B.P.R.D. but I don't want to box myself in. The end has shifted a little bit once or twice over the years, and it's basically the same ending – but you've got to allow for these characters to kind of drift this way, or drift that way, or this character doesn't quite make it to where you thought they were going to make it. But this other character picks up the ball…
You've got to let it live, you've got to give it room to breathe.
MTV: So how does "Frankenstein Underground" fit into this bigger tapestry?
Mignola: It's a very odd thing, because almost right away, as soon as the plot started coming together, it went from taking the Frankenstein's monster and doing a nod to Edgar Rice Burroughs, throwing him into this underground Pellucidar-like world where he's going to fight monsters and things.
But the Victorian thing runs through so much of my stuff. Once I brought in the Victorian era stuff, and some of the stuff I've played with in other books, I realized this book was going to create something gigantic in the overall scheme of where that Hellboy/B.P.R.D. world is going.
It's pretty huge. I never do these books so you have to read this book to understand the other books, but certainly some things are established here that are going to play out later.
I've got so much of this history, this ancient history, this prehistoric history worked out for my little world here, it was a great opportunity to introduce certain things that have never been spelled out before. So it does delve into the history, and it creates a significant thing later on.
MTV: I can hear you dancing around specifics, so is there anything you can tease from the comic in particular?
Mignola: This book has been under wraps for so long, I'm not even used to the idea of talking about the book at all! [Laughs] We've done this group, The Heliopic Brotherhood, who is our Victorian secret society. There's more about them.
It's really hard to hint at, it's just one of those things that, at the end, boom: there's a significant thing created.
MTV: Well then how about continuity-wise, how does it fit into the overall world? You have Hellboy in Hell, Abe Sapian on a walkabout, and the B.P.R.D in ruins. Where is Frankenstein in all of this?
Mignola: That's a good point. This book picks up shortly after the "House Of The Living Dead" graphic novel, so it actually takes place in the '50s.
It's separated from current events, and only issue one takes place above ground. By the end of issue one, we are underground. Once you put him underground, it's hard to have him keep up with current events – especially when they're not current.
There was a character in "B.P.R.D." in "The Universal Machine," we'll actually see that character. But what's interesting is that we'll see that character before her appeared in "B.P.R.D." so it gives me a chance to lay the groundwork for certain things we've already seen.
This is the juggling act: trying to find threads from other books, connecting them up, saying, "this thing is referenced in 'B.P.R.D.' so can I go back in and give it a little bit more of that information?" The trick with this is always, the more people read, the more fleshed out the world, and its history, is.
Even something like "Frankenstein Underground," which feels remote from everything that's going on, you still want the readers to know it’s the same world. In fact, you'll get more of the picture of this world when you read this book.
MTV: Ben Stenbeck is doing the art on this book… Your whole world has a clear look and feel to it, but why was he the right choice for this title?
Mignola: Ben, who I've worked with now for years… He did this "Witchfinder" book with me, and he's been doing the "Baltimore" comic, which isn't directly "Hellboy" related, but… First of all, he wanted to do something in our world. He's been off doing "Baltimore," which isn't the "Hellboy" world.
That's great! I wanted to do something with him, he's very, very good. His work is solid, and it's almost realistic. He's very meticulous with detail, but there's kind of a clunky, old fashioned feel to his work. He's about as far away from a superhero artist as you can get. It's solid, a little old-fashioned feeling, and I thought that was a great character for this book.
It also made sense because I was going to hit on the Victorian stuff, and the fact that Ben has created some of that Victorian stuff in "Witchfinder…" It creates a nice continuity with some of the work he's done before. It was kind of perfect.
He was the only artist I ever thought of for this book. I basically made up this book for him. It started out as something that would be fun for him to do, that was really different than what he had done before, and then it grew into this really significant book.
In fact, at one point it was going to be a series. I said, "Let's create another series that you can come back to," and once I came up with the end of this book, I said, "This is kind of one book."
There's room to do more stuff with the Frankenstein's Monster. With a lot of our collections, we put numbers on them letting you know there's going to be a volume one, two, three, four. This will not have a number on it. It's a standalone book.
MTV: Okay, for the more casual comic book fans who think, "Oh, I've read a Frankenstein book before, I just saw the Aaron Eckhart movie," what should draw them to this book in particular?
Mignola: [Laughs] You haven't seen one like this. It's so rooted in the history of my world… In a way, I do play fast and loose with the Frankenstein stuff, because I throw him into such a completely different world. I'm not treading over the same ground other guys have done. It's not about his origins.
The main thing is placing him in this completely different world. I try to hit some of the iconic "Frankenstein" moments, and there are flashbacks to the novel. But it is very much Frankenstein underground in this Edgar Rice Burroughs world of ancient civilizations. It's pretty different.
"Frankenstein Underground" will hit stores in 2015 from Dark Horse Comics.