Having first appeared in Next Men #21 back in 1993, Hellboy has been one of the most popular superheroes to come out of the last 30 years. The character has appeared in numerous video games, been adapted for the big screen three times, and spawned a ton of merchandise.
With the release of a new documentary, Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters, on the way and the character’s 30th anniversary just around the corner, now is the perfect time to reflect on the artists who have brought the character to life. Dozens have penciled the World’s Greatest Paranormal Detective in his battles against the forces of darkness, though some have had a bigger impact on Hellboy’s lasting look.
Having made his Hellboy debut with B.P.R.D.: Dark Waters back in 2003, Guy Davis was the artist chosen to illustrate the regular B.P.R.D. title beginning in 2004 and would stick with the franchise up until 2011. During this time, he illustrated around a hundred issues of comics.
As the first artist to have an ongoing series in the Mignolaverse, Davis set the blueprint for what the other books would look like. Rather than emulate Mike Mignola’s thick, angular style of drawing, Davis chose to give the characters a rounder aesthetic and wasn’t afraid to make the monsters gory and graphic, something which would be the standard going forward.
Despite having only illustrated a handful of comics in the Hellboy universe, Paul Grist is among the most beloved artists in the franchise thanks to his work on The Visitor: How & Why He Stayed. In that series, he and writer Chris Roberson flesh out the backstory of the alien who appears in The Conqueror Worm.
What makes the story such a classic is the emotion Grist imbues in this cartoonish looking alien who chooses to stay out of compassion for Hellboy. Despite being a foreign presence who doesn’t fully understand the planet, readers empathize with the Visitor because of his attempts to assimilate while watching over Hellboy, and it’s largely thanks to Grist’s distinct line work.
The first person to draw Abe Sapien, one of Hellboy’s best characters, in his own solo book, Jason Shawn Alexander gives the Mignolaverse a dark, realistic touch that heightens the horror of the supernatural. With heavy shadows, muted colors, and a touch of grit, his art fits perfectly for the world.
Beyond illustrating Abe Sapien: The Drowning, Alexander also drew the one-shot, “They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships,” a story which sees Hellboy go up against the ghost of Blackbeard. It’s a gripping tale, and one of the more memorable Hellboy stories from the mid-2000s.
An Eisner winning artist, the late Richard Corben enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and illustrated several stories in the Hellboy canon. Of his contributions, “The Crooked Man” is the most remembered.
A story which sees Hellboy investigating 1950s Appalachia, “The Crooked Man,” features some of the most gruesome images in the Hellboy mythos with the title character being one of Hellboy’s most iconic villains. Considering this, and the atmosphere Corben lends to comics like “Makoma,” it’s clear that Corben is among the most distinctive artists in the series.
Along with his brother Sebastian, Max Fiumara was one of the two main artists to draw the Abe Sapien series for Dark Horse Comics. During this time, he also created covers for the B.P.R.D comics.
Given the aquatic nature of Abe Sapien, Fiumara’s art offers up a different sort of creep factor than what is found in the other Mignolaverse comics. Instead of something fantastic or grotesque, Fiumara’s monsters have exaggerated features which give them an uncanny vibe. There’s beauty and uncertainty in these creatures and comics, something which can be seen in the Guillermo Del Toro movies.
Hailing from Croatia, Tonci Zonjic was the primary artist for the Lobster Johnson series from 2012 to 2017. During this time he gave the character a big, clean look that complimented the pulpy heroics of the series.
In some ways inspired by David Mazzuchelli, Zonjic’s line work is simple yet it allows for his characters to pop off the page in a way so few artists are able to pull off. In doing this, he is able to craft a universe that feels distinct from the main Hellboy storyline without it feeling entirely separate.
One of the main artists for the B.P.R.D comics during the Hell on Earth and The Devil You Know storylines, Campbell brought a dose of realism to the series which reflected the darker path it was going down.
Responsible for the end of the main Hellboy storyline, Campbell had a massive weight thrust on him, but he rose up to the occasion. Along with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, he delivered the goods and pleased fans with his grimy portrayal of the apocalypse which brought back some of Hellboy’s best villains.
Having first worked with Mika Mignola back in 2008, Stenbeck became one of the largest artists in the Hellboy canon thanks to his work of Frankenstein Underground and Koschei the Deathless. Beyond these respective series, Stenbeck has also illustrated issues of Hellboy: 1953 and The Silver Lantern Club.
With Stenbeck’s art, there’s a sort of wide-eyed innocence to his figures. His style isn’t overly grotesque or busy like many of the other artists who have drawn for Hellboy. Instead, his line work is clean and his characters have an almost cartoonish look, one which embodies the joy of the comics medium.
Duncan Fegredo was the regular artist for the main Hellboy comics from 2007 to 2011 and during this time, illustrated the character’s bloodiest adventures. This can be seen in his first arc for the character, Darkness Calls, which sees Hellboy go up against all of mythical Russia. It was also one of several storylines that was adapted for the Hellboy reboot.
What makes Fegredo’s artwork such a great fit for the series is its dynamism. Taking cues from creator Mike Mignola’s style of art, Fegredo adds more weight and detail to the proceedings in order to create a character who readers could believe was tough as nails.
By far the most prolific writer and artist for the Hellboy series, Mike Mignola remains the king of his creation for good reason. No one else can draw like him, and when people try to, it hardly looks good.
In Mignola’s art, there’s an angular expressionism that looks flat and basic, yet also elegant. These elements, along with Mignola’s heavy use of inks, are what define Hellboy’s world, and no one draws it better than Mignola.
Next: Mike Mignola’s 11 Best Comics