I was an early fan of Hellboy. Forget the comical name or the character himself. What grabbed me from the moment I spotted it was it’s graphic appeal. Mike Mignola designs his panels, pages, story, and dialog. They are impeccable and luscious. I want to linger on every page because my brain is always happy to fill in the blanks he leaves practically everywhere. The mark of a superior designer and draughtsman.
It’s the risks he takes with leaving things out that makes the difference. Huge explosions with barely an indication of detail, and large areas of color that he and Dave Stewart, an excellent colorist, work out together. Creatures and settings drawn from simple outlines or slightly modified cut-outs as figures. That takes commitment to leave out all the dang detail.
But it’s thirty-odd years of built-up risk-taking. You get that with training. When I scan his pages I feel the joy Mike projects as if I held the pen in my own hand. The artist in me feels his drawing chops coming through.
That’s what I was shooting for in my own piece based on one of Mike’s characters, Lobster Johnson. I wanted just enough detail to come through, but again, if I nailed the values, I could get away with murder.
This is a cover for a trade paperback called The Satan Factory, by Thomas E. Sniegoski, published by Dark Horse. Lia Ribacchi art directed, with Mike overseeing the process. As always, the composition is found in the thumbs.
Note: Click on the images for full-size versions.
The first finished sketch wasn’t quite there. I wanted to catch Lobster in just the right hesitation, making a decision to fire or not to fire. That slight, detection-laden moment was what I wanted.
Mike guided me into the demon skulls floating in the background. I dug out some of my skulls, and lit them. Then I redrew them, modifying to fit.
This post originally appeared on Muddy Colors.
Greg Manchess is an artist and writer working in New York and Portland.