Since I announced I was ending my freelancing hiatus to join the Hellboy: The Roleplaying Game team, I have been asked a similar question by many of my friends and family, “Why Hellboy?” Specifically, many are asking how can I, as a Christian, enjoy the Hellboy comics, movies, and games. I am not going to get into the larger discussion of Faith and Media at this time, but I will specifically talk about the world, characters, and storylines of Hellboy that attract me as a geeky fanboy and as a Christian.
“I did not say it was true, only that I believe it.”Source: Hellboy, Vol. 7: The Troll Witch and Others
First off I must confess, I am a literary geek. I love to read all types of genres and one I especially enjoy is Gothic horror, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, and more. Gothic horror isn’t focused on scaring you like modern horror, albeit it does give you the shivers at times. It forces you to step out of normal day-to-day reality, culture, and society so you can ruminate on greater questions. These stories challenge the reader to ponder “What is humanity?”, “What should be the limits of science?”, “What are the ethical edges of society?”, “Where do myth and fact blur?” and/or “Where do Faith and Science collaborate and war with each other?”. I find the Hellboy stories to be a modern Gothic horror as Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. wrestle with the dark and mythical edges of society, culture, and folklore. Mike Mignola, creator of the Hellboy stories, stated he was influenced by reading as a kid Dracula, Lovecraft’s stories, and early pulp stories. You can see that influence as Hellboy struggles to do good in a dark world and questions the actions of the villains of the story, and his own destiny and heritage as he is often confronted.
The aspect that really drew me into the Hellboy stories is that strong element of destiny vs freewill. Hellboy is told over and over again that he is destined to be the bringer of the apocalypse. Hellboy keeps being told he cannot escape his destiny, yet throughout all the stories, he does all he can to avoid that destiny and be more than his origins as a half-demon. He defies his destiny and heritage, claiming his own freewill to do good and fight evil. Growing up a nerdy kid in a small town without a lot of money, I always dreamed there was more out there in the world I could do. My family encouraged me, as I encourage my daughters today, to look beyond your heritage and your current circumstances, don’t listen to others’ limits placed upon your life, but instead seek out your own goals and challenges in life. I see my Christian faith reflected in this aspect of Hellboy as well. God gave us freewill to make our own choices. We can choose the light or dark path, it is our choices that define us, not our birth. Hellboy struggles with that choice throughout the stories, even confronted with various Faiths in the process.
Other aspects of the Hellboy stories I enjoy are the unique artistic style Mike uses in his comics that are abstract enough that each reader fills in more details themselves, the blue-collar heroism of Hellboy unlike most larger-than-life comic book heroes, the humor of the series like Hellboy’s love of pancakes, the snarky comments Hellboy is always making, the depth of folklore and legends Mike brings to the storylines, and so many amazing other characters with great story arcs of their own (Roger being one of my favorites). As a Christian, I also find Mike Mignola’s integration of Catholic themes in the series enlightening. As Hellboy struggles with his destiny and his own Faith in light of seemingly insurmountable odds, I see glimpses of my own challenges and ponder how I should confront them.
So, that is why I personally enjoy Hellboy and why I am so excited to work on a game that will allow myself and others to write our own stories in this thought-provoking world.