Cover drawn by and © 2004 Mike Mignola, colored by Dave Stewart.
I'm looking to get rid of most of my thousands of comic books, as mentioned here before, but among the boxes that would be the last to ever leave are those containing Hellboy. The series is pretty much my all-time favorite, certainly when you discount nostalgia; Mike Mignola long ago proved that he's as accomplished and unique a writer as he is an artist, and while the absolute best Hellboy stories are short, self-contained tales, the mythology woven by Mignola and his collaborators in the family of Dark Horse's Hellboy, BPRD, Abe Sapien, Lobster Johnson, and Witchfinder one-shots and miniseries rivals any other from graphic novels, television, film, or prose in recent decades.
Yet I come here not to praise Hellboy, but to barter him.
A real review will be along some other time. Right now, while it's on my mind, I thought I'd put out a call for the few Hellboy comic books I'm missing.
See, I'm not actually a "completist" in most areas: If I have a great story in one form, I don't need it in others. And I'd actually prefer to know that my boxes and shelves are full of high-quality material than that there's bad stuff clogging them up in the name of a comprehensive library. The complete canon of a certain creator or character is likely to be impractical and unaffordable to amass, so I'd rather not try; if I'll be rereading something for enjoyment or reference, I still only need a sturdy, handsome copy, not necessarily a collectible one, and no matter how good something is if it'll just be collecting dust, well, space is at a premium and cash is appreciated. But despite having the Hellboy trade-paperback collections and hardcover library editions that methodically reprint the comics, I buy the individual issues as they're released to read as soon as possible, then hold onto them because unlike most modern comic books they still have editorial matter and lettercolumns — and, yes, because when it comes to the genius and beauty of Mike Mignola's Hellboy, I'm something of a completist.
The first Hellboy issue that slipped through my grasp was the one-shot The Corpse and the Iron Shoes. I'd recommend it to anyone as the perfect first taste of the character, even though it deals with Celtic folk tales rather than the mélange of Nazis, Rasputin, and Lovecraft that form the main backdrop of the Hellboy legend. You won't find the issue outside of a dedicated comic-book shop, if there, but its contents are available with other great stuff in the Chained Coffin collections. Fifteen years ago my own copy was lent as background, along with other representatives of quality current comics, to a reporter who interviewed me for a local newspaper about my book ProMotion: How Today's Creators Broke into Comics... And Their Advice to You! A week later, I rang up the newspaper to get my comics back from the reporter and found that she had moved on and taken them with her.
Never purchased for my Hellboy stash in the first place, during the years in which I'd given up the comic-book habit out of financial necessity and isolation from the industry, were another reprint of The Corpse, released to tie into the second Hellboy movie, and the one-shot They That Go Down the Sea in Ships, packaged with a Konami videogame.
While I don't need them for anything immediate, I would like them at some point. My local comics shop doesn't have them, and neither does Things from Another World, the excellent retail cousin of Hellboy publisher Dark Horse, so while not ultra-rare they're not too simple to pick up either. Anyone reading this who'd be interested in selling theirs for a reasonable price or trading them for items from my large and varied collection is encouraged to drop me a line, with the caveat that the collection is still being organized for sale and there's no useful master list right now. I'm sure we could figure something out; if there's one thing I've noticed about comic-book collectors, it's that even when they're moving their most unwanted items out the door they want to be sure it's to a good home.
Covers drawn by and © 1996, 2007 Mike Mignola, colored by Dave Stewart.
Scans courtesy The Grand Comics Database.