Mike Mignola

Practitioners 3: Mike Mignola

As a catch up for all new visitors to Beyond the Bunker, we’ll be representing the original Practitioners series 1-55 (Simon BisleyChris Bachalo and featuring the most influential comic creatives in history). Thoroughly incomplete but featuring legends like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Frank Miller and Alan Moore already more will be hitting the site next year. For now though, sit back every Tuesday for a run-down of the men and women who created the comic industry we know today. (Or check the full list in the menus above). This week: Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

Alien : Salvation (Darkhorse Comics 2001)

Mignola was born in 1960 in Berkley California and not as some might assume in a Caravan on the side of a grey stone track in an Eastern European forest valley in the rain, presided over by witch fiends and troll-likes. Working his way up from his intro into comic illustration in 1980 he brought to life Red Sonja on one page (despite his assertion to this day that he’s never been any good at drawing women), Daredevil, Powerman and IronFist, Incredible Hulk, Alpha Flight and the Rocket Raccoon Limited series (which I’ll literally snap your arm off to get ahold of). Mignola seemingly only ever touching the fringe, edgy characters of the Marvel universe, where, for any long term reader, the great ideas are formed away from the bright, commercial centre. This undeniably is exactly where he belongs.

Mignola is not a mainstream artist but dragged the mainstream towards him with some indelible, brash and clear artwork, broken by black line and mat colours. Mignola’s work is best viewed from a distance… and really close up. Any image he creates works as well as a poster as a piece of comic design or storytelling tool.

He is an artists artist. His abstract linework imbuing life with effortless light detailing. A carved out eye brought to life with a commaed black circle. His Alien glides in black shadow, his Hellboy looking twice as powerful than any carved superhero with his bent coathanger shoulders, his trench coat hanging off him. His composition allowing mind-blowing Kablammo whack outs with rock hard mitts and tender fear and indefinable nightmares in forms and shapes that are perfectly laid about a panel but form a broader latticework across the page. His viewpoint in art is life, curved and shaped and seen through the bottom of a broken bottle and a late night nightmare.

His ‘household name’ moment came with Hellboy, son of the almighty damned one, broken horned, bright red with FF’s Thing scowl, stone hand and Judge Dredd jaw he imbued him with savagery and a bitterly Human soul in the face of fairytales and horrors. Constantly in conflict with the bumps in the night he should be leading, Hellboy represents any person who refuses to follow a path laid out for him by others. Fascinated by international lore, fairytale, myths and legends; Mignola pushes Hellboy from dark path to broken bell tower where he meets a menagerie of dark gods, witches, gargoyles and pig boys who he inevitably fails to reason with and ends up battering with his great stone hand.

A better philosophy on life for the average guy there may never have been.

Under The Influence 2 – Sam n’ Max

In the early to mid 1990’s adventure games were king. While consoles focused on platformers about hedgehogs and plumbers (things sure change, huh?) the PC market was all about point and click. It was a glorious time in the short history of gaming, an era when storytelling was king and games lived or died on the quality of their writing. Some of the greatest games of all time came out of the adventure boom of the 90s, Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Kings Quest (and its many many sequels), these were all games that eschewed fast paced action in favour of compelling (not to mention hilarious) stories. Of all these titles (and I’m sure we shall speak again of some of them) there was one however that is generally considered to be one of the finest. The tale of one dog and one “hyperkinetic rabbity thing”, Sam n’ Max Hit The Road.

Sam n’ Max is the brainchild of writer, Steve Purcell, a Californian cartoonist who created the duo for an independent comic book which was later picked up by Lucusarts (it’s a little more complicated than that but that’s the gist). Quick celebrity fact (and please bear in mind that this is very much a wiki fact and so usual scepticism should apply) Steve Purcel is a friend of Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and invented a game with him called “fizzball” that involved hitting a can of beer with an axe handle. Is that true? Probably not, but dammit if it isn’t a funny image.

Issue #1 of the original comic

So what’s it about then? Well Sam is a 6 foot tall dog in a suit & fedora while Max is a borderline psychotic rabbit with a passion for mindless violence. Together they comprise The Freelance Police, a semi-legal vigilante outfit that solves nutty crimes about missing bigfoots (bigfeet?) and giant moon rats. The great staples of a cop comedy are all there: the calm straight man who knows everything and the crazy funny guy who blows stuff up. It’s a golden formula and one that many great stories make use of. The writing in Sam n’ Max Hit The Road (much of it handled by Purcell himself) is razor sharp, frequently satirical and deliriously silly. The game’s humour succeeded in appealing to both adults and children, a quality that we’re used to seeing from the best animation now, but was pretty ground breaking in its time (especially for a computer game).

The duo finally returned to their roots in 1997 when a Sam n’ Max web comic written by Purcell won the Eisner award for best digital comic. A fitting tribute for a pair of characters who were born in print but made their name in pixels.

Finding a copy of the original game that will run on a modern PC can be a challenge but luckily for you there is always the fairly recent episodic game series from Telltale games which once again features Purcell’s writing at the forefront. Sam n’ Max are a rare example of a franchise gaining an insane amount of critical acclaim and fan adoration despite having only appeared in a small range of media. It’s a masterpiece of police comedy and if Moon can succeed in being a fraction as good then I shall be a very happy man.

Now enjoy some of the finest cheesy intro music you’ll ever hear!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yWnnk9fyJE&fs=1&hl=en_GB&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0x999999]

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The Practitioners 3: Mike Mignola

Alien : Salvation (Darkhorse Comics 2001)

Mignola was born in 1960 in Berkley California and not as some might assume in a Caravan on the side of a grey stone track in an Eastern European forest valley in the rain, presided over by witch fiends and troll-likes. Working his way up from his intro into comic illustration in 1980 he brought to life Red Sonja on one page (despite his assertion to this day that he’s never been any good at drawing women), Daredevil, Powerman and IronFist, Incredible Hulk, Alpha Flight and the Rocket Raccoon Limited series (which I’ll literally snap your arm off to get ahold of). Mignola seemingly only ever touching the fringe, edgy characters of the Marvel universe, where, for any long term reader, the great ideas are formed away from the bright, commercial centre. This undeniably is exactly where he belongs.

Mignola is not a mainstream artist but dragged the mainstream towards him with some indelible, brash and clear artwork, broken by black line and mat colours. Mignola’s work is best viewed from a distance… and really close up. Any image he creates works as well as a poster as a piece of comic design or storytelling tool.

He is an artists artist. His abstract linework imbuing life with effortless light detailing. A carved out eye brought to life with a commaed black circle. His Alien glides in black shadow, his Hellboy looking twice as powerful than any carved superhero with his bent coathanger shoulders, his trench coat hanging off him. His composition allowing mind-blowing Kablammo whack outs with rock hard mitts and tender fear and indefinable nightmares in forms and shapes that are perfectly laid about a panel but form a broader latticework across the page. His viewpoint in art is life, curved and shaped and seen through the bottom of a broken bottle and a late night nightmare.

His ‘household name’ moment came with Hellboy, son of the almighty damned one, broken horned, bright red with FF’s Thing scowl, stone hand and Judge Dredd jaw he imbued him with savagery and a bitterly Human soul in the face of fairytales and horrors. Constantly in conflict with the bumps in the night he should be leading, Hellboy represents any person who refuses to follow a path laid out for him by others. Fascinated by international lore, fairytale, myths and legends; Mignola pushes Hellboy from dark path to broken bell tower where he meets a menagerie of dark gods, witches, gargoyles and pig boys who he inevitably fails to reason with and ends up battering with his great stone hand.

A better philosophy on life for the average guy there may never have been.