Scott Allie Interview: Hellboy, Dark Horse Comics, and More!

The Dark Horse bigwig speaks about Abe Sapien, Mike Mignola, and the eventual end of the Hellboy universe.

In addition to his work as the Editor-in-Chief of Dark Horse Comics, Scott Allie is also 16 issues into his term as the writer of the Abe Sapien solo comic (#16 is out today), working closely with Hellboy Universe creator Mike Mignola to craft a story about Abe’s struggle to clear his name, deal with his fears and find out who and what he really is.

In this exclusive interview with Allie, we discuss Abe Sapien’s journey, working with Mignola, Hellboy in Hell delays and the eventual end of the Hellboy Universe.

Den of Geek: Can you describe the collaborative process working with Mike Mignola when you’re writing Abe Sapien?

Scott Allie: Mike and I, we talk through the story in a lot of broad strokes and with all of Mike’s collaborations, at minimum, he’s sort of guiding the big mythological moves of the Hellboy Universe. You know, the big changes and the ways in which the characters kind of evolve in really important ways to the plot.

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A lot of the smaller details are kind of left to me or John [Arcudi] and the personal stuff is generally left to me and John, although not all the time. Like with Abe, this morning, we were going over Abe Sapien #23 (which is a ways out still) and with this one he [Mike] just had more ideas specifically about how to tell the story so there was some panel to panel details that we were going over together. Normally that’s not really the process but it can kind of vary anywhere from, we talk over a three to five issue story in a pretty short phone call and then it’s sort of left to me. It can vary all the way from that to where he’s saying “Okay, put panel one like this” and we might go through a page or a couple of pages at that level of detail. So it really varies, but at the minimum it’s always the big turning point stuff and the way that the world is changing and how the demonology stuff works; [that] always kind of revolves around his input and his decisions.

What is it about Abe that makes him an appealing character for you personally to write?

Abe is really trying to understand himself. Abe and Hellboy have really strong similarities but one of the big differences is that Hellboy really decisively turned his back on what he was and what he really might be and all that. Abe thought it out more. Abe was more curious and more determined to find out what he was all about. He went out of his way to figure it out, but that was kind of before there was this indication that it might have something to do with the end of the world. So Abe has shown a willingness to really dive into the secrets behind his own origin, but right now the truth of that whole thing seems to be too scary for him. So while we’ve seen him really examine himself very closely in the past he’s too scared to really hit it head on these days and I find the conflict there to be the really interesting thing about Abe for me.

Can you talk a little bit about how the decision to make Abe kind of the object of this cult’s worship is going to affect his process here as he’s trying to discover where he’s at?

Hellboy was revealed to the public in the late forties or fifties, and so people knew since then that there is some sort of supernatural business out there but it didn’t really change the world drastically. It was when the Lovecraft monsters started poking up out of the earth a few years ago in B.P.R.D. that the world really changed for these characters.

When Mike started doing Hellboy he was doing a comic that pretty much took place in the real world but there were just some shadowy corners where he could set some stories in that were a little bit different. These days the real world is changing drastically and it’s changing because there’s monsters rearing their heads up, and so we felt like that would have to change the world pretty drastically and it would change the way people relate to the world and it would have an influence on religion. So you would have fundamentalists, traditional religious people that would kind of push their religious agenda even harder but then you’d have people in search of something to believe in who would see all of these monsters and things and decide that that’s the answer. So whether it’s some 200 foot tall phallic cthulhu in California or whether it’s Abe, there’s gonna be people that are gonna try to build new ways of looking at the world around all of this crap that’s happening.

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We wanted to kind of introduce those other cults a little bit first and then introduce the idea that there was one around Abe, that this belief that Abe had something to do with the end of the world. You know, from [inaudible] and the Black Flame to have suggested it a while ago and for Phoenix and other characters in the B.P.R.D. to suspect that maybe Abe has something to do with what’s going on with the world was very very personal for Abe. But then the revelation that there’s actually a cult of people that believe this kind of takes it from the personal to the global level — not that there’s a global cult, but you know what I mean, figuratively the global level for Abe — to just not really be able to deny all of this stuff. And it’s going to be part of what pushes him to really look at it and really try to solve the mystery of his own origins and his own purpose.

Spoiler Alert – you may want to skip this question if you haven’t read Abe Sapien #16

Now that it’s been confirmed for Abe that Hellboy is really dead, are we going to to see him process that in subsequent issues or is there just no time for that?

We’re not really going to see him process it, it may come up again but Abe’s version of processing it was sort of clinging to denial and a couple of times raising the idea that, “No, Hellboy’s not dead”. Now in that vision, well first in the vision and then I guess what you’re referring to is when Stazz [Hansen]…

Yeah, just basically just flat out tells him.

Yeah, now his denial… that’s like another defeat for Abe’s very powerful skill for denial so he can no longer deny that Hellboy is dead. Stazz’s confirmation is kind of the thing. Tanya had already told him that, but he didn’t really have a leg to stand on in terms of clinging to the idea that Hellboy was alive. But yes, Stazz put that to rest. And no, I don’t really see him… there won’t be an issue or anything where he’s wrestling with it. There may be more conversations that pop up where he has to face it…

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Is he going to face it or will the denial continue on?

No, the denial is over. The denial is at an end now. Like that part of his denial is at an end and over the next five issue story that follows the one that you’re referring to, his denial about the questions about his own self are put to rest and now he’s really on the path to solving the mystery of his on own existence.

I know you can’t rush genius but with Hellboy in Hell, do you sometimes wish that you could?

(Chuckles) Oh yeah…

We’re at this point now where we’re all so voracious and we have such a want for “now, now, now”. How do you explain the acceptance of Hellboy in Hell’s staggered release schedule because there’s not a lot of complaints — I mean, I want it more obviously, but there aren’t a lot of vocal complaints about it. How do you explain that?

Well, there’s a little bit of complaining about it, but I think the way that you explain the general acceptance of it is just that… we did really well when Duncan [Fegredo] was drawing Hellboy. It sold great but fans always ask for Mike to draw the character himself and I think they just understand. You know, nobody kids themselves that Mike is going to draw a monthly book, and the thing is, Mike really is focusing as much of his energy as he can on Hellboy in Hell.

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We’re cutting back on him doing covers for… even his own other books. The Fiumara twins are doing covers on Abe Sapien and Lawrence Campbell is taking over covers on B.P.R.D. and that’s going to extend to the trade paperbacks going forward. So we really want Mike, and Mike really wants Mike to focus his own energy on Hellboy in Hell, but it’s not going to be monthly. And he really agonizes about this stuff, he really puts his all into it.

He’s writing two books for us right now. He’s writing the Alex Maleev book — he’s writing the plot for that and then Arcudi does the dialogue for Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. So he’s writing that, he’s writing another book that we haven’t announced yet, but he’s really trying to put everything he can into Hellboy in Hell, He enjoys Hellboy in Hell more than anything else because he loves drawing it. You know, I really think in so many ways that Hellboy in Hell is the book that he really wanted to create when he created Hellboy in the first place. It’s like Hellboy in Hell is finally him getting to the version of Hellboy where he doesn’t have to deal with cars or government organizations or anything to deal with the real world that he doesn’t want to draw. He gets to draw crooked houses and all sorts of weird mythological characters and twisted dudes from the Victorian era — that’s all he ever wanted to do and now that’s all he has to do in doing Hellboy in Hell.

It’s a tremendous book, it’s worth the wait.

Yeah, I think it’s worth the wait and he likes to do it the way that he’s able to do it best and so we don’t solicit it until he’s so close to being done with it that there’s no real pressure deadlines. It’s all about letting him do it the right way. He has a particular story. You know, a lot of Hellboy in Hell is kind of setup as one shots or two issue stories, but it’s really telling a big overarching story and he’s gotta get to the end of that in his own good time.

Now, at some point, Hellboy will end. Obviously you can’t and you wouldn’t reveal a when, but do you know approximately when and how Mike wants to wrap things up? If you don’t, do you think that he knows right now or is it just going to happen organically?

It’s going to happen organically but we know how it ends. We don’t know on the calendar when it ends but we know the big pieces that have to happen before it ends. There’s some X-factors in there in terms of how long it will take to get there, but it’s there.

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Is it far away?

You know, it’s all relative, right? If I said far away than that could be anything. But Mike had it pretty well worked out by the time that we ended the first cycle of B.P.R.D. — when we ended B.P.R.D. and then started doing B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth. At that point, mostly me, John and Mike were able to talk about it in a way where we couldn’t tell you how many issues but we knew the big moves before you get to the end. And I’ve got to say that there’s a lot of room for it to evolve.

There’s one huge huge move coming up, there’s one big big story beat coming up that we didn’t know about that came out of conversation along the way and it’s huge and it’s great and it takes place in B.P.R.D. We didn’t know about that one when we sort of mapped out the end, but you leave room to kinda figure it out as you go along so there is room for inspiration and there is room to surprise yourself and I think surprise the readers. But there’s certain milestones that we’ve seen clearly for some time that we’re slowly getting to and it’s weird when you tick those off. It’s weird when you get to them and it’s like, “okay, we’re that much closer to really wrapping this thing up”.

Now, when that does happen is it all inclusive? Is that it for B.P.R.D. as well as other characters or can they still continue?

The things that are in motion in their world, in Abe’s world and the world of The B.P.R.D. — we are heading toward a big big end to things. Because of the way time works in the B.P.R.D. universe, we’re doing Hellboy in the B.P.R.D. starting in December which takes place in 1952 and then we kind of had this planned with Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. where we’ll do a mini-series or so a year slowly advancing through the fifties into the sixties. So that right there allows us a long time to keep doing Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. before we potentially catch up to 1994 when Seeds of Destruction took place. So there’s a lot of room to keep on doing comics. There’s Lobster Johnson stories to be told, there’s Witchfinder stories that we can tell for some finite period of time. But it’s not like, dare I say, Star Wars or something where you can just keep sandwiching in whole novels and trilogies until, like, “well there was this one time between when Luke went to the bathroom and Luke went to go get his lightsaber fixed where we can stick a mini-series in”. We can’t do that. There is a finite quality to the Hellboy Universe that we can’t… you know, we’ll get to a point where like, “alright, that’s it, we’ve told it all”, but we’ve got a ways to go yet.

Abe Sapien #16 is on sale at your local comic book shop and on Dark Horse Digital.

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