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August 11, 2017

What to Expect From a ‘Hellboy’ Cinematic Universe

Plus: Milla Jovovich has been cast as the villain in the ‘Hellboy’ reboot.

The words “Hellboy” andNeil Marshall in the same sentence should be enough to sell you on this movie alone. The director behind the Game of Thrones episodes “Blackwater” and “The Watchers on the Wall,” as well as cult film gems Dog Soldiers and The Descent, is championed by genre fans and connoisseurs of bloody entertainment because he’s reliable when it comes to delivering action-packed carnage. On paper, he’s a perfect choice to take the reins for the Hellboy movie reboot (now confirmed to just be titled Hellboy), especially one which aims to channel the darker and more visceral elements of the comics.

In an interview with Mick Garris, Marshall stated that the new film will move away from the fantasy and fairy tale leanings of Guillermo del Toro’s movies in favor of something a bit darker and rooted in horror. “We’ve been granted permission to do it R-rated, which for me is just like taking the cuffs off. It’s like, OK, so now we can just make the movie we want to make. It’s not like I’m going to force it to be R-rated, but if it happens to come out that way, just because of my own sensibilities, then fine.” He also stated that they’ll be using practical effects for the most part, which is music to the ears of horror lovers.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Milla Jovovich is the latest name to sign up for the project, following the recent appointments of David Harbor (Hellboy) and Ian McShane (Dr. Broom). The Resident Evil actress will play the Blood Queen, which more or less confirms that Nimue will be Hellboy’s main adversary. In the comics, Nimue (aka The Blood Queen) is a sorceress who can be traced back to the days of King Arthur, and her goal is to form an army that’ll wipe out humanity. Right now, we don’t know how much of the character’s history the movie will use, but we do know that they’ve cast a badass actress to play one mean lady.

Since its inception in 1993, the “Hellboy’’ comic has drawn from a wide range of literary, mythological, and historical influences to create a universe that’s rich in lore and enriched when it comes to storytelling. This is due in no part to the fact that mastermind Mike Mignola has treated it like his child for nearly 25 years. While he’s enlisted trusted babysitters and co-parents to help him along the way, Mignola’s attachment to his hellspawn has allowed for him to construct a long-running story with multiple spin-offs which complement each other perfectly.

The Mignolaverse is one of the most celebrated in comic fandom, so when its creator told The Verge how he hopes the reboot “introduces a lot of stuff that then expands into a Hellboy Cinematic Universe,” my mind started racing. Those words imply a world of possibilities, and it’s a world which offers an alternative to Marvel, DC, and the newly promised  Millarworld  mega franchises.Abe

Potential Spin-Offs

The Hellboy universe extends beyond our favorite cigar-chewing demon. Some of the characters who have appeared alongside Red throughout the years have received their own spin-off series in the comics as well. Should Marshall’s film do big business at the box office, it might only be a matter of time before we see his buddies get their own screen adaptations. And with nearly 25 years worth of material to mine from, Millennium Films has a few potential titles they could launch, all of which could work as standalone entries or become part of an overarching, interconnected story like every other modern superhero franchise.

If indeed Hellboy’s cinematic world is expanded, the most likely spin-off would be focused on his allies Abe Sapien and the B.P.R.D., the secret government agency tasked with investigating and combating crimes involving supernatural and occult shenanigans. They have featured heavily within the “Hellboy” canon throughout the years, having been introduced in the first miniseries “Seed of Destruction” back in 1994. The organization was included in del Toro’s movies and there were even discussions about giving them their own film at one point.  According to Mignola, they’ll be appearing in the next installment as well, even though the “primary focus is Hellboy and not a B.P.R.D. team movie.”

There is also the possibility of seeing other side series come to fruition, each possessing their own distinct sensibilities in the comics that could translate well to screen. For example, “Lobster Johnson” tells the story of a vigilante during the 1930s who fought crime and evil in the streets of New York. Elsewhere, “Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder” chronicles the adventures of an occult detective in Victorian London. Recently we saw The Black Flame — the B.R.P.D.’s greatest foe — get a 1920s-set spin-off series, finally giving the mysterious villain an origin story. With last year’s Suicide Squad and the upcoming outings for Venom, Harley Quinn, and The Joker, we’re starting to see a shift away from traditional superhero movies, as the bad guys are hopefully set to have their day. And very few baddies are as cool or intriguing as The Black Flame.

These aren’t the only spin-offs in Mignola’s monstrous mythology, and with the main Hellboy arc ending last year and the B.P.R.D.’s story set to wrap, we’re already seeing the creator turn to characters from the past and further explore their history. In the near future, we can expect to see the mad scientist Rasputin and the immortal Koshchei make their grand returns, so there’s no shortage of material to pluck from in the unlikely event that this pulp horror universe explodes to Marvel heights. 

In the past, Hellboy has shown that he’s not the biggest box office draw, but since his initial theatrical outings his cult has grown. Will it be third-time lucky? Could 2018 be the year of the demon? With Universal not off to the most assuring of starts with their Dark Universe franchise, this could be the spooky alternative to the superhero offerings we’re predominantly accustomed to. And now that we’re living in a post-Deadpool/Logan climate, there’s never been a better time to try your luck. In Marshall and Mignola we trust!

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