We feature many interesting characters on the live HeroClix show Group Hug, and that goes for both the players and the game pieces. In our latest episode, we welcomed our friend Onyx the Fortuitous, Slayer of the Bright Realm, otherwise known as “Weird Gamer Guy.” In his devotion to the Dark Lord, Onyx wanted to play Hellboy, and that left us with some interesting options, as the character has a rich and complex history. If you only know Hellboy from the comics, or only from the films, then you know only a part of the strange and wonderful saga.
In 1991 writer/artist Mike Mignola did two sketches envisioning a new character, drawing a hulking demon wearing a belt with a buckle that said “Hell Boy.” While there are some elements of that design that would make it to the final version of the character (notably flat stubs where Hellboy shaves down his horns), it was the name that stuck with Mignola. Two years later the final version of the half-demon made brief guest appearances in three different publications before starring in a couple of his own mini comics in 1994. That year would also see him breaking out into the big time with the first arc of Hellboy’s ongoing comic series at Dark Horse, Seed of Destruction by Mignola and John Byrne. Since then, the character has gone on to star in dozens of issues in his own series and more than 100 issues of other books, notably B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense).
So just who is Hellboy? In 1617 the union of a duke of hell and the human witch Sarah Hughes created a child, and on October 5th, the demon freed it from her womb (killing the mother in the process). He named the bouncing baby half-demon Anung Un Rama which means “and upon his brow is set a crown of flame,” and promptly severed its right hand to make room for the rocky relic known as the Right Hand of Doom. Not much is known about the intervening time in hell, but on December 23rd, 1944, the mad mystic Grigori Rasputin performed a supernatural summons on Tarmagant Island, Scotland under orders from Hitler. His mission was to find otherworldly aid for the Third Reich, but when a diminutive red creature appeared at Bromwich Church, it was promptly seized by the Allied Forces and given to the care of Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. The academic raised the child-like monster and named it “Hellboy,” and the two of them would go on to join the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense to protect humanity and the Earth from supernatural evil.
Much of Hellboy’s past is a mystery to him, and throughout his comics he discovers bits and pieces of his convoluted life (for him and for you, SPOILERS ahead). The son of a powerful demon, Hellboy is mighty indeed, with great strength, vitality, healing, and immunity to fire and electricity. He can also naturally read ancient and magical languages, which comes in handy during B.P.R.D. investigations. Hellboy was intended to be a harbinger of the apocalypse, and above his head floats the (usually) invisible Crown of the Apocalypse, signifying his role in the end of all things. The Right Hand of Doom once belonged to an ancient Spirit of Earth, and with it Hellboy can destroy the world. Lastly, through Sarah Hughes, Hellboy is the last living relative of King Arthur Pendragon and the rightful heir to the throne of England!
Red is obviously Hellboy’s signature color, and while he was tiny and imp-like when he first came to Earth, he grew up plenty big and strong. Hellboy can never hide his demonic heritage–evident in his skin color, tail, and yellow eyes–though he does file down his horns which leaves circular stumps on his forehead. Occasionally, he has let the horns grow, and he looks all the more fearsome with them erupting from his head.
Hellboy’s continuing popularity over the years has led to multiple spinoffs in comics and beyond. 2000 saw the release of the first Hellboy video game, Dogs of the Night for PC, which was met with less than critical acclaim. The half-demon really hit it big in 2004 with a major motion picture starring fan-favorite Ron Perlman as the big guy, and it was followed in 2008 by the sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army, both directed by Guillermo del Toro. In between, there were two animated Hellboy films, Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron, which represent a continuity that’s a blend between the comics the live action movies. Hellboy and his supporting cast have come to life as action figures in various scales and sizes, and of course as HeroClix figures.
The 2003 “Indy” [sic via HeroClix] set featured non-DC and Marvel characters, and among them were four different versions of Hellboy: a Rookie, Experienced, and Veteran trio, plus a much more powerful Unique representing his Anung Un Rama side, horns and all. In 2007, WizKids capitalized on the character’s popularity with a “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.” boxed set that included an updated version of the titular character wielding sword and pistol, five of his allies, and even a Hellbaby figure capturing his first (chronological) appearance on Earth! While these older figures may be a bit outclassed by modern game pieces, they’re still fun to play, and you can check out a great Hellboy and B.P.R.D. vs. Monsters match up from last week’s Group Hug show (featuring Onyx the Fortuitous!).
What’s your favorite Hellboy story? Let us know in the comments below and tune in to Group Hug every Friday at 4pm Pacific on Geek and Sundry’s Twitch channel for live HeroClix games with unique special guests!
Image credit: Hellboy II: The Golden Army/Universal Pictures, Mike Mignola/Dark Horse Comics, Hellboy: Sword of Storms/Starz Distribution, Scott Rubin