How the New Hellboy Faithfully Adapts, Remixes, and Changes the Comics
Author’s note: We’re going deep into the Hellboy comic books here, so potential spoilers for the comic books only.
Every time a superhero or comic makes the leap to the big screen there are things that get left by the wayside, things that are kind of the same, and then some things that are just exactly what they were on the page. The new Hellboy is no different, and though this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the above, here’s everything we learned on the set of the new Hellboy with regard to its comic book basis:
Everything that’s almost the same
Though not explicitly an origin story, the origins of Hellboy are retold in the new movie and in a way that is nearly identical, and goes even further into Hellboy’s roots than the first movies. Speaking on set, Producer Lloyd Levin opened up about their choice to adapt “The Wild Hunt” storyline for the film (something chronologically that happens late in Hellboy’s story), saying:
“(This story) allows for a backdoor origin story. We can kind of get into who Hellboy is without the origin story structure of a comic book movie. It felt like a good starting point for a reboot and not have to tell an origin story. It also gets into things that hadn’t been explored in the earlier movies as far as the origin. We’re not only getting into who his father was but who his mother was. There’s a lot more nuance to that story than there was in the earlier versions, without it being that structural origin story which we’re all kind of tired of.”
Hellboy in Mexico
The new Hellboy movie starts with the title hero in a specific place, Mexico. Though this happens in the 1950s in the comic books for Hellboy, the movie is pulling from that timeline to give Big Red a specific starting point. Hellboy is taking time away from the BPRD, drinking away his problems, and even doing some wrestling on the sides. A post on the wall I noticed on set advertises “The Crusader v Camazotz,” a match-up right out of the Hellboy in Mexico story line. You’ve even seen it in the trailers already.
Alice and Hellboy’s beginnings
In the comics, Alice (played by American Honey’s Sasha Lane) and Hellboy have a funny beginning that was later tied into the larger story. The pair “met” when Alice was a baby and was kidnapped by fairies. Hellboy intervened and returned her safely, creating a lasting impression on the young woman and making an enemy for life in Gruagach. These humble beginnigns will remain the same for the movie.
The Osiris Club and The Wild Hunt
In the context of The Wild Hunt, the story kicks off as Hellboy is summoned to The Osiris Club, a paranormal group in England that has a long history with the character and a specific problem that they need his help with, a group of Giants going out for a stroll. As far as the group themselves, they exist under the same circumstances in the film as they do the books, a group of crusty old Englishmen that formed a secret society as a branch off of another secret society (The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, who even get name checked in the film), and who have an interest in self-preservation and the occult. The Wild Hunt, their every-few-years gathering to hunt Giants, with its trademark deer-head wearing leader, is all there too, not to mention the stuffed and mounted Giant heads on the wall.
The Blood Queen and Gruagach
The evil witch Nimue, played by Milla Jovovich in the film, has the same origins and ambitions in the film as she does in the comics, namely, world destruction and a summoning of monsters. Her appearance is slightly altered, but the character’s look in the movie isn’t very far off from her looks in the source material.
Furthermore, her right hand man…er pig, Gruagach, is not only present in the movie but has the same origins in the film as he does in the comic, a history with Hellboy that goes back decades. Gru will be brought to life by actor Douglas Tait with a practical suit and a fully animatronic head, no CG required (though some will be used just to make his mouth movements a little more fluid).
The witch of Russian folklore and her house on a chicken leg have made a faithful leap from the page to the screen (though her house has a few more rooms in the movie than it does in the pages of Mignola’s stories).
“In the legend it’s a little house that walks around on chicken legs, and in our vision its similar to that but it’s a huge tower, so it’s got a lot of verticality,” production designer Paul Kirby said. “It looks different to Mike’s version but I consulted him about it what the key ingredients were and he just wanted it to be bigger on the inside than on the outside in quite a Tardis way….To me the little house on a chicken leg had a slight comedic element to it.”
Major Ben Daimio is a big presence in the BPRD comic books, having trasnferred to the service after working in the Marines for decades. His decision to join the group stems from an encounter he had in Bolivia leaving him scarred on his face and…cursed, for lack of a better word.
“There are hints of (his past),” star Daniel Dae Kim says. “There is a flashback and even though there’s not a lot of it outwardly said, it informs every scene of his.”
Daimio has another past connection that’s a major piece of the Hellboy puzzle, his grandmother is the Japanese spy, war criminal, and witch, Crimson Lotus. When asked about her, Dae Kim said theres no mention of the Crimson Lotus in the movie, but said:
“That’s an interesting story. It’s something that I’ve actually talked with the producers about, and you know, it would be nice for the next one to take some more looks back into his past.”
Everything that’s been altered
Specific things about Hellboy in Mexico
In the context of the Hellboy in Mexico story, Hellboy is sent to the country to handle a problem but ends up resulting in him sticking around and drinking himself into a hole (and fighting a lot of vampires). At the start of the film, Hellboy will be in Mexico but more as him being on sabatacle from the BPRD. He’ll still fight some vampires though.
In the film, the BPRD’s main headquarters will be tucked away in the mountains of Colorado. Though this is a location used by the bereau in the source material, by the time they relocate there it’s well after Hellboy has left.
Daimio’s scars and accent
In the comics, Major Daimio’s facial scars are rather intense, they cover his entire face and even reveal the inside of his jaw and gums from the outside. This has obviously been changed for the film as special character and makeup designer Joel Harlow says:
“We went through changes with Daimio obviosuly and ultiamtely what we settled on was something that worked not only with him in Human form but also in Were-form. It had to be something that made him nstantly recognizable when he’s transformed….(The comic design) is a little more horrific than we want. He is a main character so he’s got to be somebody that is not so off putting when you look at him that you don’t want to look at him.”
In addition, the character will be a Japanese-British character for the film instead of a Japanese-American. The change from American to Brit was written into the script as well, which is why Ed Skrein was on the producer’s radar when he was originally cast.
Everything that’s different
In the comics, Alice seemingly has no powers and her only affiliation with the BPRD is that she’s in a romantic relationship with Hellboy (who is no longer affiliated with the group when they get together). In the film, she’s a part of the BPRD and has abilities, working as the team’s field psychic.
Alice and Hellboy’s relationship
In the comics, Alice and Hellboy have a romantic fling, the pair are still close in the movies but are no longer an item.
“It’s an avuncular relationship,” Harbour said. “It’s funny because in an earlier draft, there was the temptation to do that, and I was very adamant to the fact that Hellboy cannot have sex with human women.”
That particular fact has never been addressed in the source material.
Daimio and Hellboy
In the pages of Hellboy and BPRD comics, despite being major figures, Ben Daimio and Hellboy never actually met, and seemingly never will meet. Daimio however is a big part of the film, and will share a lot of screentime with big red.
“If you look at this story from Hellboy’s Point of view, Daimio becomes a really great foil within that story,” producer Lloyd Levin said. “Whether he was in The Wild Hunt or he wasn’t, to bring him into the story felt really organic. There were a lot of characters to look at, we looked at every character, but Daimio is a really great mirror character for Hellboy in a lot of ways.”
Daniel Dae Kim had a similar take on it, saying: “It’s sticky. They are on the same side, but they’re teammates, but they’re not necessarily on the same side, so it takes a little while for the two of them to come to a working relationship. And by the end, they find a good one.”
By the time The Wild Hunt storyline comes about in the comics, Professor Bruttenholm (pronoucned Broom) has been dead for about twenty years. The new film gives him an extended life and offers it a chance to dig into the relationship of Hellboy and Broom in more ways than the previous movies.
“Hellboy learns things at The Osiris Club about who he is and who his father was, and the father-son relationship ends up being a key emotional throughline throughout the movie,” Levin tells us. “Broom’s got a big role. That’s an instance where the timeline is different than the comic book.”
BPRD London HQ
The BPRD’s London HQ will be a big part of the movie, hidden underneath a fish and chip shop on the street. This is something created entirely for the movie.