6 fascinating and inspiring facts about Hellboy creator Mike Mignola
Comic artist and writer Mike Mignola shared insights from his career with Karen Green and attendees at an event hosted by Society of Illustrators in New York.
Friday the 13th is often associated with bad luck. But on Friday, April 13, 2018, I felt extremely fortunate that I was able to attend “A Conversation with Mike Mignola and Karen Green” at Society of Illustrators in New York.
As a comic book fan and a quasi-professional illustrator, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Mike Mignola’s career, process, and philosophy.
Below, I have listed half a dozen of my favorite memories from the event — but you can watch the discussion in its entirety on the Society of Illustrators YouTube channel.
1.) A TERRIBLE INKER
Around 1982, Mike Mignola relocated from California to New York. He wasn’t confident in his drawing abilities and loitered in the halls of the Marvel offices waiting for work as an inker. Mignola would often be called upon when Marvel was “desperate” and a quick turnaround was required. When asked if an artist had to live in New York to work in comics during the 80s, Mignola said;
“…You didn’t need to be [in New York], unless you were terrible. If you were terrible it was a very good thing to live here…
When you’re terrible, it helps to be close.”
2.) INFLUENCES AND APPROACH
The work of Frank Frazetta was Mike Mignola’s primary artistic influence. When Mignola met Frazetta, he was flattered that Frazetta was aware of his work.
Mignola does not fixate on creating realistic lighting effects in his work. Instead, he strives to give his drawings “weight”. In case you were wondering, Mignola uses Higgins Black Magic ink in his art.
After Frazetta, Bernie Wrightson was the artist that Mike Mignola most admired.
3.) DIGITAL NOVICE
Mike Mignola does not create art using digital methods. In fact, he claims that he cannot operate his own scanner and requires the help of his wife to scan his completed inks. Of course, he acknowledged that his work is often colored digitally by Dave Stewart and others.
4.) WORKING WITH DISNEY
While working as the Production Designer on Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Mignola learned that it helped to do pre-production work. Prior to this experience, many of his characters and settings were designed as he went along.
Mignola quickly quipped that Disney “fixed” the princess that he designed.
5.) APOLITICAL ARTWORK
Mignola avoids politics in his work, but poured the anger he felt about school shootings into his Enough artwork.
Update: Prior to the 2020 Presidential election in the U.S., Mignola shared an illustration of Hellboy endorsing the Biden / Harris campaign. https://twitter.com/artofmmignola/status/1307509897550991360?t=uUsAM9y3szjE0M-1sQ6cDA&s=19
6.) FAVORITE WORKS
When Hellboy began to achieve commercial success, Mignola joked that he feared that he would no longer be relevant to the Berkeley art student crowd. He approached Dark Horse with the idea for The Amazing Screw-On Head and agreed to be paid a lower rate for this “vanity” project. Mignola was pleased with the book, but he assumed that it would fail. Of course, the book won the 2003 Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication.
I’m really winning the lottery here, because the $#!+ that I want to do the most [are the things that] people want me to do.
According to the artist himself, The Magician and the Snake, a six page short story that Mignola wrote with the help of his daughter, is his best (and most personal) work.
When asked if he had any advice for aspiring creatives, Mignola said;
“…At least try doing what you want… If you’ve got something you want to put out there, find a way to put it out there, even if it doesn’t seem remotely commercial… Put it on your website or however kids do $#!+ these days.”