The pop cultural wheel has come back around for Hellboy. The character - created by Mike Mignola - has spent the better part of two decades kicking ass as a member of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) and showing just about every mythological creature what it means to face off with a demon with human issues. Director Guillermo del Toro's two film adaptations from the early aughts were pulpy and fun attempts at the kinds of mysticism that Marvel has been knocking out of the park since 2010, but we all had to face facts; writer Mike Mignola was growing tired of writing the books, star Ron Perlman wasn't getting any younger and Universal Studios didn't pull in enough money for them to bother capping off a trilogy.
Exactly a decade later, David Harbour is now stepping in to fill in the shaved horns of Hellboy. There's been no footage yet, but Harbour's makeup alone is enough to get me excited to see Hellboy on my screen again. It's time for us to descend into a world of the grisly and supernatural again, and I thought it might be fun to revisit one of my favorite Hellboy arcs from the comics, "Wake The Devil."
Running from June to October of 1996, "Wake The Devil" is only the second arc in the series' history. It picks up shortly after the inaugural run "Seed of Destruction," beginning with a meeting of Nazis and Russian mystics that sets the stage for a man who uses moonlight to heal himself and one of the defining runs of this series. The story itself follows Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and Liz Sherman as they track the group of Nazis, led by Ilsa Haupstein, attempting to create an army of vampires who heal by moonlight.
Hellboy - born a demon and the heir to the throne of Hell but adopted by the B.P.R.D. and raised to hunt demons and the supernatural instead - had time to establish his basics early on back in "Seed of Destruction, but "Wake The Devil" presents even more opportunities for him to flex his skills at making people not alive anymore. Mignola's art style brings a weight to both the environments and Hellboy's fights, especially with the Nazi cyborg Unmesch that set precedents for the bigger fights to come down the road.
The story is also ground floor entrance to some of the most endearing characters in the series. Vladimir Giurescu and Hecate, in particular, stand out as villains who get to prove to Hellboy that the B.P.R.D. is no walk in the park. Try telling that to the person who nails you to a wooden cross before attacking you from the inside of an iron maiden. There's a gravity to the events here that is mirrored in almost every other Hellboy arc like "Almost Colossus" or "The Crooked Man," a precedent set by all the breadcrumb dropping done for newly revealed villains like Vladamir Giurescu, Hecate, and the Baba Yaga.
Come to think of it, much of the appeal of "Wake The Devil" come from the establishments it makes for the Hellboy universe. We get to learn more about teammates Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman while they're exploring these castles. If "Seed of Destruction" was the primer, then "Wake The Devil" is Hellboy taking his first steps into the ether and actively fighting the destiny he was born to fulfill.
It's the kind of story that piques curiosity, the kind that grabs attention and holds it while planting more questions. It's no surprise that the animated Hellboy movie Blood and Iron used most of the "Wake The Devil" plot as its own. In a world where audiences are becoming more and more tired of film-length origin stories, it might be a good idea of Harbour to make his attempt at waking the devil for his inaugural run as Hellboy.