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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 290: Hellboy: Conqueror Worm #4

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be showing pages that are either scary or are part of “scary” issues (as scary as a comic can be, of course), because it’s October! Today’s page is from Hellboy: Conqueror Worm #4, which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated August 2001. This scan is from Hellboy: Library Edition volume 3, which was published in October 2009. Enjoy!

More castles!

We’re back at a castle (castles are inherently spooky, yo) with this page, this time “Hunte Castle,” which is in Austria. Mignola, wisely, tells us only the location and time and lets the two pictures speak for themselves. It’s probably for the best!

Something bad has happened at Hunte Castle (Nazis used to hang out there, so of course bad things happen there!). Mignola makes the swastika on the tower very prominent – from this view it’s the first thing our eyes fall on. Then we see the destruction and the plume of smoke rising from the center of the castle. Mignola is an interesting artist, because he’s extremely detailed in certain things – the actual drawing of the castle, in this instance – and vague in others – the destruction and smoke are suggested by few lines. This helps ground his artwork but also highlights its odd cartoonish nature. Notice how he suggests the wind blowing – the smoke rises to a certain point and then smears to the right, so in this static drawing we get the impression that the forces of nature are strenuously working. Mignola also shows the destruction reaching downward, implying that the violence is so great it’s wounded the Earth itself.

In Panel 2 we see Roger, everyone’s favorite homunculus. We have no idea if Roger is falling or levitating (he’s falling), which makes this drawing even more peculiar. Mignola implies that he’s going to show us what’s going on under the floor – everything on the page is funneled toward the gaping hole at the bottom of the page, and on the next page, we see that Roger does, indeed, fall through the floor. Roger is angled toward the hole, and the cables on the floor drop precipitously into it. Mignola once again eschews too many details in order to create a creepy mood – the tentacles are ill-defined because of the dust in the air, Roger is silhouetted, and the giant stones that make up the floor fade quickly away from the hole. Mignola is excellent as using negative lines and space – the edges of the broken stones are defined by black splotches, while the cables vanish quickly, defined only by their shadows. Mignola understands that tentacles are inherently icky – there’s a reason why “tentacle rape” is a trope – and he doesn’t need to use too many details in drawing them. The suggestion is enough. Dave Stewart, who colored this page, is nice and restrained – the sickly yellow-green is a good choice, because the dust in the air would mute the colors a bit, so it works in the context of the action, but it also suggests decay and evil; there’s something unnatural about the tone. The fact that all the lights in the castle windows are the same hue link the creepiness of the explosion and destruction to the nature of the castle itself. Damned Nazis!

Next: Let’s do one more Hellboy comic, shall we? Why the heck not? I forgot to mention that if you want to see some pre-Mignola artwork, you just have to check out the archives!

7 Comments

Even with the striking use of dark shadows, we can still see Roger’s iron rung genitalia :P

Neil, how secure is that rung attached? Used as a rope guide, that would give a completely different meaning to “pulling a train”….

The coloring in Hellboy and the related series is a distinctive character itself, as this page and the previous one illustrate. There’s such a distinctive “gloom” about it even with colors that would, usually, *pop* more but it doesn’t really look *dull*, I think. Boy, those Nazis *loved* castles and keeps: Captain America, Doctor Strange, Whete Eagles Dare, Indiana and the Last Wortwhile Movie He Was In and many more!
This may not be the place to mention it (but I’m going to because I’m an ass!) but I was fascinated to see you called out because someone found your last What I Bought “negative”. I’ve noticed this quite a lot on the internets, some people complain that such-and-such is too “negative” even if, as was the case with your piece, nothing over-critical was said. The object of good intelligent criticism is for the critic to give an unvarnished critique of a given subject, be it film, acting, literature, whatever. It’s important for the critic to identify the good aspects of, say, a comic book (if there *are* any good adpects) but also to identify things that are mediocre, dubious, that don’t work, or are just plain*bad*. “Negative” doesn’t come into it, people very rarely say “that was too positive” now, do they? It’s fine for someone to say “I don’tagree” and explain why they don’t but saying something was “negative” seems to encourage mealy-mouthedness or self-censorship, whether that is the intention or not. I think it’s importaant you continue to write as you see fit, Greg, though I don’t doubt you will. After all, tho’ some may find certain things too “negative” “neothers *won’t. It’s important to keep that “flame of true adult criticism” alive, ma!

“Man!” not “Ma”, of course! And “others won’t” not “”neothets”. All other typos can “F**k Right Off!”

Sorry for the weird rant too! These things are important, I feel.

I didn’t feel the need to mention Roger’s genitalia, but yeah – there it is!

Hal: I’m not changing my style any time soon, fret not. I’m not quite sure why that commenter thought the column was negative – I didn’t love every comic, true, and I was harsh on Uncanny Avengers, but that’s because it deserved it! :) I wish people would explain what they mean when they make very general comments like that, because I’m perfectly willing to debate with them, but they often don’t come back. I thought I had a perfectly normal attitude toward the books I bought, and I don’t know why that person called it negative. I wish I did!

That’s very good to hear!

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