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!
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!