Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
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: The Third Wish #1, which was published by Dark Horse and is cover dated July 2002. This scan is from Hellboy: Library Edition volume 3, which was published in October 2009. Enjoy!
Our final Hellboy-related page doesn’t feature our hero, but that’s okay, because it’s still spooky. Mike Mignola, our storyteller, simply tells us that it’s “somewhere,” although we can easily see it’s under the ocean somewhere, and then we get dialogue. The “three sisters” trope is common in fiction, mainly because many cultures depict the Fates as three sisters, so Mignola goes with it here, even though it appears that these sisters answer to a higher power. Three, as Schoolhouse Rock and Blind Melon tell us, is a magic number, so that goes into this as well. Anyway, the sisters ask for three favors from the “Bog Roosh” (which appears to be an invention of Mignola, as far as I can tell), and they call her “grandmother,” a standard honorific for an old and wise female figure. She gives them a pretty heavy price, and Mignola ends this page on a quasi-cliffhanger – who is her enemy? As we’re reading Hellboy, we can probably guess, but it’s a pretty good way to end the page.
There’s more gorgeous art on this page, both from Mignola’s beautiful line work and Dave Stewart’s eerie coloring. The scene is set in Panel 1, with the fish swimming by indicating the place and the flora on the ocean floor creeping us out because it’s so unfamiliar. Mignola, naturally, doesn’t use too many details, but he mixes curves well with stark and sharp edges to create a landscape that’s alien and forbidding. As we often see, too, he uses blacks very well – the shadows on the right side of the page make it appear almost that creatures are reaching toward the fish swimming by, even though the shadows are cast by coral and/or plant life. From the darkest part of the page comes the word balloon, showing us that there are things even weirder further down in the depths. Panel 2 shows us the three sisters on the left, and as weird as they look, Mignola implies that the Bog Roosh is even worse, because she remains in shadow, as if the reader couldn’t handle how diabolical she is. Mignola makes the sisters decidedly “fishy” – one of them has a fin – and mer-people are strange enough without Mignola drawing them, so they’re even weirder. Our worst fears are semi-confirmed in Panel 3, when we see the Bog Roosh’s hand, gnarled and twisted and scarred as it is. Obviously, she’s a darker power than the sisters, and Mignola allows our imagination to run a bit wild. Stewart, of course, is as good as ever. He uses purple because, as we’ve seen, purple is creepier than blue, and this deep in the ocean, the bright blues of the surface get darker and darker until the black starts to take hold. This page wouldn’t look quite as effective with just blacks, so Stewart wisely uses purple. As I’ve noted before, purple is an imperial color, and there’s a hint of the sisters obsequiously kowtowing to a greater power, which the purple helps convey. While yellow and blue go well together, there’s something a bit more disconcerting about using yellow in contrast to purple, so the sisters’ eyes and the nail stand out in slightly starker contrast than if Stewart had used dark blues. It’s a fine choice.
So that’s our trip through a bit of Mike Mignola’s feverish imagination. I hope you enjoyed it!
Next: A hot-shot Marvel writer earlier in his career, doing some creepy stuff! Luckily, he got a damned fine artist to draw it for him! Don’t worry – there are lots of soothing comics in the archives!
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.