In comic shops today and in bookstores next week is Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors, the latest prose short story anthology. Fifteen of the biggest names in weird literature come together to pay tribute to Hellboy and the characters of Mike Mignola’s award-winning line of books! Assembled by Joe Golem and Baltimore co-writer Christopher Golden and featuring illustrations by Mike Mignola and Chris Priestley, the anthology boasts fifteen original stories by the best in horror, fantasy, and science fiction, including Seanan McGuire (October Daye series), Chelsea Cain (Heartsick), Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger series), and more! The new writer of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., iZombie co-creator Chris Roberson, pitches in as well, and Chris Priestley (Tales of Terror) provides a story and an illustration!
In Chris’ insightful introduction to the book he discusses why Hellboy’s humanity is his greatest strength.
By Christopher Golden
The title harkens back to the sorts of late 19th and early 20th century collections of supernatural tales, but I’ll tell you a secret—it also makes me think of Whitman’s samplers. Y’know, the little boxes of various chocolates, the ones you take out and poke to see which ones have something tasty inside and which ones are nasty? Yeah. Those.
The temptation is strong to do a riff on Forrest Gump’s famous “box of chocolates” line. Mignola would roll his eyes, but the truth is that editing an anthology really is sort of like that—you never know what you’re going to get. Even when you choose all of your contributors, inviting them to play in a particular sandbox, you never really know how it’s going to turn out until the stories start coming in. This is the fourth Hellboy prose anthology I’ve edited—the first one after a long break—and it’s never been truer than now.
Honestly, it’s the very best part of the job. An email arrives in your inbox with a brand-new story from an author whose fans would commit various crimes to get an early look, but you’re the only one who gets to read it. There’s something exciting about that. Even better when you read that story and you grin, thinking you’ve got something special and dark, maybe a bit funny or a little evil, or both. Both is nice. It’s such a pleasure to get those stories and know that soon you’ll be the one presenting them to readers.
This book is full of those stories.
Curious, isn’t it, that somehow the big red guy is the perfect vehicle for so many wonderful stories? Why is that? I have my thoughts on the subject, but I’m willing to bet that all of the authors who’ve written Hellboy stories over the years, in comics and prose, have their own. His mother was a witch and his father a demon. He’s supposed to grow up to be the Beast of the Apocalypse, but he’s a reluctant Beast of the Apocalypse at best. Hellboy came into the world as a little-boy-demon in the midst of a war that included Nazis, occultists, and Rasputin. His story is full of Hollow Earth theory and Lovecraftian cosmology. His best friends are a deeply moody pyrokinetic woman and a fish-man who was once a Victorian gentleman.
That’s all cool stuff, right? I mean, Hellboy drinks with skeletons. He meets mermaids and fights Mexican wrestlers. He’s a descendant of King Arthur and thus is the rightful King of England. He meets the ghost of the actual pulp hero who starred in his favorite childhood stories. He tosses off vague anecdotes about cases that would boggle the minds of any dozen other supernatural detectives/adventurers. Let’s not forget, he’s got horns and hooves and a tail.
None of that is what makes him such a great vehicle for stories. What does that—the brilliance of Mignola’s creation—is Hellboy’s humanity. It’s how much he loves his adoptive father, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm . . . how much he wants to make the old man proud, even after the professor is gone. It’s the ordinary-Joe-ness of him, the weariness of his soul as he gets older, and the joyful innocence we see in stories about his youth.
If you asked Hellboy fans for their favorite tale, many would point to “Pancakes.” It’s only two pages long. It’s funny, even adorable. Little-kid-Hellboy is being difficult. He doesn’t want to eat the breakfast that’s been prepared for him—like millions of other kids around the world, back through the mists of time. When he finally does take a bite, he declares his love of pancakes with little-kid love familiar to us all. The story cuts to a scene in Hell, where there is much wailing in horror, because the demons there know they have lost Hellboy to the human world forever.
There are a thousand examples of Hellboy’s humanity, but “Pancakes” is perhaps the purest distillation of the idea. He’s not one of them. He’s one of us. And so despite his origins and his outer appearance, he carries us through all of the horrors and sorrows of his story as if they are our horrors and sorrows.
Which makes it very easy to fill an anthology like this one. Writers familiar with Hellboy are more than eager to take the character—and the other characters in his circle—out for a spin.
When you go to the authors in this lineup, you’re tapping into the imaginations of some of the cleverest, most talented, and most creative purveyors of fantasy, horror, and crime fiction on the planet. You’re always going to get something great. But when you go to writers as skilled and as varied as these—and then you add in Hellboy—what you get is magic. I’m honored to have worked with each and every one of them.
If you’ve picked up this volume, it won’t surprise you to learn how easy it is to find prose writers who are not only already familiar with Hellboy, but who love the big lug. The attraction for many writers is immediate. The character and world Mike Mignola has created is full of monsters, magic, and mayhem, yes . . . but it’s also filled with sorrow and friendship and humanity. All the ingredients for my favorite stories.
They’ve done their job, crafting great stories, showcasing Hellboy, Liz, Kate, and other parts of the Mignolaverse. After keeping them to myself for so long, I’m delighted that the moment has finally come for me to share these tales with you.
Now it’s time to turn the page, taste them all, and choose your favorites.
Enjoy this Assortment of Horrors.
23rd March, 2017