In the introduction to this first volume of Weird Tales, editor Scott Allie has penned a loving homage to any fan who’s ever taken up a pen or pencil to write or draw their favorite comic book characters. He indulges in a bit of hyperbole, perhaps, when he says that the character of Hellboy has probably inspired more artistic fans than any other character. However, judging by the contents of this volume, comic professionals sure have a hankering to draw Big Red. Their clamoring for a chance to draw him led directly to the creation of this series — their own outlet for indulging in their wildest Hellboy imaginations. Weird Tales, Volume One collects the first four issues of the series, with thirteen stories that differ vastly in art style, tone and subject matter.
Readers are treated to young Hellboy, Hellboy around the world, a surprise birthday party for H.B. and a whole lot more. Opening the volume is Eric Powell’s “Midnight Cowboy,” in which young Hellboy and his dog Mac discover that dogs and radioactive goo don’t mix too well. This manages to be cute and disturbing at the same time. A considerably more grownup Hellboy tangles with a rather dangerously precocious tyke with a penchant for demons and dolls in “Family Story,” by Sara Ryan and Steve Lieber. Immediately following that entry, Hellboy finds himself in Japan, investigating a mysterious — and deadly — hot spring, and running afoul of a rather lovely and tempestuous spirit. Randy Stradley and Seung Kim’s black and white “Hot” definitely shows its Japanese and Korean influences in both the subject matter and art style.
Bob Fingerman’s humorous “Downtime” renders Hellboy and friends in a delightfully cartoony style as H.B. fights with first the copier, the soda machine and, to his detriment, the current paranormal intern. Never mess with the intern! By contrast, Alex Maleev and Matt Hollingsworth’s “Still Born” is far more serious and disturbing story, pitting Hellboy against a demonic fetus.
As it turns out, it’s not just Hellboy who gets star treatment here, though the bulk of the stories do feature him. Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, Kate Corrigan and others also get their day in the sun. The most memorable of these latter takes is one by John Arcudi and Richard Landridge (“Abe Sapien, Star of the B.R.P.D.”), in which Abe is the debonair, trench coat-wearing, gun-toting hero of the B.R.P.D. and Hellboy’s naught but sniveling monster bait. Or are they?!? Poor Abe. In Jason Pearson and Dave Steward’s “The Dread Within,” Liz rescues a little girl possessed . . . and realizes it’s not to late to save the little girl inside herself. And Kate gets haunted by the mother from hell, needing to resort to some clever lying to rid herself of the ghostly harridan taking over her life.
Included in the collection are a color gallery and a section of rough black and white sketches provided by the contributors. And, as is only appropriate, contributor bios close out the volume.
There’s much more to be found here — Baba Yaga, evil clowns, and even giant desert bats! The sheer breadth of the creativity — all inspired by a single series — between the covers is to be admired (and perhaps even inspiring, to the writers and artists out there). Fans of Mignola’s creation, or of the contributors, will find Weird Tales a definite treasure trove.
(Dark Horse Books, 2003)