RTTP Hellboy & the (related) works of Mike Mignola

Tizoc

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#1




Michael Joseph Mignola is a comic book artist and writer most famously known for creating the highly overlooked character and series Hellboy.
He initially worked with DC and Marvel as Inker and artist, working on various titles such as Rocket Racoon, Phantom Stranger & Cosmic Odyssey.

Being in the comic book industry he would of course go to various Comic Conventions, and in a 1993 convention he drew this, and quickly thought up the name 'Hellboy'


Over the next year, the name Hellboy stuck in his mind and eventually he would rework the character and the world's greatest paranormal detective would make his major debut in 1994:


Notice I wrote 'major' not 'first'; Hellboy previously appeared in a short story published in San Diego Comic Con Comics #2 and on the cover of Dime Press #4 during 1993


Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, is a 4 issue mini series under the Dark Horse comics banner, and was written by both John Byrne and Mike Mignola with Mignola being the artist on the book, naturally.
The reason I emphasized 'written' above will be explained in due time, but for now, here's WHY I made this thread.

In the past I'd make it a habit of re-reading through Mignola's Hellboy and BPRD books. I skipped a year or two recently and now I was in the mood again to read the series, especially since this year is officially, Hellboy's 25th anniversary!
I'll be posting my impressions and thoughts on the series as well as provide a handy reading order for any who wish to get in on this wonderful overlooked series.

One thing that'll prob. come to mind when trying to recommend Hellboy is 'what kind of character is he?' Is he a righteous know-it-all, is he as arrogant as Batman, is he whacky or zany, just how can one properly jot down his characterization and personality?
If you've watched the 2 Hellboy movies, would you be able to describe his characterization for those movies? Because I'm coming up blank.

If I were to describe Hellboy's character, it'd be that he's someone who just wants to get by, having to deal with paranormal BS while looking out for his friends and comrades. He has his anger issues and should very likely be kept away from alcohol to be on the safe side, but he'll always be there for his friends and would rather not have to deal with his origins however possible.

My first bunch of write ups will be for the first 3 or 4 books for the time being, and I want to first list down the suggested reading order for anyone who would like to get into the series.
Over the years, Hellboy and BPRD would be released in TPB formats, and the reading order for at least Hellboy can be a little confusing as there were single issue stories or one shot books released that offered more insight into Hellboy's past or further adventures that become are mentioned in later stories.
Thankfully, the recent Omnibus releases which are also available digitally manage to alleviate this, and while my read through is done via the TPBs, I'll be listing the Omnibuses to look into to get into the series.

Hellboy
Previously, one would need only read the first 5-6 Hellboy TPBs, then they could start BPRD Vol. 1. The recent Omnibuses collect the first 6 or so major story arcs alongside Hellboy-centric one-shot stories in chronological order. In general these are THE essential way to read up on Hellboy's exploits, and as such should be your starting point, so read them in this order
1- Hellboy Omnibus Vol. 1 collects all stories up til Wake the Devil alongside The Chained Coffin and Almost Colossus.
2- The Complete Short Stories Vol. 1 Omnibus collects various single issue stories in chronological order. It may seem a little jarring to cut the main story at this point, but it helps to give an idea of the many crazy stuff Hellboy got into over the decades. This book also collects all of Hellboy's adventures in Mexico during the the 50s which themselves were published in TPB format as Hellboy in Mexico.
3-Hellboy Omnibus Vol. 2 collects Conqueror Worm and Strange Places alongside a couple of other single issue stories.

After the 2nd Omnibus, you may go and read Complete Short Stories Vol. 2 which tells of Hellboy's exploits around the world up til the events of Seed of Destruction, and then go into the 3rd and 4th Omnibus collections.

As you can see all, the series is available on Comixology so keep an eye on there when there is a sale to grab them for cheap if you prefer.

Once you've finished reading Hellboy, you may go into reading the BPRD series, once again, pref. in Omnibus format


Where the Hellboy series focused primarily on Hellboy himself, BPRD sheds light on the other members of the BPRD, with a great focus on characterization and fleshing out these characters. The series follows a primary plot and manages to give each character their own spotlight.
As mentioned previously, the events of the BPRD series start following the events of Conqueror Worm.
BPRD Omnibus Vol. 1: Plague of Frogs

That's about it for a reading order, there are OTHER series related to the major Hellboy series, but these 2 are good enough to get started. In my next post I'll begin my write up, and eventually will get to write about the other books within the Hellboy series.
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Seed of Destruction is a 4 issue miniseries written by Mike Mignola and John Byrne.

In 1944, with the help of Nazi's technology, Rasputin summons Hellboy and is found in England by a US military unit that is being accompanied by Trevor Bruttenholm, founder of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense that investigates and combats the paranormal.
Fast forward 50 years later to 1994, Bruttenholm resurfaces in America after being declared lost and dead after an expedition to the Arctic. After meeting up with Hellboy the two are attacked by a humanoid frog creature which results in the death of Bruttenholm. Hellboy eventually decides to investigate his foster father's death by looking into the ancestral home of his companions from the expedition at Cavendish Hall, taking along with him BPRD agents Liz Sherman, a pyrokenetic, and Abe Sapien. Unbeknownst to them, Rasputin has also returned and awaits them at Cavendish Hall to complete what he had originally set in motion 50 years ago...

Mignola's signature artstyle is in full force here, and the colouring greatly contemplates it with strong black shades and vibrant colours to make the panels pop out.. However, the writing feels a little odd especially when compared to all the later books and stories that followed it.

The reason behind this is because John Byrne co-wrote the book with Mignola and the writing style will feel a little strange as some parts of the story are told with boxed narratations



This doesn't happen as often as in later stories as I mentioned, and it seems that Mignola wasn't too good in writing action dialog or one liners, and some lines just seem a little silly like this one


While the overall book tells a solid story, it has a problem with the characters: They all get their asses kicked and the day is saved, not by any of them but by a fortunate interference of a ghost.
Seriously, Hellboy gets thrashed around from the first issue til the finale, Liz just gets kidnapped and becomes a power source for Rasputin to achieve his goal, and all Abe does is swim into a river, gets possesed by a ghost and THAT ghost is how Rasputin is stopped.
The entire book is pretty much a modern day (well far as 90s are concerned) story about bringing out the apocalypse with Rasputin being the main character here.
You kinda wonder how this series even managed to stay relevant with this story! Thankfully the later works of Mignola with Hellboy manage to make the character and the series much better.

This may come off as a rough intro were one to re-read or re experience it, but I can still say I enjoyed it for its focused plot at least. Characterization becomes much better over the next couple of years and stories.

I should make a note of a certain character that appears early in the story, the Torch of Liberty


This character never appears again in later Mignola books far as I can recall and is in fact a character created by John Byrne and appeared in Damage Control, a series published by Dark Horse as well. As borth were working at Dark Horse together, they thought it'd be fun to have the character cameo in Hellboy as a sort of 'Captain America expy'. That's about all that can be said about the character. If anything I'd like to think he lived his life within the Hellboy-verse and passed away of old age, but that's just my headcanon.
 
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Tizoc

Tizoc

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#2

Wake the Devil is the 2nd Hellboy TPB, and collects the miniseries of the same name. Prior to the release of this series, there were 2 short stories featuring Hellboy as he investigates the mass disappearance of a village and a visit to the very church in England where he was found in half a century ago.

Neither of these stories are collected in the Wake the Devil TPB, but are in the 3rd TPB instead. The omnibus edition thankfully slots the two inbetween Seed and this story.

In Wake the Devil, the BPRD travel to Norway and investigate the machinations of an occult Nazi unit aiming to resurrect a vampire. Sending 3 teams to investigate 3 possible locations where the Nazis may be hiding at, Hellboy lucks out at being sent to Castle Giuresc and gets into a heap of trouble.
The BPRD are provided equipment through the global conglomerate Zinco, who are actually aiding the Nazi unit that Hellboy and co. are investigating. Suffice it to say that the equipment provided backfire at Hellboy and co. at the worst of times, even getting in the way of communicating with HQ.

The story further expands on events revealed in Seed of Destruction, as Rasputin returns this time as a ghost and continues to plot to achieve his goal of freeing the Ogdru Jahad. Rasputin's former allies were resurrected following his defeat in the previous encounter with Hellboy and had set out to prepare their own Ragna Rok project, with one of their number, Ilsa Haupstein going out of her way to resurrect her lover, the vampire Vladimir Giurescu.

As Hellboy continues to investigate Castle Giuresc, he learns of the vampire the BPRD were sent to investigate and worse learns of the ancient Hecate as the source of the vampire's resurrection and power. Also he finds explosives, the best solution to a lot of your biggest vampire and nazi problems~
Meanwhile, as Liz and her BPRD investigate one of the possible locations of the Nazis they come upon an old alchemist's lab where a discarded and forgotten homonculus lays lifeless, which peaks Liz's curiosity...

Wake the Devil is an improvement in the writing department as the boxed narration is gone for the most part, and we start seeing Mignola quoting various works of literature, poetry, historical folklore and mythology in this book and in later stories.
The book also introduces many key characters that'll play a major role in later stories such as ZinCo and the Baba Yaga.
Since I'm reading the series using the TPBs, I become irritated by stuff like this:


See those notations at the bottom of the page? This pops up a few more times in later major Hellboy stories and it annoys me because it makes me feel like I missed out on something important, couldn't they had added AT LEAST that one story in the book as a prologue story? I could do without the sketches and have them be in later TPBs, but this just feels like I'm reading the book wrong. Well at least said annotated story is in the next book, but my point still stands.
Anyways, with Wake the Devil we see Mignola incorporating many cultural folklore and ancient mythology and history to the series story and lore. In addition, Hellboy's true nature is brought up and how he responds to it fully solidifies his character and resolve.
 
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Tizoc

Tizoc

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#3
The next of books are The Chained Coffin & The Right Hand of Doom. These collect short stories as well as single or 2 issue stories published at the time.


The Chained Coffin has Hellboy travel to England, to the very church he was found in back in 1944, while there he has a dream where he sees an old dying woman entrusting a nun and priest to keep her safe from a devil she enticed with in her youth.
The story sheds light on Hellboy's (possible) origins, and Mignola would expand on it in the future.
The other stories in this book shows Hellboy meeting with the Baba Yaga in a short and simple story, which will have a major impact on Hellboy's life in coming events, as the Baba Yaga becomes a prominent character in upcoming stories.
The Corpse is a rather humorous story involving Hellboy looking for a baby kidnapped by fairies and the task given to him in order to retrieve the baby.

The final story in the book, Almost Colossus, follows up on the concluding events of Wake the Devil; after her power is drained by the homonculus creature, Liz is dying. The fire was a part of her and by giving it away her 'spark' begins to weaken.
Hellboy sets out in search of the homonculus and finds more than he had bargained for, but comes out of it with a new ally.
It should be noted that Hellboy tends ot piss off a lot of people in some of his cases, but that's to happen when you're putting a stop to witches and spirits messing around with the world of common folk.



Among the stories in this collection is 'Nature of the Beast', one of various simple and short stories where the plot simply resolves itself in a very simple manner...Mignola tends to do that a bunch. The story introduce the Osiris Club who seem to have their hidden agenda when it comes to Hellboy.

'Right Hand of Doom' is merely a recap story, giving a recap of Hellboy's past and the 2 major story arcs, while 'Box Full of Evil' has Hellboy and Abe investigate a break-in in an English house which leads them on the trail of Igor Bromhead a thief whom Hellboy encountered before that used various magical objects and enchantments. What seemed as routine mission soon becomes a deadly and fateful encounter for Hellboy.
Box full of evil is where this infamous panel comes from


...but to balance it out, here's a more interesting set of panels from later in the story

That must've been some $10,000 robe.

All in all these stories are a good breather from the main plot, and we start to see more of Mignola's incorporation of history, folklore and mythology. There are some setups for the later stories to come, and the next major arc, Conqueror Worm, would change the fate of Hellboy and the BPRD forever.
 
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Madventure

The Angel of Deaf
Nov 17, 2018
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#4
I haven't actually read any of the comics for hellboy beyond seeing some panels of it online and seeing the movies (I know sue me) but my brother has leatherbound versions of each one, so suffice to say he's a fan.

Though I am a big fan of his take on what he did with Batman for the elseworlds comics with Batman: Gothman By Gaslight & Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham. He has a fantastic art style and his writing isn't bad either!
 
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Tizoc

Tizoc

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#8


In 1939, the Nazis put a dead body inside a space rocket and launched it into space from Hunte Castle in Austria. 60 years later it's returning to that said same place and the BPRD don't like the looks of it at all, so head of the BPRD, Manning, assigns Hellboy and Roger to investigate it.

The story begins with some history of the events that occurred at Hunte Castle, which had involved Lobster Johnson, a vigilante that hunted crime bosses in America in the 30s.
Roger and Hellboy are joined by Laura Karnstein who will be their guide as they climb towards Hunte Castle, but before their mission could start, Hellboy is giving a switch to trigger a bomb that was installed in Roger's body. Turns out the higher ups are still not trusting of Roger and added in as a pre-caution, which angers and prompts Hellboy to ask when they'd put such a bomb inside him.

Having read the series via TPB, I'd come upon yet again another annoying annotation

Said story is collected in the first BPRD book Hollow Earth as well as BPRD Omnibus Vol. 1. Why it was never EVER featured in any collected Hellboy edition likely comes down to the fact that Hellboy himself isn't part of the story at all.
It's a silly reason and again, it makes me feel like I'm missing out on something even though the story itself is simple, these kind of notes become very annoying when you're reading a collected edition because you kinda expect such things to be 'collected' in it at least.

Still angry at the BPRD's inclusion of the bomb, Hellboy reluctantly starts the mission and the trio begin to climb the mountain, meanwhile, Manning notices a small call card floating in his office, flipping it over it shows a lobster's claw...
As the trio climb the snowy mountains towards the castle, they find a vagrant who warns them of approaching the castle, as they get a close look at him, they seem him wearing Nazi military clothes under his coat and Hellboy attacks him.
Laura stops Hellboy and tells them to climb on ahead of her as she goes to check on the man, she instead brings out her gun and shoots him dead, tossing his body off a nearby cliff


Things get complicated when they arrive at the castle however; as Laura enters to check on the inside of the castle, Hellboy and Roger are attacked and Roger falls off the mountainside. Knowing of Roger's resilience being a humunculs, Hellboy decides to enter the castle and everything instantly gets worse.
For now.

Hellboy finds himself at the mercy of Herman von Klempt, a Nazi scientist that Hellboy had tangled with in Macapa 1959, and is also Laura's grandfather who brought in some of her own men to help von Klempt in order to make sure the rocket lands at their location. Hellboy is left to be tortured by Herman's pet ape as he goes to see on the progress of getting the rocket landing at the castle.
As the scene shifts to Roger, he awakens to see Lobster Johnson and the two team up to reach Hellboy now knowing what threat awaits them there


It seems the Lobster's seen some shit back in his day, so a psuedo-Frankenstein's monster isn't all that strange.

Roger and the Lobster find a lower passage into the castle, only to find a room filled with half human half machine bodies in large capsules that were being experimented on. They sense the life energy in Roger and break free in order to claim it for themselves, but as the battle rages on the two manage to knock out the generator powering the castle with electricity.
This allows Hellboy to overcome the ape and then finds a wounded man in the castle who reveals to him the true nature of the rocket's purpose: to send a host vessel into deep space so that an ancient god could posses it and then return to Earth. In order to stop it, Hellboy is given an object and with its dying words, the man reveals his true form: an alien from outer space.
Roger re-unites with Hellboy, and not a moment too soon, because the rocket has arrived and with it a powerful storm.

Arriving at Herman's location within the castle, the rocket opens, releasing not only the creature that it brought with it, but also a mist that transforms Laura's men into the same frogmen that Hellboy had fought many years ago. As Hellboy and Roger battle against von Klempt and the frogmen, we eventually learn more of what the creature's purpose is, and it is one of the most chilling 'end of days' scenario ever



The sheer nihilism of it is terrifying and I've rarely seen it presented in such a cold way. Of course, our two heroes don't need to know that in order to stop the thing.
As Lobster Johnson helps them in the battle, the object given to Hellboy is unfortunately destroyed during the battle, but our heroes find that the alien creature dislikes electricity and as Roger himself can be a conduit for such power, he decides to sacrifice by unleashing all the energy within him to destroy the creature, at least its physical form, as Roger would then need to absorb its energy to prevent it from fleeing away.
The act works and with further help from Lobster Johnson, Roger is saved with the destruction of this alien creature once and for all.

In the concluding events of the story, Lobster Johnson's corpse is found and is given a proper burial by Roger and Hellboy, and then as they rendezvous with Manning, Hellboy declares his intent


Thus ends Hellboy's time with the BPRD; over the years he would often encounter creatures or demons that would constantly remind him of his purpose and destiny, but these recent missions over the past few years of his life have further forced the notion upon him.
Wanting to handle things personally and not get the BPRD involved, he sets out to find the answers to these questions that haunt him, starting with a trip to Africa.
 
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Tizoc
Oct 11, 2018
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Oman
#9
I appear to have neglected to post my overall impressions of the Conqueror Worm story~

Conqueror Worm is a major turning point to Hellboy, the prophecies of the coming of the apocalypse are now stronger than ever before, and Hellboy would want to face it without bringing in his BPRD buds mainly for their protection. A common theme that's become apparent in Mignola's writing is ghosts communicating with Hellboy and other characters throughout earlier stories and in future ones. Seems the boundaries between the spiritual world and the living world are thinner in this universe :V

One interesting aspect about the next few stories is that they were written and released while Mignola was helping out with the 2004 Hellboy movie. The Island story underwent a few rewrites and changes over time and we finally learn more about the origins of the Ogdru Jahad.
Furthermore, Mignola would not be drawing a variety of Hellboy stories for the next couple of years, granted he DOES draw the next few stories but after that he sticks to being the writer for the better part of a decade and we don't see much of him drawing the comics far as I can recall.
 
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Tizoc
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#10


Strange Places and later stories see Mignola switch to 2-3 issue stories which help in the pacing for the most part.

The first half of this book is the Third Wish story, it begins with a scene underwater, where 3 mermaids are seeking favours from the Bog Roosh, a witch. She instructs them to strike a golden nail onto the head of her enemy, and that enemy could only be Hellboy.
We next find Hellboy in Africa, arriving upon the hut of a shaman, Mohlomi, who had been expecting him. Mohlomi tells tales to Hellboy related to spiders and bats, whether these tales are true in real life I've yet to confirm myself, but this habit of injecting folklore and mythology is a neat aspect of the Hellboy series.
As Hellboy rests by the hut, he begins to dream and see wild animals who forbade him from ever entering into Africa again, when he awakens he finds himself near the ocean. Mohlomi gives Hellboy a small bell to help him on his quest, and as a giant wave crashes upon him he is sent to the ocean where the 3 mermaids find him and strike the golden nail upon his head. Also he loses Mohlomi's bell to the great blue, oops!

Taken to the Bog Roosh, Hellboy wakes up chained and the Bog Roosh grants the mermaid sisters their favours, but being a witch, the wishes of the first 2 sisters marks their death; a witch is a witch after all, and Hellboy has seen enough that he would do anything to save the remaining mermaid.
Thankfully her wish is far simpler; she wishes her father's weapon found so that she may return it to his grave.

With their boon given she sets off to place the weapon at her father's grave, and learns of her folly. Meanwhile, the Bog Roosh turns to Hellboy to inform him of the fate she has planned for him







I'ma have to agree with Hellboy on both his accounts here; for any faults he has, he really is a good guy and there are enough stories written about him cleaning up paranormal faracas to back it. At the least the Bog Roosh's plan is sensible in context.

As the Bog Roosh leaves to prepare to slice up Hellboy, the mermaid returns and frees him from his chains. Hellboy battles and kills the Bog Roosh, and is then freed from the nail in his head that had bound him to her. As there must be Bog Roosh, the lone mermaid takes her place and sends Hellboy back to the surface world.

This is a short and simple story, and once Mignola delivers with the art of the underwater world. The significance of Hellboy's purpose in the world is brought up once again, much to his chargin, but he will always be ready to fight against it no matter what.

The 2nd half of the book is the 'Island' story, as Hellboy finds himself by a beach with many damaged ships littering the scenery nearby. At night he goes joins a group of sailors for a drink in a pub, and tells them of his underwater adventure. As Hellboy indulges in the bottle of rum while they sing an old shanty, The Mermaid, they are interrupted by a loud noise outside, after taking a quick look out the window, Hellboy turns to inform the sailors that there's nothing to worry about, only to find rotting skeletons
Hellboy, had been drinking with the dead.


Outside Hecate appears and once again annoys Hellboy about his destiny to which Hellboy responds by telling her to shove it where the sun don't shine.



As he continues to explore the island he finds a fort with a golden trail and its surrounding land covered in gold, and as curiosity gets the better of him he decides to go in.
A flashback is shown of what happened within the fort of inquisitors surrounding a heretic monk that they would put to death with their spears, but instead of red blood, golden liquid flows from his wounds.
As Hellboy sets one step onto the golden plain a giant worm appears and thrashes Hellboy around. Finding a rapier(?) Hellboy decides to take it on


Alas, the worm creature overcomes him in the end and stabs him in the chest. Hellboy meets Mohlomi, recovering his bell to him and is told that he is not yet dead. However Hellboy then meets the monk from the flashback scene who reveals to Hellboy his past and the origin of all things
In the beginning, the spirits descended onto the earth and one of them dared to raise their hand 'to take fire out of the air'; it dared to use the fire of creation and of all things-




The monk knows what Hellboy is, what his Right Hand is for and decides to claim it for himself so that he may end mankind, and have them be sacrificial fodder for the Ogdru Jahad. As the two battle, Hellboy manages to defeat him in the end, and finding a boat, leaves the island, now knowing the true purpose behind his giant right hand and why it is so sought after.

This was the biggest revelation in the Hellboy series at the time; 10 years after the series' debut and we finally get an idea on what the Ogdru Jahad are, and why Rasputin and others desired their Resurrection. This story would be one of the last main Hellboy stories to be drawn by Mignola as well, as the next major stories are drawn by Duncan Fegredo. Mignola wouldn't return to draw a mainline Hellboy story until almost a decade later.

It should be noted that Hellboy was 'lost at sea' for over 2 years, until his resurface on the island. The next book is a collection of short stories from Hellboy's past adventures, so we're taking a break from all the big stuff, which is going to be needed, as things are going to escalate badly really really fast.
 
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Tizoc

Tizoc

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#11


This TPB collects various one shots and short stories featuring Hellboy, giving us a break from the main plot.

The titular Troll Witch takes place in 1963, as Hellboy investigates a small town in Norway that's been terrorized by a group of trolls. Hellboy meets with an old witch who tells Hellboy of her past and how she once long ago also fought against trolls, and offered him aid in stopping them. The story has a Grimm brother's fairy tale vibe and among many easy resolved situations within Hellboy stories.

The most important story in this collection however, is Makoma, a 2 part story that involves Hellboy dreaming of creating the world by fighting the fusion of King Ghidorah & Godzilla


The story is based on an actual African creation myth of the same name, and takes place in 1993, a year before Hellboy's world is irrevocably changed.
The first part of the story is drawn by Mignola and recalls Hellboy's one and only visit to Africa in 1947, and also notes of Bruttenholm's missing expedition. The majority of the story that tell the Makoma story are drawn by Richard Corben whose distinct artstyle becomes familiar having drawn various other Hellboy stories such as the Crooked Man.

The Complete Short Stories Omnibus books collect and arrange these stories in chronological order, ergo, Makoma becomes the very last story in the 2nd book.
 
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