Alumnus Spotlight: Mike Mignola

Mike Mignola (Illustration 1982) is the creator of Hellboy. His iconic red comic book demon has been translated into dozens of languages, distributed all over the globe, and turned into two Hollywood feature films starring Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast) and directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Mignola always knew he wanted to be a comic artist. He grew up in Oakland and began his comic career immediately after he graduated from CCA, working for DC and Marvel. In 1994, when the first Hellboy stories were published by Dark Horse Comics, he dove full time into his own projects and hasn't looked back since.

On the appeal of Hellboy . . .
There's a certain absurdity to Hellboy's character. He looks like a monster, and (maybe) he's the beast of the apocalypse, but he's the most regular, working-stiff kind of guy. Certain aspects of him are based on my father—mostly his physicality. My father is tough and leathery, a cabinet maker, worked with his hands all his life. I'm not any of those things! So Hellboy ends up having a lot of my personality, but he's much tougher than me.

On a typical day . . .
I work out of my house, from the time I get up until dinnertime, seven days a week. I'm running a franchise here! I write Hellboy, a couple of different spin-off books, and I'm beginning a series of Victorian occult detective stories that are Hellboy related. I'm trying to narrow it down. I need to stop making up new characters and get back to drawing.

My typical day involves less time at the drawing table than I would like. My goal is to get back to what I was doing for the first 15 or 20 years of my career, which was sitting and drawing. That was boring after 15 or 20 years, but now of course I'm wishing I was that bored again.

On the lure of Hollywood . . .
When you make up something called Hellboy, you don't do it thinking, "Hey, this could be a movie!"

When the film became a reality, it was definitely a side project for me, but it was great. It was a lot of work. I got to fly places first class. I went to Eastern Europe, where we shot the movies, a place I never would have gone on my own. I love the director, Guillermo del Toro, and we had a really good time working together. It was a little like going to summer camp—or maybe some kind of military training camp.

Doing a lot of press around the movie, the most common question from non-comic journalists has been, "Now that you've worked in Hollywood, would you want to direct a movie?" Everybody working in comics is supposed to be itching to get into Hollywood. "Now you've got the chance! Now you get to play in the big leagues!" I've spent enough time sitting next to a director, I can see how impossibly difficult that job is, plus I'm in no way qualified to do it.

Because I own Hellboy and control it, and my publisher lets me do whatever I want, nobody can offer me a better job than the job I already have. I never feel like, "This thing I'm doing now is a stepping stone to this other thing." I'm doing exactly what I always wanted to do. I make up stories about monsters and I draw them.

On the translations . . .
Hellboy is all over the place, in China, Japan, France, Russia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Germany (they have to take the swastikas out, but I understand it's very popular there), South America, Mexico . . .

On his memories of CCA . . .
CCA was a long time ago for me, but I do recall my years there as a gigantic growth period. I went into CCA knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my career. But I wanted to get exposure to other things besides illustration. If I could do it over again, actually, I would be a general fine arts major and spend even more time painting and drawing.

The Illustration Program at that time was very small, but I did have a teacher, Vincent Perez, who really understood comics and what I was trying to do. Vince introduced me to another CCA student, Steve Purcell, who became a good friend of mine. He was doing a strip in the CCA school newspaper called Sam & Max: Freelance Police, which has gone on to become an animated TV show and a computer game. He's working at Pixar now. The guy is just a genius.

Born in 1960 in Berkeley

CCA degree:BFA 1982, Illustration

Residence:Los Angeles

Current occupation:comic book artist and writer

Influences at CCA:Vincent Perez, Gary Rudell