Abe Sapien Is More Interesting Than Hellboy

Dear Hellboy,

It is not you, it is me. I love your stories. Your stories have a great mix of epic storytelling and one and done side trips. I feel like you are my personal guide to a strange world of folklore hiding in the shadows. There is a mix of horror, humor, and action. This mix is perfect for the world of comics. Comics are a medium where the lingering eye and the excited flipping of pages can live hand in hand. You manage to produce both sensations, often at the same time.Demonic Duo

When I think of you, I think of an everyman. You are a Joe Six-Pack whose job takes him to some strange locations. Your family is messed up…Do not look at me that way! How else would you refer to a demon and a nun hooking up? As I was saying, your family is messed up but like many people, you rise above the mess of your origins.

You are your own person. When Director Manning put a bomb on Roger, you were pissed. You worked for the B.P.R.D. but they did not own you. When you needed a break, you took off and did some drinking. I can get behind that type of relaxation. Demons keep telling you that you are going to be the harbinger of the apocalypse. Screw ‘em. You find out that you are the rightful heir to King Arthur’s throne. Who cares? You are going to solve problems the Hellboy Way.  Hint: The Hellboy Way involves punching the crap out of monsters. You are full of confidence and that is magnetic.

Now for the hard part, when you went away on one of your emotional backpacking tours I fell out of love with you. It all started with The Third Wish. Remember? You travelled to Africa, and then were trapped by a sea hag for two years in the depths of the ocean. In reality, you did not have any more stories come out for another 3 years. Do not use the movie as an excuse! You knew I was waiting! You popped up occasionally but a real proper Hellboy story was not in the cards until The Island. You left the B.P.R.D to find your place in the world and found myself wondering exactly what I was reading in those days. The Third Wish and The Island were esoteric tales, lacking the down to earth interactions that made your stories so much fun. It was just you adrift in these mystical tales, and I did not find them to be very much fun.

The funny thing about fun is that it comes in many shapes. It does not have to be in the shape of a down to earh, hard drinking demon. It can also be in the guise of a fish man trapped in a tragic spiral. Abe Sapien passed you by a while ago in the race for my heart.

While I was waiting for you to get your act together, the B.P.R.D was hitting my fiction sweet spot. It featured a good-sized cast of characters interacting with a strange world and each other. Roger playing the part of the naïve but eager child who lost his role model in Hellboy. Liz Sherman coming back to the team but unsure of what exactly the B.P.R.D. should be doing. Abe was full of doubts about his role, but with no other place to call home. Johann was the mysterious newcomer. The team went through a metamorphosis where it was no longer about solving mysteries; it was about fighting a war. This slow change threw the spotlight on Abe and he grabbed my attention.

The B.P.R.D. spent a large chunk of time hunting down and destroying an army of frog creatures. If you look like a frog, that is a hostile work environment, which I always enjoy reading about. Fellow team members are suspicious of Abe and he does very little to assuage their fears. While you have the confidence to defy your destiny, Abe lingers around the doom. Almost as if it might provide the purpose for his existence that he craves.  While you born to destroy the world, Abe seems like he is backing into it. Abe walks that line between mundane danger and epic consequences. He could simply die at the hands of a girl with a gun, or perhaps be a sign of what the “frogs” might become.

At first, it was hard for me to admit that Abe stole your spot in my heart. After all, he started as a supporting character in your story.  How were we to know that there were hidden depths to Abe that made his story even more interesting than yours? You are one of those characters that do not generate a real sense of worry in my mind. No matter what happens, no matter where you are, I believe that in the end you are going to win. Abe…well Abe… I am not so sure.

That doubt really draws me towards his tale. While you are man who follows your own path, Abe seems adrift. He is the mutated form of a man named Langdon Everett Caul, a Victorian scientist interested in the occult. Abe is a separate man from Langdon, yet has some of his memories. He has memories and feelings for a wife long gone.  Is this new form a blessing or a curse? I do not know, and neither does Abe. That is the big difference. Whereas you can ignore the plans others have made for you. Abe seems hyper-aware of his own possible doom. You are carving out your destiny while Abe might be the hideous epilogue of someone else’s story. That shouldn’t really make Abe more interesting to me, but it works. Such is life.

Granted, your last couple of stories have been tight and recaptured a bit of the old magic for me. Alas, it might be too lake. I have to look over poor, injured Abe. The frogman cannot take care of himself and that makes me want to follow him. I will be stopping by to pick up William Faulkner shot glass and lava lamp. You are still invited to be in my fantasy football league.

Sincerely your friend,

Thomas Katers


You want to come help Tom Katers pack?



  1. You just love Abe Sapien because he used to live in Rhode Island, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  2. And neither hold a candle to Lobster Johnson.

  3. I think the BPRD books with John Arcudi are better written than the Hellboy books my Mignola. I lost interest in Hellboy a long time ago but still love the BPRD (it would be cool to have Hellboy rejoin the team, though).

    • I agree with that. When Mignola was on art the sparse dialouge and dark shadowy panels felt spot on. But without his art the holes in the writing started to show through. BPRD on the other hand always had spectacular writing and art day in and day out.

  4. Abe has certainly become an exceptionally interesting character, but I can’t wait to see what happens to Hellboy now that his story has changed so dramatically.

  5. I tried to get into the BPRD books, but I found them to be really hard, as a new reader, to get into. I’ve never attempted to read the early Hellboy stuff, and that’s probably where I should start, right?

    • I don’t think you need to read the early Hellboy stuff to get into BPRD, it just takes a little while to get your own stock of the characters, but most of them don’t appear in early Hellboy. I would recommend reading the early Hellboy stuff though, because it is really good.

  6. 1. Tom, you are an excellent writer and I look forward to your post each week.
    2. Let’s just hope this doesn’t end with you standing outside Hellboy’s room, with a bottle of scotch screaming ” I can change! I made a mistake, I want you back!”
    3. That fantasy football league must be awesome. I imagine aquaman must be in it as well, but he always drafts injured and retired players unknowingly.

  7. Has there been a “Where should I start” for Hellboy/BPRD? I really want to read some but I don’t know what’s good.

  8. i never kept up with the books but i knew about Abe. He always seemed fascinating. Hellboy is fun but i thought Abe’s character was more interesting. that’s just me of course.

  9. I enjoy all the Mignola-verse titles, but I guess I can understand why some folks are growing tied of the extended Hellboy storyline. While some of the standalone Hellboy books (Hellboy and the Beasts of Burden, for example) have been brilliant following the on-going HB story forced the reader to be familiar with years of backstory and characters reappearing after not being seen for years. I still found it engaging, but did have to go back to some of my TPBs to remind myself who this or that witch/demon/spirit was and how they fit into the puzzle.

    I’m hoping that when Hellboy does come back from (you know where) he can rejoin his B.P.R.D. chums once again.

  10. Agreed. Hellboy lost me with Darkness calls but I am still loving BPRD largely thanks to Abe.