Hellboy: Where Do I Start?

He might not look it, but Hellboy is a pioneer. Outside of the decades-old characters of Marvel and DC, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy has turned into a stalwart hero and one of the most successful comic franchises around. Beneath the reddish demon skin and underneath those sawed-off devil horns lies a man more human than most men you might know, forced to deal with supernatural threat and occult forces that defy explanation.

And frogs.

Born in fire and raised on an Air Force base by a scientist, Hellboy is in essence an army brat doing what his parents trained him to do. As he became an adult he was drawn into becoming the lead agent for a federal agency tasked to deal with occult threats called the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD).

Since his creation by Mignola back in a Comic-Con souvenir booklet in 1993, Hellboy has carved out a legacy befitting a man of his, erhm, stature. Through a series of mini-series and one-shots, Mignola and a host of talented brethren have made the character a tent pole for Dark Horse Comics and non-Big Two titles in general. And with the two blockbuster movies and several animated features, Hellboy’s ingrained himself with comics fans and genre movie fans alike.

Hellboy’s story has sprawled out over the last 15+ years in origin stories, an over-arching story-arc but also concise done-in-one short stories that’s won Mignola awards on numerous occasions. But with over 20 trade paperbacks in print and several more coming, fans wanting to get in on the ground floor with Hellboy might be at a loss to find out where to start. That’s where we come in.

In this edition of Where Do I Start, we delve into Hellboy and point out 5 books that’ll help you find out where he comes from, what he’s like and how a grown half-man half-demon could take being called Hellboy.

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction: It all begins here. Enlisting scripting help from comics legend John Byrne, Mike Mignola set forth here the early days of Hellboy going from his emergence in the 1940s by the famed Rasputin to his adolescence under the tutelage of Army scientists and his adulthood. This book is the most direct inspiration, in story and tone, for Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy film and every Hellboy and BPRD comic that’s come since. This won raves from fans and critics alike, earning Mignola Eisners for best ‘Writer/Artist’ and ‘Best Graphic Album: Reprint.’ Now in its third printing, this is the ground floor for all things Hellboy.

Hellboy: Wake The Devil: This second story collection puts Hellboy and the BPRD on the trail of an ages-old vampire that was recruited by Hitler during WW2. If that’s not enough, cyborg Nazis and the man that brought him into the world, Rasputin. Much of this story was adapted into the animated movie Hellboy: Blood and Iron, and it’s a great tale that is less an origin for Hellboy than just an example of a good yarn featuring Hellboy versus the occult.

Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others: After a pair of miniseries, this collection brought together various one-shots and anthology stories Mignola had done on Hellboy that are some of the finest storytelling in the character’s library. Of particular interest is “The Corpse,” where Hellboy travels to Ireland to rescue a child abducted and replaced with a changeling by a malicious fairy (you got that right, malicious fairy). That’s one of seven stories contained in this edition, an ideal book for short bursts of Hellboy all written & drawn by Mike Mignola.

Hellboy: The Right Hand of Doom: Another rollicking collection of short stories, this book shows Mignola pushing Hellboy into more diverse territory – including a story about a young Hellboy eating pancakes. Yep, you got that right. It also contains one of the most popular Hellboy shorts, “Heads,” wherein Hellboy fights floating demonic heads in Japan.

Hellboy: The Troll Witch and Others: For the first part of Hellboy’s life Mignola kept the writing and the drawing to himself, but later on he began enlisting others to help him tell his story. In this volume, we see Mignola partnering with legends like Richard Corben and P. Craig Russell, telling worldly stories such as one of Hellboy going off to Africa where he is dropped into a great creation myth. Definitely worth a look to see how Hellboy’s world expands.

You could even go back and watch our very aged episode of iFanboy about Hellboy.


  1. This article makes me want to go reread all of these.

  2. I just reread the first Library Edition, and it was superb. That’s Seed of Destruction and Wake the Devil.

  3. I wanna read all of them!….I’m gonna go to my library, excuse me.

  4. I just finished Seed, the first Hellboy I’ve read. This post came at the perfect time. Thanks!

  5. This reminds me I new to get that First Library Edition. My Seed of Destruction trade is in tatters.

  6. Library editions are great! Heavy duty and the sketches and explanations in the back are nice as well.

  7. Such a good series.

  8. i tried ordering the first library edition from amazon 3 days ago with a gift card and it wouldn’t take. i was supremely upset.

  9. One of my favorite series. The one series that got me back into comics a few years after i stopped reading.

  10. I’m aiming to buy a Hellboy trade each month- I’m up to the first two. The art is completely enthralling- I think it was Josh who mentioned a while back that so much of this look has to do with Stewart’s colors, and I think he is right. 

  11. Definitely a good book, question for everyone, has anybody read a bad hellboy comic ever?

  12. Just bought every issue of Hellboy and BPRD on the Dark Horse digital comics website, about half-way through ‘Wake the Devil’ now

  13. Darkhorse Digital also has Witchfinder on sale for 99 cents each, also written by Mignola, is it any good?

  14. @jedhavok  Nope, and I’ve read them all.

  15. @AceBathound  +1