This Wednesday (12/20), Dark Horse Comics publishes one of the most off-holiday holiday specials in Hellboy’s history. A tale so awesome it unites the vision of Mike Mignola with the vivid artistry of another industry veteran, Adam Hughes. AH!
Hellboy: Krampusnacht takes the crimson fisted hero to a world of Bavarian lore. There’s no time for some tasty Brotzeit as the urban legend of Krampus threatens children it deems naughty. This one-shot special is dark, suspenseful, and just plain gorgeous to look at.
We got a few words with artist Adam Hughes about what people can expect when one of the best illustrators of iconic female characters takes his style to a dark side.
COMICS BEAT: We’ve seen Hellboy have some interesting Christmas adventures before, who is he saving us from in Krampusnacht?
ADAM HUGHES: Krampus! Putting the Krampus in Krampusnacht for centuries on end. The Krampus is a yule time demon in European folklore. Sort of the Bad Cop to St. Nicholas’ Good Cop. If you’re a rotten kid, the Krampus is gonna get ya.
CB: What is it about this particular Bavarian folklore that appealed to you as a storyteller?
AH: Krampus is a Christmas monster. How cool is that?!? Can you imagine having, in your holiday traditions, a demon that punishes children? That’s dark and fabulous and I loved the idea of Hellboy having dinner with the Krampus.
CB: I can’t imagine many creators have such an elite status in comics that they could come to you and say I want you to draw a book about a Bavarian holiday. How did you get paired with Mignola for this particular Hellboy book?
AH: At SDCC 2016, Mike told me we should work together. I called his bluff 6 months later, and KRAMPUSNACHT was what Mike had lurking in his attic. I’m glad I called him at Christmastime! God knows what story he’d’ve come up with if I’d called him on Arbor Day.
CB: You’ve made a lengthy career from illustrating supple female characters with the right amount of sex appeal. This book shows off a side of Adam Hughes that’s rarely seen with dark demonic stuff being done masterfully. How do you approach this as an artist versus say some of your recent Betty and Veronica work?
AH: One intentional difference was the use of heavy blacks. In BETTY & VERONICA, I left virtually everything open for color, with no shadow work anywhere. On HELLBOY, it’s all about lighting and shadows. I made sure I kept the lighting low and spooky.
CB: You make it sound soo simple but there’s such a night and day difference in the visual impact of the work.
How much of the design for Krampus was researching folklore and how much was your interpretation?
AH: I’d say about 40% research and 60% interpretation. The really old depictions of Krampus are kinda quaint to modern eyes, so I had to tart him up a bit for a 21st century audience.
CB: It’s a big deal for an up and coming artist to draw a Mike Mignola book, but what’s it mean for an established and acclaimed veteran, like you, to work with someone like Mignola at this point in your career?
AH: It’s an apocalyptically big deal for me to work with Mike; he walks on the ground I worship. I don’t have the words to describe how enjoyable this experience has been for me. HELLBOY is my favorite comic.
CB: It makes my heart grow three sizes larger when I hear superstars in comics still have excitement for doing projects like this. Thanks for your time, Adam.
If you’re looking to have some serious nightmares and folklore lessons before the holiday, you better pick up Hellboy: Krampusnacht on Wednesday at your local comic shop or digital. Less you be judged a naughty child.