This week, Dark Horse Comics opens 2018 by revealing all on one of the Hellboy universe’s most tortured souls in KOSHCHEI: The Deathless. A six-issue mini-series by Mike Mignola and artist Ben Stenbeck.
Stenbeck’s work in the series’ opening is nothing short of stellar. The artist isn’t unfamiliar to fans of the Mignolaverse but definitely steps up to another level with Koshchei: The Deathless. We got a few words with Ben about the process and what fans can expect to see in the rest of this mini-series.
COMICS BEAT: People know this isn’t your first time as an artist in the Mignolaverse, from your stuff on B.P.R.D, Frankenstein Underground, and Lobster Johnson you’ve put quite a stamp on all these characters. What specifically appeals to you about Koshchei The Deathless?
BEN STENBECK: My favorite thing about drawing comics and working on the Mignola books is getting to draw interesting places and eras. So the opportunity to draw a medieval Russian story is just a dream come true. To start off knowing nothing about it to hopefully building a reasonably convincing fairytale Russia, that is the type of thing I live for. Also, as soon as Koshchei showed up in Darkness Calls he was instantly a character that I think a lot of people wanted to know more about.
CB: Koshchei ‘s story in the opening issue of this mini-series is in some ways revisiting the character’s story we saw in previous backups by Mignola and Guy Davis. With more room in six full issues, how many parts of this character’s history will fans see?
STENBECK: It’s really well covered. This whole series is Koshchei telling his life story. You don’t need to read any of that other stuff because it all gets covered here. We sort of re-did the story that Mike and Guy told. Mike wanted me to make my own version of that, which was tough because that’s one of my favorite stories from the Mignolaverse.
CB: When it comes to your style as an artist and on previous books, I see you have more of an eye akin to Eric Powell than Mignola. This opening issue of Koshchei resembles more of a pure early Hellboy style than anything you’ve done so far. Can you tell me about how you’ve evolved your style from your earlier stuff in the Mignolaverse to what we see in KOSHCHEI The Deathless?
STENBECK: That’s hard to answer, I don’t know how objective I am about my own work. With Baltimore I would let myself rely on photo reference a little more, but with this I try to avoid it completely. I’m a bit more interested in drawing as honestly as I can to see what I come up with, even if it’s wonky as hell. I think I’m getting better and I think I’m getting more confident. Maybe? I don’t know.
CB: I’d agree with that.
I really want to get your thoughts on one early scene in particular and I don’t believe we spoil anything crucial. That scene when Koschei is telling Hellboy the story in the pub. Visually, it’s a great conversational sequence made even better by Dave Stewart’s shift from the vivid flashback to the monotone hell scene. Did you have that final product pictured in mind when you illustrated it? In general, how do you see Dave Stewart’s effect on your work?
STENBECK: At this point working with Dave I just know he’s going to do that. It’s not something we need to talk about. There’s certain things I can do where I know exactly how Dave is going to treat it, since he’s been coloring my work for almost a decade now. But he still always manages to elevate everything I do. He really is the greatest.
CB: Hellboy has always been very untraditional in the comics medium, but as a fan would you ever want to see the character in a back to life story?
STENBECK: I’m always happy to read Hellboy stories wherever he is.
CB: I’m just going to put it out there. Mike Mignola/Ben Stenbeck/Dave Stewart Hellboy Reawakening #1. No rush but whenever Mike wants to get around to it, I’ve already titled it.
While we wait on a Hellboy back from the dead, there are tons of phenomenal comics still to come from the world of the crimsoned fist hero. Check out his encounter with KOSHCHEI in KOSHCHEI: The Deathless #1, on sale this week.
Koshchei the Deathless #1 (of 6)
Mike Mignola (W/Cover), Ben Stenbeck (A), and Dave Stewart (C)
On sale Jan 03
FC, 32 pages