Today marks the release of the Hellboy Winter Special: The Yule Cat, from cartoonist Matt Smith with colors by Chris O’Halloran and letters by Clem Robins. It’s an early Christmas present, steeped in Icelandic folklore and molded into a classic Hellboy comic, with all the trappings.

And Smith was kind enough to make some time to talk about the book, the inspiration for the story, and cats he’s known in his life. Check out our chat below!

Yule Cat

Interview: Matt Smith talks Hellboy and The Yule Cat

ZACK QUAINTANCE: How did you first encounter the inspiration for this one, Jólakötturinn, the ferocious Yule Cat of Icelandic folklore?

MATT SMITH: It was on a trip to Iceland and looking around the bookshops. You’d see this cat towering over houses or looking over people in books or on postcards and wonder “what’s the deal with this big cat?”  It made an impression.

ZQ: What made that inspiration such a good fit for a Hellboy story?

MS: It’s really Iceland itself that was the inspiration. The thought was to place a story there before the other details came together. It’s like nowhere else and if you look up pictures of it or have been, you can easily imagine Hellboy wandering around those landscapes. Throw in lots of great troll and ghost stories and it’s a place he’d definitely find himself in at some point. The trick was picking just one story for the issue. The Yule Cat is pretty specific to Iceland and well, it’s a giant cat, so I went with that one.

Yule Cat

ZQ: Did telling the first Iceland-set Hellboy story require anything extra on your end? Any special research or considerations?

MS: Setting the story in Reykjavik of 1990 required a little research. It wasn’t at all exhaustive, but I tried to keep it from being overly wrong. If a story was set in Boston in 1990, it would look different than now in certain areas, especially the south Boston waterfront. You wouldn’t recognize it if you hadn’t been for awhile. But as I’d been to Iceland before, I had some settings in mind. Most research went into thinking about where this story fit into Hellboy’s life.

ZQ: There were some hints of Bones of Giants in this comic. Might we see the Yule Cat or other Icelandic folklore revisited by another story at some point?

MS: By Mitra, I hope so. Not only would I love to revisit it myself for all the other stories that came to mind, but I’d love to see other Mignolaverse artists and writers bring him there as well. A troll story for Peter Bergting, Necropants for Márk László. Duncan, Bridgit, Craig, Ben and the list goes on. Rachele Aragno with some elves. They’re all so hellishly good. Hellboy in Iceland. Or Hellboy: Fire and Ice. Or The Saga of Stonefist Azzaelsson. A man can dream, right?

ZQ: Finally, I have to ask…what’s your own relationship to cats like, and did you base the monster here off a cat you’ve known?

MS: Ha! I grew up with a bunch of cats. We had Supermarket the cat, found wandering around a supermarket parking lot. Snow on the Mountain, usually shortened to Snowy. Hmm. Midnight just walked in through our front door when it was open and never left. There were a few others. My sisters named them all, but I wish I could take credit for Supermarket. That’s a fine cat name. All that being said, I have a high-spirited dog who would like nothing more than to chase a cat, so no cats for now.

Yule Cat

Hellboy Winter Special: The Yule Cat is out December 6.