Mike Mignola chats with Douglas Wolk at Playboy about Hellboy and reveals a fundamental truth about artists—they write what they like to draw.

There’s a fairly radical change in style for Hellboy in Hell.
Well, there’s two things there. I hadn’t been drawing the book for a long time, and I changed the location radically. So I don’t know that I specifically changed the way I drew, but I changed everything else. My decision to go back to the book was attached to my decision to kill him off. I wanted to move him someplace that was made entirely of stuff I wanted to draw. When I draw the real world, there’s always something that’s gotta look right. I stylize stuff, but I’ve always felt I had my hands a little bit tied by having to obey the laws of gravity. But Hellboy in Hell is just this fluid dream world. Everything bends and stretches, so there’s a much more organic and intuitive way to draw everything. Perspective goes completely out the window. It’s just a matter of trusting your gut to make shapes. There’s a liberation to a lot of the artwork.


  1. Amen on that Mr. Mignola. Good to know even the greatest artists feel the same as us poor schmuck artists. I hate drawing cars, horses and large cities.

  2. I don’t agree with the premise that artists write what they like to draw. I’ve been writing (or co-writing) everything I draw for the last few years an I never censor ideas because I might have a difficult time drawing them. The story is the story. Artist me is frequently frustrated with writer me for including something overly complicated but I would never compromise the story simply to play to my strengths as an artist. That seems ridiculous. I wrote and drew a book called KINSKI which is all about a dog yet I don’t particularly like drawing dogs. It was just a story I needed to tell. This isn’t a criticism of Mignola, he’s great and he can do whatever he wants. But the idea that writers who draw are just in it to indulgently make pretty pictures and not tell a story strikes me as a bit condescending.

  3. To Gabriel Hardman:
    Mike Mignola might be a very successful artist in the world of comics but he’s an artist of limited ability. This is a point he makes himself in the last few interviews I’ve read about. Mignola has stated that his artistic style mainly came about because of his love for horror and his inability to do realism well.

    Mignola has no incentive to get out of his comfort zone because he is doing well by playing to his strengths. He is doing well financially, and creatively, he is happy–because in addition to not being able to do realism well, he really doesn’t enjoy doing realism. In the recent interview with Doug Wolk , Mignola is spinning his limitations and interests as creative freedom but since I’ve read multiple interviews that comics journalists have had with him, over the last twenty five years, I know a little better.

    To Paul Houston,
    Yes ,Mignola IS like most of us. Most of us want to avoid pain and seek pleasure. He does as well.

  4. Guys, he didn’t say write what you’re good at drawing. He writes what he loves to draw: monsters, apes, Nazis and skulls.

    Tapping into your passions can only improve your work. Who wants to look at art the artist wasn’t excited about creating?

  5. The odds of an artist’s passions lining up with the tastes of a clientele that is able to properly compensate him for his work is low enough that I consider the artists who are able to find an audience for what they like to indulge in to be lucky.

    “Tapping into your passions can only improve your work. Who wants to look at art the artist wasn’t excited about creating?” A good number of the audience for American superhero comics, apparently.
    If you’ve been a comics fan for over ten years, you can tell when a veteran is phoning it in or is just working for a paycheck. On the other end of the spectrum, the young guns, the artists who are just starting their professional careers at Marvel or DC, seem to be more concerned with hitting deadlines and conforming to the expectations of readers than personal expression. The correlation between liking your job and the quality of your .output and one’s ability to earn a living is weaker than you think. Personality is a better indicator of job performance than one’s interests.

    To put this in wider societal context:
    Most people are just trying to make a living and to keep up appearances. Those who demand or derive personal satisfaction from their work are seen as troublemakers or a privileged person who isn’t concerned about earning steady income.

  6. The Mike Mignolas of this world are rare, and exceptional to what is the norm, which is they are often interviewed.

  7. Mignola is a stuck up loon. His art only got attention because of the success of the Hellboy 1 movie.

    His artwork looks flat. The only redeeming quality is how he uses a pyramid composition in almost every cover, ripping off Frazetta.

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