As I was saying in the first blog entry post, one of my objectives is to write some huge reading orders and update them regularly because, when I start reading Hellboy, I didn’t find this kind of guide up-to-date. It was a bit disappointing for a number of reasons. The first one is that there are always new comics in this wonderful universe that are coming out every month. Even now that the regular Hellboy series has ended.
The big challenge, as every reader knows, is that there’s more than one way to go with the Mignolaverse. I’ll try to do my best to be clear, but there will always be some difficult choices to make here and there. But first…
What are Hellboy, B.P.R.D. and that Mignolaverse?
Hellboy is a character created by Mike Mignola who made his first appearance during the ’90s. He is basically a big red Demon with the Right Hand of Doom summoned from Hell to Earth by Nazi occultists. Instead of falling into the wrong hands, he was discovered by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm and the Allied forces. The good professor adopted Hellboy and formed the United States Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). Even after the end of the war, the bureau fought against dark forces.
Hellboy grew up, became a BPRD agent and worked with others, not like him, but with special talents and more like the ‘fishman’ Abe Sapien and the firestarter Liz Sherman.
Where to start with the Hellboy Universe?
There are two ways to start with Hellboy and all the spin-offs. The first is to begin with Hellboy. The second is the chronological approach, because there are a lot of things that came before Hellboy (but were published after). My recommendation is to begin with the first option if you are not familiar with the universe.
The core series of the universe are Hellboy (followed by Hellboy in Hell) and B.P.R.D. (followed by B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth). Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien, Sir Edward Grey Witchfinder, Sledgehammer 44 and others are complementary, some more than others. I’ll try to make clear what’s more useful if you don’t want to read everything – and it’s certainly not necessary to read everything.
What you have to understand is that the main format of Hellboy is the ‘miniseries’ – 5 or 6 part max per stories. Even if the structure stay mostly the same in spirit with B.P.R.D. the continuity is more straightforward and there really are two big chapters (for now). With the exception of Abe Sapien, the rest of the spin-offs are also mini-series.
But let’s begin.
I. The main story
a. The World of Hellboy
In the beginning, there was only Hellboy – he works at the B.P.R.D. Those TPBs contains a mix of miniseries and short stories. Some of the shorts are optional, but they are good (or great) and they help to learn about the world of Hellboy. Some are really necessary. I’m not going to enter here in which ones are indispensable or not, sorry.
- Hellboy: Seed of Destruction – The introduction of Hellboy on Earth. Starts in 1944, then jumps to 1994 with the introduction of the BPRD and the agents Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien. We are presented with the basis of the Hellboy mythology from Rasputin, the first main antagonist.
- Hellboy: Wake the Devil – Introduced the large homunculus that will be known as Roger.
- Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others – Contains short stories. We met Kate Corrigan, agent of the BPRD in The Wolves of St. August. The story of Roger continues here in Almost Colossus.
- Hellboy: The Right Hand of Doom
- B.P.R.D.: Being Human – Some old stories with Liz, Abe, plus the first mission of Roger and the origin story of Johann Kraus before his real introduction in BPRD: Hollow Earth & Other Stories. Can be read later though.
- Hellboy: Conqueror Worm – In this story, we met the phantom of Lobster Johnson. After that introduction (even before), you can start to read his solo adventures. They take place in the 1930s, before Hellboy’s arrival.
b. B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs
At that point, the main series became B.P.R.D., even if there still are some Hellboy to read. If you are into Hellboy and are not sure to like B.P.R.D., don’t worry, it’s really great. That said, you can just read ‘only’ Hellboy stories, they are connected in a way to the main story, but the references to it are limited. In fact, Hellboy and B.P.R.D. remained mostly independent, but are complementary. You’ll really have the biggest picture possible with the two of them. In the end, I recommend reading the two series.
- B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth & Other Stories
- B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice & Other Stories
- B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs
- B.P.R.D.: The Dead
- Hellboy: Strange Places
- B.P.R.D.: The Black Flame
- B.P.R.D.: The Universal Machine
- Hellboy: The Troll Witch and Others
- B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls
- Hellboy: Darkness Calls
- B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground
- Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus — It’s optional and can be read when you want but, at that point, Lobster Johnson is going to play a part in the next B.P.R.D. stories that are connected to this miniseries. This is a good introduction and the action takes place in the 1930s. For what’s coming next, click here to know how to read Lobster Johnson?
It’s the right time to take a breath and read the stories published at the time that are set in the past. They will have connections with what’s to come next.
- B.P.R.D. 1946 – 1948 — The action takes place when Hellboy was a child. Those books introduced some characters that will be back later.
- Sledgehammer 44 — It’s optional, but it’s a good story that helps to understand some things with the sledgehammer suit later on. Can be read after Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus storyline and before BPRD: Hell on Earth: Metamorphosis
- Abe Sapien: The Drowning
- Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest and Other Stories
d. B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth
We begin here the second major story arc called ‘Hell on Earth’. It’s the same series, even if the name changed to reflect the evolution of the story. Likewise, the Hellboy series will be renamed Hellboy in Hell. Unlike Lobster Johnson or Edward Grey Witchfinder, I recommend reading the Abe Sapien Series in parallel to the main storyline because it takes place during the same time frame, unlike those other spin-offs that take us in the past.
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: New World
- Hellboy: The Bride of Hell and Others
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: Gods and Monsters
- Hellboy: The Storm and the Fury – This is where Hellboy ends. After that, the series is called Hellboy in Hell.
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: Russia
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: The Devil’s Engine & The Long Death
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror & Others
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: The Return of the Master
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: A Cold Day in Hell
- Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible & The New Race of Man – The Abe Sapien solo series starts here. What happens in the series is mostly without consequence on the Hell on Eath storyline. Still, it’s a road trip that shows us the world in chaos and what happened to cities and communities. I recommend reading in blocks, so follow the guide.
- Abe Sapien: The Shape Of Things To Come
- Abe Sapien: Sacred Places
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: Lake of Fire
- Hellboy in Hell: The Descent – This is the new Hellboy series that pick up after The Storm and the Fury and…
- Hellboy in Hell: The Death Card – …the story of Hellboy ends here. If you want more, you’ll have to read Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. If you want, you can read it later, but you have to read it before BPRD: Cometh the Hour.
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: The Reign of the Black Flame
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: The Devil’s Wings
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: Flesh and Stone
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: Metamorphosis
e. B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know
Coming soon in July 2017
II. Other Hellboy and B.P.R.D. stories
Once you have finished the main core story, there still are stories with Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. that expanded the universe, they just can be read without consequences outside of the continuity.
a. Solo Hellboy stories
There are three kinds of solo stories with Hellboy. First, there are the ones in the continuity but that are mostly one shots. Then, there are the ones that are out of continuity. And there is the new ongoing series Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., but we are talking about that just after.
- Hellboy in Mexico – Collect stories… in Mexico. It starts in 1956 with a vampire hunting expeditions with luchadores. There are also Aztec gods, evil turkeys and Frankenstein’s monster (who come back in Frankenstein Underground)
- Hellboy: The Midnight Circus – An original graphic novel that takes place when was still young. He runs away from the B.P.R.D. only to stumble upon a weird and fantastical circus and the few demons from Hell who inhabit it.
- Hellboy: Into The Silent Sea – It’s a new graphic novel by Gary Gianni that takes place after Hellboy: The Island (collected in Hellboy: Strange Places)
- Hellboy: Weird Tales – out of continuity and presented as ‘old-fashioned pulp fun’, it’s a collection of short stories by multiple authors.
- Hellboy Junior – also out of continuity, the adventures of Hellboy Jr.
- Itty Bitty Hellboy and Itty Bitty Hellboy: The Search for the Were-Jaguar! – also out of continuity, this comical story follows Hellboy, Abe, Liz, and friends.
b. Others B.P.R.D. stories
There’s not a lot of B.P.R.D. stories outside of the main story arc. Still, some cool adventures with secondary characters have been published. I also put here some Abe Sapiens stories that were interesting, but not important for the Hell on Earth storyline.
- B.P.R.D. Vampire – Picking up after B.P.R.D.: 1948, this is the story of Agent Simon Anders as he hunts vampires.
- B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: The Exorcist – Two stories with Ashley Strode, exorcist and BPRD field agent. If you want to read it in the main story, before B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: End of Days is the right moment.
- Abe Sapien: Lost Lives And Other Stories – Six stories with Abe Sapien’s adventures, from his earliest days in the Bureau with Hellboy through the frog war, to his current evolved form. It’s a collection of one-shots from his solo regular series.
c. Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.
At the moment, that’s the main Hellboy ongoing series. The Titles are pretty explicit, it stories that take place during the 1950s, when Hellboy started as a B.P.R.D. agent. I recommend reading B.P.R.D. 1946 – 1948 and B.P.R.D.: Vampire before that, even if it’s not obligatory.
- Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1952 – A bizarre series of murders and rumors of something worse lead Professor Bruttenholm to send a young Hellboy to a Brazilian village on his first mission.
- Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1953 – Hellboy rejoins the team from 1952 as a monster with possible ties to an earlier mission ravages a suburban community.
- Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1954 – Coming Soon…
III. The spin-offs
a. Lobster Johnson
The pulp-style adventures of Lobster Johnson in his first solo series. These stories take place during the 1930s, before Hellboy’s Arrival. There are some referential elements, but it’s not necessary to read anything before. In fact, you can read those when you want to. That said, I put The Iron Prometheus in the main reading order because there’s a follow up in the pages of B.P.R.D. with The Lobster’s ghost.
- Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand – When a tribe of dead Indians start scalping the policemen in the city, Lobster Johnson and his allies arrive to take on these foes and their gangster cronies!
- Lobster Johnson: Satan Smells A Rat – The Lobster takes justice to the skies aboard a Nazi-filled zeppelin and to the gritty alleyways of Chinatown against an army of monkeys.
- Lobster Johnson: Get The Lobster – Lobster Johnson become public enemy number one! Will he be able to clear his name with the full power of the city’s cops after him?
- Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus – His last mission before Lobster Johnson accepted an offer of employment from the United States Government.
b. Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder
Sir Edward Grey is a nineteenth-century occult investigator. Like the Lobster, we met him in the pages of Hellboy that offered us a glimpse of his talents. Now, we can read his adventures in a solo series. Again, like with the Lobster, it’s connected to the main series, but without consequences. It’s independent from the rest, but it’s also complementary.
- Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In The Service Of Angels – In one of Grey’s first cases as an agent of the queen, he goes from the sparkling echelons of Victorian London to its dark underbelly, facing occult conspiracies, a rampaging monster, and the city’s most infamous secret society: The Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra.
- Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: Lost And Gone Forever – In the hellish frontiers of the American Wild West, nineteenth-century occult investigator Edward Grey finds himself caught in a showdown with an evil witch, bloodthirsty criminals, and zombie cowboys!
- Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: The Mysteries Of Unland – Sir Edward Grey is sent to Hallam to investigate the death of a Crown-appointed official, but once he is there he hears rumors of the mysterious Unland and the creatures that inhabit it.
- Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: City Of The Dead – Flesh-eating corpses and an ancient temple discovered beneath London lead authorities to call upon Edward Grey. But the sinister Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra also has interests in the underground ruins. When they ask for Grey’s help, he has to wonder if the threat is great enough to team up with a secret society he’s sworn to destroy.
c. Other mini-series
- Frankenstein Underground – Following the story of Frankenstein’s Monster. This character has previously appeared in Hellboy: House of the Living Dead (collected in Hellboy in Mexico)
- Rise of the Black Flame – a five-issue miniseries exploring the history of the Black Flame and the cult around him. It’s better to read it after the end of B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, but it’s not an obligation.
- The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed – a five-issue miniseries about the alien Hellboy met in Conqueror Worm.
IV. The Novels
If you want to read more Hellboy adventures, you can! There are some novels from various authors. It’s solo stories only.
- Hellboy: The Lost Army – A novel by Christopher Golden illustrated by Mike Mignola. The story takes place in 1986 and is about Hellboy searching for a British archeological team and the Lost Army they were after at the edge of the Great Sand Sea.
- Hellboy: The Fire Wolves – A novel by Tim Lebbon. Hellboy is called to Amalfi, Italy, by Franca, a young member of the Esposito family as she fears that a dark curse on her family is about to claim her cousin as its next victim. Hellboy encounters a flaming demon-a fire wolf.
- Hellboy: The Ice Wolves – A novel by Mark Chadbourn. Hellboy races against time to prevent a devastating wave of primal savagery. And so he is drawn to Boston’s Beacon Hill and the Grant Mansion, believed to be the most haunted house in New England, where the truth may lie buried.
- Hellboy: All-Seeing Eye – A novel by Mark Morris. Called in to investigate killings in London, B.P.R.D. agents Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman discover a wellspring of black magic under the streets and a sack of heads. Hellboy descends into the dark underworld of London, encountering demons who prophesy the opening of an Eye to the otherworld.
- Hellboy: Odd Jobs – An anthology that collects short stories from famous authors like Brian Hodge, Poppy Z. Brite, Nancy A. Collins, Greg Rucka, Chet Williamson.
- Hellboys: Odder Jobs – An anthology that collects short stories from famous authors like Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro, Charles de Lint, Graham Joyce, Sharyn McCrumb.
- Hellboy: Oddest Jobs – An anthology that collects short stories from famous authors like Joe R. Lansdale, China Miéville, Barbara Hambly, Ken Bruen and Tad Williams.
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army – a novelization of the second movie written by Robert Greenberger.
- Hellboy: Emerald Hell – A novel by Tom Piccirilli. Hellboy comes to the crossroads in Enigma, Georgia, a small town plagued by strange occurrences. Sent to keep an eye on Sarah Nail, a young girl hiding from the curse of her family, he becomes entangled in the blood debt of evil mystical preacher, Brother Jester.
- Lobster Johnson: The Satan Factory – A Novel by Thomas E. Sniegoski taking place during the years before World War II. The Lobster has to stop a physician who stumbles across the power to transform men into monsters.
* * *
The end for now. I’ll update this reading guide regularly as new comics keep going from now. I read that a new B.P.R.D. could be coming soon, but for now it’s mostly spin-offs and backstories. Still, great stuff to read imho.
I made a mistake? I forgot something? Please, leave a comment to help me perfect this Hellboy/BPRD reading order.