When visiting artist Mike Mignola—the creator of Hellboy—comes to VCUarts on Oct. 29, don’t expect a comic-con kind of vibe.
TyRuben Ellingson, chair of the VCUarts Department of Communication Arts, wants to have a more academic conversation with Mignola, his friend and former colleague. He doesn’t want Mignola to have to answer the same old questions he’s asked at every interview or convention he attends.
Rather, Ellingson hopes the event, sponsored by the Department of Communication Arts and VCU Libraries, will be more about Mignola “as an artist who has developed from being what all of our students are: young, impressionable individuals with likes and dislikes.”
“That’s where all of our students start,” Ellingson said. “That’s where I started and that’s where he started.
Mignola shared his thoughts with VCU News on that and more, including how he unexpectedly landed his dream job by starting out small and working with del Toro.
What advice would you give to somebody who has a story they want to tell or a character that they are passionate about?
Do it. OK, I’ll dial that one back just a little bit. I do give this piece of advice to a lot of comics guys, because so many people in comics say to me, “I want to do what you’re doing, but I’ve got this job or that job.” I always say, “When I did Hellboy, it started out small.” Again, I started out in ’94. It’s a different world now. Everybody’s got a website, everybody’s got whatever social media thing. My real practical advice to people is that if there’s something you’re dying to do, do it and put it on your website or self-publish a 10-page comic that you sell at conventions, or do something. Just put it out there.
What I see, unfortunately in comics, is so many people who want to do their own thing, [but] really what they want to do is pitch a TV show or a movie. I see too many comic projects where they’re trying to cash in on something that’s already popular. The thing I always say to creators is if you’re passionate about Westerns, if you’re passionate about a romance thing, whatever it is, do that. It doesn’t have to be a 10,000-page graphic novel. Put it out there in small doses. If you don’t do exactly what you want, you’ll never know if that thing is your Hellboy. You never know what’s going to catch on.
When there was first discussion of me doing my own comic, I thought about doing some Batman kind of thing and I thought maybe that would sell. And I went, “You know what, I’d rather take a chance putting something out there that’s exactly my thing. It’s made out of only the stuff I care about. And if it works, oh, for 25 years now, I’m stuck doing exactly what I want to draw as opposed to a commercial thing [that I have to do] for the rest of my life. So at least try doing exactly what you want because, who knows, it could work and then you’re stuck doing your dream job.
Image: Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and VCUarts Communication Arts Chair TyRuben Ellingson in front of some of their pre-production art at Guillermo del Toro’s museum show. (Photo courtesy of Mike Mignola)