In my last comic-themed blog I basically listed the negative thoughts I have about comics in general, and listed a couple I'd tried that I wasn't too fond of.
Well now it's time to list the duo of comics I really like. They both deal with the same universe and with some of the same characters but they're quite different and both are fantastic: Hellboy and BPRD.
First thing first, Hellboy and BPRD are completely different in every way to those two Hellboy movies. The characters and their characterisation are different, the content and tone is different, the plot and story, the general feel, everything is completely different. With the exception of Hellboy being red and some story elements in that first film, those two Hellboy movies have literally nothing to do with the Hellboy comics. Regardless of whether you liked them or not, the two Guillermo Del Toro movies are not indicative in any way of the comics.
(On the record, I really like Del Toro's Spanish works. The Devil's Backbone is fantastic, as is Cronos and Pan's Labyrinth. I'm not too fond of his American stuff and I don't have high hopes for Pacific Rim. Understated horror is his domain and he needs to return there)
Hellboy follows the adventures of the titular hero. Born in Hell and brought to Earth to fulfil a dark destiny, Hellboy is instead is adopted by the BPRD, a secret agency that specialises in dealing with paranormal threats. In possession of the Right Hand of Doom (his right hand is a giant stone) and prophesised to bring about ragnarok, Hellboy often finds himself in the centre of evil plots from undead Nazis, demons and witches determined to use him to bring about the apocalypse.
Hellboy is a great character. Somewhat cynical and gruff, yet willing to put himself in harms way to save others, hes a likeable character who struggles to find his place in the world. A big part of the comics involve Hellboy trying to forge his own identity.
Hellboy takes heavy influence from folklore and classic horror in its imagery and plots. Vampires, werewolves, witches and mermaids appear, along with exceptionally specific characters from various folklores and mythologies (two of the more important recurring villains are Hecate and Baba Yaga). In the world of Hellboy, it all works together perfectly. There's a great sense of internal logic that allows all these elements to come together into a cohesive whole, and nothing ever feels out of place. So when Hellboy battles a Nazi-Cyborg-Gorilla it just feels right.
Hellboy tends to throw himself into battle haphazardly with just his bare fists (of course one of those is the equivalent of a giant rock so it usually works out). Action scenes are fun and have a great sense of weight, and are never too long or drawn out. There's also a great sense of humour throughout.
The story has a great sense of momentum, and even short one-off stories feed in to the eventual narrative. Very early on he quits the BPRD and goes on vacation in an effort to find himself. He visits Africa, ends up on the bottom of the ocean for a while and starts hanging out with skeletons. But everything moves forward, everything that happens has purpose and feeds into the story. The books all build up to a glorious climax that incorporates just about every character and plot thread in the lead-up. It's a climax that builds to a shocking conclusion with lasting consequences for the characters and the comic's world (its effects are even felt in BPRD)
BPRD follows the members of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Development after Hellboy quits as they deal with an increasing number of threats. Unlike Hellboy it has an ensemble cast; there's Abe the fish man, Liz the pyrokinetic, Roger the homunculus, Johann the ectoplasmic medium, Kate the professor and Ben the commando who is hiding a secret. Many of these characters appeared in Hellboy (in particular Abe, Liz, Roger and Kate) and if you read both comics you get a stronger picture of their entirety of their personalities. They're a great bunch of characters, each with their own quirks and problems. Abe, for example, is often stern and serious, but is haunted by a desire to figure out his past. Educated thinking-man Johann lacks empathy with the living (he's technically a ghost) making his relationship with most of the other characters somewhat strained.
The character's relationships and interactions are a great strength for the series. They're a great team, and the way they co-operate (or don't) feels natural for their personalities. The interplay between specific characters is also great, offering some humorous moments (like when Ben tries to get Roger to wear pants). Everybody shows character development and everybody gets to be the focus of a story arc.
While the storylines get dark and it's far more gruesome than Hellboy (lots of people end up disembowelled and eaten) there's still a good sense of humour held within, especially regarding the characters. At one point Johann (who is usually just ghostly ectoplasm floating around in a containment suit) gets a fully-functioning human body for a short time. During this time he quickly drops his educated demeanour and instead stuffs his face with all the food he can find and propositions every woman on the team (they all reject him, since he's Johann). Eventually he just runs off to screw bar sluts. It's hard to explain, but the switch from him being an unfeeling, educated ghost to a horny slob the second he gets a human body is funny but also still manages to fit his character.
Learning about the characters and their quirks is a great part of the comics, and it helps to be familiar with the Hellboy comics. While Hellboy isn't one of the main characters, he briefly appears in a few flashbacks and his influence on many of the characters continues to be felt. While Hellboy for the most part dealt with threats on a personal level (usually Nazis and Witches), BPRD's story arcs and plots deal with massive threats on a global scale. While Hellboy borrowed from horror fiction and legend, BPRD is focused more on bizarre, original threats with influence from sci-fi. They deal with an uprising of frog-like monsters, an invasion of underground-dwelling cave men, a secret society of 80 year olds in old-school diving suits, giant organic killer crab robots, as well as a collection of assorted zombies, monsters and demons.
One of the reasons I like BPRD is simple; things with consequences and weight actually happen. There's a definite sense of progression and character development is given equal weight to action and story. Things happen that lead to other things, there's momentum with plot elements and everything comes together in a logical procession to a definite climax, the sort of climax with lasting, dire consequences.
The art styles in both are great, with great character designs and some freaky monsters and the like. And Im not kidding on that whole climax with consequences thing for either comic (do not go to Wikipedia unless you want massive spoilers); the original run for both has ended and they've each spawned second series that reflect the changes.
So those were the two comics I've tried that I really liked.
I have tried some other stuff. The Walking Dead is great for the characters (to the point where the tv series is downright freaking pathetic in comparison), but actual story is non-existent to the point where it just repeats the same cycle constantly. The survivors move to a safe place, they stay there a while and meet new characters, they bicker, zombies/other survivors turn up to ruin things, a bunch of characters die and they move to the next safe place. This cycle has repeated four times already.
I guess i just find i like series with good continuity that actually go somewhere. One of my biggest issues with the comics i discussed in my last comic blog was the lack of any progression or lasting consequences; nothing ever changed.
I've only really seen the two movies, so I really can't say much about Hellboy in general. Yeah, the character development in the Walking Dead TV series is pretty lacking sometimes. However, the acting is pretty good, with some of the more powerful moments not even involving a single zombie. To be honest, I really lost interest with that franchise after the end of the TellTale games.
Well movie Hellboy is a completely different character aktogether. Sure, Ron Perlman is likeable, but Hellboy is entirely different in the comics.
I'm not fond of the TV series of Walking Dead because they changed a lot of the characters into stereotypes and cliches, and made most of them unbearably annoying. Lori and Carl, in the comics, are never whiny or annoying, but in the tv series they're always busting Rick's chops over stupid shit (i want bad things to happen to TV Carl). Worst is Andrea, they turned her into a total cow in the tv series, while she's one of the better characetrs in the comics. That's the main thing, in the TV series everybody complains and makes stupid decisions for the sake of drama. I only watched the first series before giving up, and i heard series 2 was terrible but #3 is a lot better, but everybody seems to agree that Lori and Carl ruin things every time they're on screen.
And i'm probably not going to play the games, because i know i'll be underwhelmed. The way everybody gushed about it i know i'll finish it and end up thinking 'that was pretty crappy'.