Every Comic Book Movie (Ever): Hellboy II: The Golden Army

hb1

Welcome to October here at Deja.Revue. If you have not noticed already, I tend to be a fan of the creepy, the weird, and the left-field in comics. So I though October would be a perfect time to indulge those predilections even more than I already have. Horror, as a genre in comics, has always been just off to the side. Less flashy than superheroes, and something of a mutant child of crime comics, the genre has a breadth and depth which is, in my opinion, almost unmatched. I do not hope to cover the whole diverse range of the genre in the coming month, but I do hope to give you a survey of some of my favorite works on page and screen. If you would like to read further, Paste has an excellent list of horror comics you should read. For further reading on the history of horror comics, check out Mike Howlett’s essay in the back of this excellent horror anthology that I will not have the time or space to write about this month. If all goes according to plan, I will have a column each Monday for you, culminating, fittingly, with Halloween at the end of the month. Don’t forget to turn off the lights.

The designation of Hellboy II: The Golden Army as “horror” is dubious, to be sure. I will not spend the bulk of this article defending its inclusion in my run of horror-related pieces (and anyways, I will more than make up for this genre fraud next week), but I will say that the guiding hand of director Guillermo del Toro, along with the soul of the source material, are enough to merit an exploration of this film in the present context.

I have yet to write about the first Hellboy film directed by del Toro, and while I think one could jump into Hellboy II without seeing the first (a virtue of most comic book films 1978-2011), I would recommend seeing Hellboy because it’s a gem. The setup is fairly simple: the titular character is a world-ending demon from hell who ends up being raised by a kindly British professor and expert in the occult. As an adult, he works for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) along with other agents with “enhanced talents.” Hellboy likes cats, beer, cigars, and the music of Tom Waits. Ron Perlman plays Hellboy in one of the great character/actor matches in all of film history.

hb2

The plot of the film is not particularly important. There are ancient artifacts, a troll market, an abandoned underground city, a forest god. What makes this film distinctive is the meticulous, handcrafted nature of everything put on camera. Del Toro is famous for this. I might say that Hellboy is a better film than its sequel, but Hellboy II is a better film to look at. Every frame is stuffed to the edges with real things, intricate things. Every item in the film is something you could pick up and flip through, or open, or play with. The tactile, physical nature of the film extends to the enormous cast of creatures that populate the various set pieces. If you look far into the background, what you will see are extras in heavy costume and makeup, filling up a world so that we can be engulfed in it.

This is an old idea of horror – going back to the silent era – that mise en scène sets the mood, and plays a larger part than plot in building atmosphere and suspense. The sets of Hellboy II are lavish, but they range from the playful to the sinister. These are not merely dark places, but whole worlds unto themselves.

HB3.jpg

The playfulness of del Toro’s design spills over into the rest of the film. This movie is fun. And not in the way that a movie trying to be fun is fun, but in a genuinely, organically pleasurable way. The emotional beats are simple and build gently on the groundwork from the first film. They are effective because the actors never oversell them, and in fact, the film is more subdued than one might imagine. One of the film’s best moments involves Hellboy and Abe Sapien (a sort of mer-man who also works for the B.P.R.D.) lamenting their troubles in love over beers and singing along, gently, to Barry Manilow. It’s an unexpectedly warm and touching scene.

Couched in del Toro’s elaborate world, the characters’ dramas both big and small never feel silly playing out in such lovingly constructed environs. Hellboy and his girlfriend, Liz Sherman, a pyrokinetic, hash out their domestic problems in blazes of flame. Only later when they reach a shadowy chamber where one of del Toro’s more terrifying creatures (a dark angel with eyes dotting its wings) hands them their fate, do they put their arguments behind them and commit to each other for good. The small scale of the human drama could feel absurd in this fantasy world, but it doesn’t because del Toro and his actors treat the world with respect – they know how fragile it is, and things do threaten constantly to fall apart.

Hellboy II is a monster movie where the monsters are the bad guys and the good guys. Really, its not even that, because the good guys are fighting to subvert their own dark destinies, and the bad guys fight for what they believe to be a noble cause. But it still manages to be an excellent evocation of classic creature features, showing reverence to its references and giving care and attention to its own creations. We need more comic book films like this. We need more horror films like this. Hellboy II is not a perfect film, but it is a film undoubtedly assembled with love and passion by all involved. With all that care put on the screen, how could we not enjoy it?

Coloring Between the Lines: Marissa Louise

Hello Revuers! Its time for another segment of Coloring Between the Lines where we interview a Color Artist that’s making an impact in the industry. This month we have the uber talented Marissa Louise. You may recognize her style from her works on such titles as Semiautomagic, Escape From New York, Robocop, Headspace, and many more. Marissa was gracious enough to spend some of her valuable time answering questions for us! For that we are very appreciative. Now without further delay:

 

  • How long have you been a colorist?

It can be a kind of funny number to quantify, but I started working towards in when I was 30. I was a flatter for some great people for the first year and a half. That’s how I learned photoshop. Prior to that I was doing art with gold & hand made oil paints. Lemme tell you, photoshop is a lot faster.

  • Was it what you wanted to be when you were a kid?

If I had known it was an option I would have been all over it! But I didn’t, so I wanted to be a mortician, the work is steady but the paycheck is stiff, or a biologist. I have dyscalcula, you know Dracula’s more irritating sibling, so I thought I could do all the maths for those jobs.

I spent a lot of time copying the drawings out of comics. Some where in the cracks of my old house there are loads of drawings of Ghost Rider and Wolverine.

  • What’s the first comic book series you really got into?

Hmm. That’s tough because I have a terrible memory and remembering things from 1988 is really hard! But I think it was probably Malibu’s Ferret. I think I liked how mean the women were to him. But it was also just goofy stuff with cool coloring. Other than that I really like Ranma ½ I would get it at the Japanese market. Or I’d get Hellboy or Oh My Goddess! and a lot of other Dark Horse books from the library. I loved Mike Mignola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

When I was in college I got quite a few of the old EC books. Those are all really wonderful. I got a little more into rah rah woman stuff then too. Like Tits & Clits or Twisted Sisters. Along with wild zines kids were making at Pratt to really screw around with the physicality of a book.

  • Do you prefer superhero comics or other genres?

I like them all! For me the pieces need to make sense with the whole. I tend not to prefer comics that are trying to be movies, since they are fundamentally different forms. But I love Squirrel Girl as much as I love Roman Muradov’s Yellow Zine. I love early Spider-Woman as much as I love Pete Tom’s books! Georgia Webber does really great things with the form and Justin Ponsor/David Marquez draw the human form stunningly. Sunny is a really amazing comic.

  • Who is your favorite superhero?

I really liked early Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman). She really tried to help everyone out at her day job and her night job. I think the costume is just stunning. Catwoman is classic, though she may not count as a superhero. I really like what the Squirrel Girl team is doing. Does Zodiac Starforce count as superheros? They are really great characters. I feel like I have a piece of each of them in me.

I really love Empowered. The drawing is genius and I really love the way Adam gracefully pulls the viewer’s eyes to Emp’s face. Cankor is really amazing if you haven’t found that. It’s printed by Matthew G Allison, you have to find him at a con to get it.

  • Who is your favorite non superhero character?

Urd. She’s from Oh My Goddess!, she is all about chaos and playing with cute mice!

  • What’s your favorite series that’s not a superhero series?

I listed quite a few, but I can list more: Nutmeg, Hopeless Savage, Tekkonkinkreet, American Born Chinese, Lady Killer, Shutter, The Big Book of series, my friend Jon Rivera did some really cool comics while we were in college called Heartbreak.

  • What is your process like for coloring?

I’ll either flat it myself or send it to a flatter. I prefer to print out my scripts. I just have a hard time marking them up or testing ideas in the margin if they are digital. So I highlight those with different markers for time of day/color notes/environmental notes. Annote ideas in the margins if I have time. Then hopefully I have all the pages. I like to do the hardest parts first then I build everything off of that.

So right now I’m working on a battle scene. After that is colored I will color the preceding & following pages to amp up & release the tension.

Different books require different rendering styles. So I have a really hard time switching between books. It’s like if you’re speaking Spanish then someone asks you a question in German. Who knows what will come out of your mouth!

Once I turn in pages I do edits.

If you follow my twitter you’ll know I’m trying the Pomodoro technique now! I track all my time and take quick breaks. It has been really wonderful!

  • How do you choose a color palette?

Same as any other problem. Identify the parameters first. Identify the locations, clothes & emotion’s you’ll need. From those parameters make sure the palette has enough contrasting colors. You want 0%-75% grey value in a variety of warms & cools. I’m still playing with different techniques like creating color wheels based off two colors or just mixing out colors like I would on a paint palette. And of course there is always good old fashioned borrowing. I like to borrow from John Watkiss, Leonor Fini, Peter Hailey, Delacroix, Gericault, Ingres, and basically whatever I can get my eyeballs on.

  • What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

Ooh. That’s a toughie! I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the projects I’ve worked on. But I think Broken World was extra great because I got to do a lot of story telling in the color. The team worked really closely to enable that. Semiautomagic was great because Alex really let me go wild and of course, Jerry is a great artist. I’m still really proud of a lot of Escape From New York. The licensor wanted the coloring to be very desaturated to match the look of the film. I think I was able to do a lot with restricted palettes.

  • Do you have anything coming out soon that we should keep an eye out for?

Yes! But some of it I can’t tell you about yet. If you haven’t picked up Mystery Girl, I really insist you do. All of you out there! Paul Tobin was able to take some amazing and strange writing risks with it. Alberto’s drawing is great. I’m getting to do cool things with color. The series I have over at Stela is pretty cool. Hopefully the penciller, Tony Talbert, and I will get to work together more in the future. We really feed off each other. We’re trying to get Deadhorse going again and Miranda Mercury! Those are super cool indie books. I love them both.

I also have a Kickstarter for Semiautomagic that will be coming up next month so keep a look out for that!

I am also writing essays for Women Write About Comics. Those are slow going though, since coloring deadlines come first.

And of course my non profit, Joon, is always doing cool things! We’re holding a fundraiser in February and lots of cool events at Emerald City and other conventions throughout the year.

  • Who are some of your favorite colorists in the industry today?

Talk about your loaded questions! I’ll list some, it won’t be everyone because I have a terrible memory: My mentors Nolan Woodard & Bill Crabtree are both stunning. Justin Ponsor, Tamra Bonvillain, Kelly Fitzpatrick’s work on Bombshells with Sandy Jarrell was really exceptional! Bettie Brietweiser on Velvet, Sloane Leong, Shari Chankhamma, Paulina Ganucheau, SainaSix is mostly an illustrator but she does comics & has a great color sense. I’ve been trying to convince Jen Bartel to color, but I think she’s mostly going to stick to only coloring herself. Paul Reinwand is another person who colors themself & has a great color sense. I sort of veered away from coloring only people here, but I’m trying to list people that your audience may not have seen much of yet.

  • Is there anyone you draw inspiration from?

Oh yeah. Everything. I keep my window open while I work so I can watch the light change across the building. When I was in NYC there was this green factory outside my window. I loved all the different greens it would become throughout the year. And the strange reflected light it would create. I love animals and fashion. Of course painting! Since that’s what I went to school for.

  • I’ve personally really enjoyed your work on Escape From New York. How did you pick out the palette for that book?

Thanks! I really like that book. When I was testing out they wanted the book to be very desaturated. So I made a full range of greys without black in them. So a warm set of greys, cool set of greys, tan set of greys, more blue set of greys. Then a set of semi desaturated blues and reds. Then a lot of the color on that book is what is called induced color. Tricking the eye into seeing yellows and blues when it is mostly grey.

The exception to that is Florida. The way the script was written it was very clear that Chris wanted Florida to look opulent & have tropical colors. So I look at Floridian murals & animals to develop that over the top palette.

  • I also really enjoy your Cover art work as well on Titles such as D4ve. What are some of the unique challenges between coloring Covers and whole Issues?

Covers have got to scream at you from the shelf. And they have to scream in more charming ways than the other covers. So I try to create palettes that are high contrast, but also interesting. I want something that gives the viewer an immediate emotional kick.

  • Burritos or coneys?

Always coneys.

  •  Where’s your favorite place to pick up a burrito when you’re at cons

My shameful confession is that I haven’t had a burrito in since I was 27. Yikes! I am hoping this year is the one where I get to change that.

  • What’s your favorite convention?

Heroes and Emerald CIty are both amazing! I haven’t been to many around the country. So I don’t have the most refined opinion on this.

  • What would be your dream collaboration?

I mentioned before I’d love to work with Tony Talbert again on something. It’d be really stellar to get Alex de Campi writing a Barbarella sort of thing for us. That would get really weird really fast and I think it would be really fun! I would absolutely cherish working with Trungles on something. Doing mermaid story with Anna Sahrling-Hamm or Jessi Sheron. Working with Vanessa Del Ray on a Vampirella comic would be cool. I’d really love to do anything at all with Wilfredo Torres or Tradd Moore. If I could get James F Wright to write a licensed Elvira comic that would be amazing!

  • If you weren’t a comic book artist what would be your career?

I think I’d probably have to go back to fabrication.

  • What’s the biggest difference between working for the big two and on your indie titles?

They have inverse relationships of time and money. I really enjoy the freedom of indie titles, but big two have much larger marketing reach. On a lot of indie stuff in my experience you get more time & less oversight, but also less money. The unfortunate side of that is you need to take on more projects to make ends meet, so you don’t always get to use the extra time effectively.

  • Who’s your favorite character to color?

Oh gee. I guess I don’t really have one. Every character and artist has special things about them. It’s very easy for me to find things I love. I’m very thankful to be a colorist.

  • What would be a dream series for you to work on?

It’s kind of weird, but really, I would freak out if I worked on a licensed Elvira comic. Especially if I got to work with Cassandra Peterson. She is a huge idol for me. And she is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met! This would be ideal for me because it would be campy, sexy, scary, psychedelic and funny. That dagger isn’t just for show, you know.

  • Thank you for your time Marissa, I’ve enjoyed talking to you. Looking forward to your great work in the future.

Thanks for having me!

If you would like to check out more of her work you can visit her website, Twitter, or her Facebook

And if you would like to purchase some of her work ask your LCS about any of the titles mentioned above, or check out Comixology