ISSUE 40: Angels & Demons

 

Greetings, again, from Music City! Here we are in part four of our 2019 film-related covers segment of Cover Tunes. I hope you’ve enjoyed the last three segments of this feature. Based on sales of a few featured covers, it appears you have, collectively. This week, we are prepped to hit up a couple of odd titles that I frankly would never have seen coming as films two years ago, but here they are… Hellboy and Alita. I’m not sure how I feel about what I’ve seen from either of them, so far, but I’m willing to reserve judgement until they hit screens.

Without unnecessary pomp and circumstance, let’s dive right in to this week’s covers…          

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HELLBOY

 

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Hellboy has a huge fan following, both in comics as well as in film. Oddly, it may be one of the rare instances where the film sequel was better than the original (at least from a visual and story perspective). Consequently, this new film has big shoes to fill. From a comics perspective, Hellboy books are all over the place value-wise. There is some controversy over where his first appearance really is. Some say it falls squarely on the promotional preview (in Black and White) in San Diego Comic Con Comics #2 while others insist it is his first color appearance in Next Men #21. Some collectors have problems with promo previews serving as 1st apps. I always suggest attempting to acquire both in instances such as this. 

For me, the biggest issue with Hellboy comics in general (while I do appreciate the uniformity of the “brand”), is that 90% of them look virtually identical to each other. That is obviously a byproduct of the covers being done almost solely by Mike Mignola. There is nothing wrong with any of his covers and they are “THE LOOK” of Hellboy. As such, however, as a collector I’ve tended to ignore all of them from a cover perspective because I was just too lazy for too long to differentiate them, but there are some gems buried within the various runs.

Following, I’ve chosen my favorite Mignola cover, but also spotlighted a few amazing covers from the sparse collection of other cover artists that have graced Hellboy books over the years. All of them can be snagged for cover price or less.

 

Hellboy: Krampusnacht #1 (2017 1-shot)

PUBLISHED: Dark Horse Comics – December, 2017

ARTIST: Adam Hughes

 

Be aware that there is a black and white variant of this that is also pretty cheap. I tend to lean toward the color version, but your mileage may vary. Either way, one really can’t go wrong with either of them. It is a great composition and refreshing to see Hughes doing this character (of course, he managed to weasle in his slightly sexy ghost lady in there, anyway… because… Hughes). But hey, snow, skulls, boobs, monsters… it’s a win in my book. Good luck saying the title, though.

 

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1954: The Unreasoning Beast #1 (2016 1-shot)

PUBLISHED: Dark Horse Comics – November, 2016

ARTIST: Mike Huddleson

 

Huddleson did a few covers for Hellboy, but I really like this one the best. It is a very carefully rendered full paint-up and keeps to the spirit of the Mignola design while adding in his own unique flair. It has a feeling of that paper cut-out look with multi-layered motifs and color splashes. I really love this one.

 

Hellboy: The Corpse and the Iron Shoes #1 (1996 1-shot)

PUBLISHED: Dark Horse Comics – January, 1996

ARTIST: Mike Mignola

 

Straight up, classic and early Mignola Hellboy. All of the elements that make this character design great including the trenchcoat which he is often not wearing on these covers. Great color that pops, wicked cemetery setting, Good Samaritan, Fist of Doom. Dope x1,000,000.

 

Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1 (2008 Series)

PUBLISHED: Dark Horse Comics – July, 2008

ARTIST: Richard Vance Corben

 

To be fair, I admit, I chose this cover mostly because of the pencil and ink work by Corben. There is a great level of detail, here, which so many Hellboy covers are lacking. Still, like the Huddleson featured, above, it retains the Mignola design aesthetic but in a completely fresh way. Compositionally, it is a fantastic piece that shows superb texture and figural design. Again, a cheap alternative example from an artist that shows off the versatility of the character.

 

Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest #1B (2011 Series)

PUBLISHED: Dark Horse Comics – September, 2011

ARTIST: Francesco Francavilla

 

A freaking amazeballs Francavilla on this Hellboy offshoot. This has all of the puzzle pieces that entice lovers of Francavilla’s covers. It has the amazing dark horror aesthetic in that pop art mondo style, a perfectly chosen muted color palette and impeccable linework. Additionally, I always particularly love how the trade dress elements are incorporated into Francavilla’s covers; with no modern distractions. This was technically a variant, but it was regular priced as a “B” cover upon release and can still be gotten for close-to-cover price.

 

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ALITA

 

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Alita: Battle Angel (known as Gunnm in Japan) was born from a cyberpunk manga series by Yukito Kishiro and has risen to great popularity even spinning off into animated adaptations. To be transparent, I do not read Manga and leave such things up to experts as it is very much its own hobby. As such, it seems like an odd choice for Fox and Director, James Cameron. However, I really dig sidestep projects like this which remind us that DC and Marvel aren’t the only ones churning out film-quality stories and characters. It’s also nice not to have to watch 19 films first in order to fully understand a film.

Alita brought itself over to mainstream comics via Viz Media in 1992 and there are many amazing Kishiro covers within the 8 major story runs and offshoots. Be aware that print runs on almost all of these issues are rather small in comparison to the big boys. That said, here are my faves…

 

Battle Angel Alita: Last Order #2 (2002 Series)

PUBLISHED: Viz Media – October, 2002

ARTIST: Yukito Kishiro

 

This one stands out amongst Kishiro covers in that it is cleaner and crisper than the majority of the others. I love that it is simple in the places it needs to be and simultaneously complex in the areas that need it (such as the damage to her shoulder… so cool). The backdrop pushes the figure forward and shows off the fantastic work of this cover. Another easy get for $5 or less.

 

Battle Angel Alita: Part Three #3 (1993 Series)

PUBLISHED: Viz Media – January, 1994  

ARTIST: Yukito Kishiro

 

Such emotion and power in this cover! This is my absolute favorite Alita cover. A super-sweet close-up and an awesome pose and layout. Another easy, cheap snag.

 

Battle Angel Alita: Part Five #6 (1995 Series)

PUBLISHED: Viz Media – January, 1996

ARTIST: Yukito Kishiro

 

To round out the Kishiro Alita covers, I’ve chosen this stand out. Being quite different than most of the Alita covers, this one has a rougher quality to it. The singular costume color is a cool and unique choice that I quite like a lot. It lends a sketch-like quality to the cover without being too sparse. Additionally, the dual-frame nature of the background is an albeit very “90’s” thing to do, but it gives this cover a very “Anime” animation feel and works well, here, where it might not on a non-Manga property. All of the colors play nicely with each other on this one and I love the subtlety of the sword peeking out from behind her. A great and inexpensive cover to satiate your appetite for Alita.

 

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And that’ll do it for yet another week. Drop a comment and let me know what you thought or what I missed that you love. As always, until next week (where we look at another pair of 2019 film-related comic properties), be well and good to each other, thanks for reading and happy hunting.

 

7 comments

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    Great article. Keep it up!

  • Mike Morello

    Thanks, man. Not a whole lot of love for Alita/Hellboy this week, apparently. Appreciate the read and comment.

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      I am actually one of those with some skin in the game. I have Alita #1 that looks to be 9.6 or 9.8 condition but I’m also realistic. There has not been a manga that has been able to break through and get some kind of spec going as far as I know. It’s more of a niche market for select collectors and typically don’t warrant attention from the regular comic book crowd. But who knows… maybe the movie will do something for the book. As far as I know the book is almost a unicorn. very very hard to find

  • Avatar

    I prefer to think of the 1st appearance of Hellboy as a creative process that unfolded before our eyes. I think its a great contrast to how a character is typically developed in a Big 2 studio, where a character is carefully conceived and planned and approved before making a definitive first appearance. Its part of the charm of an independent comic character. Here are the 4 major moments:

    1) Salt Lake City Comic Con Program – Mignola had an idea for a character name, but not the character concept yet. The seed is planted.

    2) Dime Press #4 (May ’93) – Mignola has the concept for the Hellboy character nearly complete and showcases him for the first time.

    3) San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2 (Aug ’93) – Hellboy 1st full appearance in a story. The only thing missing is the final color.

    4) John Byrne’s Next Men #21 (Dec ’93) – Hellboy 1st appearance in a regular series and 1st color. The character is final.

    Any Hellboy completest should have all 4. I would prioritize Dime Press 4 over SDCCC 2 and NM 21. It may have had a higher print run that SDCCC, but fewer survived and fewer still are available in high grade (based on a review of the CGC census). I owe that to it have been a European release where the collector market was not as well developed as in the US at the time. NM 21 is common by comparison to both. The SLCCC program is a cool to have, but the market does not give much weight to it as a first appearance. And apparently neither does Mignola:

    “The Dime Press…is the first drawing of the Hellboy that more or less exists today (stone hand, etc)… The ’91 drawing is the first time I used the name Hellboy, but hadn’t yet thought of creating an actual series about the character…the character from ’91 bears little resemblance to the modern version of Hellboy.”

    • Mike Morello

      401kcanwait, that is an AWESOME and extremely informative comment. Thanks so much for the time and the huge contribution, this week. I really appreciate it.

      • Avatar

        Thanks Mike – Hellboy is a fantastic character, and we should admire the process that brought him into being rather than splitting hairs over which issue is the “official” 1st appearance. The fact is they all are, whether the individual collector is comfortable with it or not. Said my piece!

  • Dell18

    Oooh. Richard VANCE Corben. Fancy. I’ve dug his stuff for a long time but it is a bit of an acquired taste. Another nice Francavilla. I was mostly unaware of him until you brought him to my attention. I’ve been grabbing a lot of his stuff when I run across it lately.

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