With the release of the latest issue of Hellboy, Hellboy: The Bones of Giants, out tomorrow. We are delighted to be joined by Matt Smith; Matt is the creator of Barbarian Lord. Matt has worked on numerous comics including, Folklords, Lake Of Fire, Metal Quest and Jim Henson’s Storyteller.
Hi Matt, it’s such a thrill to have you here with us.
How did the opportunity come about for you to be involved in the Hellboy universe again?
As I remember it, I was out raking leaves and listening to music on my headphones when I saw a notification that I got a message––which turned out to be Mike Mignola asking if I was interested in drawing a Hellboy story he was working on about an ancient werewolf hunter. After taking a beat to get my head around how this could have happened, I replied that I was very interested in all of those words. That story turned out to be the one-shot “Long Night at Goloski Station.”
Did you read the novel Hellboy: The Bones of Giants?
Many times! I was already a longtime fan of Norse mythology, and so was on it when it came out. I love mythology and folklore in general, but the Norse myths and sagas have been the focus of my interest for ages. I haven’t read the novel recently, as my sister borrowed it and lost it. That’s right, I’m letting everyone know what happened to my treasured copy of the book.
What can you tell us about Hellboy: The Bones of Giants #1?
When [co-writer] Christopher Golden sent me the script, I was immediately impressed with how he adapted the length and format. Issue #1 gets moving right away, and we’re up in the mountains and in streets of Stockholm, being reunited with some familiar characters and meeting some new ones. It’s pretty lean and fast-moving, but without losing the great atmosphere of the book. [Colorist] Chris O’Halloran, who worked with me on Folklords but is new to the Hellboy world, did a hell of a job on colors. I’m really interested to hear what fellow Hellboy fans make of this first issue.
What is it like working with Mike and Christopher?
I had the good fortune to meet them both at a Boston comic con where they offered me the project, and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. Since then, it’s stayed on that same line. This had the potential to be pretty daunting, with me being a huge fan of the character, Mike’s art in general, and this particular Norse-steeped story––but Mike, Chris, and the strong editorial team at Dark Horse took the edge off for sure.
Did you get a full script for each issue?
I did. I can’t remember now if I got them all at once––I don’t think I did. I think they came along as I was working, which was fun to look forward to. I knew the story well, but to see how Chris adapted it for comics was really cool.
How good is your knowledge of Norse mythology?
It’s certainly not at an academic level, but I know my myths pretty well. I love the source material and also collect films, comics, and records that are influenced by them. That Norse-inspired material really comes first, chronologically. I got the first real bite with Walt Simonson’s work when I was a little kid, and then later as a teen, I was further infected by the Swedish band Bathory. Then there is Tolkien, who masterfully took from them to help build out his world. Somewhere in there I would have started reading the myths proper, and more recently developed a more focused interest in the medieval Icelandic sagas.
Do you have a favourite scene from Hellboy: The Bones of Giants #1?
I think it’s the Ragnarok scenes. It was a real treat to be drawing Thor and Jormungandr within the Hellboy world, though I’d also be happy drawing pages and pages of Hellboy wandering through mountains. Maybe there can be a slow comics movement, like that seven-hour train ride video from Bergen to Olso. Hundreds of pages of Hellboy wandering, arctic hares, and snow storms. I’m sure that’d go over well. Ha. I’d be into it, though. I watched that seven-hour train video with my father-in-law. It was great. We spent a day at it, took coffee breaks. It was lovely.
Artistically has Hellboy: The Bones of Giants been a challenge to illustrate?
If this were a live interview, I’d just leave that hanging for comedic effect, take a long sip of coffee. Seriously though, it was, and it was a good challenge. Hard and worth the fight. It’s a big story with a lot going on. I’d done that one Hellboy issue, Long Night at Goloski Station, which was a single night in a single location really––maybe a more atmospheric story, if that makes sense. I’ve also done a couple of graphic novels outside the Hellboy world, but this was my first time handling Hellboy in a larger story. It was longer than the one-shot, of course, but the pace of the story and the scale of action are also pretty different. Support from everyone at Dark Horse was very helpful, as was looking at all the great Hellboy work that’s been done. Mike’s, of course, but also rereading through Duncan Fegredo’s Hellboy books and Mignolaverse titles by Peter Bergting and Ben Stenbeck. That put fuel in the tank for sure, revisiting what has been done––and has been done so damn well.
What are you currently reading?
I just started Tolkien’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translation, but I’m only a dozen pages in at the moment. I had just finished the new book by Paul Tremblay before that, Survivor’s Song. There’s a Hellboy connection there––I was surprised when reading a Tremblay short story collection not long ago to come across a short Hellboy story in it. It was really cool, too! For comics, I just picked up the first two issues of Mazebook by Jeff Lemire, and you know everything he makes is wicked cool. I’ve also recently reread Simonson’s Ragnarok series, as that has consistently been one of my very favorite titles in recent times. They just take me back to what got me into comics in the first place. They are exciting, fun, and amazing to stare at. That he is doing his best work now is also heavy-duty inspiring.
We would like to thank Matt for sitting and chatting with us and we wish him and the rest of his team the best of luck with Hellboy: The Bones of Giants.