One Hell of a Hero
[A cop shoots at a demon]
Hellboy: “HEY! I’m on your side!”
Cop: [sheepish] “Sorry. My bad.” – Hellboy (2019)
Monsters rampage through a city. A giant spider attacks a school bus, trying to reach the tasty children inside. The children scream in fear. The ground shakes as a demon charges the bus. The demon clenches its fist, pulls back, and unleashes an earth-shattering punch… right into the spider’s face.
The spider is thrown backwards and screams in pain. The demon pulls out an enormous revolver and blows the spider’s head off. The demon looks back at the bus and yells, “Get to safety!” Turning back to the fight, the demon sees an army of giant spiders charging him. “Aw crap, here we go,” Hellboy mutters, reloading his gun.
Hellboy is one of Dark Horse Comics’ most popular characters. He’s fought Nazis, demons, Nazi demons, and even taken down Satan. So who is he? How did he get to Earth? Why is the Antichrist helping humanity? Let’s find out.
Nature vs Nurture: Hellboy’s Backstory
Professor Bruttenholm: “As you entered the lobby there was an inscription: “In the absence of light, darkness prevails.” There are things that go bump in the night, Agent Myers. Make no mistake about that. And we are the ones who bump back.” – Hellboy (2004)
Hellboy debuted in San Diego Comic Con Comics #2 in 1993. He was created by Mike Magnella.
The Allies uncovered a Nazi plot in the dying days of World War II. The Nazis were working with the immortal sorcerer Rasputin to summon a demon to destroy their enemies. The Allies attacked and scattered the Nazis, but not before an infant demon was summoned. This baby was Anung un Rama, the Antichrist.
The soldiers wanted to kill the demon, but were convinced to spare him by Professor Bruttenholm, an expert on the supernatural they had recruited. Bruttenholm adopted the baby, whom he named Hellboy, and raised him in the hopes that Nurture would overcome Nature and that the child would not live up to his name.
The child was raised in Bruttenholm’s organization, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) He was trained by the B.P.R.D. as a weapon, and ultimately became their best agent. He even earned honorary Human status after completing a particularly difficult mission.
Demonic Defender: Hellboy’s History
Hellboy: “Hecate, seen your statue – aren’t you missing a couple of heads?”
Hecate: “Why do you walk this lesser world? Mortals… they don’t know you. We are greater beings than they could ever dream!”
HB: “Yeah, well I’m doing just fine. Now ah, I’m kinda busy – I gotta go…”
Hecate: “Why, to save them? They’re nothing to us! Now accept what you are and come and walk with me!”
HB: “Lady, I was going to cut you some slack because you’re a major mythological figure – but that? That’s crazy talk. Now leave me alone!” – Hellboy: Blood and Thunder
Hellboy soon gained allies, including a genius fisherman named Abe Sapien (David Hyde Pierce) and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a broody and unstable pyrokinetic. He helped Liz learn to control her powers, eventually forging a deep friendship that became a romance in the movies.
Hellboy and Co. destroyed countless supernatural threats over the years. He is destined to unleash Ogdru Jahad, the Dragon from the Book of Revelations, an event that would cause the apocalypse. Thankfully, he doesn’t give a crap about his destiny and tends to deck anyone who pushes the issue.
Instead of unleashing Armageddon, he died in combat when the witch Nimue tore out his heart. He woke up in Hell, wandering a seemingly infinite world. After reflecting on his life and destiny, he destroyed Hell. Hellboy then ascended to Heaven.
Unholy Beatdown: Hellboy’s Powers and Personality
Hellboy: [Loading his gun] “Perfect job for these babies. Made ’em myself. Holy water, clover leaf, silver shavings, white oak… the works.” – Hellboy (2004)
Hellboy has superhuman strength, durability, and a powerful healing factor. His powers increase if he calls on his demonic heritage, symbolized by his horns growing and a crown of fire appearing on his head. He is also descended from King Arthur, making him the rightful king of Britain and wielder of Excalibur. He refuses both of those due to his hatred of destiny and (we think) fear of Queen Elizabeth II’s corgis.
Hellboy’s most notable weapon is the Right Hand of Doom. It is a giant stone gauntlet attached to his hand and the key to unsealing Ogdru Jahad. He mostly uses it on things that need to be smashed extra-hard. He also wields an enormous revolver called The Samaritan, which fires glass bullets filled with supernatural weaknesses.
Hellboy acts like a gruff detective with a near constant “seen it all” expression. He is prickly and dour, but with a soft center. Several psychics have noted he has a pure heart and his spilled blood causes flowers to bloom a la Christ’s blood.
The Actors who play Hellboy
Hellboy made his debut in the eponymous 2004 movie with Golden Globe winner Ron Perlman in the title role. Perlman reprised his role for Hellboy 2: The Golden Army as well as the animated films Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron. Sword of Storms was even nominated for an Emmy Award.
Stranger Things’ David Harbour will play Hellboy in the 2019 reboot.
Didya get all that?
A grumpy demon detective with a grand destiny.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.