Out of all the eclectic characters who inhabit the universe of Mike Mignola's Hellboy universe, the Visitor, an alien assassin who spared the demon's life is perhaps one of the most intriguing. Thankfully, Dark Horse's new comic book series The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed will shed more light on the mysterious alien, and with the first issue coming out tomorrow, we caught up with Chris Roberson (iZombie) to discuss collaborating with Mike Mignola on the new Hellboy series.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Chris. How did you get involved with The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed?
Chris Roberson: The series came out of a long lunch that I had with Mike Mignola and our editor Scott Allie the winter before last. I was wrapping up work on Witchfinder: City of the Dead, and we got to talking about other Hellboy-related projects that we might tackle next. I’ve always been intrigued by the aliens that we glimpsed in Seed Of Destruction, and in particular the one that Hellboy met in Conqueror Worm, and suggested that it might be interesting to explore his story. That led to a long series of conversations between the three of us over the months that followed. The series really came into focus when Mike enthusiastically agreed with my suggestion that we approach Paul Grist to draw the book.
What appealed to you the most about fleshing out this alien character from Hellboy’s past?
Chris Roberson: There were really two main things that appealed. First, the opportunity to delve into the mystery of who that alien was and what he had been doing on Earth all that time. And secondly, the chance to follow Hellboy’s growth and development from the first moments of his life on Earth up to the point where he is a veteran agent of the BPRD [Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense] in the late 1990s.
What was it like working with Mike Mignola on this story? How did you go about collaborating on this series?
Chris Roberson: Following that original lunch conversation, Mike and I spent a lot of time on the phone over the course of the next couple of months, working out the details of the Visitor’s life on Earth, talking about who those aliens are and where they come from, that sort of thing. From there we worked out a detailed outline of each issue in the series, and then moved on to scripting.
Coming into this project, were there any challenges with maintaining the pre-existing expectations and continuity of the Hellboy universe?
Chris Roberson: One of the reasons I was brought on to work on the Hellboy books, I think, is that I’m such an obsessive fan of those books that I have a head filled with that continuity to begin with. So figuring out how to thread our story through the existing history wasn’t really a problem. The only real challenge was revisiting scenes that readers have already seen, but shifting the focus so that the characters’ words and actions took on added meaning in a new context.
What type of a tone can readers expect from The Visitor?
Chris Roberson: The tone is very different from the other stories I’ve worked on in Hellboy’s world. This is a much quieter story, more introspective and reflective, almost elegiac at times. There are still monsters and explosions, of course, but the focus here is more on the emotional components of the story as opposed to the pyrotechnics.
What about The Visitor are you the most excited for readers to experience?
Chris Roberson: I’m personally most excited about the fact that Paul Grist will be joining Team Hellboy. I think that Paul is one of the absolute best cartoonists working today, and his visual storytelling is second to none. I’d been hoping to get him working on a Hellboy title since I was first brought onboard, and I think that The Visitor: How And Why He Stayed is a perfect fit for his style and his storytelling.
The Visitor is currently set up as a five-issue series, but do you and Mike have plans for any future adventures with this alien character?
Chris Roberson: This story comes to a definitive end, but the Visitor was knocking around on Earth for a long, long time, so there’s always the chance that he might crop up in stories set between 1944 and the late 1990s. He’s already appeared in one story in this year’s Hellboy Winter Special, and there’s every possibility that Hellboy and company might run into him again somewhere along the way.
With the first issue of The Visitor coming out on February 22nd, what projects do you have on deck that you can tease?
Chris Roberson: More Hellboy-related goodness! We’ve got several new Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. storylines in the works, as well as some other stories that I can’t talk about yet!
The Visitor artwork & preview pages: