Originally a Darkhorse comic which debuted in '94, it was created by Mike Mignola, who based it upon a number of different things, but namely his father.
Mignola's dad was a normal, blue-collar guy who worked in a machine shop- every day he'd come home with lacerations and cuts on his arms, which would horrify/amaze Mike-
"Jeez Dad- what happened to your arms?!?!"
"Ahh I got 'em caught in a machine, couldn't pull 'em out untill Larry turned of the power."
The comic 'Hellboy' is an amalganation of everything Mignola likes to draw and read- monsters, Lovecraftian literature, gothic/Victorian arcitecture and art, etc....
Hellboy himself was summoned here to Earth as a baby by the Nazis right before the war ended, to awaken the Ogdru-Jahad, seven monstrous entities bound in golden cocoons in the place between Earth and Heaven- the coldest region of space. However, the Allies interveened just in time, defeated the Nazis, and instead of killing Hellboy, raise him to be good- the Worlds Greatest Paranormal Investigator, as it was!
This was later adopted into a movie by Guillermo Del Toro, who also did Devil's Backbone and Cronos- he loved the comics (this is why it turned out so good) but changed many things to add himself to the project, giving him a love interest and downplaying Rasputin, the Villain a bit.
But the movie was still beautiful, and a sequel is coming in 2006- which will be much better, in the same way X-Men 2 was better than XM1- the first got the character developement out of the way. Del Toro will now have his gloves off with this one- it looks very promising.
The reason why Hellboy is so great is that he was created just for releasing the Ogdru Jahad- it is his purpose, his reason to be, his destiny- but no matter what happens and how he is tempted or how the odds seem against him, he always chooses not to lose himself, and to save the Earth- showing us that we are not pre-determined to live our destiny.
Hellboy, after strapping a bomb to himself, allowing himself to be eaten by a many-armed behemoth, blowing it up from the inside and landing on his back:
"I'm gonna be sore in the morning."
(as if it was nothing!)
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