Let’s talk about Hellboy, yeah? The half-demon hero has had a surprising amount of media surrounding him for such a relatively young character, but there’s a lot to love about the big guy. He made his first appearance in 1993, meaning the character was still practically a baby in pop culture terms when his story was first adapted into film format in 2004 by Guillermo del Toro. Eleven years might be a considerable hunk of time in film and television standards, but most comic book films we see revolve around characters who’ve been around for decades. Such is the popularity of Brother Red and his band of misfits.  

His “Birth” And Childhood

With all great heroes must come a solid origin story. We’ve all seen Martha Wayne’s pearls bounce off the pavement and Uncle Ben die on a sidewalk enough times to know that those origins usually come accompanied by some great tragedy or another. In the instance of Hellboy, his origins are his tragedy. A baby Hellboy, born as Anung Un Rama, was summoned to Earth by a Nazi cult trying to get a leg up on the Allies during WWII. Unfortunately for them and lucky for us, their enemy found the weird little dude before they had a chance to tell him their favorite Third Reich bedtime stories.  

The Allies’ discovery of the creature they affectionately named “Hellboy” led to the creation of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD). The Bureau was the brainchild of Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, who took the half-demon in as his own and raised Hellboy like he would raise any other son. It didn’t take long for the red kid with a hammer hand to realize he wasn’t like the other kids, however. Armed with his father’s wit and what’s basically a battering ram for an arm, Hellboy grew up to take on all sorts of paranormal nasties as a protector of our world. But he didn’t do it alone. 

His Friends And Allies

Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman are long-time allies of Hellboy. Like Hellboy, Abe’s origins are rooted in the occult. He was a perfectly average Victorian scientist before he shacked up with some ocean-worshipers and made contact with your run-of-the-mill jellyfish god. The affectionately nicknamed Fishstick (by Hellboy, not his snooty cult friends) doesn’t have much memory of his first life, which is probably for the best. When his aforementioned “friends” left him in his test tube when the Civil War broke out, he wasn’t discovered again until 1978.   

Liz Sherman’s story differs a little depending on your preferred media. She was a natural-born firestarter who accidentally killed her family at a young age. This resulted in her keeping everyone, even those she considered her friends, at arm’s length. What varied was her relationship with Hellboy. In the comics she’s his distant but completely badass friend. In the films, their relationship’s a little bit spicier and romantic. Regardless of her iteration, it remains a crime that we haven’t gotten a stand-alone series showing off her journey. After all, the fish boy got one!  

His Powers And Personality

While his allies are his greatest weapon, Hellboy is also gifted with several significant demonic advantages. In addition to his stone hand (dubbed The Right Hand of Doom by his colleagues at the BPRD), the half-demon can also lift over a ton, is pretty difficult to hurt, and heals a lot faster than his enemies may like. With all of these advantages comes a sensitive side that one probably wouldn’t expect from a creature that could pulverize whatever he wants.  

Hellboy’s personality is driven by two main factors. The first is being raised as Professor Bruttenholm’s son. That’s not to say that the professor did a bad job. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Bruttenholm raised Hellboy like any other normal boy, but there are some unfortunate repercussions to a kid with horns and a hammer hand believing they’re “normal” – or at least fully human. The second driving factor is the way the half-demon ages. While his body matured quickly, Hellboy’s mind developed a little bit slower. But just like many humans, his discomforts about his appearance and his concern with the ideals of “normal” faded away as he matured.   

Red’s issues with his appearance are usually represented by his insistence on filing down his horns. But, let’s be honest here, we’ve all seen those things when they go untrimmed. There’s a fine line between being a strong independent (half) demon who don’t need no approval from humanity and just wanting to be able to fit through a door. His discomfort manifests through snark, as well, but who among us doesn’t toss out a little sass when we’re feeling self-conscious? Or, you know, on Tuesdays. 

His Role And Its Secrecy

Hellboy’s demonic origins pave the way for a whole host of mythical, supernatural and biblical foes. Often, those foes are dealt with without public knowledge. The BPRD isn’t a government agency, so it has a relatively easy time hiding its agents from the prying of government scientists (though its own scientists can sometimes be just as gruesome). However, Del Toro made the decision to reveal the agency – and Hellboy – to the world in his underrated sequel Hellboy: The Golden Army. We never got to see the repercussions of that, because it turned out the trilogy he had planned out simply wasn’t meant to be.  

We will see Hellboy and his friends take on the big screen once again later this year with a reboot simply titled Hellboy, this time with the big red bruiser played by Stranger Things‘ David Harbour. The title was changed from series creator Mike Mignola’s initial plan of Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, but the plot they had planned remains intact. Though questions remain regarding where the half-demon’s usual allies are, he’ll have new folks on his team like Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) and Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane). He’ll need all the help he can get when he takes on Nimue the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) and whatever other fantastical foes the team behind the project have planned for Red and the BPRD.

Though he has an uncommon number of films for a comic book character under fifty years of age, there’s enough lore surrounding Hellboy’s character that we have no difficulty seeing this relaunch resulting in a whole new trilogy should everything go the way the studio plans. Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman will be missed in the 2019 film, but we’ve got plenty of time for them to hop back into the picture in the future. Here’s to the wearer of the crown of flame! Long may he continue to kick the crap out of Nazis, demons, and whatever else crawls out from the bowels of the Earth.  


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