If you only know Mike Mignola's Hellboy from the two Guillermo del Toro feature films, you only know an aspect of the character as seen through a different creative eye. While the first film in 2004 featured parts of "Seeds of Destruction," "Right Hand of Doom," and various other bits from storylines in the comics, the 2008 sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, is almost totally unrelated. And really there's no reason it should be; it's a movie, and movies are different. This is why when it was announced that the third film would be called Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, I sat up in my chair.
The Blood Queen/Queen of Blood is the main antagonist of a very prominent and important storyline from the comics, and the idea of it coming to the screen is very exciting. And, as has been mentioned, the movie--directed by Neil Marshall and starring Stranger Things' David Harbour as Hellboy--is open to an R rating, and it will definitely need one for this. (Read our Everything We Know about Rise of the Blood Queen for all the film's news.)
And so, to get people up to speed, I'm going to give a brief rundown of the important players and moments from this lengthy comics arc. Naturally, we have no idea how closely the movie will hew to the source material, but it's a good starting place nonetheless. I would also be very surprised if there were any direct references to characters--like Rasputin, Ilsa Haupstein, and Kroenen--in the Marshall movie, for not wanting to tread the ground of the earlier films.
The antecedents of the story go all the way back to "Wake the Devil," the second story arc in the comics from all the way back in 1996. In this arc, we meet Baba Yaga, the ancient Russian witch who has a vendetta against Hellboy. In the one-off story "The Baba Yaga" from 1998, we get the first chronological meeting between the two, and learn why she hates Hellboy so much...because during a fight with her, she lost an eye. This becomes exceedingly important during the storyline in question.
Two other incredibly important characters are introduced in the one-shot story "The Corpse," in which Hellboy needs to search for an infant named Alice Monaghan who had been replaced by the fairy Gruagach. In order to get back the real child, Hellboy makes an agreement to get the girl back and exposes the fairy. Gruagach then tells him if he wants her back safely, he's to lay the body of Tam O'Clannie to rest in a proper Christian grave.After defeating the fairy's beasts and retrieving Alice--thanks in no small part to Dagda, the goodly King of the Fairies--Gruagach is humiliated, his fairy body is stripped from him, and he's forced to live in the porcine body of Grom, one of his challengers to Hellboy. It's Gruagach and his utter and complete hatred for Hellboy that lets loose the Queen of Blood.
In 2001 in the comics, Hellboy left the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense and went on a series of solo adventures, which is where we find him at the beginning of the story arcs that will prove important to the Blood Queen storyline. These begin in earnest with "Darkness Calls," which finds an occultist named Igor Bromhead (an old enemy of Hellboy's) using a blood ritual to try to awaken the goddess Hecate (another old enemy of Hellboy's) because Igor wanted to be king of the magical realm, but he failed. Three witches then summon Hellboy and ask him to be their king, which he flatly refuses. This leads the witches to call upon Baba Yaga to kill Hellboy, and she dispatches one of her bound servants, Koshchei the Deathless, a particularly nasty and formidable warrior whose soul is bound to Baba Yaga. She offers him his much-wanted death if he can kill Hellboy.
Meanwhile, Gruagach and a small group of fairly harmless-appearing magical creatures decide to dig up the body of so-called Blood Queen, that she can become the ruler, even going so far as to kill Dagda and other benevolent magical beings in the process. He convinces the witches that the Blood Queen is the only one who will keep them from becoming obsolete. This continues in the subsequent story arc, "The Wild Hunt," which sees Hellboy brought along to an ancient hunt for giants--who've begun amassing as part of the Blood Queen's army--only to be betrayed by the hunters, for they fear that the son of the devil will be seated on the throne of Britain.
Seems like a weird thing to fear, but it's actually much more pertinent than you'd think. After being reunited with Alice Monaghan, who is now an adult, Hellboy and she are summoned to speak with none other than the witch Morgan Le Fey from Arthurian legend. She, though being Arthur's half-sister, had seduced the king and gave birth to a son named Mordred, who should have been the rightful ruler. However, Mordred had a daughter, who had a daughter, who had a daughter, and so on, and eventually one of these daughters was sent to hell where she became the lover of Satan himself and gave birth to the being who is now known as Hellboy. So Hellboy is the last heir of King Arthur and is the only one who can stop the Queen of Blood.
Now, who exactly is the Queen of Blood? She is Nimue, once known as the Lady of the Lake, beloved of Merlin, and the most powerful witch to ever exist. She became obsessed with learning the darkest of magic and eventually began communing with the Ogdru Jahad, or the many headed Dragon of Revelation, the bringer of Armageddon from the Bible. The other witches killed her, hacked her to pieces, and spread the pieces across the world. However, the pieces were used in heinous rituals and eventually gathered and buried in a wooden box deep beneath the Earth. Though her power is limited after Gruagach frees her, her resurrection signifies the start of the end of the world...unless Hellboy can stop it. The culmination of this battle is seen in the story arcs "The Storm" and "The Fury."
All of this seems like a lot for one movie, so I'm guessing, just as the books did, the plan is to be spread across several. Most Hellboy story arcs are only a few issues long, but this story spans quite a few. Without the burden of the BPRD, Marshall's film could focus on all of this amazing lore and dark magic which the first two films barely touched on. There's so much here to unpack, and I'm really excited for the first of what could easily be a trilogy of new, bloody Hellboy flicks made from my personal favorite arc in the comics.
The main arc is chronicled in Volumes 8, 9, and 12 of the Hellboy trade paperbacks.
Images: Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo/Dark Horse Comics