Written by James Ferguson
Published on Saturday, 19 October 2013 14:00
Art Baltazar and Franco have been making a name for themselves in the comic industry with their signature style. After bringing a desperately needed sense of humor to the DC Universe with Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures, the team has now turned its attention to Dark Horse with its latest series, Itty Bitty Hellboy. I sat down with the duo at New York Comic Con to discuss the project.
James Ferguson: Can you tell me a bit about how this project came about?
Art Baltazar: Yeah, man! We got an email from Mike Mignola.
JF: That was it?
AB: Yeah, and he asked us if we could do something with Hellboy for kids and we were like, “Yeah!” It was real easy. It was pretty cool.
JF: Hellboy is a very dark character with a lot of doom and gloom in the comic. The current B.P.R.D. book is called “Hell on Earth.” Was it difficult bringing this world into your style of comics?
AB: Nah, it was easy. That's all we do. We look at everything with the same glasses, you know? We know the characters, so it was real easy just to bring in our twist. It's kind of weird because we don't really think about changing stuff. That's just the way I draw the guy.
Franco: Yeah, you basically boil down the character to their character traits and you explore that. The easiest example would be Roger. You take one look at him and you're like, “What the hell is he wearing?”, and you exploit that so he runs around naked for the whole issue.
JF: All the time.
Franco: All the time.
AB: He likes to hang out in the bushes with no pants on.
Franco: The actual conversation between Art and I was like, “I wouldn't want to wear that. What is that? I don't know. It looks uncomfortable.” So you take it off. That's how you feel comfortable.
JF: Every issue.
AB: He gets a girlfriend in #3.
JF: If Mignola called you to start it, how involved is he with the creative process for Itty Bitty Hellboy?
AB: He approves everything, so I get emails from him and it's weird. It's like, “Wow! Mignola liked that drawing of the demon.” He told us in San Diego that before he even saw the book, his wife and his daughter told him, “If you don't approve this, you can't live with us anymore.” So he said he approved it before he even saw it because his daughter wanted it so bad. That was pretty cool.
JF: Where did the title come about?
AB: Itty Bitty? Me and Franco. We didn't want to call it anything like Tiny Hellboy or Hellboy Family because that's Tiny Titans and Superman Family. We wanted it to have its own little small phrase, so we went through a few things and we came up with Itty Bitty.
Franco: It seemed like it fit Hellboy.
JF: Were there any other names that were discussed outside of Itty Bitty?
AB: We had Little Bitty. We had Itty Little. Tiny Itty. Itty Tiny Bitty. I don't know.
Franco: There were a couple but once we hit Itty Bitty, it's like the rest were just forgotten.
AB: Yeah, we just started calling it that.
JF: It rolls off the tongue. Nerd Question: Is Itty Bitty Hellboy in canon?
AB: Oh yeah, it is. It's when he's little.
Franco: Well, it is to us anyway. I don't know about the rest of Dark Horse.
AB: This is all the stuff he did before he was an adult.
JF: Are there any other aspects of the Mignolaverse you'd like to bring into Itty Bitty Hellboy? Lobster Johnson made an appearance in issue #2, but is there anyone else you'd like to incorporate into the book?
AB: Yeah, there will be, but we had a lot of guys to choose from right now, so we kind of had to streamline it, but there'll be more guys.
Franco: We kind of picked a core group. I think the only person you haven't seen yet that's going to show up is the Baba Yaga.
AB: Yeah! She's coming. That's right. See, I feel like everyone's seen the guys we've brought, but we got more. Hecate is coming. That big gorilla with the arms. There's more. Baba Yaga and Hecate are coming because I wanted to put more girls in there. The creepy ones are better.
JF: Did you get any pushback from anyone since the comic looks geared towards children and it has the word “Hell” in the title? This seems like the kind of thing Fox News would go crazy over.
Franco: We have had a couple parents say that because of the name. Our response is “Well, that's a place, first of all.”
AB: It's weird. It's like heaven and hell. Even my kid said that too. You know what the weird part is? He said, “Daddy, he's from Hell?” Well, yeah. And he said, “And Superman's from Krypton?” Yeah. And he said, “So they both came here and grew up like people? They grew up as little boys in America?” Yeah. “Wow. They're the same!” That's right! And the kids know the comics from reading our books, so it was kind of cool.
Franco: The discussion about changing the Hellboy name actually took place for maybe three and a half seconds. And we're like, “No! If you change the name, it's not Hellboy.”
AB: Yeah, that's his name.
JF: Are there any thoughts in bringing Itty Bitty Hellboy to other mediums? I would kill for a Saturday morning cartoon version of this.
AB: Yeah, it should be a cartoon. I think it should.
Franco: There are already plushie toys for it.
AB: I think it's going to be huge. I want to keep doing it.
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Franco: I think it should be. Anybody that's reading should definitely think about animating it.
AB: I think they're going to go all out. They're going to take the gloves off and leave them on the ice.
JF: The current series is only five issues. Are there any plans to take this further?
AB: I hope so! Everybody likes it.
JF: Me too.
AB: So we'll see. Hopefully maybe next year or something we'll do more stuff. I don't know. Yeah. I'm going to go with yes.
Franco: I think it's a fair thing to say yes. I think Dark Horse is such a great home for us. They're going to be doing our collected Aw Yeah Comics! trades, so it's kind of fun to be hanging out at their house for a while.
AB: We like 'em.
JF: Anything you'd like to tease for the next few issues of Itty Bitty Hellboy? We already talked about a gorilla with arms and Hecate.
AB: Let's see. Roger's naked again.
JF: Surprise. Surprise.
AB: There might be two Rogers in the next one.
Franco: Maybe three.
AB: Maybe three, yeah. They look for Sasquatch again. They go to Hell in issue #3.
Franco: There might some Abe Sapien siblings.
JF: The frogs?
AB: Oh yeah! There is a new character in issue #5. Never before seen in the Mignola Universe, debuting in Itty Bitty Hellboy. We created it for him so Mignola can have this character now. True story. I don't want to reveal too much.
The first two issues of Itty Bitty Hellboy are currently available at your local comic shops and digital devices. Issue #3 will be available on October 30th, 2013. HorrorTalk would like to thank Art Baltazar and Franco for taking the time to speak with us during a hectic convention.
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