Mike Mignola is getting weird. You'd think Mignola, creator of "Hellboy," "Baltimore" and "Witchfinder," had gone as far with weird as weird gets. You'd think the man who wrote and drew "The Amazing Screw-On Head" had pretty much set the standard for odd.
But that was before "Frankenstein Underground," the new five-issue miniseries written by Mignola and drawn by Mignolaverse veteran Ben Stenbeck. In a telephone interview about the book, which launches in March, Mignola described his new horizons.
"There's almost a fairy-tale quality to this book," Mignola said about a title that stars a reanimated, patchwork corpse. "It's a very odd book. And it changes from issue to issue. My editor kept saying every time I turned in a plot that this is the weirdest comic I've done. Which, considering some of the stuff I've done, that's saying a lot."
Perhaps one reason is that the book wasn't written so much as it suggested itself to be created and then evolved. Because, when asked what about the Frankenstein monster intrigued him, Mignola laughed and said, "Almost nothing."
And yet, the monster has already appeared in a "Hellboy" story. Which surprised even Mignola at first.
"I did this graphic novel with Richard Corben, 'House of the Living Dead.' I had this monster [in the story] when I had to write the back cover copy for the book — the book's full of monsters — and so I was kind of running down a list of the different monsters in the book. And there's no [other] way to say 'Frankenstein-like creature' or 'a reanimated corpse.'
"Just to be funny, to get the absurdity of the text I was looking for, I had to write 'and the Frankenstein monster.' And then I went, 'Oh, I guess it is the Frankenstein monster, since I put it on the back cover of the book.' So that's how I suddenly had the Frankenstein monster in the 'Hellboy' universe."
Of course, Frankie could have remained unused after "House of the Living Dead," a book that was an homage of sorts to the Universal ensemble monster movies like "House of Frankenstein" and "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man."
But then artist Stenbeck got tired of buildings. That needs explaining. But before we get to that, Mignola explained why he loves working with Stenbeck.
"There's a great charm to Ben's stuff," Mignola said. "He's kind of realistic in that his people move like real people; they're very solid, as opposed to a real stylized cartoonist. But at the same time he does have this wonderful cartoonish quality to his work — it's really hard to define.
"You know he did the 'Baltimore' series with us, set in World War I, and he did 'Witchfinder' with me, set in the Victorian era. He's a hound for research. He crowds stuff with authentic-feeling detail."
Which is how we got to Frankenstein — and the building thing.
Stenbeck had been doing "Baltimore" for several years, and he was kind of itching to do something else, Mignola explained. "I think he was tired of doing cities and buildings and stuff like that, so I pitched a couple different things at him. The Frankenstein book had been banging around in the back of my head as kind of a vague idea, and that was the one he got the most excited about. So I said, 'Yeah, all right, let's do that.' "
Stenbeck didn't want to draw cities and stuff, Mignola said, so what if the monster went to the center of the Earth and did nothing but fight monsters?
"That was the original idea. The second issue is very much like that," Mignola said. "But then it turned into something else. It started out as a sort of mash-up between Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the Edgar Rice Burroughs center-of-the-Earth stuff. But then I started kind of bringing in other things from the 'Hellboy' universe, mythology things.
"Then the book started taking on a different shape. Originally it was going to be a series of books that would just have the monster roaming around underground running into different stuff … [but] once I started bringing these other things in, the book kind of closed up. It became a graphic novel. It became a five-issue series that told the whole story."