Most folks are probably familiar with writer/artist Mike Mignola's other universe — the one starring Hellboy and his friends. Fewer people are familiar with Mignola's other, other universe, which just got bigger this month.
In 2007, Mignola and writing partner Christopher Golden created the illustrated novel "Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire." The story was set in a world that diverged from our own in World War I, when the carnage and bloodletting awoke various evils, like vampires, but also something ancient and terrible called the Red King. The Red King's influence created a literal plague of evil. Lord Baltimore of England arose against the evils. Meanwhile, others joined Baltimore's crusade to end the Red King, including a young Estonian widow named Sofia Valk. She and Baltimore went underground for a couple of years as they planned their final assault on the Red King — and surprise, surprise, they appeared to have gotten married.
Or so we glean from the excellent "Lady Baltimore: The Witch Queens" No. 1, the launch of a new series by Mignola, Golden and artist Bridgit Connell. It takes place during what in our history would be World War II, but in the Outerverse Earth is a period irrevocably changed by the supernatural horrors or the Great War. Sofia is back as the titular Lady Baltimore, with new allies of her own, and I'd love to tell you more. But Golden can tell you better. So I asked him a few leading questions to whet the appetite.
Q: Sofia was always the most clever, insightful and formidable of Baltimore's allies. But she was just human. Is that still true? And now that Baltimore is dead, how can she continue his fight without his supernatural advantages?
A: It's absolutely still true. What we'll be learning as we go is that Baltimore is one of a line of individuals basically chosen by the cosmos to stand against the darkness, to keep balance in the world. Sofia is not that. Her fight is a choice. She's risking her life every second by choice and with purpose.
Q: "Baltimore" gave us a terrifying world with a unique horror hiding in each village and town. This series begins with many of the same elements, plus we've got Nazis. Is this going to be a larger-scale epic?
A: The playing field of the current Outerverse stories — including the five-issue "Lady Baltimore: The Witch Queens" — is a massive-scale epic, yes. It brings lots of other characters and concepts onto the board. Should we continue, the epic will still be going on in the background, but I think the stories themselves will be less so. Big stakes, more intimate horrors.
Q: Hasn't Hitler already appeared and been killed in the Outerverse, in "The Curse Bells"? How can you have World War II without Hitler? Maybe Reinhard Heydrich as Fuhrer?
A: Read on, sir, read on.
Q: I will. Also, I see the arrogant and cowardly Judge Rigo is back, so I can go on hating him. Good! And we meet Charlie Kidd, whose father was a blacksmith, soldier and Baltimore ally who was killed in "The Red Kingdom." Will we see any more familiar faces from the Baltimore saga?
A: You will, but maybe not faces you want to see.
Q: That's not at all terrifying.
Gotta go. If you need me, I'll be the guy hiding in the closet.