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Will The Hellboy Movie Reboot Help Broaden Franchise Appeal?

Dark Horse Entertainment are certainly pinning a lot of hopes on the release of their new Hellboy movie, which hits theatres around the globe throughout April. How the movie performs might have a direct impact on what looks set to be an important year for the company, with a host of additional projects also in the pipeline to make the transition from comic book page to the silver screen.


Why the Reboot Instead of a Sequel?

For anyone tired of how many times DC have retold the origin story of Batman in movies and TV shows, or how frequently Marvel have tweaked the origin of Spider-Man on our screens, the idea of rebooting yet another favourite comic book character could give some of us cause to groan. Or even worse, cause to lose interest completely. Thankfully, that’s not the direction this new version of the Hellboy franchise will take.

Nevertheless, taking our favourite characters from page to screen is never straightforward, given the complexities involved in the production of a movie. Although it might not seem all that long ago, more than a decade has passed since Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) were released, when the stories were superbly brought to life by the typically unique direction and creativity of Guillermo del Toro.

What some fans of the franchise might not know, is the two movies directed by Guillermo del Toro were aiming to create a wider appeal for the Hellboy characters. He also deviated more from the original comic book stories – for example, by creating a romantic entanglement between Hellboy and Liz Sherman that didn’t exist in the original stories. Likewise, the acclaimed director had almost complete control over creative decisions and particularly regarding storylines he used.


Fans hoping for a ‘trilogy’ conclusion might also be unaware that, while the intention was for a third Hellboy movie to be a direct sequel with Ron Perlman reprising his role as the titular character, that is not the case. His involvement ended when Guillermo del Toro declined to participate, after being refused the creative freedom he wanted. That led to Neil Marshall taking the directorial helm and a complete change in focus for the new production, along with the decision to opt for a reboot instead of a sequel.

Original writer and creator Mike Mignola worked alongside Andrew Cosby and Christopher Golden to produce the script, with this new movie reiteration of Hellboy based closely around the story arcs of Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, The Storm and the Fury. This means the movie won’t be unnecessarily retelling the origin story again, even if there will be some references. As a reboot, it also brings an entirely new cast to play the leading characters, including David Harbour, apparently chosen because Mignola’s wife was a fan of his role as the sheriff in Stranger Things.


While its sequel didn’t do quite so well, the first Deadpool movie achieved huge success at the box offices, so a conscious decision was also made to opt for making the Hellboy reboot an R-rated release. It is aimed at entertaining adult audiences with much more extreme gore and violence, not to mention greater use of profanity. Quite a shift from the broader and more family-friendly appeal of the previous Hellboy movies.

Whether this is a wise move or not, remains to be seen, and only time will tell – based on how the movie performs. That said, despite how well the first two movies directed by Guillermo del Toro were received by a wider audience, this new direction for Hellboy could well get a better reaction from core fans of the comic books. That could also help Dark Horse Entertainment with other projects they have in the pipeline, targetting the focus of their efforts on an audience who perhaps appreciates their work the most.


Might We Get More Hellboy Video Games?

Considering the popularity of the Hellboy graphic novels published by Dark Horse Comics during the 1990s, accompanied by the cult status of the live action movies directed by Guillermo del Toro, it’s perhaps surprising the hard-hitting character hasn’t already enjoyed more video game outings. By comparison to the plethora of video games dedicated to the most popular Marvel and DC superheroes, you can count on one hand the sparse selection of Hellboy titles.

Before the first 2004 movie was released, there was only one video game based directly on the graphic novels written and drawn by Hellboy creator, Mike Mignola. This came in 2000 with the release of Hellboy: Dogs of the Night, developed by Cryo Studios for the PC. The same game was then ported to the PlayStation and re-released as Hellboy: Asylum Seeker in 2004.

Fans of the original graphic novels can also play Hellboy Online Slots at Betway, one of the online casino’s most popular film and TV slots. Released by Microgaming in 2016, it is based on the same artwork created by Mike Mignola and has since been developed to work on mobile devices as well. The game prominently features Hellboy’s iconic Right Hand of Doom, which triggers the Underworld Bonus feature if it appears anywhere on the reels, proving how iconic the stone hand is to the franchise.

Following the success of the 2004 movie and running up to its 2008 sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, director Guillermo del Toro and writer Mike Mignola teamed up to co-write Hellboy: The Science of Evil video game, published by Konami. Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones voiced the key characters, joined by Jürgen Prochnow and Bruce Campbell.

Elsewhere, Hellboy has usually appeared as an extra. He was DLC character in the DC Universe crossover game, Injustice 2 for the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. He also featured in the mobile port of the same game for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Prior to that, the character only featured in one titular game, Hellboy: The Golden Army, an iOS release back in 2009.

Perhaps if the new Hellboy reboot manages to achieve enough success at the box office, both domestic and international, it might encourage games developers to take another look at the franchise and spawn a slew of new video game offerings. If the Hellboy board game released in 2018 is any indication, the character and stories have the scope to fit into a variety of different genres, which is always appealing to developers when creating games for different platforms.

Comic books, movies, TV and gaming are increasingly merging as entertainment mediums in the digital age, so there’s hope that Hellboy might finally get more of the gaming attention his character and fictional universe so richly deserves. Who knows, and given the plethora of other projects Dark Horse are working on, it might also mean more movies and as many fans have hoped over the years, perhaps even a dedicated Hellboy show on Netflix.


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