Interview with Dark Horse Comics Editor in Chief Scott AllieDecember 1, 2014
Comic book writer and editor in chief of Dark Horse Comics Scott Allie took time out of his busy schedule to talk about editing, Hellboy and the inspiring work of Mike Mignola.
Being an editor allows to you interact with many creative people yet you also must handle budget, timetables and getting people to give you their very best work. Do you sometimes find it hard to walk the line between personal and professional aspect of your job?
It’s a tough balance… this week I had a thing with one of my favorite artists, who I was friends with before I was working with him. He did a cover that wasn’t working for me, and I had to get him to start from scratch. It was dicey, but it worked out, and we were both happier with the result. It doesn’t always go that way. Sometimes the personal relationship can get poisoned by the unpleasant parts of the professional end of things. The worst is when the stuff you mention—budgets, schedules—overshadows the creative part of the job, and you can’t focus on the quality of the work because you’re too preoccupied with the beans. I didn’t get into this to crack the whip on artists—I got into it to make great art. But you need to do both, and sometimes you have to put all your energy into the less rewarding part.
Hellboy has captured the interest of so many readers and movie goers. Can you tell me what you think people find so fascinating about him and the world he lives in?
I think there’s a warmth to Mike’s characters that eludes other people who do this sort of thing. His characters are real people, as weird as many of them look. Readers can relate to these characters, and readers can tell that their stories are going somewhere. We’re not just spinning wheels with ciphers, like, in my opinion, a lot of action-adventure comics. And the way Mike imbues his world with mythology and mystery adds a level of meaning and poetry to it that elevates it in a totally different way. The stories speak to people, they create a world you want to spend time in.
How would you describe what it’s like to not only work with Mike Mignola but watch his creativity in action?
It’s an education in a lot of ways. Twenty years into it, Mike still inspires me, and I still keep him grounded.
Speaking of Mignola, he seems to have ideas just oozing out of his fingertips. How do you keep up with it all and do you ever need to reign in his enthusiasm just a bit?
Keeping up is hard. Arcudi and I talk about that a lot. You get on the phone with him and the ideas, the stories, just pour out. No one else thinks like he does, and collaborating with him can be rough, because it’s hard to go toe to toe with him. You have to soak it up and go back to your corner, and process it and come up with your own part of it at a different pace. I don’t want to rein in his enthusiasm, though. We need more of it. I wanna bottle it, force-feed it to everyone else in the industry.
Going back to Hellboy’s beginnings was a great idea. How did that all come about and what can we hope to see with the new comic series Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1952?
Years ago we got the idea to do stories about his foster father, Trevor Bruttenholm, right after World War II and the discovery of Hellboy. That was what occurred to us first, the vacuum to fill. Then after doing that for a while, we were like, Wait, this little guy’s gonna grow… We realized the best idea for a spinoff was sitting right under our noses, and we couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of it sooner. And then we sat on it for another year or two, because we had so much other stuff going on. It’s a nice thing about the Mignolaverse, and about Mike’s bursting creativity … ideas come faster than we can do them, so we never get scared we’re gonna run out.
In 2015 we are going to see Mignola do a five issue series called ‘Frankenstein Undergound’ Can you tell me a bit about how that all came about?
Mike Mignola really loves Frankenstein—he loves the novel, he loves the Universal movies. A few years ago we did Hellboy: House of the Living Dead, which was sort of our House of Frankenstein, set in Mexico. In that book, Frankenstein’s monster wandered off into the desert. At the time, Mike didn’t know that that was Frankenstein’s actual monster—we’ve have a lot of that type of monster in Hellboy, often inanimate. But after what Corben did on the graphic novel, Mike decided there was a story to that guy if he were the real thing, Mary Shelley’s creature. Like a lot of things with Mike, it started off as mostly action and some spectacle, but as he spent more time with it, he started working in deeper ideas, and now, honest to god, it’s become one of the most amazing looks behind the curtain of the Hellboy universe, the secret teachings of all age. Also, Mike wanted to do something with Ben Stenbeck away from Baltimore, the series Ben has been doing with us for the last five or six years. We love Ben.
Finally, do you have any advice to someone whose is interested in a career in comics and might want to submit something, say to Dark Horse for example?
Well, we’re one of the only publishers with an actual submissions system, which you can check out on our website. Everything that follows the directions gets read… but the important thing is to do the work. Do the work, love doing the work, and get better through doing the work. Focus on that above all things. Network, show your work, not just to editors—not to editors to start—but to other creatives. I think comics are a very inviting and inclusive community, and if you show your work, you’ll get good advice, and if you show good work, you’ll get good tips and encouragement. And that will lead you somewhere if you’re diligent and talented and willing and able to talk to people.