Eric’s Review: Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters (2022 Popcorn Frights)

ATMOSfx! Woo!

★★★★ out of ★★★★★

Directed by Jim Deonaskos and Kevin Konrad Hanna

The unique and stylistically powerful art of Mike Mignola is put into the shadowy spotlight of the documentary of the Hellboy artist. A documentary is only as interesting as the subject material, and Mr. Mignola proved to be a fascinating study of a complex individual and a late blooming artistic genius.

Mike Mignola, artist of Hellboy

As both a horror and comic book fan, I was eager to watch the story unfold of one of modern comic’s true artistic masters. Mignola’s style is unmistakable. Minimalistic in both linework and prose, what draws you to his work is the high contrast play of light and shadow. Huge swaths of black ink punctuated with a figure slhouetted by moonlight and a tombstone or a tenatacle in the periphery, he knew how to do a ton with very little. And yet, you can look at his images, peering into the darkness and get lots of texture and nuance from them.

Though the film clearly shows the admiration of the directors of this film, and it bolsters his reputation with numerous testimonials, it is alco clear that this underdog story isn’t a fluff piece. He’s a complicated, proud, and prickly man. It is a celebration of determination and hard work, as he was not a huge success out of the gate. Mignola was not an artistic prodigy, and his early career as a comic book inker, was as he will describe it, pretty much a failure early on.

One of the overriding themes of his story is that he is a man who carried lots of self doubts, but through the tireless work habits and determination handed down to him by his father, he stuck with what was an unremakrable career, when he got his big break, and found his signature style, informed by his love of the Gothic masters, myth, folklore, and the macabre. From that, Hellboy was formed, and a new major character who emerges from the shadows of the publishing titans Marvel and DC, by way of Dark Horse Comics had arrived.

Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters brought in some real star power for the interviews. Neil Gaiman. Guillermo DelToro. Adam Savage. Ron Perlman, and Patton Oswalt all end their voices to what makes Mignola so special. They do spend some time discussing the Hellboy Movies, but they noticably shy away from discussing the dud that was the recent David Harbour headed film.

Mignola helped pave the way in the 1990’s for the mainstream success of independent comics. Hellboy helped pave the way for another method of graphic design to inform the medium. It wasn’t just the bulging muscles and extra pockets that dominated the ’90s superhero comic scene that caught our imagination. His characters that were weirdos, outcasts, and misfits going to battle with the forces of true apocalyptic horror were endearing and heroic in their own way.

Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters showed at the 2022 Popcorn Frights Film Festival, and does not yet have a theatrical or streaming release date set yet. Fans of Hellboy will not be disappointed, and fans of documentaries are likely to enjoy this as well. It keeps its pace well, unveiling Mignola’s life and work in a captivating way. Our artistic heroes don’t need to be perfect: his personality quirks and eccentricities inform us about how his quirky and eccentric art came to be.

Review by Eric Li
Categories: Festivals, ReviewsTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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