Cameron Stewart Takes Mignola’s B.P.R.D. to Hell in ‘Exorcism’ [Exclusive Art]
It was only moments after I put down my copy of the B.P.R.D.: A Plague of Frogs Omnibus one late night last week that I discovered its publisher, Dark Horse Comics, had issued a press release confirming that the acclaimed Hellboy spinoff would take the form of no less than five new miniseries in 2012. While this publishing plan may seem a daunting prospect to readers of some comics franchises and their infinite tie-ins, the news will delight fans of Mike Mignola's Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, whose stories have maintained a consistent level of quality, aesthetics and excitement across successive miniseries for many years.
Among the many creators of the five new B.P.R.D. miniseries is Cameron Stewart, a ComicsAlliance favorite for his work on such comics as Batman and Robin and Catwoman, among others. Stewart's B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Exorcism stars eager young agent Ashley Strode on her first major mission for the organization, and the writer-artist tells us more about the project after the cut.
As readers of the recently concluded Hellboy: The Fury know all too well, Mike Mignola doesn't play it safe with his franchises. Together with co-writer John Arcudi, Mignola's created in B.P.R.D. an apocalyptic epic whose every new chapter advances the saga in a way that cannot be reversed, leaving you not just hungry for more but also a bit fearful too (especially for the fates of some of your favorite characters). According to Mignola, he and his B.P.R.D. co-creators are ready to pull that off on a grand scale in 2012.
"Let's break some stuff that can't be fixed. Let's turn some corners where there's no going back" said Mignola in a press release. "In both Hellboy and B.P.R.D., we're saying, 'Well, once we do this-once we round this corner-that's it!' It's not like, 'Oh, Batman, different costume.'We're doing stuff where there's no way to fix it. That is the new reality in our world. You're REALLY going to see that in 2012."
The new series break down thusly:
February 2012 - B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death, written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, with art by James Harren (Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest, Heralds). "A team is sent to the deadly woods from New World to investigate a new series of disappearances, but they discover more than just the monster responsible, as loyalties are questioned and tensions mount!"
March 2012 - B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror, written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie, with art by Jason Latour (Wolverine, Scalped) and a cover by Becky Cloonan. "This chilling two-issue series brings a B.P.R.D. crew into the grips of a backwoods vampire clan hiding out in a Gothic southern home."
May 2012 - B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Transformation of J. H. O'Donnell, pairing Mike Mignola with Scott Allie again for "the discovery of what drove the Bureau's expert on ancient foes to near madness after a mission with Hellboy twenty-four years earlier. This supernatural thrill ride features art by B.P.R.D. newcomer Max Fiumara (Amazing Spider-Man) and a cover by Becky Cloonan."
May 2012 - B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Devil's Engine by the regular B.P.R.D. team of Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Tyler Crook. "The Zinco Corporation again rears its ugly head after a devastating earthquake, pitting Devon and Fenix in an uneasy alliance against bat-faced monsters and the evil empire's other mad-science experiments! Additionally, this new series will feature covers by former Hellboy artist Duncan Fegredo!"
June 2012 - B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Exorcism by Cameron Stewart and Mike Mignola. "In this story we learn more about Ashley Strode's evolution as an agent after she meets up with a familiar face for a series of exorcisms in a rural Indiana town. Mike Mignola and Cameron Stewart team up to share writing duties, with pencils by Cameron and covers by Viktor Kalvachev!"
Dark Horse editor Scott Allie oversees the publisher's many Mignola-verse titles, and told ComicsAlliance that Cameron Stewart was the perfect choice to help bring B.P.R.D. back to its more intimate horror roots in the Exorcism miniseries. "Conversations I've had over the years with Cameron, and SinTitulo, and to a lesser extent Assassin's Creed led me to advocate for Cameron for [Exorcism]," Allie said. "And Mike and I have talked about bringing him back ever since the short story we tacked onto the end of the second B.P.R.D. trade [The Soul of Venice and Other Stories.] We want these side stories to enrich the horror elements of the series, while the main story Arcudi's writing is too big in scope, in my mind, to be a proper horror story."
Allie indicated that Stewart is taking the lead with Exorcism in terms of writing as well as drawing. "Cameron's really writing the story, although Mike took a strong hand in making sure the supernatural content jibes with our version of that," Allie explained. "It involved Mike laying down some specifics in terms of how it all works, and throwing in solid details around that."
We spoke with Cameron Stewart to learn more.
ComicsAlliance: Cameron, B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Exorcism focuses on Ashley Strode, who I believe was first introduced at the end of the B.P.R.D.'s war on frogs (collected conveniently in the B.P.R.D. omnibus volumes and in paperback as B.P.R.D. volumes 1-5). In that story, she was frustrated by the lack of other strong female agents and is eager to prove herself as a valuable field agent in the mold of Liz Sherman. We know that in your story, the head of the B.P.R.D., Tom Manning, gives her what he thinks is a busy work assignment that turns out to be much more. What else can you tell us about this character and where we find her in your story?
Cameron Stewart: Ashley has only had one very brief appearance in the past, so it's been fun to extrapolate and flesh her out a bit. She's someone who hasn't quite found her comfortable place in the B.P.R.D. yet - she transferred into it from the "normal" military and is still a bit overwhelmed and unnerved by the monsters and ghosts. At the beginning of the story she's sitting in as an assistant on an exorcism, which her inexperience causes to go terribly wrong. This sends her on a mission to find someone from the B.P.R.D.'s past to set right her mistake and help her become a stronger agent.
CA: Dark Horse has teased that Strode teams up with a "familiar face" in Exorcism. Any hints?
CS: We've seen the "familiar face" in a couple of forms that are quite different...
CA: Exorcism is not your first excursion into the Mignolaverse. You drew memorable stories for Hellboy: Weird Tales and B.P.R.D. in the past. Many comic book artists claim there is a distinctive thrill to drawing Mignola's Hellboy characters, as opposed to the famous superheroes. Why do you think that is?
CS: They're just elegantly designed and fun to draw, and I think there's a universal and enduring appeal to the mythology and folklore that inspires the stories.
CA: You're best known to comics readers as an artist, having drawn to much acclaim books like Seaguy, Batman and Robin, Catwoman and Suicide Girls (a favorite among ComicsAlliance readers). But you have written comics, perhaps most notably your webcomic SinTitulo. Can you tell us a bit more about your writing background, aspirations and how you came to be co-writer with Mignola on B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Exorcism?
CS: I've always had the intention to write as well as draw - the first portfolio that I distributed when seeking comics work included a small mini-comic that I wrote and drew. But in the course of my professional career I've only ever been hired as an illustrator, mainly because I've never really actively sought writing work because I've been focusing on improving my drawing abilities. Now that I'm confident that I'm at least competent as an illustrator and visual storyteller, I'm interested in creating my own stories. To meet this need, several years ago I began working on my online graphic novel SinTitulo as an exercise for myself in developing my writing skills and crafting a long-form story. The response has been very positive, culminating in several award nominations and winning a 2010 Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic.
Around the same time, I was hired by Ubisoft (along with my studio mate Karl Kerschl) to produce a comic based on their Assassin's Creed video game series, and despite being approached mainly for our illustrative skills, Ubisoft also granted us the opportunity to write the story. Again we were met with strong critical response, with many reviews praising the story as much as the artwork. Shortly after publication of Assassin's Creed: The Fall, Scott Allie contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in returning to the B.P.R.D. universe and taking on writer/artist duties.
CA: Mignola is of course himself a writer-artist, and has worked with co-writers many times in the past. But as far as I can recall, you're only the second writer-artist he's co-written with, after Michael Avon Oeming. Does this partnership make for a unique style of collaboration, given your backgrounds as visual storytellers? What's the working method?
CS: I met with Mike and Scott (and colorist Dave Stewart) at the Emerald City Comic Con at the beginning of this year and over breakfast they outlined their plans for B.P.R.D. They said that they wanted to return to its horror roots with some small-scale, creepy stories, and gave me some suggestions for characters they were interested in seeing explored. I took those suggestions and came up with a basic outline, and then received detailed notes on how better to square it with the other storylines developing in B.P.R.D. and Hellboy. I wrote a more detailed outline and again received notes from Mike, suggestions for pacing and character or correcting some ideas I had that didn't quite fit with the cosmology that Mike has established. I also did some character drawings which Mike reviewed and in one case redrew to make it more consistent with his style. All the B.P.R.D. and Hellboy comics are pieces that fit into a giant structure, with Mike as the architect, so I'm comfortable in the position of an assistant helping to put together his vision.
CA: What else have you got coming up?
CS: December sees the release of Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes!, for which I drew the first half (formerly Batman Incorporated #9), with Chris Burnham finishing the latter half (Batman Incorporated #10), and of course written by Grant Morrison. Then Karl Kerschl and I are again sharing script and art duties on Assassin's Creed: The Chain, which follows the events seen in The Fall. And then hopefully somewhere between all that I will find the precious time necessary to complete SinTitulo once and for all, for it to be published as a print edition.
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Exorcism #1 goes on sale in June from Dark Horse.