My Favorite Monster: Go Big Or Go Home With The Ogdru Jahad [Fantasy Week]
This week is Fantasy Week at ComicsAlliance, celebrating the best in magical fiction and imaginary worlds, and we’ve invited our writers to mark the occasion by celebrating a hallmark of the genre; the legendary creatures and outcast freaks we call “monsters.” This is My Favorite Monster.
When thinking about favorite monsters, I wanted to go to one of the biggest, most uncontrollable and terrifying concepts that have ever hit the comics page. Dinosaurs and demons are all well and good, but they offer a threat that doesn’t dig deep beneath the skin. What really frightens me is unknown, unseen terror that exists in fugue; horrors like the Ogdru Jahad, creatures we've seen only briefly in Mike Mignola-created books including Hellboy and B.P.R.D..
These creatures are the Dragons of Revelation, pitiless and unthinkable grotesque entities whose very appearance causes madness for the beholder. They were created by grand cosmic forces while existence was still in development, so to speak --- only to be shortly thereafter locked in a prison because their very presence was so infinitely evil and terrifying. They are Mignola's least-explored creatures, and as a result some of his most potent and fascinating.
It also helps that Mignola is at his best when he’s drawing a grandiose yet opaque vision of doom. While his sense of place, architecture and location are hugely notable aspects of his overall artistic approach, some of the most lasting images of his work in the Hellboy titles have involved the mythological wonder that drives the Ogdru Jahad. The sheer idea of infinitely unbelievably powerful forces trapped within an ultra-crystalline structure floating through undetermined space is incredibly evocative, and the reality of the conceit also helps build the idea that their very existence is a tension. They are up there, and they want to escape.
I’ve always found the idea of godhood fascinating --- an interest that began, curiously, when I was ten years old and playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. That game opens with the arrival of three deities who bring life and creation before departing, their presence left only in faded stories and the magic they left behind. Hellboy similarly offers us this, but in reverse: a destructive force that was somehow contained and removed from Earth in shadowy and non-permanent terms.
There’s an immediate feeling of depth in seeing Mignola create and then subdue these almighty beings, a promise of total destruction and awe that quietly thrives only in the furthest recesses of the deeply corrupted and supernatural spirits who appear across the series. Their reach, uncontrolled despite their entrapment, spirals down to Earth and has influenced several of Hellboy's antagonists, including Rasputin, Nimue, and many others. The dragons themselves remain entirely physically passive, and yet they are the most potent force of doom in any of Mignola’s work to date.
What's become clear, especially in recent months as the second cycle of B.P.R.D. is closing and the third draws closer, is their inevitable escape, and the annihilation they will bring to everything. Each step Hellboy took during his life drew them closer to freedom, because the terrifying, monstrous reality is this: they will be freed one day, and nothing can stop that. Not only are they unseen, all-encompassing agents of chaos, but they're also guaranteed to destroy us all.
I find them fascinating, and literally mortifying --- some of the most potent, apocalyptic creatures ever created for a comic book. And through it all, that image of their prison hanging in space, shaking and trembling against their force, rings back into your mind, time after time.
That's why they call Mignola "the master."