I read my first Hellboy comic about fifteen years ago. I bought a few of the early trades, enjoyed them, and made it a point to buy all new Mike Mignola collections whenever they came out. But at some point, I stopped reading them.
I've had a few customers ask me about reading order. And mostly I just tell them to read the Hellboy books in order, then BPRD, then BPRD Hell On Earth, and then Hellboy in Hell. I'd always admit that I hadn't read Witchfinder, or Lobster Johnson, or any of the other spin-offs.
A year or so ago, I looked up what the proper chronological reading order was via several websites, and they mostly spat the same uninformed advice that I'd been giving. After a couple of discussions with Jeff Stumpo about the BPRD series, I decided it was finally time for me to a deeper dive into The Mignolaverse (the unofficial name for Hellboy, BPRD, and their spin-offs.
The Internet was once again, mostly unhelpful. The choices were: Just Read Them In The Order Of The Numbers On The Spine You Nerd, or lists that were so focused on chronology that they recommend putting a book down mid-story, and picking up another volume for a few pages, before returning to the original one. That's no way to read comics. And since the stories weren't written chronologically, nevermind collected chronologically, I decided it was time to do some reading and research of my own.
So, here's another conceptual TV Series chronology. It's four seasons long because there are four large arcs to the series so far, with a fifth one just beginning, and probably taking years before it's wrapped up.
As you can tell from the last post, we don't really know how Season 1 ends. SOMETHING happens that causes Hellboy to leave the BPRD. But we haven't seen what yet. For Season 2 we'll start following an entirely new BPRD team. Unlike the volumes in Season 1, most Mike Mignola books are all over the place, chronologically. They're not necessarily linked by themes, or in any sort of chronological order. They usually contain a couple to a few short stories and then one larger scale story linked to other volumes. So this should be....fun.
Season 2: Being Human
(showrunner Mike Mignola)
Episode 1: Mexico
(Hellboy In Mexico, Frankenstein Underground)
written by Mike Mignola, art by Ben Steinbeck, Richard Corben, Mike McMahon, Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, and Mike Mignola
Do you like luchadores? Mummies? Frankenstein monsters? Well, then this season opens with an episode just for you. Following events from 1956, which still haven't been written yet, Hellboy goes on an epic bender in Mexico that ends up with him having a brief stint as a vampire fighting luchadore, getting married, and befriending a Frankenstein monster. The Frankenstein monster then has its own journey in Frankenstein Underground which you can read if you'd like, but isn't nearly as compelling or fun as Hellboy In Mexico.
Episode 2: The Pirate's Ghost
(Lobster Johnson 5: The Pirate's Ghost & Metal Monsters Of Midtown)
written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, art by Tonci Zonjic
Back to the 1930's where Lobster Johnson battles some Zinco robots, which seems like a random aside from our Hellboy journey, but trust that Zinco will be making a return appearance this season. We also see Wald and Payne's adventures with the Lobster come to what seems to be a definitive close.
Episode 3: Honest Abe
(Abe Sapien 1: The Drowning, and Abe Sapien 2: The Devil Does Not Jest
written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, art by Jason Shawn Alexander, Patric Reynolds, Peter Snejbjerg, and James Harren
Hellboy isn't the only non-human agent at BPRD. Abe Sapien is a...well...a sort of fish guy. In "The Drowning", he gets sent to clean up a mess left long ago by Edward Grey during the first episode of last season. His mission doesn't go well. A bit later, he goes on his first few solo missions with a bit better luck, but an equal amount of having to go under water. Also, this makes back to back episodes featuring pirates, if that's your thing.
Episode 4: The Crooked Man
(Hellboy 10: The Crooked Man And Others)
written by Mike Mignola, art by Richard Corben, Duncan Fegredo, Joshua Dysart and Jason Shawn Alexander
Witches and Satan are bad news, especially if you lived off the grid in the mid-twentieth century. Our main story is one of a man trying to redeem himself for the mistakes of his youth while Hellboy learns a bit about witchcraft. It's one of my favorite Hellboy stories. The volume also includes "In The Temple Of Moloch" which is sort of flat, and "They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships" which allows us to spend more time with Abe Sapiens, and, yes, Another Pirate Story!
(If you are so compelled, this is where I would put Hellboy 7: The Troll Witch and Others, and Hellboy 12: The Bride Of Hell And Others, which are both, like "The Crooked Man", stories from Hellboy's time wandering without the BPRD. They are completely skippable, though, and some of my least favorite of the Mignolaverse)
Episode 5: Seed Of Destruction
(Hellboy 1: Seed Of Destruction)
written by Mike Mignola and John Byrne, art by Mike Mignola
The original Hellboy story! This is the beginning of an actual arc featuring Rasputin from last season, and some of those residual Nazis. Plus, a sad goodbye to an old friend, and a hello to frogs, who will mostly be pestering our heros in season three. There's also my favorite comic panel of a dog in one of the backup stories.
Episode 6: Wake The Devil
(Hellboy 2: Wake The Devil, Hellboy 3: The Chained Coffin & Others)
written by, and art by Mike Mignola
Continuing the Rasputin & the residual Nazis arc, Hellboy also encounters the Thessaly women, and of course, vampires in Wake The Devil. The Chained Coffin & Others is largely skippable for now, except for the last story "Almost Colossus" which takes place during and immediately after Wake The Devil, why it's put all the way at the back of the volume, I couldn't tell you.
Episode 7: Being Human
(BPRD Being Human)
We're going to take a brief respite from the major storyline of the season to get a chance to better know the other BPRD characters. In this episode we get to learn more about Liz Shaw's origin, Abe Sapien learns to deal with the consequences of his actions, Hellboy and Roger The Homunculus work a case together, and we meet a medium named Johann Krauss.
Episode 8: Conqueror Worm
(Hellboy 5: Conqueror Worm)
written by, and art by Mike Mignola
Ok, back to Rasputin, Baba Yaga, and the residual Nazis storyline. We also get more time with Roger The Homunculus and his new friend...Lobster Johnson? Didn't think we were going to see him and Hellboy in the same episode.
Episode 9: Hollow Earth
(BPRD 1: Hollow Earth & Other Stories)
written by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski, and Brian McDonald, art by Ryan Sook, Matt Smith, Derek Thompson, Mike Mignola, and Curtis Arnold)
Hellboy has quit the BPRD, Liz Shaw has taken a leave of absence, and Abe Sapien and Roger The Homunculus are debating jumping ship as well. But when Liz sends Abe an urgent message, he and Roger take the new recruit, Johann Kraus with them to rescue her. There are also some important side stories in this volume, and I would recommending reading it in reverse order. So, starting with "Drums Of The Dead", then "Abe Sapien Vs. Science", then "The Killer In My Skull" (hey, it's Lobster Johnson again!), and then ending with "Hollow Earth". It's a much more satisfying narrative experience. I have no idea why they chose to flip the order around.
Episode 10: Another Day At The Office
(BPRD 2: The Soul Of Venice & Other Stories)
written by Mike Mignola, Michael Avon Oeming, Miles Gunther, Brian Augustyn, Geoff Johns, Scott Kolins, and Joe Harris, art by Michael Avon Oemin, Guy Davis, Scott Kolins, Adam Pollina, and Cameron Stewart
A bunch of short cases featuring Liz, Abe, Roger, and Johann. Not a ton of continuity, just some much needed character building time. Plus, art by Cameron Stewart who has colored pretty much, if not all of the episodes so far.
Episode 11: Three Wishes
(Hellboy 6: Strange Places)
We conclude the second season with Hellboy taking a trip to Africa. An ill-advised trip, as he ends up at the bottom of the sea for two years, arguing with Ursula about prophecy. When he finally gets back to the surface, well, lots of prophecy talk, including letting him know that while he was under water The Plague Of Frogs hit, and since Plague Of Frogs is the title of the third season, it's time to bow out for a bit.
Season Two is somewhere between 11 and 13 episodes, depending on whether you bothered with The Troll Witch, The Bride Of Hell, or the stories in The Chained Coffin that weren't "Almost Colossus"