"In Absentia Luci, Tenebrae Vincunt"note "In the Absence of Light, Darkness Prevails."
In the final days of World War II, the Nazis, through the assistance of Grigori Rasputin, attempted to bring about "Project Ragna Rok" on a small island off the coast of Scotland in an attempt to salvage the war effort for the Third Reich. A group of Allied occultists and soldiers were on hand to witness the event, and found the fruits of Rasputin's labors: An infant demon, quickly nicknamed "Hellboy."Instead of being killed because, well, he's a demon, Hellboy is whisked away by the United States and raised under the auspices of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, a government organization devoted to...well, Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Over the years, Hellboy becomes one of the BPRD's top paranormal investigators and forms a deep relationship with his colleagues, who include:
Pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, a young woman suffering from Power Incontinence as well as struggling with self-esteem issues over childhood trauma stemming from when her powers first manifested.
Following several weird revelations and a nasty bit of disagreement with the leadership, Hellboy quits the BPRD and begins wandering the Earth searching for answers about his past and the real reason why Rasputin summoned him all those years ago...The BPRD spinoff series details the adventures of the organization in Hellboy's absence. Two new members are recruited:
Dr. Johann Kraus, an eccentric German medium whose body was destroyed during an astral projection, leaving him alive in the form of moving ectoplasmic gas.
Ben Daimio, resident Shell Shocked Senior and with good reason: He died in action and somehow came back to life.
These members of the BPRD must confront their own pasts, skeletons from the Bureau's own closet and the escalating threat of lingering horrors from pre-human history.
Provides Examples Of:
Abhorrent Admirer: Hecate is in crazy stalker love with Hellboy. Unfortunately, he's not the kinda guy who goes for metal-skinned vampire snake women who want to kill every living thing on Earth.
Most high demons in Hell are surprisingly patient, understanding and reluctant when it comes to Hellboy. Even Astaroth, High Prince of Hell, doesn't try to force Hellboy into fulfilling his role in the advent of Apocalypse. They'd much rather he take up the role willingly.
Even lower demons (like the one that took possession of Hellboy's crown) admit that sometimes their feuds with Hellboy are somewhat petty. Of course, that doesn't stop Hellboy into kicking their collective rear ends.
A Hell of a TimeHellboy's ultimate fate is apparently to spend eternity in Hell, which apparently isn't as bad as it sounded at first. Billions of people and demons to meet (or fight), a house, possibly some family, and a nearly infinite world to explore forever. In other words, more like the norse Valhalla than anything.
Anti-Human Alliance: The Queen of Blood gathers one to destroy mankind. Unfortunately for them, she has no intention of restoring their world.
Anti-Hero: The somewhat silly sounding Lobster Johnson is a solid type III, and he is not someone you want to piss off. Throughout his long career in the 30s he personally killed hundreds of gangsters, Nazi saboteurs, cultists and monsters. And he only gets more dangerous when he's dead.
Apocalypse Cult: There is a large number of cults and secret societies—Project Ragna Rok, the Oannes Society, and the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, to name a few—hoping the trigger the apocalypse. Most of them are operating under the logic that the world is going to end anyway, but if they're the ones who pull the trigger, they'll at least have some measure of control over the destruction.
Ascended Demon: Hellboy is so heroic, his spilled blood sprouted lilies during his 'paranormal graduation exam' of sorts... An entire field of them bloomed across the ground where he died. Particularly impressive since in traditional Christian iconography lilies represent 'purity;' roses are for 'the blood of a martyr.' Jesus apocryphally did the same thing.
Badass Normal: Corrigan again, Captain Daimio, and some of the other BPRD agents. Also Lobster Johnson.
Badass Boast: The Ogdru Jahad: "Hellboy... Your fall should be like the fall of mountains... But I was before mountains. I was in the beginning and shall be forever... The first and the last... The world come full circle. You think you can fight me, kill me, as you would a beast? I am not the wheel— I am the hand that turns the wheel. I am Time, the Destroyer. We are bound together in that. I was the wind in the stars before this— Before planets, before Heaven and Hell— And when all's done I will be wind again, to blow the world as dust back into endless space."
Badass Longcoat: Of the second Hellboy story, Mignola said it taught him two things. The first was that HB looked better in a trench coat.
Be Careful What You Wish For: In Sullivan's Reward, Sullivan is being rewarded in gold for feeding people to his Haunted House. He's been feeding it drunks and vagrants, and getting a few gold coins each. He decides to feed it Hellboy, and when he appears to have succeeded he triumphantly calls out to the house asking what he reward for HIM would be. An entire 8-foot by 3-foot by 3-foot block of gold coins crashes down the stairs, crushing him
Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Grigori Rasputin as master mystic. Granted, even many of his contemporaries thought there was something weird about him.
Big Bad: Rasputin, Herman Von Klempt, Baba Yaga, the Queen of Blood.
Blood Bath: Hellboy: Wake the Devil references the original legend about Elizabeth Bathory. The blood baths are only mentioned, not shown, but the iron maiden that was used to obtain the blood plays a pivotal role in the plot.
Brains and Brawn: Abe and Hellboy, though Hellboy is nearly as bright as he's strong and impulsive and Abe is every bit as tough as he's smart. Although the Alternate Continuityfilm plays up this trope more.
Clue from Ed.: Used very sparsely, generally to point you out which prior stories a referenced event occurred in. They are not attributed to an editor.
Comic Book Time: The only major character who's aged visibly in the nearly two decades since the comic began is Tom Manning, and that may just be due to Guy Davis' different art style.
Averted in the sense that many events in the comics are dated around the time when the current arc begins. Another example is that when Hellboy's absence from the BPRD was referred to, the length of time mentioned was equal to the time since the publication of "The Conqueror Worm."
Kate Corrigan also seems to be aging. Guy Davis' art makes Liz look reasonably older.
Dark Is Not Evil: Despite being a demon, Hellboy is one of the more noble characters of the series.
One story even implies that he might be a saint.
Although there are a lot of villains trying convince him that he should be evil.
A Day in the Limelight: The Abe Sapien, Lobster Johnson and Witchfinder spinoffs could be considered this since they all expand on previously existing characters from Hellboy and are much more limited series. As for B.P.R.D., the "War on Frogs" miniseries could count for several agents and "Garden of Souls" is almost completely devoted to Abe Sapien with some supporting action for Daimio.
Do Not Go Gentle: Armageddon is underway. The B.P.R.D. and Hellboy have won countless battles, but each comes with a terrible cost. No one has any hope for victory at this point. The only thing they can hope for is to prevent their enemies from remaking the world in their image, fulfill the end of days with courage, and throw a light into the future, as what may have been destined all along.
Dull Surprise: Liz Sherman's default expression for most of the Hellboy comics. Justified, as she's supposed to be depressed and heavily medicated due to her tragic past, and in the later BPRD series, she gets better.
The End of the World as We Know It: And there's no escaping it. The B.P.R.D. is fighting a desperate battle to ensure something of humanity's spirit and legacy will survive after the end. But the Ogdru Hem are rising, the Four Horsemen have been unleashed, cities are swallowed in war with monsters and natural disasters, the world's biggest hope is dead, and Word Of God has said things that are broken aren't getting fixed.
Everything's Better with Monkeys: von Klempt's series of "Kriegaffes", one of which prompts Hellboy's entirely accurate line, "Goddamn Nazi Frankenstein monkey!" "Box Full of Evil" involves a gun-toting Satanist getting turned into a chimp and trying to kill Abe. Lobster Johnson introduces shape-shifting Tibetan were-apes, and Daimio's grandmother, the Crimson Lotus, had a monkey that seems to have been her familiar.
Hellboy: "Enough with the damn monkeys! They were monkeys!"
Von Klempt: "APES!"
Evil Chancellor: By the end of the Lobster Johnson miniseries The Burning Hand (set in 1932) it's clear that Isog is this to crime boss Arnie Wald. He acts subservient and deferential to him in order to let him think that he's in charge.
Astaroth reveals that his ultimate plan is to become this for whoever becomes ruler of Hell.
Evil Is Not a Toy: Nearly everyone Hellboy encounters seems to have their own agenda for the Right Hand of Doom and the Ogdru Jahad, believing that they can control their powers (even Hell seems to think they can use the Dragon). It is implied that they are all delusional, and that the release of the Ogdru Jahad would simply result in the annihilation of reality. Hecate is the only one who seems to be aware of this, but pursues it anyway and mocks those who believe they can twist the power to their own ends (she suggests that it might be possible that a new world will be born from the ruins, but it doesn't really concern her).
Igor Bromhead seems particularly unable to understand this principle.
The various short story collections contain no small number of would-be occultists with just enough knowledge to be be a danger to themselves an others, trying to use powers beyond their control for usually very petty ends.
God Is Good: Aside from the plentiful holy relics, Badass undead saints and Our Angels Are Different types that occasionally lend a hand, Hellboy is Catholic. He doesn't burst into flames at the sound of church bells, and stakes, crucifixes, etc. have no effect on him despite his 'demonic' nature. Even going to Hell doesn't seem like too much of a torment to him. The guy upstairs is pretty forgiving.
Godzilla Threshold: Starting with Black Flame, the B.P.R.D. is now at war with the various demonspawn spilling out all over the globe. Collateral damage is barely a concern. Half of Indonesia has been obliterated along with Munich, California, Houston, Seattle, London, New York and a zombie plague is devastating Russia. The nuclear option has come up several times... The Bureau and its allies are desperately trying to Hold the Line... it's not working.
Hand Cannon: Hellboy uses a whole series of handguns from a single-shot pistol of some very large caliber given to him by The Torch of Liberty (a WWII-era superhero), through a more modern (though ultimately unreliable) autoloader that would make the Desert Eagle wet itself in awe, to a plain old antique Colt M1911A1 to replace his custom sidearm when it went MIA.
Historical Villain Upgrade: Rasputin, obviously. He had some contact with Baba Yaga while he was alive, but he got a real upgrade when he threw in with the Cosmic Horror Story crowd after his (first) death.
Horrifying Hero: Hellboy is the demon who was supposed to bring about the Apocalypse, and he probably would have become a straight Eldritch Abomination if not for being raised like a human. He's personable enough that he isn't treated like the abomination he is, but by his very nature he was supposed to be evil.
I Know Your True Name: Used with great consistency to control and contain demons, though hubris usually gets the better of the summoner in question. This is one of Hellboy's early weaknesses until he realizes Anung Un Rama isn't his name.
I Want Grandkids: In "Curse of the Haunted Doll", the ghost of Kate Corrigan's mother bugs her about this.
Interspecies Adoption: Hellboy doesn't seem to mind (too much) that he's a demon raised among humans. Even if he was kept hidden away from the public. Part of this has to do with his unique heritage. He's only half demon.
Interspecies Romance: Hellboy and Kate dated for a brief time before ending the relationship on good terms. More recently, Hellboy has fallen for Alice, the girl he rescued decades ago from the fey folk.
Kill It with Fire: Liz uses this a lot, obviously. Also, the BPRD usually sends one "flame-thrower guy" with field teams when they expect contact. Most of the cosmic entities can be killed with fire, though not all.
Killed Off for Real: Nimue tear's Hellboy's heart out in the last chapter of The Fury and drops it in Hell, while Hellboy's body turns to ash. Most sources point this to being the permanent sort of death.
He's definitely permanently dead in the physical world, but still exists as an entity within hell, which he will apparently spend the rest of eternity exploring in a Widget Series spinoff.
King Arthur: Hellboy is the last living descendant of Arthur's son Mordred, and therefore is the Pendragon and rightful King of England.
The Queen of Blood's true identity is revealed to be Nimue, the sorceress who seduced Merlin, stole his secrets and imprisoned him. She was driven mad by the Ogdru Jahad.
Knights Templar: The Knights of Saint Hagan, a Crusader who rose headless to fight in the last battle of the Crusades. His followers continued their campaign to destroy all things Satanic with considerable success. Hellboy lampshades their 'kill em all' approach as misguided... however, most of the demons and heathens killed certainly deserved it.
Hellboy also teams up with some in one of the Christopher Golden novels, which are apparently part of the comic continuity.
And he teams up with a trio of brothers that used to be these before becoming monster hunters in a one-shot.
Masquerade: Averted, while it's in full force in the first movie and a half, Hellboy is an internationally famous paranormal investigator in the comics. Certainly, no one seems terribly disturbed when a guy who is seven foot tall, bright red and has a hand made of solid stone turns up to look into their supernatural troubles.
Masquerade Maintenance: Hellboy keeps sawing off his devil horns in an effort to fit in and deny his very, very evil heritage.
Mighty Whitey: Invoked, but ultimately subverted by Martin "Fu Manchu" Gilfryd.
Mind Screw: Mignola is a great admirer of mythology and fairytales, and the Hellboy comics often adhere more to that sort of curious dream-logic than the more linear storytelling most modern readers are accustomed to. This is especially prevalent in the one-shots, as the larger Story Arcs, by their very nature require a more cohesive approach. In his introduction to The Hydra & The Lion, Mignola comments: "I've always said that in supernatural stories you need bits that are beyond human comprehension. This one is pretty much made of those bits."
Monster Modesty: Hellboy wears little more than brown shorts and a trenchcoat. His chest is completely bare.
Abe Sapien and many other non-human characters often wear pants and nothing else.
Hilariously subverted when Captain Daimio meets Roger, is flabbergasted by the (literal) block of wood and ring on his groin, and tells him to put some pants on. When it becomes apparent that Roger's groin-block is so large that pants do absolutely nothing to hide them and make him a walking prince-albert joke, Daimio quickly tells him to, on second thought, lose the pants.
Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: While not outright evil, it seems that the head of Research for the BPRD, Dr. Roddel (And to a lesser extent his associate Dr. Cobb) is not a particularly compassionate man. He had to be talked into the proceedure that woke Abe from his Magical Sleep, and refused to do the proceedure that revived Roger after he was first brought back (Abe had to sneak into the lab and do it himself). Abe describes his first few days awake in the BPRD research labs as "Terrifying", and we see him in a tank with attached electrodes surrounded by dead fish (Presumably that they had thrown into the tank to feed him and never cleaned up after). Hellboy agrees, stating from his own experience that the lab boys will keep going, finding new things to experiment towards until told to stop. Hellboy says this as he charges into an experiment-in-progress, pulls Abe from the tank he's in and takes him to the cafeteria for a sandwich.
Herman von Klempt, however, fits this trope to a tee.
The Lobster as well, both before his death in 1939 and as a ghost afterwards.
Nigh Invulnerability: Hellboy of course. After he and Liz leave the Bureau, Johann's status as a ghost in a shell means he's currently the B.P.R.D.'s ace in the hole during combat missions. He simply switches bodies/suits if he takes damage. It takes an Ogdru Hem's psychic assault to even slow him down.
Offhand Backhand: Done to a hapless vampire in House of the Living Dead by Hellboy using a blessed sword.
Oh Crap: Hellboy's had so many of these moments, it's practically become his Catch Phrase. A few villains have had them as well. The better ones involve monkeys.
Older Than They Look: Hellboy's appearance is inhuman enough to make an apparent age not readily determinable, but he doesn't really seem to show his 60-80 years in which he has been on Earth (he was technically "born" in the 1600s, but doesn't seem to have aged until he left Hell). Alice Monaghen also looks about twenty years younger than she is, due to the influence of the fae.
Our Angels Are Different: So far we've seen ones that look like flaming skeletons with no legs, and another that looks like a giant maggot with a metallic black mask, pointy legs and wings made of flayed human skin, with a floating spear of fire that follows it around.
Our Demons Are Different: HB's pretty typical, physically, but the other demons we see keep getting progressively weirder as time goes on. The bizarre crow/bat/udder thing in BPRD: The Universal Machine probably takes the cake.
Our Dwarves Are All the Same: A race of grey-skinned mountain faeries from "Jutland" appear in The Wild Hunt. They are short, bearded, and like crafting with metal and gems. While they haven't yet been identified as such, they fit the dwarven archetype to a T. A similar group shows up when Hellboy fights the ghost of Norse Frost Giants.
Our Vampires Are Different: Given the nature of the series, this is to be expected. Besides classical vampires, Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. have faced off against a number of variations.
Vampire-Human hybrids made from injecting the mentally and physically disabled, gay, and other prisoners that the Nazis had rounded up with vampire blood.
The Manananggal/Penanggalan, a normal-looking woman by day, who at night detaches her head from her body to feed, ALL of her internal organs leaving with her.
The bestial and corpse-like vampires of Mexican folklore
The Varcolac, a Titan-esque King of the Vampires that can devour the moon.
The vampire lords (a group to whom Vladimir Giurescu and Baron Koenig also belonged) are of the more classical kind. However, they also have a centuries-old plan to take over the world. That is, if the ongoing apocalypse doesn't beat them to it.
Red Shirt: Just about any non main BPRD character who tags along with the main characters on their missions isn't coming back. They did, however, Take a Level in Badass in several side stories. The extreme danger normal humans face working for the B.P.R.D. is discussed many times. They do their jobs anyway.
Certain BPRD agents may be MauveShirts, however, with Agent Devon being one of the more notable examples to emerge from the B.P.R.D. comics.
Roswell That Ends Well: Scenes involving Hellboy's childhood and the early years of the BPRD are sometimes set at the Roswell Army Air Field, where the Bureau was based until the famous 1947 spaceship crash. (It's possible that they might've been able to stay there, were it not for an incident involving kid Hellboy, his dog Mac, and some of the residue from the ship. In the aftermath, it was decided that the time had come for the Bureau to go its own way, at which point it moved to the Connecticut facility seen in stories set during Hellboy's tenure as a BPRD agent.)
Satan: Mentioned in The Wild Hunt. Is currently taking a two-thousand-year nap beneath Pandemonium. Oh yeah, and Hellboy killed him.
Screw Destiny: Hellboy was born to bring about the Apocalypse. He's not happy about that. In the second trade paperback Wake The Devil, Hellboy actually says "Screw you!" as part of his Shut Up, Hannibal! to Hecate after she lectures him about his destiny.
Hecate: Accept the truth of your existence or be destroyed! You cannot escape your destiny! Hellboy: Gonna try. Hecate: Time is coming to ring down the curtain on man. Already, the four horsemen are loose in the world. It is for us to darken the sun, turn the moon to blood, and put out the stars. Then you and I alone, forever in the dark— Hellboy: Shut up! Not gonna happen... 'cause you're very, very ugly... and... you have a giant snake body! **impale**
Sixth Ranger: While sorting the various agents into roles is a bit tricky, Captain Daimio is certainly a Sixth Ranger, now replaced by Johann.
Smug Snake: Igor Bromhead, a hedge-wizard who makes a point of knowing more about the task at hand and being better prepared than his companions, and likes to lord it over people. That said, he still doesn't know nearly as much as he thinks he does. At the end of his first appearance He is saved from being arrested or killed by the BPRD by invoking the Demon Prince Astaroth, who in return gives him the lower body of a reptile. Later he imprisons Hecate as part of a bid to become the King of Witches, but winds up trying to eat the moon, which leaves him bloated and wracked with pain and begging Hellboy to kill him
Astaroth himself, while a demon lord, seems pretty confident that Hellboy will fulfill his destiny willingly in time. Later, when Hellboy doesn't, Astaroth reveals that he planned to rule Hell with Hellboy as a figurehead. This doesn't end well.
Spinoff: So far the main Hellboy series has four official spinoff series, including B.P.R.D., Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien, and the upcoming Witchfinder series. Not too mention the Odd Jobs series, the Weird Tales comics, and all the non-canon novelizations; there's a whole lot more to the Hellboy universe than just the original comics.
Squick: In-Universe. Hellboy's seen a lot of stuff, but in Conqueror Worm he's particularly unhappy when he finds that the psychic radio the Nazis were using used the severed, mummified heads of saints that were actually psychics.
Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: Hellboy's version of Armageddon consists of a seven aspect god of chaos, its spawn, the forces of hell, and every magical being left in the world with a grudge against humanity vs. a half-demon, half-human hybrid (with the fist of an angel), an undead army of Christendom, a global paramilitary defense agency, and a walking atomic bomb. That's the Cliff Notes version.
The Unmasqued World: Hellboy was granted honorary human status by the UN and is something of a paranormal celebrity. There's a reason people don't freak out when a giant red demon shows up to investigate a were-rat infestation. In the first trade paperback, while Hellboy stands around in broad daylight when on missions, Abe Sapien wears a coat, hat, goggles, and a fake beard to hide his amphibian nature. The Companion explains that Abe was never too keen on drawing excess attention and lacks the natural charm that Hellboy uses to overcome the fear his appearance causes. Hellboy even speculated at one point that it's easier for people to accept him because Hell seems "more abstract" than anything that reminds them of the weird things in the oceans that they know are real. Thus Abe uses the Coat, Hat, Mask and Hellboy doesn't.
Villainous BSOD: In Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand, The original Black Flame is shot by everything from handguns to submachineguns to a 4-inch shell from an Anti-Aircraft cannon and the most they were able to do is stop him for a few minutes. He is only defeated when Cindy Tynan forces Isog to run over the Black Flame's wife and partner Kamala. The Black Flame, who has shown little emotion to that point, is clearly crushed, and collapses and allows himself to be taken into custody then
Villain Team Up: In both the main series and B.P.R.D., see main article for details.
The Virus: One of the more horrific, and common, fates in Hellboy is being transformed into horrible demon-spawn frog monsters. No race, gender or age group is spared.