A Mignolaverse of Plastic
Lead art by Patrick Thomas at Agent Butterman on Instagram
All inline photography by Alex Aronowicz unless otherwise noted
PHOTOS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
In the 2018 Netflix documentary, “The Toys That Made Us”, sociology professor Dr John Tenuta is quoted as saying, “For collectors, toys are a tangible symbol of their love for something that isn’t real, that has no shape or form in actuality. It’s a very human experience to need to touch, and to feel, and to see a thing in order for it really to have meaning. Otherwise, it’s just an abstraction, which is why everything that is abstract winds up getting some physical symbol.”
I have been a collector my whole life, and as such, I identify heavily with this notion. My earliest comic shop memory is buying Devil Dinosaur #1 by Jack Kirby when I was 5 years old, it was all downhill from there. Comics, toys, books, art: I collected whatever I could.
I’ve been reading Hellboy since the early 2000s. At that time, there were a slew of comic and movie related collectibles on the market. Manufacturers such as Mezco, Toy2R, Sideshow Collectibles, and more recently Mondo, Funko, and Super7, have kept us flush with the characters we have come to know and love.
My first Hellboy collectible was a gift from my cousin’s father-in-law, who I felt was as much of an uncle to me as any of my blood relatives. He was a big time comic book collector and encouraged me in my own geeky pursuits. In 2003 He gifted me this 2001 polystone “Nodder Head” by Hourglass Studios. Bobbleheads usually have awkward proportions, and this one is no different, but the details on it are spectacular. I especially love the little skull he is standing on, black with orange highlights as if it is lit from within by flame.
It would be a few years before I picked up another Hellboy collectible. I made that common collector mistake, thinking, “it’ll always be around.” That notion has led to a ton of regret, but more on that later.
Mezco used to carry the master license for Hellboy toys. In the 2000s they produced action figures and stylized figures called “Mez-Itz” based on the motion pictures and comics. I picked up a pair at my first SDCC in 2009: the Mignola style comic version of Hellboy and the film version of Abe. It wasn’t until years later, at a Mezco Warehouse sale in Long Island City NY, that I would pick up my next pieces.
The first items I bought were all movie based figures. First was the SDCC Exclusive Hellboy With Corpse [editor’s note - seen in the header image]. Even though I knew I was buying the movie figure, I like to tell myself that this is Tam O'Clannie instead of Ivan Klementovich. There is a slight difference between the standard and exclusive release of the figure, the packaging, and the right hand of doom. In the exclusive version, the fist is clenched rather than an open hand in the standard edition.
I really love articulated figures more than anything, because, like a child, you can pose them and create Articulated Comic Book Art (known on the inside as ACBA). ACBA lends itself quite well to miniature photography, creating a whole new element to collecting. Above is a photo that my friend Patrick took of my figure. He is a product photographer, and I often bring my him figures to pose and photograph.
I also picked up the right hand of doom on a pedestal from the golden army, which I love to display with Agrippa’s charm hanging from it, and the logo hidden.
Finally, for $100 I got a trifecta: A new in box Angel of Death from the Golden Army, along with the unpainted production prototype, and the fully painted prototype used for the original product photoshoots. I only display the one fully painted piece, as they are too large to display all three.
While these pieces brought me joy, they also led me down a rabbit hole of items that got away. The prices on classic Mezco Hellboy figures have gone way up, and out of my price range, but one of these days I will get myself an 18 inch Classic Comic Hellboy!
After Mezco’s Golden Army releases, there was a bit of a collectibles drought. That was until Israel Skelton started releasing his unbelieveable B.P.R.D. artifacts which you can hear all about in this interview on Mignolaverse.com. I was able to purchase some, but once again, presuming things would always be available backfired on me. My first order ended up being The Ogdru Jahad Amulet and Agrippa’s Charm, but after I noticed some pieces selling out, I immediately ordered St Dunstan’s Key and Pre-ordered Mohlomi’s Bell. The Bog Roosh’s Nail is my most recent acquisition, and that Lobster Johnson calling card was from a Comic-Con, I believe. I will be receiving the Baba Yaga’s Acorn soon, and hope to review that for this site once it arrives.
I picked up this Greyscale Hellboy Mini Qee by Toys2r while heading to a wedding rehearsal dinner in New Orleans. Walking from the trolley stop to the restaurant, I passed a comic book shop. They had a few Mezco Hellboy movie figures that were priced too high for a casual purchase, but I saw the Qee, and I had to walk out with something Hellboy related. I would bet I was the only one at the dinner sporting a Hellboy vinyl collectible!
Later, in a a pleasant surprise, was this Right Hand of Doom coin bank that came from the August 2016 loot crate. I don’t put coins in it, but I do display it as a contrast to the film version. Funny enough, this led to an Instagram argument with another person over the correct anatomy of the right hand of doom.
While at the annual Toy Fair at the Javits center in NYC in 2016, I was walking by the Super7 booth and almost caused a traffic jam when I saw that they had box and concept art for Hellboy Reaction figures. Reaction figures are emulating the classic Kenner Star Wars figures of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Even the logo for the Reaction line emulates the Kenner logo. Their mission statement speaks to the reason that like minded toy collectors such as myself are drawn to them. I ordered the first set immediately, and absolutely adore the retro feel. I love that, just like the Emperor figure from the 80’s, Hellboy’s draping coat is part of the leg articulation.
At SDCC 2018, Super7 recreated the classic Kenner style figure case, and would have bought it regardless, but then they included an exclusive transparent red Hellboy. At NYCC 2018 they debuted the second series. Two 3-packs of figures, one containing Karl Kroenen, Horned Hellboy, and Kriegeaffe, the other containing Rasputin, Shirtless Hellboy, and Johan Krauss were released. I will review those when they arrive in the next week or so. For now, just look at Hellboy’s tiny shorts and spats!
Next up: Mondo’s Baby Hellboy 1/6th scale figure. I am a really big fan of action figures, and I have a huge collection of 1/6th scale figures from Sideshow Collectibles and Hot Toys. It is great to see Mondo, known worldwide for their amazing posters, venturing into toys. I sadly missed the pre-order of the Crown of the Apocalypse version, but this version is more comic accurate. I tried to recreate the first appearance but sadly lacked a flame for the background.
In 2018 I attended the second Five Points Festival, which focuses on “art toys.” These are limited run designer figures that are fairly pricey and made in small batches by artists. Here the artists are represented more than a license. It is here that I got a pretty nice piece from Ko-Re Ko-Re UK. It is a Demoncraft Sofubi (soft vinyl) figure by Scotty W x ToyZeroPlus. Again, these are small runs, and sometimes even one-offs, and I haven’t seen many others of this Hellboy paint job. The Left Hand of Doom is obviously not accurate, but this is a custom paint scheme for an established figure.
Finally, my biggest Hellboy figure collection. As we all know, Funko pops are EVERYWHERE and cover EVERY fandom. Every year at SDCC, Funko puts on a fan event called Fundays. As a Funatic (an active Funko community member), I have been to the events in 2015, 2016, and 2018. Naturally, in 2017, the year I couldn’t go, the Hellboy License announcement was made. I received no less than 12 text messages from friends at the event and I was tagged in at least 4 or 5 instagram posts. 2017 was going to be my year.
Pictured throughout this article is my collection. Funko has released (the standard Funko) Pops, (the somehow even more chibi) Dorbz, and even gave them the Vynl treatment (a new line introduced last year). [Editor’s note - looks like they visited Ren and Stimpy.]
For the initial wave, they released Hellboy with a chase variant -a chase is an alternate form of the figure, with Funko Pops, this ratio is now 1 in 6 chance-, Rasputin, Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, Lobster Johnson, and The Queen of Blood. The first wave also included Dorbz Hellboy, Hellboy with Horns, and Abe Sapien with glow-in-the-dark chase figure. The third part of the first wave is the Vynl above.
It is the little details that make these figures so much fun. With the Pops, I love Hellboy’s utility belt and holster, Rasputin’s bracelets and blue glowing eyes, Liz’s cigarette, The Lobster’s burning hand, and Nimue’s pose with the skull. With the Dorbz, I just enjoy their little expressions and Hellboy’s cigarette. I also love the Vynl version of Abe’s gills and fins.
There hasn’t been a full second wave of Hellboy released or announced yet. Instead, there were a handful of exclusives made. For Previews (the largest comic and collectibles distributor), they released an exclusive Hellboy with Excalibur. I love the missing eye detail.
For their Specialty Series (exclusive to independent retailers as opposed to big box stores) Funko released Anung Un Rama in a darker, almost purplish red, complete with his father’s crown and sword, wearing the armor we’ve seen in his visions of himself (prototype shown below). For SDCC 2018, they released a really obscure, original, and FANTASTIC piece. From the Tentacles, the suit, the medals, and the little monster: this figure has weight to it all.
You may be wondering what the unpainted pieces that accompany many of my main pieces are. These are “Protos”, which is a whole other level of collecting. These are not available everywhere, and it takes a community of collectors working towards a common goal to get a legitimate prototype into the hands of a person that will love it.
There are two types of prototype Funko Pops. The white Protos are the figures for artists, sculptors, and management, to approve of the way the final sculpt looks. Then there are the color Proto figures. These serve two functions. The first is to show the sculpt in the final type of vinyl used, and the second is to test the color of the vinyl with the sculpt.
The other option, if you have the money, is buying or trading for one: known legitimate Funko partners. Gemini Collectibles and Fugitive Toys are the best avenue, as they receive their protos directly from Funko. You can also buy from trusted and known collectors. If you are going to be spending the money, you want to verify the legitimacy of a Proto straight from Funko. There are always going to be people out their trying to scam you with a production piece with the paint stripped off, or even a “scrapper” (rejected production models of the toys that are meant for the recycling bin). It is always good to have a community looking out for you.
I am lucky to be part of a tight knit circle of collectors, headed up by an upstanding gentleman named Martin Morales, that researches and digs into the history of pieces to make sure it is not a swindle. Once a piece you are looking for is made known, everyone in the community does what they can to help unite you with that piece.
One might say “what is the difference? It’s all just unpainted piece of plastic.” But it is the rarity and exclusivity of the official piece that you are paying top dollar for, and to pay a large amount of money only to find it is a fake, cheapens the hobby. The best part about any collection, whether comics, toys, Protos, or anything else are the people with similar interests that you can form a community with, especially when they’re looking out for the best interests of the whole.
Right now we are living in a Renaissance of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. toys and collectibles. With Skelton Crew continuing to create highly detailed artifacts, Funko and Super7 bringing us fun stylized variations, and most recently 1000toys creating high-end articulated collectibles for Dark Horse Direct. With the final days of the B.P.R.D. in the comics, and the new movie coming out next year, I am confident that we are heading into the Mignolaverse collectible golden age.