It’s no secret that I love Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy movies. His visually rich and distinct style of blending shades of teal and grungy orange in addition to a mixture of steampunk, mythological and fantastical influences always make for a wonderful viewing experience. However, while many are familiar with his live action Hellboy movies, not many know of his animated Hellboy films. Although he didn’t direct either of them, he was still a creative producer along with Hellboy Comics creator Mike Mignola.
Hellboy Animated is comprised of two animated features, Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron. The former, directed by Phil Weinstein, sees Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. trying to deliver a magical Katana with two powerful storm spirit siblings sealed away in it to a shrine to be reunited with its proper owner. While the only Hellboy film to include Japanese mythology in it, I found the story to be rather simplistic and linear. Rather, the film’s strong suits are in its creative diversity which is shown by the various demons Hellboy confronts in the spirit world during his quest of delivering the Sword of Storms. This animated feature also contains a few campy moments that feel dated when looking back on them. Overall, the film is a decent entry into the Del Toro Hellboy universe, but is nothing too noteworthy or memorable.
The next animated film, Hellboy: Blood and Iron is easily my favorite of the two. Directed by Victor Cook, Hellboy: Blood and Iron further explores Professor Broom’s adventures in the early days of the B.P.R.D., this time dealing with vampires. While this premise may sound a bit silly, it is nothing short of haunting. The eerie setting in a dark medieval castle is made all the more chilling by the presence to torture machines and ghost apparitions of young women slaughtered for a vampiric blood ritual. If this doesn’t send chills down your spine, then there’s also copious amounts of blood that wasn’t present in the first animated film.
Unlike the first film, Hellboy: Blood and Iron has a much more Gothic look and feel which I personally think suits Del Toro’s style much better. Hell, some parts of the film was reminiscent of the first Resident Evil game, especially where the B.P.R.D. explore a mansion haunted by a vampire. Additionally, Professor Broom is a total badass in this film in both his early days and old age. The only downside of the film was when the goddess Hecate was introduced, as I felt her introduction came a bit out of nowhere. Regardless, she had a good villain dynamic with Hellboy. This villain dynamic would be carried on in Hellboy II: The Golden Army with Hellboy and Prince Nuada.
Since Hellboy Animated takes place in the Del Toro Hellboy universe, Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt and Doug Jones all reprised their respective roles. And I have to say, their performances elevated the quality of the films. Although I initially felt disdain towards the animation and art style, I think it suits the tone of Hellboy well. Considering that the Hellboy comics were drawn in Mike Mignola’s abstract art style and the fact that he was a creative producer on the project, the animated films felt like the comics had come to life. My only complaint was the design of Liz Sherman. She looked far too young and physically didn’t resemble her live action counterpart at all. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but it just felt off to me.
Originally, three animated films were planned, but only two of them were released. The third film, Hellboy: The Phantom Claw, was going to introduce Lobster Johnson, a violent vigilante who was infamous for branding criminals with his trademark “Lobster Claw.” However, the film never saw the light of day for reasons unknown. Additionally, there have been at least 2 animated shorts, Hellboy: The Dark Below and Hellboy: Iron Shoes, the former you can find on YouTube and the latter on the DVD release of Blood and Iron.
While Guillermo Del Toro’s live action Hellboy films are masterpieces in their own right, it’s still good to see his universe be expanded upon with the existence of Hellboy: Animated. It’s such a shame that there were no more animated features, as I would have loved to see Lobster Johnson brought to life. Recently, Ron Perlman expressed interest in making the third Del Toro Hellboy film, despite being in his 70s, claiming that "they (the cast and crew) owed it to the fans.” Despite the long hiatus, Del Toro’s Hellboy can make its comeback through an animated third feature film. Fans of the films never went away, they were just waiting. And now is the time for the long-awaited third Hellboy film.