As I was walking around Artist’s Alley at New York ComicCon and trying not to fanboy out too much (I’m pretty sure Erik Larsen was furtively looking for security when I talked to him) I came across the table manned by the team of Art Baltazar and Franco. Their book Itty Bitty Teen Titans caught my eye as, a while back, my youngest had loved it. Stopping, I perused their various titles. While leafing through Itty Bitty Hellboy, Baltazar said in a stage whisper, “Don’t tell Mike Mignola we did this.” Looking up sharply, Franco assured me that the comic was in fact Mignola’s idea in the first place.
At first blush, Hellboy seems an odd if not sacrilegious subject for the “Itty Bitty” treatment. But Mignola himself has had fun with Dark Horse Comics’s Demon, Demon-hunter before. One of my favorite pieces shows how Hellboy was irrevocably lost to the forces of darkness. In an homage to the opening scenes of The Labyrinth, where Jennifer Connolly is debating whether to say the words which would consign her brother to the troll king, and is juxtaposed with the trolls getting excited with anticipation, Mignola introduces Hellboy to pancakes. A young Hellboy is presented with a plate of pancakes and, as the professor is working to convince him to eat them, the demons are howl with dismay. Once Hellboy eats and loves the meal, the demons bemoan that he is now lost to “us as he has eaten of the pancake.”
It is this same spirit we see in Itty Bitty Hellboy. Franco’s art is simple, cartoonish and silly. Kids will adore it and don’t be surprised to find tweens giggling as they flip through the pages. Baltazar’s story is as light and goofy as Franco’s art.
In “The Search for the Were-Jaguar” nothing bad or too scary happens, so don’t worry about your little one crawling into bed with you after reading it. Hellboy and Liz are going to The Island of Rogers to give a bunch of living statues underwear. Rasputin and the “Evil” Karl are also on their way to the island to get a picture of the Were-Jaguar, which will make them rich. Also along are Abe and the BPRD. The villains aren’t really bad, though there is a zombie outbreak. However, in the hands of Franco, the zombies are non-threatening looking and easily defeated.
This is a great introduction not only to comics but to reading as well.