Posted - September 12, 2015
Hellboy: The Right Hand of Doom
The first story in The Right Hand of Doom is called "Pancakes". That's right: Pancakes. To counterbalance such an un-Hellboyish title we get some panels of some goings on in Hell.
The other demons are unfamiliar to me but Mammon is pretty famous isn't he? As in "choose between God and Mammon". One interpretation of Mammon is money, so the statement goes: "Choose between God and money". All in all the fearsome rendition of Mammon above is more fitting. Also, if you showed me a pile of dollar bills I would most likely locate such a pile in Heaven.
Moving on . . .
Oh wait. The pancakes. We have to talk about the pancakes. So Hellboy is a young kid (although with horns) and it's breakfast time and he wants some hot noodles. But he gets a plate of pancakes instead and he's sure he'll hate it but he loves the stuff and finishes the plate. The denizens of Hell, having heard that Hellboy loves pancakes are in despair, saying that they've lost him forever. What gives? My thoughts on the matter is that the pancakes stand for our way of life. As in mankind's way of life. In accepting and loving pancakes Hellboy has chosen us over them. "Them" being the hellspawns.
And this is how The Right Hand of Doom starts out. Just like The Chained Coffin, this is a collection of Hellboy tales from the time that Mignola was churning them out in limited pages for inclusion in this or that anthology.
Next up is "The Nature of the Beast". Because of the clever way this story is set up the title refers to both Hellboy and another beast, a Dragon, that is in this tale.
Let's talk about Hellboy as "the Beast" first. It's all very simple and it begins with the Osiris Club.
These presumably learned gentlemen have chosen to put Hellboy "under the microscope" without Hellboy's permission or knowledge by studying him, via Crystal Ball, no less, as he undertakes a quest that they set before him.
This quest veers the story to the Dragon being the beast.
What Dragon you ask? The Dragon inhabiting a forest in the West Sussex area. The same Dragon that terrorized the same wood fourteen centuries ago. A Dragon that managed to kill children and knights until it met its match in a confrontation with an armed monk. That monk, Saint Leonard, managed to wound the dragon and drive it away. He is a figure of legend and his statue stands in that forest now known as Saint Leonard's Wood.
But the Dragon has returned and Hellboy is tasked by the Osiris Club with the job of slaying it.
I love the representation of this Dragon. It's not drawn like a "fantasy" Dragon, it looks like a classic medieval representation from those old tapestries and bas relief sculptures - sort of like a "snaky" crocodile. Very nice and fitting.
The last story of Chained Coffin has Hellboy failing to slay the giant Homunculus. Well, he's got a losing streak going as he fails to slay this Dragon. Who's the dragonslayer? in a very weird way, Saint Leonard comes back to finish the job.
So I was reading a book about Norse Fairy Tales and the subject was the meeting point between the old Norse religion and the religion from the east, Christianity. In order to subsume the old religion the Christian proselytizers had to adapt some of the existing stories. One of those tales was the Great Hunt. The Great Hunt used to be a celebratory tale about the gods, the mood of the tale was festive, the message positive. When Christianity arrived it could not abide the existence of these old gods, of course. So the god of the Hunt began to take on a more nefarious cast. Sort of like the subject of the next tale "King Vold".
I like the "holding his own hand in his hands" rendition.
Before diving into this main tale the story makes sure we are in the proper fairy tale mood by showing several incredibly interesting panels. Here are some of them.
I really like the "Tunkall" panel. There's something about it, so much depth in just one panel, amazing. Now that we're all of a mood, lets get on with the tale.
Hellboy, being huge, strong and a freaking demon, he's being used as a "bouncer". Muscle to win some gold off King Vold. For the job Hellboy gets to wrestle with a supernatural wolf.
The losing streak continues as Hellboy pretty much goes down for the count.
King Vold being what he is, his gold is not the prize it appears to be.
The hapless gentleman who "wins" it is the academic that subjected Hellboy to being a non-human punching bag and his fate is the most frightening of all.
Nothing more frightening than poverty. Nothing.
The next story is simply titled "Heads". The attraction of this tale rests on the novelty of its setting and background: Edo-period Japan and Japanese Folk Tales. Now what is Hellboy "born" in 1944 doing in Edo-period Japan? My advice: Don't ask any unnecessary questions. Just sit back and enjoy this curious tale.
So "Heads" refers to Japanese-style vampires whose heads fly off their bodies. Like so:
Before the tale unlocks its frightening goodies it throws up a pair of really clever panels.
The first panel shows this Japanese lady coyly covering herself with a fan.
Later on we are shown the same pose but with the fan being moved to expose more of the face.
Just wonderful. I love it.
Pretty soon, Hellboy has a headache.
Get it headache. "Head" + "ache". Head- nevermind.
Strange place, and faroff time but one thing remains the same: Vampires cannot abide the sun.
Next we have "Goodbye Mr. Tod". Mr. Tod is a Medium. You know, guy who conducts seances to contact the dead. He's unique because he can manipulate ectoplasm (for more on ectoplasm I would like to refer you to Ghostbusters - you get to know about ectoplasm and you get one heck of a good movie too). So Tod contacts the dead and forms their image out of ectoplasm, like so:
Now this Hellboy story becomes a don't use drugs tale because Mr. Tod takes some strange drugs and this happens.
As I understand it the "creature" streaming out of Mr. Tod is inspired by Lovecraft. Now we get to learn that Mr. Tod's ectoplasmic "creations" are formed out of his own body fluids. This creature is so massive that it's ectoplasmic representation has used up every single drop of body fluid in Mr. Tod - thus, goodbye Mr. Tod. Dead men have no problems so Hellboy has inherited this mini-disaster.
Once again our hero has recourse to his trenchcoat pockets and comes up with this:
Arbutus is a mediterranian plant used for medicines to cure everything from the common cold to tuberculosis. It was also used as an ingredient for contraceptives. We are further informed that that it was used as a ward against evil and it is in this way that Hellboy uses it - to banish the ectoplasmic monstrosity brought forth by Mr. Tod.
You know what? Arbutus can cure colds. The ectoplasm monster was made of body fluids including snot. So- oh, what the heck. Moving on . . .
Next up is "The Varcolac". Initially, I thought this would be another vampire tale along the lines of <Hellboy: Wake the Devil, but it has as unique twist. The Varcolac from the old fold tales could "eat the moon". In our astronomically enlightened times, this is going to be very hard to pull off, but it was done very curiously here. First we get this gigantic "vampire shadow".
Then the Varcolac comes in and is shown to be a giant that can cover up the moon rather than eat it.
The whole thing has the cast of a dream sequence or hallucinatory episode but it does give us this remarkable panel:
Vampire lying in coffin is almost cliche but look at that. The vampire is lying in a coffin half full of blood. I appreciate that little detail.
The story ends with Hellboy administering the old "cure" of putting a stake through the heart.
The Right Hand of Doom is a story that throws light on the nature of Hellboy and is a return to a topic frist taken up in Seed of Destruction. The whole thing begins with this curious piece of paper.
It is a representation of Hellboy's right hand and the purpose of that hand: To summon beings that would destroy the world. Hellboy, ever since Seed of Destruction, has been under pressure that it is his purpose. His reason for being. His destiny. His fate. Unavoidable. To that, Hellboy has this to say:
This happened in Seed of Destruction. It is being repeated here. So is every incident were Hellboy was being "persuaded" that he was a destroyer rather than a a protector. What this is is Hellboy saying that he is his own creation. There is no destiny, there is no fate. This is core to Hellboy's identity and to the appeal of the Hellboy series. This is core but it is in no way subtle, I mean we've got a someone who looks like a demon but acts like an angel. How much more obvious can it get? And how much more wonderful?
The next tale is called "Box Full of Evil" and is an affirmation of Hellboy's stand in "The Right Hand of Doom".
The story begins strangely enoungh with this guy paralyzed into this pose for the whole night and half a day.
And it is all because of this.
Hellboy explains it best.
The whole purpose of this strange - and highly entertaining - beginning is to get a small box. Here it is being opened.
Inside the box is a little fly.
Actually, this is what it really is.
The entertaining part is that this creature was not the Devil.
A minor demon! I love this twist in the tale.
This little impostor knows about Hellboy and he blabs about it to all the wrong people. It's interesting that Hellboy's so-called Destiny is interpreted by some as their means to untold power. Once again our hero is forced to confront his, oh, I'll say it, inner demon.
Beaten nearly to death and finding himself at a weak monent, Hellboy is given some assistance. This is nearly a page and a half of panels but they are the most important panels in the entire book.
See the little guy speaking? The Daoine Sidh? He's from the corpse story in The Chained Coffin. Anyway, Hellboy is once again reminded that he is what the psychologists call a self-actualizing individual. He is his own creation hand or no hand. he is no Anung Un Rama - that's just some hypermystical marketing horseshit. When somebody calls you a loser, when society itself labels you as hopeless. Remember it's just some non-mystical marketing horseshit. "Break off the horns" and self-actualize; be your own creation.
And when you come across good comics. Read 'em.