It had to come as a shock to fans of the long-running Hellboy spinoff B.P.R.D. that Guy Davis, the longtime artist for the series would be departing at the conclusion of the current "Gods" storyline. It was such an unlikely end to a pairing that brought the artist and series writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi to the brink of the end of the world in recent months. Davis is taking a break to focus on his own creator-owned project, The Marquis which is being published through Dark Horse as well as another project he's unable to talk about. No, it wasn't some kind of acrimonious split: "As much as I loved working on the main B.P.R.D. book with Mike and John, it was a hectic monthly grind and I realized I just didn’t have enough time for all the projects I wanted to do."
Not to get all cliched, all good things must come to an end, right?
As unexpectedly and quietly as the collaboration ended, its beginning was actually pretty gradual. Prior to joining B.P.R.D., the artist had done work for Vertigo and Caliber and had his own indie project, The Marquiswhich he originally published through Oni. Davis credits a simple meeting with Mignola "at some random con" where they were both guests as the first meeting between the two talents, and from there the duo struck up a friendship.
I would call to talk monsters and catch up and he would always ask what I was working on~ which usually was something work-for-hire that didn’t involve monsters. He would say he never understood how after seeing me doing the stuff I wanted to draw on my own series, The Marquis that other companies wouldn’t hire me for monster/horror type books. I didn’t know why either, but when he mentioned he was thinking of spinning off B.P.R.D. from Hellboy into its own series I jumped at the chance to work with him on it!
It was a fortuitous pairing--series editor Scott Allie credits Davis with refining many of the visuals first conceived by Mignola, while evolving characters like Abe and giving others, like Johann, greater movement and animation on the page. Davis says that in terms of the monster designs, there was a lot of back and forth between himself and Mignola in getting the final vision down.
Davis credits Mignola's encyclopedic knowledge of myth and lore for the vast menagerie of creatures that have populated the series since its inception. Davis, then, would take what had been visualized before and attempt to give it his own spin. In terms of points of reference, Davis says that much of his own creative vision was informed by an imagination running wild as he would "try to design something that looked fun and interesting or worked for the series. Once that was done, it was easy to fill in with whatever details were needed to ground it in the books “reality” or point of reference to the story."
Both Mignola and Davis create work with an emphasis on mood, but whereas Mignola's pieces are more angular and sometimes rough-hewn, Davis' work is more often rounded, not averse to sacrificing lines for impression and tone of a piece. Davis credits Mignola with insisting that the former keep his style distinctive and not try to ape the latter's style:
I’m sure I’m using more solid blacks in my ink work since I started, but that wasn’t really intentional it just sort of got absorbed into it from looking at Mike’s work over the years and playing around with my own style.
It's a very distinctive style when you see it on the shelf: heavily detailed with the use of strong lines, but Davis doesn't appear to be afraid to allow for empty space in the panel or on the page. Davis says it took him a while to get comfortable working on the book, when he started with the 2003 one-shot, "Dark Waters," and moving on to his first miniseries, "A Plague of Frogs." It was around the "Black Flame" storyline that he was able to get over his fear that he would somehow ruin the book and get it canceled, ultimately letting go and enjoying the work on the title. He notes that the 56 issues he's worked on in the last 8 years has been the longest project he's worked on since entering the comic industry back in '85.
Interestingly, the evolution of the characters over time seems to have been the result of experimentation due to deadlines: "I didn’t really have the time to try out a lot beforehand. So I would try different ways of drawing certain characters as I went to see if I like how it looked on the page."
The aforementioned The Marquis and secret project are what will be occupying his upcoming schedule, but thankfully, no one is talking a completely clean break here--Davis says there have been talks about him coming back sometime down the line to work on "smaller stories and miniseries in the world" of the B.P.R.D..
As he makes his exit, Davis has these words for his B.P.R.D. fans:
I’ve had an amazing time getting to work on that series and have always been lucky to have an equally amazing group of fans who’ve supported it over the last 8 years. I hope they continue to enjoy the series, what I have in the works and what Mike and John having coming up next!
Join us tomorrow as we speak with new series artist Tyler Crook as he talks about joining the B.P.R.D. team!