Hellboy: the midnight circus
WRI TER : Artist: Publisher: Dark Horse Out: Now
The Midnight Circus is a tale of Hellboy when he was literally a boy, before the sawn-off horns and the cigar-chomping and the “punch first, ask questions later” approach to dealing with eldritch menaces. It’s 1948, and young Hellboy has been Trevor Bruttenholm’s ward for four years and is chafing against the restrictions imposed on him as a permanent resident at the Connecticut headquarters of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.
One night, he sneaks off into the woods to smoke his first fag, and is drawn to a sinister supernatural circus. Having watched a phantasmagorical performance in the Big Top, he is then tempted by a sideshow which offers all the lures and enticements of the adult world. The story explicitly references Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, while foreshadowing events that will unfold much later in Hellboy’s life (and indeed death).
Mignola’s script is pitched perfectly, balancing the sinister and the sentimental in the manner of Ray Bradbury, who himself updated Collodi with his tales of dark carnivals that prove dangerously seductive to innocent youth.
Fegredo’s art, meanwhile, is never less than gorgeous. His use of blocky inks mimics Mignola’s own style for the scenes set in the real world, but he switches to a more ornate line-andwash for the fantasy realm of the circus and something looser and weirder, akin to the work of Paul Pope or Troy Nixey, for a few panels summarising Pinocchio.
The Midnight Circus is a tour de force from both creators, and an essential purchase.