Is ‘Hellboy’ a Redeemable Hero or Demon Spawn? Explaining the Character

This week saw the internet become very excited about the trailer for the reboot of Hellboy, a comic book movie about a half-demon who assists in paranormal investigations. The trailer, linked below, contains some language and violence, but as we’re always intrigued by anything pertaining to Christian imagery, we figured it was worth a minor dive to see exactly what was going on in this character.

First, here’s the trailer to Hellboy. WARNING: There’s some profanity and violence throughout.

So, um, yeah. There’s some wacky stuff going on there, especially toward the end when he grows back his horns and dons a crown of fire and carries a giant flaming sword. Let’s figure all this out.

For starters, Hellboy is one of the few mainstream-ish comic book characters not owned by Marvel or DC, the “Big Two” of the comic book publishing world, who tend to get antsy around any actual depictions of hell. Instead, the character is owned by his original creator, Mike Mignola, and published independently through Dark Horse Comics. Mignola is a Catholic, which explains the fascination with religious symbolism.

Hellboy is a half-demon. His mother was a human witch and his father was a demon. Hellboy’s mom was killed during childbirth (that’s a whole other thing) and Hellboy’s demon dad cut off the baby’s right hand and replaced it with the Right Hand of Doom, an awesome-sounding relic that makes it super powerful. Things are going according to plan with all the demon stuff, but then Hellboy is accidentally summoned by Nazis looking to change the tide of World War II, and that brings him to Earth. When the Allies capture Germany, the U.S. Air Force begin to look after Hellboy properly.

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That’s how Hellboy becomes a good guy (and he is a good guy!), and as an adult he hunts down paranormal monsters, kind of like Van Helsing. There’s a bunch of wacky lore surrounding Hellboy’s parentage and extended family (he has some half-siblings, a priest and a nun), but for the sake of this movie, you should know a couple basics:

  • Hellboy ages differently than people, which is to say his body grows faster than his mind. So while he may appear to be a full-grown adult, he has the mind of a teenager. Hence all the sass.
  • The Right Hand of Doom, grafted onto Hellboy’s actual arm, is prophesied to bring about the apocalpyse. We’re not sure how, exactly.
  • Hellboy has a more fully-realized demon form in which his horns grow back (he files them down himself), his crown appears, and he carries a giant sword. Why he doesn’t do this all the time, we have no idea.

You can peep Hellboy in theaters April 12.

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