One of the most famous indie characters is returning to the big screen.  Principal photography for the new Hellboy: The Crooked Man movie finished this past May!

Hellboy is the titular character from Dark Horse Comics, created by Mike Mignola in 1994.  Guillermo del Toro initially brought the character to the big screen with Ron Perlman's amazing performance in 2004 and 2008.  Despite critical and box-office success, Neil Marshall rebooted the series in his 2019 movie with little success.

Fans critique Marshall’s remake for being a grim and disjointed affair, a far departure from Mignola's mix of humour, scares, and melancholy felt throughout the comic series.  With the new movie set to reboot the franchise again, let's look at the paranormal investigator's first appearance.

First Appearance

Matt Tuck did a great job on his article The Three First Appearances of Hell Boybut he missed some!  Dylan Jacob fills the gaps in his article 1st Appearance of Hellboy.  (I'll be providing some more information missed by the two.) If you've read any of my other Completionist Collector's Guides, I talk about true firsts - however, the true first definition I use is limited to print media (comics, books, magazines, pamphlets).  There are some interesting collector's items mentioned below.

In reverse chronological order, here are the first appearances of Hellboy :


Next-Men-21-194x300 The Three First Appearances of Hellboy

Hellboy would star in his titular comic in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1, in February 1994.  However, Next Men #21, published in December 1993, is widely considered Hellboy’s first appearance as this is his initial appearance in a regularly published comic.

Whether you consider this his true first appearance or not, it will at least hold the crown as the first time we see Hellboy in colour.  Along with being prominently on the cover, he is shown on multiple interior pages.


SDCC-2-197x300 The Three First Appearances of Hellboy

The San Diego Comic Con Comics #2, published August 1993, is a one-shot annual created to help promote the San Diego Comic Con.  This was only available through the convention and a limited mail-order offer.  There are rumours that only 1,500 copies were printed.

The 32-page annual contains black-and-white stories not published elsewhere such as Frank Miller's Sin City and Mike Mignola's Hellboy stories.  In this comic, we get a four-page black-and-white story called "Hellboy: World's Greatest Paranormal Investigator."  We see the modern-looking Hellboy we know today.  Thus, this comic is credited with being Hellboy's first appearance.

3. John Byrne's Next Men #14

In 2019, Topher at CBSI broke the news of a Hellboy appearance that predated the San Diego Comic Con Comic.  Topher revealed that in John Byrne's Next Men #14, published in April 1993, there is a panel with a red poster in the background depicting Hellboy's face.  A great teaser for his later appearance in the same series. 

This image is sneakily hidden, obscured in the background.  Some may refer to this as a cameo but for me, this is an unmistakable true first, the character is there (and in red!) with his name clearly spelled out.


Dime-Press-4-232x300 The Three First Appearances of Hellboy

An even lesser known and often discredited appearance is Dime Press #4, published in April 1993.  Dime Press is an Italian fanzine (fan magazine) published through Bonelli Studios.  In February of 1993, Mignola attended a Bonelli Studios exhibition in Italy.

During dinner for the exhibition, Mignola and Italian artist Nicolo Mari did a joint drawing of the now cover image.  The drawing was gifted to the host of the event as a thank-you present and to Mignola's surprise,  it became a published cover.

The cover features Hellboy attacking a demonic version of the Italian SF comic book character, Nathan Never.  This appearance is debated as though the character resembles the Hellboy we know, horn stumps, tail, and armoured "Right Hand of Doom,"  and what appears to be the B.P.R.D. logo on his chest, he is clearly grey instead of his classic red.


Similar to the San Diego Comic Con, the following pamphlet was given to attendees in August 1991.  The phamplet contained information of the artists in attendance, including Mignola on page 12.  The information was accompanied with an iconic character they were known for but instead of Mignola putting one of the characters he has worked on like Batman, a never-before-seen character was present.  Some sort of demon with the words "Hell Boy" on his belt buckle.  This depiction is clearly a prototype that looks a fair bit different from the Hellboy we know today, but nonetheless - Hellboy.

Confirming this first apperance status the statue company, Sideshow even released The First Hellboy 12" (30 cm) statue with the following description: "In 1991, comic artist and writer Mike Mignola created a black and white illustration at a comic convention of a demon character that bore the name "Hellboy" on his belt. This was the genesis of the filed-homed fighter of the supernatural known and loved today. The First Hellboy Statue by Mondo brings the original concept to life, showcasing all the strange and fun details of the original drawing.


In addition to all the sculpted details, original Hellboy colorist Dave Stewart was enlisted to design the color scheme for the piece. Now is a Hell of a time to bring this piece of comic history home!"  If you don't trust this, Mignola himself said the pamphlet appearance is the earliest version of Hellboy, and the first time the name was used.

Bonus Items

The following items are early depictions that predate Next Men #21 but aren't in a comic format.



A Dark Horse Comics promotional poster for the Next Men series, featuring the cover of John Byrne's Next Men #19 and the cover of good ole Next Men #21.

FREEDONIA FUNNWORKS 10th Anniversary card set

Number 9 of Freedonia Funnyworks 10th Anniversary 10 card set, published May/June 1993 features another modern-looking Hellboy.  This depiction even sports a vulture on his back just as the great Salt Lake pamphlet drawing.

Hellboy Promotional Poster

Another Darkhorse Hellboy promo poster, published in June/July 1993.  This time Hellboy dons his famous trenchcoat.  Below is a picture of the original art for the poster from the collection of Joe Le, image taken from Comic Art Fans.  This piece was also recently re-printed in the Hellboy Library Edition Volume 1 and in it Mignola explains that this is the first time he drew Hellboy with the trench coat.

Original Art

If we're talking about early appearances - well Great Salt Lake City convention attendee believed in Mingalo's never-before-seen character and purchased the following art featuring Hellboy and Dr. Volts.

Bonus-Bonus Items

The following two would fit under my true first definition as book mediums but do appear after Next Men #21.  Though they're not the first appearance, they do appear before the actual "Hellboy" solo title series and aren't generally talked about.


The Diamond Comic Distributors catalog supplement Celebrate Diversity collector's edition , published in October 1994. This shows our modern-Hellboy on the cover and contains "Hi, My Name is Hellboy by Mike Mignola," a one-page panel ad on the character's origin.

Comics Buyer's Guide #1070

In the Comics Buyer's Guide #1,070, published in May 1994, Dark Horse Comics included a special four-page mini-comic, Mike Mignola's Hellboy: World's Greatest Paranormal Investigator.  In the story, Hellboy battles the head of Nazi scientist, Herman von Klempt, and his puppet henchman Brutus the Gorilla to rescue a captive girl.

This story may seem familiar as it is the same story that would later be expanded on and published with slight differences in Hellboy's solo series.

Did you know about these appearances?  Many of these are already very expensive, but it may be worth it to hunt for them now while the general comic market is down and before the new movie comes out!

*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not represent advice on behalf of GoCollect.