Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Secret Services: Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense

Next up in our list of "secret services" is a big one. The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, or just BPRD for short, first appeared in the first issue of Mike Mignola's Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, published in 1994. Originally serving primarily as a narrative device, a mechanism to get Hellboy into the next scenario, the BPRD has since expanded far beyond that remit.

The in-story origin for the BPRD is that it was founded in the waning days of the Second World War by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (pronounced "Broom," of course) to investigate paranormal phenomenon. The actual relationship between the BPRD and the government is a little unclear, I think. In the earliest appearances it seemed to be a branch of the United States government, but with ties to the British government as well. Since then connections to other nations and governments have been hinted, that the Bureau is perhaps related in some way to the United Nations or that it is a private organization that receives funding from various sources, governments included. (In the film version, this is simplified by having the BPRD be a clandestine branch of the US government, founded by FDR at Bruttenholm's suggestion.) Regardless, it is clearly a "governmental agency" of some kind.

In the earliest stories, the BPRD served primarily as Hellboy's supporting cast. Other field agents included the aquatic Abe Sabien and pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, along with regular humans like Kate Corrigan and any number of red shirts that fell before the claws of various and sundry monsters. Later miniseries introduced the homunculus Roger, and the ectoplasmic Johann Kraus.

At the end of the Conqueror Worm miniseries, Hellboy quits the BPRD, in part out of protest that Roger the homunculus was being treated shabbily, and in part in reaction to some of the secrets he'd discovered about his own origins. With Hellboy going off to have solo adventures in a variety of shorts, one-shots, and mini-series, the BPRD was spun off into it's own series of mini-series, scripted by Mignola, Chris Golden, and others.

Eventually the creative team coalesced, with Mignola cowriting with John Arcudi and the incomporable Guy Davis providing the art. With the introduction of hard-bitten former Marine Benjamin Daimo (who goes the eyepatched Nick Fuy one better by having a huge open scar running from the corner of his mouth to his left ear) and the relocation of the team to an abandoned military facility in the mountains of Colorado, the BPRD had really come into its own as a series.

The "series of mini-series" of BPRD, with the contributions of Mignola, Arcudi, and Davis, has developed into one of the most satisfying ongoing comics currently on the stands. The success of the book has lead to the launch of additional spin-offs. Lobster Johnson, featuring scripts by Mignola and art by Jason Armstrong, recounts the WWII-era adventures of the pulp hero, and was soon followed by BPRD: 1946, in which writers Mignola and Joshua Dysart and artist Paul Azaceta recount the earliest days of the agency with Professor Bruttenholm in post-war Berlin. More recently, a whole raft of miniseries and one-shots spotlighting the various agents of the Bureau have been released, including Abe Sapien: The Drowning, Johann Kraus in BPRD: The Ectoplasmic Man, and Roger the homunculus in the first issue of BPRD: The War on Frog, with successive issues spotlighting other characters.

Impressively, all of these various series and stories, by various hands, all cohere together to form a much larger tapestry of story, gradually revealing a small number of much larger threats that have been slowly building in the background. That is thanks in no small part, I think, to the contributions of still another group of writers, Steve Weiner, Victoria Blake, and Jason Hall, who under Mignola's direction have compiled The Hellboy Companion, a one-volume encylopedia of the Hellboy universe that also serves as a kind of "series Bible" for the franchise.

To my way of thinking, the BPRD has really become the gold standard for "secret services," the preeminent example of the "clandestine government agency of occult investigators." Having been introduced as the supporting cast for Hellboy, it is perhaps telling that the book really takes off after Hellboy leaves. I can't recommend the various series highly enough.


Yep, if it is Hellboyesque, on pages, it is good, pretty much.

Haven't read the last couple now that you remind me!
I find that all of the various Hellboy titles tend to read best in collection, rather than in individual issues. But at the rate that they keep coming out, there's never long to wait until the next collection!
I might have one or two BPRD issues perhaps, but I have pretty much given up on single issues these days, barring the odd Phantom.

As far as these go, though, think you are probably right that collected is better.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by 

Blogger. Isn't yours?