INTERVIEW: Rob Williams Slices Through Mignolaverse History with The Sword of Hyperborea

Although Rob Williams is stepping into the world of Hellboy for the first time as the writer of the new four-part series, The Sword of Hyperborea, he is certainly no stranger to the supernatural universe of Mike Mignola. “I’ve been reading Hellboy and B.P.R.D. [the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense] for many years, so it’s an unexpected thrill to be contributing to that universe,” says Williams. He’s not quite able to recall which book lured him into the Mignolaverse, but he points to The Wolves of St. August as having a significant effect on him. As a lover of history books, comics, and Hellboy, it makes Williams the perfect person to trace the path of the mysterious Hyperborean blade through history in this new Dark Horse series. A barechested man in a loincloth holds a sword, standing before a fire with a large mastadon skull behind him

“From the ancient warrior Gall Dennar, to Sir Edward Grey, to the B.P.R.D.’s Agent Howards, the iconic Hyperborean sword from the world of Hellboy has landed in many influential hands. And this has been no accident. Trace the sword’s path through the adventures and encounters that finally brought it to Ragna Rok, at the end of the world, and witness the sword’s journey through history.”

Williams is joined by illustrator and B.P.R.D. veteran Laurence Cambell, colorists Quinton Winter and Dave Stewart, and letterer Clem Robins. Together, they were guided by Mignola himself who had an idea for a Gall Dennar story that the creative team “took on board and ran with,” explains Williams. “[D]uring a few Zoom calls and email conversations, Mike told us his thoughts on the world and the sword itself. Laurence Campbell, my co-creator on the book, had drawn B.P.R.D. for around five years, so he also knows this world very well. He’d put together a bunch of mood board visuals. Laurence had a very strong feel for how this book would look, and we discussed that a lot before I started scripting.”

The blade has made several appearances in various B.P.R.D. series — which Williams has since reread as part of his research — leaving many questions in its wake as readers share their theories. Though Williams doesn’t give too much away, he promises that this new series will offer up some insight. “[Y]ou will see the sword as it travels through the Witchfinder series with Sir Edward Grey, and then on to brand-new sword-bearers who are fresh characters to the world of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. We’ll be moving through eras such as World War I, World War II, and then to the Chicago blues scene of the 1950s. We’re telling a story that spans thousands of years, that embraces the past and the future of the Hellboy universe.”

The first issue explores Gall Dennar, one of the sword’s first wielders, before leaping to World War II and beyond. Shaping these real-world settings and events around the sword, while keeping everything tied into the series lore is no easy task. With the Hellboy lore as the “structural spine,” Williams says that “the sword is the MacGuffin that tethers our series. But after that, our job is the same as it is on any book: deliver characters that hopefully readers will care about, and then take them on a thrilling journey that puts them to the test. I read up on the areas of history we’re using as our settings — Belgium in World War I, the English Channel during the Battle of Britain, and the experience of the African-American musicians who traveled from the southern states north to Chicago, creating rock’n’roll in the process of their plugging in and “going electric.” I love reading history books, and I love reading comics, so combining these two facets together in The Sword of Hyperborea, and having an incredible artist like Laurence Campbell to depict this story is a dream of a job. And if you’re enjoying yourself, it usually leads to good comics.”

The Sword of Hyperborea #1 is available now.

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.

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