How Hellboy popularised the Dark Hero

Taryn Davies
Published: August 22, 2017

With hit superhero movies like Logan and Deadpool taking cinema by storm lately, we can't help but look back to see where these "dark" movies got their inspiration. Many of Marvel's blockbusters feature more family friendly protagonists. Ones that fight for what's right, don't kill their enemies but rather bring them to justice and fight for often righteous reasons. X-Men, Captain America, Spider-Man, Thor and Hulk all seem to fit neatly in this mould that most superheroes are cast from, but a few films in the past have broken that pattern.

How Hellboy Popularised The Dark Hero

Anton Ivanov/

More adult films such as Kickass and Watchmen show audiences a more realistic portrayal of heroes that often times highlight a grittier, bloodier side of heroics. People die, good guys lose and bad guys run the world in these two flicks coming out in 2010 and 2009, respectively. However, there was one movie that preceded the pair but came after some of the less influential dark hero movies of the '90s such as Spawn and Darkman. It was in this time that superhero movies were just starting to take hold of the cinematic world, and one film, in particular, stood out: Hellboy. 

A change in superhero pace

With director Guillermo del Toro teaming up with rough and tumble Sons of Anarchy actor Ron Perlman, the 2004 film came just two years after Spider-Man, a film many believe marked the beginning of superhero movies becoming ever-so-popular in mainstream filmmaking. While Hellboy might have only been rated PG-13, it was still fundamentally different than the wall crawler's adventure. Settings were dark, villains were based in the occult and the protagonist had a gun - a big gun - that he used to blow big holes in hell spawns. There was a reckless abandon to the red demon that seemed more personal and people died. Actually, many people died, both good and bad. And they didn't always die in a blaze of glory or making some dramatic statement, but rather, they just died because that's what happens in the real world when things go wrong. The movie, despite pitting a domesticated demon against an immortal sorcerer, conveys tragedy in a very human way as it shows just how fragile a life is and how easily it comes and goes.

Hellboy franchise

However, this different spin seemed to fall short when it came to capturing the box office as Hellboy only managed to make a worldwide $99 million compared to the $821 million of Spider-Man. Since then, the Hellboy franchise has still done remarkably well for itself despite this with a slew of comics, video games, apparel, animated movies and even an online slot machine. The 32Red-hosted title features pictures of the B.P.R.D. agents in the style of the comic books and includes 20 paylines and five reels. As explained in 32Red's guide on how to play slots, such five-reel titles are considered amongst the most popular by online users. The title has become so popular that it makes appearances on multiple websites including Casinos For Money, where a full breakdown of the rules and gameplay elements are explained, and Casino Top Online, where players can write a review of their experience with the game as well.

How Hellboy Popularised The Dark Hero

Grzegorz Czapski/

Now that Logan and Deadpool have come along with grittier flicks, Hellboy will return on the big screen with a few changes. Both director and lead actor have been replaced in the new movie titled Hellboy, that is set to come in 2018. Stranger Things actor David Harbour will be the new cigar-chomping field agent while director Neil Marshall will oversee the movie. Marshall has already talked about one of the biggest changes to the movie which is its new R-rating, a fact that the director has said is like "taking the cuffs off." He went on to say in an Independent article that he's not going to force the movie to be R-rated, but he's still going to embrace the bloodier side of Hellboy that can be found in the original source material.

So, as Hellboy takes a step back into cinemas after its slot machine, Starz animated series and Mezco toyline, let's prepare for an even darker take on the demon. One not possible without earlier efforts that helped shape the superhero movie industry into what it is today. The movie is rumoured to hit cinemas in 2018, but no official release date has been set.