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  1. #1
    Senior Member UnravThreads's Avatar
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    Default Romantic & Platonic Relationships in Hellboy & B.P.R.D.

    Got into a discussion with Middenway on I'm-A-Twit about relationships in stories in general, and I typically shifted it to Mignolaverse.

    There's obviously not many romantic relationships in B.P.R.D. and Hellboy. We had the questionable route del Toro took with the films, the hints towards Liz/Abe in Hellboy Animated, but in 'core' Hellboy & B.P.R.D. there's not been a lot affecting the major characters. The majority of it is interpretation - for example, one could read War of Frogs #3 and come to the conclusion that Ashley is indeed gay and crushes on Liz, but someone else could read it and not get that vibe at all based on what she says - and as the characters tend to rarely be in the same room together there's little chance for things to develop on the page.

    But then we have platonic relationships, largely between the male characters. For example, there was the dynamic between Roger and Ben, one of the strongest and most interesting bonds in the Plague of Frogs series.

    I think there are major relationships - romantic ones - under the surface of B.P.R.D. in particular. I think just before it started, there may have been something between Hellboy and Kate, largely due to the conclusion of Conqueror Worm. As B.P.R.D. progresses, it seems that it could shift to Kate and Abe as they're often together in and out of the HQ. It's how I interpret it. I see them working together less like friends and more like an established couple. It just works on that level of natural behaviour.

    Obviously I'm five/six trades behind most people in terms of the story, so things may have changed, but I'm wondering what others think of the relationships of any kind in Hellboy and B.P.R.D.?

  2. #2
    Hell Notes Historian Middenway's Avatar
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    UnravThreads, don't read this:
    spoilers:
    She doesn't know about Hellboy and Alice or Kate and Bruno yet. Just so you know.
    end of spoilers

  3. #3
    Junior Member Donald's Avatar
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    I think Mike was developing a romantic relationship between Abe and Liz. Abe's concern with her in Almost Colossus seemed more than co-worker level and they walked off hand in hand at the end Hollow Earth.


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  4. #4
    Hell Notes Historian Middenway's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    I think Mike was developing a romantic relationship between Abe and Liz. Abe's concern with her in Almost Colossus seemed more than co-worker level and they walked off hand in hand at the end Hollow Earth.
    It's funny you say that, because I read that scene in Hollow Earth the exact opposite. I read that as really strong platonic moment.

  5. #5
    Senior Member UnravThreads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Middenway View Post
    It's funny you say that, because I read that scene in Hollow Earth the exact opposite. I read that as really strong platonic moment.
    If it's the bit I'm thinking of, yeah - I didn't see it as particularly romantic.

    The closest they've been to romantic - in my opinion - was one of the Hellboy Animated films, but I forgot which one. But they made Liz pretty in those, so I say thrppppppttttt to them.

  6. #6
    Hell yeah! Kees_L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UnravThreads View Post
    I'm wondering what others think of the relationships of any kind in Hellboy and B.P.R.D.?
    Well, what would come to mind for me on this is two things:

    A - Comics or stories will be meant to hinge on interpretation. And reading (or either the creating of reading material) will be personal.
    So besides what a story intends to be conveying it might be possible to read stuff into things, which would most likely be allowed, up to a point.
    Like as long as a reader doesn't ever start counting on but one perspective needing to be right then anything seeming actually interpretable would go.

    B - Consider what any relationship may amount to being. We have one. At this very moment. Albeit not a sexual one to my knowledge, as yet. But does that mean no romance or feeling or profundity would be involved?
    If two people share a romantic moment does that have to relate to their sexual interests or gender restrictions?
    Could Hellboy and Kate share profound thoughts or feelings without getting involved with eachother?
    Could Hellboy and Abe?
    Does Liz or Ashley have to be showing their sexual interests one way or another? I mean ultimately they should at some point or dimension to their life - but do we see each aspect to the lives of these characters? I'd say it might well be we do not. So we see relationships but not every aspect to the lives of these characters necessarily.
    Sometimes a story may lend itself to focus on some particulars - for the sake of the stories. But relationships will or might be hard to judge or interpret for their merit or profoundness - as would romance, or any sexual acts actually for that matter, even for those actually involved.

    Any human interaction may amount to being a relationship of some kind. Where any romance or sex preferences will be stuff of itself.

    So... maybe / potentially / sometimes. But only when it really seems that way. To some degree. Of sorts. See?
    Last edited by Kees_L; 05-11-2012 at 08:06 AM.
    Been called a 'good egg'. Been told to rock, been told to steady myself. Been told to (please) be goin' places.
    Chillingly good stuff besides Mignola, Slint, M, Knut and really big chunks of tinfoil?
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  7. #7
    Hell yeah! Kees_L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UnravThreads View Post
    in 'core' Hellboy & B.P.R.D. there's not been a lot affecting the major characters. The majority of it is interpretation - for example, one could read War of Frogs #3 and come to the conclusion that Ashley is indeed gay and crushes on Liz, but someone else could read it and not get that vibe at all based on what she says - and as the characters tend to rarely be in the same room together there's little chance for things to develop on the page.
    Well yeah. But romantic or sexual relationships will in many respects be open to interpretation, even to those it actually affects. In stories, or either outside in real life.
    Except in real life, when yourself would be what any such would be affecting, you could be to explore the situation. Whereas in stories such exploring might only seem possible when the story allows it. Like if a designated character would establish some relation or seeking to with some other designated character - like with actually saying or doing so, then such exploring would seem the more fruitful. As otherwise any possible interpretation would remain open sort of, depending.

    When in real life someone comes up to me with saying: "Hello, I'm gay..." or "Boy I'm feeling straight tonight..."
    Then I may go like: "O yeah?..." Or either: "Huh, you don't say..."
    Like it would depend.
    Been called a 'good egg'. Been told to rock, been told to steady myself. Been told to (please) be goin' places.
    Chillingly good stuff besides Mignola, Slint, M, Knut and really big chunks of tinfoil?
    Half sunk in the mud, with one eye showing / a cracked smile and hair still growing /
    your hands miles apart, as if they'd never met / you were the happiest I'd seen you yet
    . ~
    (full) lyrics to 'Exhume' by Bedhead.

  8. #8
    Senior Member UnravThreads's Avatar
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    Well, obviously interaction forms some sort of relationship - being an acquaintance, colleagues, friendship, closer/best friends, romantic relationships and so forth. Liz and Abe is a different relationship to Liz and Kate, and these relationships change during the stories. At times Liz and Abe are closer due to the events of that particular story, but the next one they'll barely talk. And it's the same with Kate and Liz, sometimes they're just friends, other times it's a case of "we're really the only two girls here so we need to stick together". But Roger and Ben had a different relationship to Roger and Hellboy. Roger took after Ben so much more, and they watched each other's backs. They had a relationship that was unique to them. Both were important and interesting to read, but they were different.

    I don't think we'll see any sexual relationships on the page. Most we've had is a bit of kissing between some nameless agents (and we know how long that lasted!), but it just doesn't fit in with the tone of the series. There could be allusions to it - panels with two people in the same bed, for example, getting woken up by an alarm - but any actual scenes of that nature won't appear in my opinion.

    I think it would be nice if personal aspects were explored more. Maybe in, for example, Exorcism we'll get answers to some of the questions from War of/on Frogs #3, but maybe it's a question that will never be answered, or maybe it's something Mike, Cameron and maybe Scott will answer later on in the series. To go from what I said in the first post, it would be less of a jump for Ash to come out than it would for Liz to. Why? Because Ash is, and always will be, a background, supporting character. Even though she's getting her own stories, she'll never truly be one of the major players. It's the same with Vaughn, Devon and so on. They'll always be agents at the end of the day. But for something to develop between her and Liz (which I think is wishful thinking on my part more than anything), it would require a big move for Liz. But if she had a romantic relationship - a sexual one, even - it could be used to explore her control over her powers even more. Would she sleep alone out of fear of harming her partner? You get the idea.

    One of the writers could also do that thing where one character is struggling with rejection by another and it gets them killed or seriously injured. That would fit in with the tone, and could also be used to explore relationships.

    I guess what I'm saying is I think leaving it widely open to interpretation is good - as it gets us discussing things - but it's also not that great. If there's a gay character in the story somewhere, making that known and removing all ambiguity would bring another element to the series. It could open it up to a whole new market, and bring in storylines that might not have been possible. Look at Archie Comics, for example. They added a gay character - Kevin Keller - and what it's done is not weaken the series or become an issue, but has instead helped contribute to the popularity of that publisher and solidified their position in a more open, accepting world. If B.P.R.D. did something similar, it would add to the diversity but also just give it that extra little something.

    Same with characters of different races. B.P.R.D. has a diverse cast in that regard, but making it more so would help.

    And stuff :p
    Last edited by UnravThreads; 05-11-2012 at 08:53 AM.

  9. #9
    Hell yeah! Kees_L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UnravThreads View Post
    I guess what I'm saying is I think leaving it widely open to interpretation is good - as it gets us discussing things - but it's also not that great.

    [...]

    Same with characters of different races. B.P.R.D. has a diverse cast in that regard, but making it more so would help.

    And stuff :p
    Great post, ...Threads. I agree with all you say, with the stipulation that any sexual or "going steady" kind of relationships may be hard to contain narratively. Because in a serialized format a thing that works is the potential of leaving stuff open. And an established amourous-relationship-sort-of-thing may take away from that potential.
    In the sense of lovebirds having to always be to answer for themselves for example:

    (lovebird 1) "Sorry honey, didn't mean to say such-and-such with you hearing it."
    (lovebird 2) "And that's supposed to make me feel better?"
    (lovebird 1) "Ehm. Can we discuss this later, when there's no monsters? Look out."
    (lovebird 2) "No you look out. Right now the biggest monster I'm seeing is you. And I got this gun."
    (lovebird 1) "I'm sorry Abe. Really didn't mean to..."
    (Abe) "Talk to the webbed hand, you cold-hearted stranger..." (etc.)

    Like take Scully and Mulder, why did it take up to season 7 to have them get 'involved'? I'd say because not establishing certain stuff will have potential. As if to say they could have been involved already but just less establishedly amourously, less definitively or finitely more rather.

    Plus stories need to tell themselves, with establishing stuff, but also with leaving some stuff open or potentially loomant. Whereas in movies amourous relationships are often used to describe those characters as getting involved in some kinda profound point in their lives - for the viewer to be witness to (why else would the movie start exactly the point when it does?).
    Like for filling in things quickly, or either to be able to say the ending is happy when they 'get eachother', which amounts to the same thing.

    Plus in serialized stuff, if one couple emerges, then why not others? What would be wrong with them? Or what if characters might become to look skanky or easy or worse: hard?! Or worser: cudldy middle-of-the-road??!! Who would want that?

    Same might apply for really ethnicity-driven or social-awareness-laden character traits: on the one hand they'll seem useful narratively, or just plain strong and meaningful, but at the same time they'll be to appear quite hairy easily.

    Why did that character not work harder? Because of skincolor! (Racism! Racism!)
    Why did that person fall victim or become a vampire or why don't he/she ever take the lead? Racism! Racism!

    I'd say that Hellboy & the B.P.R.D. contain lots of potentially meaningful inter-connecting stuff. Be it ethnically or socially and amourously also. Especially the more you'd have read of it. Hellboy's first love is established, Liz's relationship to Hellboy is pretty established. All kinds of stuff.
    But I'd say care will have gone into not being to alienate any type of reader as much as possible by or on anything. So if some stuff might appear to be vague or indistinct, then chances are such would be deliberate.
    And delicate hintings might be intentional as well, but then they will be deliberately kept delicate none-the-less. If you take my meaning.

    Like for stories stuff doesn't need to be binary - like only 'yes or no' - the maybe's count too.

    Like a non-linear computer game, in which anything can happen, but only certain stuff does when you play it.
    Last edited by Kees_L; 05-11-2012 at 03:51 PM.
    Been called a 'good egg'. Been told to rock, been told to steady myself. Been told to (please) be goin' places.
    Chillingly good stuff besides Mignola, Slint, M, Knut and really big chunks of tinfoil?
    Half sunk in the mud, with one eye showing / a cracked smile and hair still growing /
    your hands miles apart, as if they'd never met / you were the happiest I'd seen you yet
    . ~
    (full) lyrics to 'Exhume' by Bedhead.

  10. #10
    Senior Member UnravThreads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kees_L View Post
    And delicate hintings might be intentional as well, but then they will be deliberately kept delicate none-the-less. If you take my meaning.
    Yeah, I think I get what you mean there and it sums it up pretty well.

  11. #11

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    This is an interesting thread. I found myself thinking a bit about it last night and then again this morning. If one would put Hellboy in a similar category to superhero comics, we've got numerous examples of beings with superpowers involved with mere mortals (Superman & Lois Lane, Wonder Woman & Steve Trevor, Spider-Man & Mary Jane) but then others - perhaps more in the anti-hero vein - who have uneasy romantic relationships, and these are handled more gingerly (and sometimes problematically) in the comics (Batman & Talia al Ghul (and pretty much any romantic interest for The Dark Knight), The Punisher & Kathryn O'Brien). It's a complex issue when mythic characters are shown to be in romantic relationships because it humanizes them to perhaps an uncomfortable degree. Readers seem to want to identify with characters (cool powers! fighting evil! being a hero!) but the characters also provide an escape from daily reality (sometimes I'd rather be facing a Lovecraftian horror from beyond space than a stack of papers to be graded and bills to be paid), and introducing that romantic element might boomerang the reader into an uncomfortable space. I think that keeping romantic aspects under the surface of the narrative (suggested rather than completely realized on the page) can broaden the appeal for an audience.

    As far as Hellboy and BPRD go, as a reader sometimes I want these lonely, conflicted individuals to find a little solace in romance/love - just because they go through so much crap - but then I also realize that introducing that romantic element can increase the tragic dimensions of the character (if they love and then lose or are lost). What is platonic for one character might be romantic for another, and that introduces good ol' dramatic tension.

  12. #12
    BLOOD OF THE MACHINE Mechano's Avatar
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    i'm all for an exploration of abe and liz's relationship... it does seem to be more than platonic at times. mind you, i don't want to see them dating or anything, it would just be interesting to see a romantic/sexual relationship explored. what needs does a fish-man have that normal men do not? what attracts a woman to a fish-man?

  13. #13
    Hell Notes Historian Middenway's Avatar
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    While romance is hardly the focus of the comic, it has drifted in from time to time. When Abe was human he had a wife, Johann was interested in a dead man's wife, Hellboy has had a relationship with Anastasia... and there are other examples too (which I won't mention to avoid spoiling UnravThreads). So far they've always been male-female relationships. By no means does it have to be a focus of the story, it could be as simple as having Agent Vaughn mentioning he's worried about his boyfriend. Just so far, whenever a romantic relationship is mentioned, it always implied that it's straight. I think In the Chapel of Moloch is the only exception so far.

  14. #14
    Senior Member UnravThreads's Avatar
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    That's a point I tried to make, Middenway. I have little against that, but like you, I'd like to see just *one* allusion to a gay character - possibly why I'm harping on about the events of War on Frogs #3 and the exploration of Ash.

  15. #15
    Chortle! Thomas Uk's Avatar
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    I like how subtle the relationships are in the BPRD comics and as others have said up for interpretation. I
    always thought there was some interesting chemistry between Kate and Johann, especially in the events
    of 'killing ground', lots of subtle moody bits in there to do with how each of them saw their relationship
    as collegues changing due to Johann's change in circumstance. In thats story so much gets said without words!

    I've always respected the BPRD continuity for not incessantly marrying characters off to each other like a mainstream superhero book would, in particular the decision to keep Hellboy an isolated, fairly melancholy character. Liz too benefits from being a strong independent woman who isn't defined by her relationship to a man like so many other female characters in comics. I'd worry that if a romance were attempted in the BPRD it would detract from the more introspective mood of the characters like Liz, Johann and Abe. Who knows with the emerging role of the 'human' agents andother new characters like Fenix, an end-of-the-world romance is on the cards in the future?

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