Title: B.P.R.D. 1947
Writer: Mike Mignola, Joshua Dysart
Pencils: Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba
Colors: Dave Stewart
In the 60s and 70s, when the megalomaniacs at the Comic Code Authority loosened their reins, there was a sudden resurgence of genre comics, everything from westerns, to romance, to space operas. After the light-heartedness of the Silver Age ended, comics were grittier, darker, and more violent. Two more genres gained popularity, war stories and supernatural horror stories. The next logical step was to combine the two, and that’s how the world gained comics like Weird War Tales, where in one issue soldiers in a tank stumble into a prehistoric land and have to evade a T-Rex while saving a nubile cavewoman.
Mike Mignola must have been a reader of Weird War Tales and others like it. It shows in B.P.R.D. 1947. In this spin-off of the B.P.R.D. franchise, Professor Bruttenholm, affectionately known as Prof. Broom, sees it fit to investigate a mansion in Europe that has gone to ruin. Unable to go himself, he selects 4 WWII vets to go in his place. Each one is a misfit, for whatever reason unfit to return to civilian life. On the eve of their mission, while the others are drinking themselves silly, one of the members decides to do some research at a library, where he meets a helpful librarian who, like every nerd’s fantasy come to life, turns out to be a beautiful woman there to seduce him. She then leads him to her home–the mansion! The mansion though is far from a ruinous heap. He sees it at its peak, as he’s transported into a gorgeous ball right out of the baroque period. Little does he know, the woman is a vampire, and the other guests aren’t so innocent either.
The following day, the other three members go on with their mission, and find the mansion is as Prof. Broom said it would be, a half-crumbled building, ominous and foreboding, containing a great many secrets. The graphic novel then follows the horrifying ordeals that both the men in the present and the man in the past face in this gothic nightmare.
Writer Mike Mignola has had one of the most consistent careers in all of comics. I can’t think of a single writer with a more solid ouevre. His early work with Hellboy was good, as is his recent work with Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Witchfinder, Lobster Johnson and so on. That being said, it’s hard to single out a book by him and tell people to go read it. Where to begin? I wish I could just tell people to read everything from Hellboy #1 to the present, but people are too lazy to do that. Finally, with B.P.R.D. 1947, I have a book to single out.
It’s weird that I like B.P.R.D. 1947 so much. The characters I love from the Mignolaverse are largely absent. Hellboy, a mere toddler in 1947, plays a peripheral role, and even Professor Broom doesn’t figure into it all that much. Instead the book focuses on the 4 soldiers. In a way, their terrifying adventures works as a sort of metaphor for the hardships soldiers went through after the war. The 4 soldiers have to contend with the undead–wouldn’t that be a bit like being haunted by memories? B.P.R.D. 1947 is as effective as it is chilling.
Added bonus: the penciling is by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, the magnificent sibling team that brought us Daytripper. Mike Mignola, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba… If you think it can’t get better, then throw in Dave Stewart’s fantastic coloring work and you have a graphic novel that’s worth buying for the art alone. That it has a great story makes B.P.R.D. 1947 one of the best single graphic novels out there.
Oh yeah, and the list price is just $17.99, and Amazon’s currently got it on sale for $13.13!
—-If you’re looking for a prose book to read, please check out my book The Madness of Art: Short Stories available on Amazon in paperback and as an ebook.
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If you read B.P.R.D. 1947, what was your opinion of it?