It’s a bit of a truism in comic book circles that nobody ever really stays dead. Of course, that typically refers to superhero comics, and ‘Hellboy’ has never exactly fit that mold. But despite the title character’s demise back in 2011 and creator Mike Mignola’s brief hiatus from comics work, Hellboy is poised to make his return in the pages of ‘BPRD: The Devil You Know’ this summer, following the discovery of a coffin containing his apparently awakening body.

But lest you think this is all a stunt to drum up hype for the character’s upcoming live-action film (and who could blame you, given the shameless tie-ins that permeate comics from Marvel and DC alike?), Mignola will happily disabuse you of that notion. The timing is what it is, but as Mignola explains in a conversation with Entertainment Weekly, the seeds of this story were planted long ago, even before Hellboy’s death.

In the 2010 storyline ‘BPRD: King of Fear’, Liz Sherman saw a vision of an apocalyptic future. Several elements of that vision – most notably the mutation of Abe Sapien – have since come to pass, and Hellboy’s return (combined with his presence in that vision) gives the proceedings an ominous air, to say the least. Adds Mignola:

“We put it in there that somewhere in the future Hellboy would be back. But nobody picked up on it, which is great because we wanted a tease where people would just wonder, “does that mean something?” As we wrap this up, we wanted to make sure that anything we teased, we’re paying off. Especially these funny little teases that seemed not to mean anything at the time – well, maybe they did mean something! Between (Dark Horse Comics editor) Scott Allie and I, we’ve been orchestrating this thing for a long time.”

And that’s not the only foreshadowing. Though Mignola ended ‘Hellboy in Hell’ (a ten issue series that picked up with Hellboy’s arrival in Hell following his death) on what he describes as a “nice quiet “oh now you’re in retirement” note,” he points out that it was designed as more of a respite than the ending it may have appeared to be. Pointing to the first pages of the first issue of ‘Hellboy in Hell’, Mignola reminds readers that the story presents a list of tasks that Hellboy still has to complete and that “He does some of them by the end of ‘Hellboy in Hell’, but if you do the math there’s one or two things he still didn’t do.”

Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on Hellboy’s comic book and cinematic futures as it becomes available.

Hellboy returns in ‘BPRD: The Devil You Know #6’, on sale May 9, 2018.