For anyone who’s read all of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and is craving for more of that pulpy goodness, Hillbilly will make for some fine reading. Hellboy is one of the greatest comic book characters of all time – a blue collar, beer slinging dude with a mean right hook – who also happens to be the son of the Devil. The series is known for a mixture of pulp adventure, folklore, and Lovecraftian horror. This unique blend gave the series a special feeling that’s rarely been recreated outside of Mike Mignolla’s horned hero. Eric Powell’s Hillbilly series captures that same kind of magic and the feeling of pulpy, folklore infused horror.
The Eisner Award-winning writer/artist Powell is best known for his series The Goon. Once optioned as an animated film by Deadpool director Tim Miller, the series follows its hardened criminal title character as he fights all manner of threats to Lonely Street including gangsters, zombies, and interdimensional chickens. Powell followed the critically acclaimed series with a move to self-publishing under his Albatross Funnybooks banner, where Hillbilly was born.
The Appalachian-born Powell created Hillbilly as an epic fantasy series rooted in the folklore of his homeland. Stretching from up from Northern Georgia to Southern New York State, Appalachia covers a fairly wide region of the Eastern part of the United States. States like Kentucky, West Virgina, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia making up a large part of that area. Rondel, the series title-character, is a wandering tramp who battles the various witches, demons, and spirits that plague the mountains. Born eyeless, as a child Rondell is given the gift of sight by a witch, but it comes at a steep price, as he loses his mother in the process. Taking up the Devil’s Cleaver – a powerful weapon that destroys anything evil it touches – Rondel vows to battle witches for the rest of his days. And he’s not alone, as he’s aided by a giant talking bear named Lucille.
Rondel and Hellboy would probably get along great. They’re both laid-back dudes who happen to be pretty exceptional at killing things that go bump in the night. The atmosphere in Hillbilly is unlike anything else in a comic book. Rather than the castles of most fantasy, Hillbilly features rustic little villages more akin to towns seen in Westerns. Characters drink moonshine and chew tabacco. Like Hellboy, many of Rondel’s best stories are short, self-contained adventures. In his travels, he’ll encounter someone who needs help and spring into action. Sometimes he battles creatures like the livestock eating Tailypo. Other times fights against curses like the The Fiddle That Screamed For Blood (for those of you who’ve never set foot in the south, a fiddle is just a twangier name for a violin).
Hillbilly is an ass-kicking adventure through the Appalachian Mountains that fans of Hellboy are sure to love. It’s a shame the series isn’t more well-known. It’s got breathtaking artwork and a world and hero like no other. Rondel is a something special; a polite, folksy, and badass character and a refreshing change of pace from the stereotypical meth-addled racists that Appalachians and Southerners are usually portrayed as.