Mike Mignola and Lemony Snicket Create Reimagined, Gothic ‘Pinocchio’ (EXCLUSIVE)

A new, hot literary collab just dropped: Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and Lemony Snicket from “A Series of Unfortunate Events” fame are partnering up for an illustrated and annotated edition of Carlo Collodi’s classic novel “Pinocchio.” Variety has the first look of the little wooden boy, reimagined by Mignola.

Teaming back up with award-winning colorist Dave Stewart, Mignola returned to his gothic roots for a reimagining of the centuries-old story that will be published by Beehive Books. But despite the wooden boy’s recent, Oscar-winning popularity, Pinocchio has always influenced Mignola’s oeuvre.

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“This is a book I’ve loved since I read it when I was a young teenager,” Mignola told Variety. “I really think between this and Dracula, this is what’s formed whatever the hell it is I do, my sensibilities.” When first approached by Beehive Books to contribute to their collection of reworked literary classics, Mignola was hesitant, unsure of what he could bring to this translation, “I got spooked because it’s been so well-illustrated over the years.”

The lure of Pinocchio eventually proved too much and Mignola returned to the idea, drawn in by the creature’s simplicity. “He’s just basically stupid,” Mignola said. “He means well, but he fucks up endlessly. And there’s a charm to that, that wanting to not be a fuck-up. It’s that thing of having to make a million mistakes in order to go, ‘Oh, okay, now I get it. I burned my own feet off, the blue fairy died because I was an asshole, and I’m starting to see a pattern to this. Maybe if I start not being that guy, I can sort things out.'”

Beehive Books is known for reworking hallowed staples through the eyes of various artists (Neil Gaiman’s cover artist Dave McKean took on “Crime and Punishment”, “Elektra” artist Bill Sienkiewicz’s take on H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Doctor Moreau” is particularly stunning) alongside original essays from illustrious filmmakers and creators, including Guillermo Del Toro and Darren Aronofsky.

The other half to this “Pinoccho” creation is author Snickett. He provided over 100 annotations for the project ,which will be presented as slipped-in typewritten sheets, tucked into the hardcover work. Unsurprisingly, the author shares Mignola’s fascination with the subject.

“‘Pinocchio’ is a book of expressly peculiar power, a phrase which here means that everyone who has read ‘Pinocchio’ all the way through and spent some time thinking about it, has become a raving lunatic,” reads one of Snicket’s annotations. And truly the annotations, which run as short as “wigs itch” to much longer (and endlessly charming) tangents about the meaning of life, provide a fascinating partner to Mignola’s world.

So what does Mignola’s “Pinocchio” conjure? “It’s a gothic, almost Victorian-looking thing,” the artist said. “That’s the kind of environment I was drawing, the kinds of buildings. I’d been drawing Hellboy and hell, which was made up of these cobbled-together buildings, and I was really enjoying drawing that kind of architecture. I thought, ‘Well, Pinocchio takes place in such a strange world. Why not have it take place in my world?'”

The puppet itself also proved to be a challenge for Mignola: “That was tough. Because again, there’s an illustrated edition of ‘Pinocchio’ that is almost a graphic novel. To me, because that’s a version I read a long time ago, it’s what Pinocchio is supposed to look like. The hardest thing was saying, ‘Well, okay, I can’t just copy that one. I got to come up with my own.'”

“My Pinocchio is a bit more primitive,” he adds. “He’s a bit more simple, [with] limited facial expression, and that was a challenge. Just to come up with something that would read with some character, but still have this, ‘Oh, he’s just a block of wood,’ kind of a feel. I didn’t want him too animated. I wanted this odd clunkiness of a primitively carved piece of wood, or simply carved piece of wood.”

To find out more information about “Pinocchio,” head over to the project’s Kickstarter page, which is currently crowdfunding the project. And if you want to see these new works in the flesh, New York’s Society of Illustrators is hosting an exhibit of Mignola’s full portfolio, which will be open to the public from March 22 to July 8.

Also in the hopper for Mignola, a new Hellboy film, “Hellboy: The Crooked Man.” After a disappointing re-launch with “Stranger Things” actor David Harbour, it’s back to the drawing board with a brand new anti-hero, Jack Kesy.

“I’ve never met him [Kesy],” Mignola revealed. “I’ve only seen pictures, and I’ve seen him a little bit in films. He certainly has the look. Everybody who has worked with him says he’s fantastic. This thing’s being done very fast, so I think the fact that he’s great and he’s available, that’s me being a little bit of smart-ass about it, but I just have to trust that everybody is right.”

The creator has also yet to see Kesy in the full makeup but emphasizes that he trusts director Brian Taylor’s vision, “His intention is to make a horror movie, so that’ll be nice. That’ll be interesting.” Based off his comic “The Crooked Man,” Mignola co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Golden and director Taylor also did his own “spin” on their work. And while the drafts have varied with each iteration, the R-rating has stayed the same. “I read the new draft of the screenplay yesterday, and yes, it is definitely R. It’s the first Hellboy script that I read and I went, ‘Oh, it’s a horror movie,’ which is what I wanted. Taylor does not have a reputation as a horror movie director. But, so far, we’ve had two horror movie directors make Hellboy movies and we’ve never gotten a horror movie.”

“For years, we’ve been saying, if you’re going to make a Hellboy movie, make it small. And the perfect story to do that with is my personal favorite, ‘The Crooked Man.’ I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written. It’s beautifully illustrated by Richard Corben, and it’s a solid story that doesn’t involve a million different characters. Everybody actually agreed from the very beginning, ‘Yes, we want to do that one.’ Budget-wise, it’s good because it’s a lower budget kind of a story. It’s not the Hellboy origin. It’s not Hellboy saving the world. It’s not huge. It’s a subtle, dark, little folk horror story.”

Despite the previous film’s problems, Mignola did enjoy the last iteration of Big Red. “Harbour certainly did not get a fair shake because I thought he was terrific. I thought there was a lot of stuff wrong with that movie, but Harbour was in no way one of the things that was wrong.”

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