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Over the years, fungus creatures of one kind of another have shown up in lots of comic books. There was a mushroom person in the Green Lantern Corps, and Swamp Thing once featured a fungus-themed villain who was even named “Matango.” But few comic creators have utilized the tropes of fungal horror as extensively as Mike Mignola does in his Hellboy, B.P.R.D., and Baltimore series.

Mignola has always proudly displayed his influences for all to see, and he’s talked about his enthusiasm for William Hope Hodgson more than once over the years. The Hellboy collection Strange Places is dedicated in part to Hodgson, and in the author’s notes for one of the stories in it Mignola says that it was intended to be “inspired by the Sargasso Sea stories of William Hope Hodgson,” featuring “a graveyard of ships and a strange island overrun with weird fungus and monsters.” The graveyard of ships and the strange island made it into the final version of the Hellboy story The Island, but as Mignola continues in that same author’s note, “I had to scrap the fungus people (though I dearly love fungus people).” Fortunately for those of us who’re fans of both fungal monsters and Mignola’s work he did draw at least a few pages of them, which can be found in the back matter of Strange Places.

The influence of Hodgson’s Sargasso Sea stories on Mignola’s comic universe didn’t end with The Island, though. In The Plague Ships, the first volume of the comic series that spun off from Mignola and Christopher Golden’s novel collaboration Baltimore, the titular Lord Baltimore and his companion find themselves amid a familiar graveyard of ships, on a strange island, and this time corpses animated by a strange fungus do make their way into the final story.

Even if the fungus people had made their debut in The Island, though, they wouldn’t have been the first time that Mignola worked fungus into his universe. He beat himself to the punch roughly a year earlier with the opening of his Plague of Frogs storyline in B.P.R.D. The story opened with a fungus discovered on the grave of one of the Ogdru-Hem (Mignola’s answer to Lovecraft’s unpronounceable Old Ones). A fungus that grew to monstrous size and then spread the titular plague, transforming its first host into a towering, Elephant Man-like fungus person.

More recently, fungal horror has shown up again in the pages of the B.P.R.D., this time meeting vampires in the pages of The Pickens County Horror, co-written by Mignola and Scott Allie. And given the way things have been building up, in both B.P.R.D. and the Baltimore universes, I have a feeling that we’ve only seen the tip of the fungal iceberg so far.
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Categories: Fungi

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