Sunday 30 November 2008

Hellboy Reading Order (including BPRD)

As a big fan of Hellboy (and the excellent spin-off, BPRD) I thought it might be helpful to put together a complete reading order for the entire series.

Those who have read the first three trade-paperback collections might have noticed that the published order isn't the order you should actually read the stories in. Very confusing for first time readers!

Of course a reading order can be tricky to judge because it's perfectly usual for Hellboy's timeline to jump around the place and without any serious knock-on effect to any other story.

With this in mind I only mark stories in RED that require you to read them in order. Stories in BLACK are related to the stories in red, but can be read at any time. The other stories (those in GREY) can be read at absolutely any time and are completely stand-alone.

So if you want to mix it around, you can now make your own decisions as to what to read next.

How to use this reading order:
Just start at the top and work your way down. Pretty simple! The order is my own personal recommendation (grouped by the trade paperbacks you need to own in order to read the story), but the Red/Black/Grey system means you can mix it up however you please, so long as you read the RED stories in order.

Note: The years the stories are set are included for the sake of interest only. (I just liked seeing them :)



Hellboy #1: Seed of Destruction
1993: Untitled promo story (originally published in San Diego Comic Con Comics #2)
1994: Seed of Destruction
1994: Untitled promo story (originally published in The Comic Buyer's Guide #1070)

Please note: If you own Volumes 2 and 3, then you might want to read The Chained Coffin from Volume 3 before continuing with Volume 2. The reason for this is that Hellboy makes a passing reference to this story in Volume 2.

If you don't own Volume 3 (or 2) then it's perfectly fine to go straight ahead and read Volume 2 first. Reading The Chained Coffin before Volume 2 adds very little to the main story.

Hellboy #2: Wake the Devil
1996: Wake the Devil

Hellboy #3: The Chained Coffin and Others
1959: The Corpse
1961: The Iron Shoes
1989: A Christmas Underground
1994: The Wolves of Saint August
1995: The Chained Coffin
1964: The Baba Yaga
1996: Almost Colossus

Hellboy #4: The Right Hand of Doom
1947: Pancakes
1954: The Nature of the Beast
1956: King Vold
1967: Heads
1979: Goodbye, Mister Tod
1982: The Vârcolac
1998: The Right Hand of Doom
1999: Box Full of Evil

BPRD #1: Hollow Earth and Other Stories
1998: Abe Sapien: Drums of the Dead
1938: Lobster Johnson: The Killer in my Skull
1997: Abe Sapien vs Science

Hellboy #5: Conqueror Worm
2001: Conqueror Worm

BPRD #1: Hollow Earth and Other Stories
2002: BPRD: Hollow Earth

Hellboy #6: Strange Places
2002: The Third Wish

BPRD #2: The Soul of Venice & Other Stories
2003: The Soul of Venice
2003: Dark Waters
2003: Night Train
2003: There's Something Under My Bed
2004: Another Day at the Office

Hellboy #7: The Troll Witch and Others
1963: The Troll Witch
1958: The Penanggalan
1991: Dr. Carp's Experiment
1992: The Ghoul
1993: Makoma

BPRD #3: Plague of Frogs
2004: Plague of Frogs

BPRD #4: The Dead
2004: Born Again (Listed as "Prologue" to main story.)
2004: The Dead

BPRD #5: The Black Flame
2005: The Black Flame

Hellboy #6: Strange Places
2005: The Island (You can read this any time after The Third Wish, if you like, but it might retain more impact if you wait.)

BPRD #6: The Universal Machine

2006: The Universal Machine

Hellboy #8: Darkness Calls
2007: Darkness Calls

BPRD #7: Garden of Souls
2006: Garden of Souls

BPRD #8: Killing Ground
2007: Killing Ground

BPRD #9: 1946
1946: 1946
1939: Bishop Olek's Devil

Ape Sapien #1: The Drowning
1981: The Drowning

Lobster Johnson #1: The Iron Prometheus
1937: The Iron Prometheus

BPRD #10: The Warning
2008: The Warning

BPRD #11: The Black Goddess
2008: The Black Goddess

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder #1: In the Service of Angels
1879: In the Service of Angels
1879: Murderous Intent
1879: The Burial of Katharine Baker
Hellboy #9: The Wild Hunt
2009: The Wild Hunt

BPRD #12: War on Frogs
2006: War on Frogs
2008: Revival

BPRD #13: 1947
1947: 1947
194?: And What Shall I Find There

BPRD #14: King of Fear
2010: King of Fear

Hellboy #10: The Crooked Man and Other Stories
1958: The Crooked Man
1992: In the Chapel of Moloch
1986: They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships
2007: The Mole

Please let me know if you have any corrections and/or suggestions. Thanks!

Thanks to Shady on the Darkhorse forums for additional help.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for creating this list. I have a all of the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. trades with me (am on vacation) and am working my way through them for the first time. Reading them in the wrong order would've driven me mad.

MrSeanLane said...

Hello, this is Syntheticgerbil from the forums. I don't really have anything to add, even though I think this is a very good list. I've been stuck at the end of 2004 for Hellboy comics for about 3 years now. I made my own reading order similar to yours except with the prose novels in between according to publishing dates, which has really delayed things. Sooner or later I'll pick it back up and finish chronologically.

Johnny Walker said...

Hey Synthy! Nice of you to drop by! Only the first two prose novels are canon, I believe, and I don't think they add anything to the overall story do they?

L said...

Thank you, i was looking for something like this

Pedro Moura said...

Hey, thank you. I'm glad there's crazy guys like you to help other crazy but lazy guys like me. Will follow your list now!

Fabian Archive said...

pretty cool Alphabetti, i would love to have a list like this in The Archive. nice job, will you update it?

The Hellboy Archive at

Johnny Walker said...

Hi Fabian, thanks for your comment.

Not sure what you mean by, "will I update it?", because as far as I know it's completely up to date... Am I missing anything?

Fabian Archive said...

yeah, you´re right, I thought about the cross overs and novels. but this is starting the canon discussion again. i my view any story that fits into the timeline is "canon". you can find a very well researched explanation where all the short stories could fit

I wonder if you would like to contribute your lists to The Archive?


Johnny Walker said...

I'll see how the Archive progresses, I'm not planning on adding anything that isn't canon (despite what others may try to consider canon).


Fabian Archive said...

I posted your link at the link list, maybe you can this too on your site? thanx fabian

The Hellboy Archive

Fabian Archive said...

thanx for the offer Johnny, let me see how i will proceed, there are so many things i could integrate ;-), but i would love to have some sort of hellboyverse timeline in my canon understanding. i do not think that we have the same idea of "canon". you think its only mignola involvement, right? i think its everything that fits.

Anonymous said...

Im new to Hellboy comics and following your order, thanks!

A quick question, are the stories in Hellboy Wired Tales and Masks and Monsters not part of canon?

Johnny Walker said...

Hi Mike, no they are not considered canon.

Anonymous said...

1. BPRD Hollow Earth and other Tales
2. BPRD The Soul of Venice & Other Stories
3. BPRD Plague Of Frogs
4. BPRD The Dead
5. BPRD The Black Flame
6. BPRD The Universal Machine
7. BPRD Garden Of Souls
8. BPRD Killing Ground
9. BPRD 1946
9B. BPRD_-_The_Ectoplasmic_Man_OS
10. BPRD The Warning
11. BPRD The Black Goddess
12. BPRD The War on Frogs
13. BPRD 1947
14. BPRD King of Fear
15. BPRD Hell On Earth New World
16. BPRD Hell On Earth Gods

Andrew D said...

Thanks for this! Im ploughing through the hellboy collections and this has been a huge help!! thanks!

RagingR2 said...

I found this list just now, and thank you for creating it! Good work.

I was just wondering where did you get all the year numers? Are they always mentioned in every story?

I used your list to make an Excel sheet of it so I can fiddle around with the data a little, like sorting on different criteria, and being able to see easily which I do or do not yet own. If you´re interested let me know.

Anyway, thanks!
Gr. RagingR2

RagingR2 said...

Johnny, by the way I noticed you are missing 2 stories, "The Hydra and the Lion" and "The Vampire of Prague", both included in TPB #7, The Troll Witch and Others. The first one being originally published in The Dark Horse book of Monsters, and the other one specially written for that TPB.

Not that they are very essential (I think) to the reading order or to the overall story, but anyway I thought I'd mention it.

Greetings, RagingR2

Johnny Walker said...

Hi RagingR2, thanks for your comments.

A got the numbers from the stories, mostly. The only exception is the "present day" stuff, which I just got from their publication year. Maybe I should just write "present day" for those, though?

Also, great spot on the missing stories! Oops!

Anonymous said...

GREAT list!!! I'm new to Hellboy and it's a little daunting to get things organized.

When you say they're "not part of canon", what exactly do you mean by that.

Anonymous said...

This list is FANTASTIC. Thank you so much! Any chance on updates? Thanks!

Nick said...

I've been using your list for a couple months now, much thanks! Do you have any plans on an update?

Johnny Walker said...

I guess I should update this now! I'll hopefully get around to it soon!

Unknown said...

Great list. Thanks for it.
I'm curious about where you'd place the B.P.R.D. promotional piece from Dark Horse Extra 42-44, The Kabandha from The Hellboy Sourcebook and RPG, The Hydra and the Lion and The Vampire of Prague? I expect all of these would fit somewhere in the time you've covered.

Unknown said...

Oh, also How Koshchei Became Deathless and Baba Yaga's Feast.
Sorry ... I'm obsessing.

kamagra said...

The story was great, fantastic art, much love for Hellboy.

Mike Lonsdale said...

Love your timeline! Amazing work, but will you be updating with the new tpb's? Hellboy 11 and 12 and all the new bprd stuff?

Johnny Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

So, I have been reading solely Hellboy, I just finished vol. 4, am I going to have trouble if I continue reading just Hellboy?

Anonymous said...

Hi. YOur list is very useful. Thank millions times. But i have may be a full collection, and i notice that your list didnt have "Hell on Earth", "1948".. So it will be great if you can update your list? Anyway, Thank Again..

Spiritless creature said...

With the help of your list I have made a almost complete list with the dark horse links for easy access and purchase in their bundled forms!

if you could look at the comics that are unlisted so I can place them in the list properly that would be great!

Malice said...

Hi! Do you have to read the Hellboy comics in order to enjoy Abe Sapien? I'm not really all that interested in Hellboy as a character and central pivot, but I've got a love for the fish man! Thank you in advance <3

Chris Madden said...

Thank you, Johnny Walker. I'd been reading Hellboy (in tpb) for some time before I decided to explore BPRD. Now, what can I say? Mignola owns me.

It seems clear that you lost interest in the "Mignolaverse," or at least in updating your superb and (this is important) useful reading-order, sometime after 2010. Any chance you'd return to it one day? Hope you don't mind this umpteenth such request.

And, whether or no...
Thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks, Chris. You're correct that I lost interest (it was actually when he altered my favourite character, Roger, and then started retconning earlier events in the HB series), but it's possible I was overly harsh. I'd like to think the series has only gotten better since I left it, but I don't know.

Maybe one day I'll return to it and find out :)

Johnny Walker said...

Actually, where are you up to, out of interest?

Chris Madden said...

Now you've piqued my curiosity!

To answer your question first, I have now read Hellboy through #12, The Storm and the Fury. I could feel what was coming so I took my time getting that far, and I'm still working myself up for the plunge into Hellboy in Hell, where I know what's coming.

I've also now read BPRD through Plague of Frogs, Omnibus 1-4. I haven't loved everything (read: Daimio), but I have loved it as a whole (several times through). Unlike so many contemporary entertainments (meaning largely film, television and graphic novels) it has felt like an organic whole, growing and changing sometimes even perhaps beyond its creators' original intent. I plan to continue into Hell on Earth.

That's why your comment interests me. I think I can understand and perhaps guess at the changes you didn't like in Roger. But what sort of retconning did you find? It doesn't necessarily surprise me to have missed something (I miss stuff all the time), but I'm curious about what you saw.

Thanks so much for your response.

Chris Madden said...

While I'm at it I may as well ask a niggling question that's begun to bother me as I take your marvelous input and carve it into a reading-order for my daughter: Why does your list separate "Almost Colossus" from the rest of the stories in Hellboy #3, even to the point of repeating the trade title a second time? Just curious. Thanks

Johnny Walker said...

It's been so long that I can't recall where everything slots in, but it's interesting you know what I mean regarding Roger. I half suspected (hoped?) I'd made mistake in my reading. When I saw the change so much I could never quite forgive Mignola for doing that to me. (He made me care too much!)

With regards to what I saw as "retconning" it was the insertion of a twist to an early HB tale that clearly wasn't there in the original story. It's difficult to remember exactly, but I think it featured a hog. It was a tale from an early volume, that seemed simple enough, but then Mignola changed it so that another character was inhabiting a body or something, so the story had another layer that isn't there when you go back to read it.

I just found it a bit disingenuous, as it wasn't something hidden, waiting to be discovered, it was something that felt fudged.

It's difficult to remember the details precisely, but as you're more familiar with them at the moment, you might be able to tell me what I'm referring to and if it bothered you as it did me.

As for "Amost Colossus", thanks for pointing that out to me. I am 99% certain that was a mistake left over from an earlier version of this list where I placed "The Chained Coffin" before "Wake the Devil", but it seemed very silly to recommend that people get their hands on Vol 3 before Vol 2 for that one minor reference, so I eventually changed it and added the note that's there now.

It's funny, trying to remember all these details is just reminding me why I loved the series to begin with. Such a cool world and atmosphere (although I didn't enjoy everything either). Makes me want to dive back in :)

If you have some further information to help expand this list past where it currently stops, I'd be very grateful. Thanks!

Chris Madden said...

I may indeed have information to help with the list. I just need to make sure I haven't rearranged everything into some new twisted order of my own. If I decide it's any good, how would you like to review it? Posting it all in a comment here seems cumbrous, but I understand you might be reluctant to share an e-mail address. Any ideas?

As to Roger and retconning, let me take another look back myself. I encourage you to do the same. It is a marvelous universe. He's a remarkably patient writer who's waited ages at times before paying off a crumb dropped a decade or more earlier.

This is fun. Talk to you soon.

Johnny Walker said...

Hi Chris, you can email me at Looking forward to it. Thanks.