I just finished the BPRD collection Reign of the Black Flame (cover by Mike Mignola, all rights with current holder; I’ll get to the review this weekend), and I’ve added it to the Hellboy Chronology. And I’m not entirely satisfied.
Basically I have everything since The Devil’s Engine happening in 2010, which is about six volumes worth of BPRD (plus the Abe Sapiens and Hellboy in Hell material, which are on separate story arcs). I’ve been doing this because there’s very little time (or so I assume) between adventures, but I’m wondering, have I neglected the amount of time each adventure takes? The Wasteland, for example, probably takes several days, ditto Devon and Fenix’s journey in The Devil’s Engine.
Then again, even if we assume each adventure takes a week, that would be six to eight weeks (for volumes with more than one story) out of a year. So not that crazy. At some point I’ll have to sit down and look at them again, though it won’t be immediate.
Another problem is simply aesthetic. The Devil’s Engine came out in 2012. It’s now 2015. In three years they’ve advanced what, seven or eight months? While it’s true the BPRD’s Hell on Earth world has deviated wildly from ours, so it’s not like they’re tracking current events (if they were, that might actually give me more data to work with), I can’t shake the feeling that comics published in 2015 should be happening in 2015.
However I can’t see any way to pull that off. Even if I stretch out the adventures some, I can’t see them happening beyond 2011. There just doesn’t seem to be enough open time between stories for that. I can stretch things out if I assume a bigger lag of time than the two years I have between King of Fear and New World, but I think that’s a strain.
This is a common comics problem, actually, or has been ever since multi-issue stories became standard. Avengers #106 to 108 (cover by Rich Buckler, all rights to current holder) take three months of publication but the entire story happens in a single night. #105 takes place the day or two days before 106. The following issue, #109, balances things out by taking place over several weeks, but I’ve seen story arcs that ran much longer with no space to breathe in between.
But DC and Marvel books don’t take place in real time, exactly. Pre-New 52 and Pre-Battleworld (the current big Marvel reboot event), the standard was that the current heroic age started (with Superman’s debut and the FF’s first appearance) somewhere between 10 and 15 years ago, all references to current events in stories not withstanding. The Hellboy world, on the other hand, is anchored in real time. Hellboy’s been around since WW II, and that’s not changing (this makes me wonder how old Kate and Liz are getting, but there’s enough magic floating around to fudge that if Mignola wants). So to have it lag 15 years behind ours just feels wrong.
But for the moment, it’s the best I can do.