Hellboy Story Structure
The need to know. The desire to have answers for your questions. That is at the heart of every mystery and Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is no different.
What makes Seed of Destruction and the entire Hellboy property unique is instead of a typical human sleuth as the protagonist, it is a demon. And with a demon as your protagonist, one who doesn’t know where he came from or why he’s on Earth but the answer has something to do with the apocalypse, the desire to have his questions answered is even greater (or graver) than normal.
Spoiler Warning! Below is the plot structure of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction using Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet as the basis for the breakdown (see my review of Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat, an excellent storytelling resource). For an explanation of each “beat” please refer to Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet. Thanks!
PREMISE: Hellboy: Seed of Destruction is a murder mystery about Hellboy, a paranormal investigator, who uncovers a plot to destroy the world when the man he calls “father” is murdered.
Opening Image: The ruins of a church. In a few pages, this will be the site of Hellboy’s mysterious “birth”. The rest of the story will center on what goes on here — the mystery and importance of Hellboy’s origin.
Set Up: It’s World War II and something is supposed to happen at this church, but what? U.S. army officials and British paranormal experts (including Trevor Bruttenholm — the man Hellboy will come to call “father”) wait to find out. Meanwhile, at a different site, Nazis watch a sorcerer and his clan perform a séance with evil spirits. The sorcerer’s work brings Hellboy to life at the church ruins. The paranormal experts don’t know where he came from or why he has a huge right hand…
Theme Stated: …and fifty years later, they still don’t know. Hellboy is now a grown “man” and Trevor is feeling old; he is forgetting things. He has forgotten something important, something he needs to tell Hellboy. (The desire to know information will affect each character in this story, especially Hellboy.)
Catalyst: Trevor tells Hellboy about an expedition he led with three brothers (last name: Cavendish). They found what they had set out to find (ancient ruins) but something dangerous was there. Everyone on the expedition was killed but Trevor doesn’t remember how he survived. At that moment, Trevor and Hellboy are attacked by a giant frog monster (who saw that coming?). Trevor is killed and Hellboy has to figure out why.
Debate: Who would want Trevor and the others on the expedition dead? Chapter one ends hinting at the answer: an old woman sits in a dark mansion, holding a frog, with a figure standing in the shadows behind her. He says his plan is underway and it will be over soon.
Choosing Act Two: Chapter two begins with Hellboy and his team of paranormal investigators on the trail of the murderer. They stop at the house of the three brothers who were killed in the expedition: a deteriorating mansion named Cavendish Hall.
B-Story: The old woman from the end of chapter one answers the door and invites them in. They ask her questions regarding the case. She explains that the three brothers, her sons, came from a long line of Cavendish men, beginning with Elihu Clavendish (a whaler — his harpoon will come into play later), all of whom were obsessed with finding the ruins and learning of its importance. The obsession has killed them all (Theme: the desire to know information can lead to death).
Fun n’ Games (Promise of the Premise): Hellboy and his teammates (Liz, a young woman with pyrotechnic abilities and Abe, a fish-man) are given rooms for the night. Liz is given her own room and Abe decides to snoop in the waters that surround the old house on his own. Once they are all separated, the attacks start. Liz is kidnapped by the giant frogs and Hellboy finds the old woman dead (she was working with the figure in the shadows to have her sons returned to her which they were, as frog monsters and they killed her). Then, the figure in the shadows reveals his identity: the sorcerer. He says he is Hellboy’s “true father” and together they are meant to unmake the world. By joining the sorcerer, Hellboy will learn who he is, why he is and what his huge right hand is all about. But if not, he will die. To emphasize the point, Hellboy is dragged under the floor of the house by a giant tentacle. The chapter ends with him falling into darkness.
Mid-point: Chapter three begins as Hellboy lands underneath the Cavendish house before a giant tentacle creature and the sorcerer. The sorcerer reiterates that he gave birth to Hellboy in order to be his right hand man during the apocalypse. But Hellboy refuses this role. Not pleased, the sorcerer uses the strength of his best frog monster to force Hellboy into submission.
Bad Guys Close In: As Abe continues exploring the Cavendish house and falls into a dark hole, Hellboy is beaten to a pulp and the sorcerer “monologues” (as Brad Bird refers to it in The Incredibles). He reveals his name (Rasputin), his backstory — a long but clear journey through the early 1900’s bringing him to murder Trevor to get to Hellboy — and his goals: to utilize Hellboy to unchain the seven great powers of evil and unmake existence.
All is Lost (& Whiff of Death): Rasputin gives Hellboy one last chance to join forces and know the answers to his personal mysteries but Hellboy refuses. Rasputin decides to use Liz instead and orders the frog monster to kill Hellboy while Abe lands at the bottom of the hole and meets a ghost: Elihu Cavendish (holding a harpoon). Is this the end of them and us all?
Dark Night of the Soul: Chapter four. Rasputin uses Liz, caught in a trance, and the tentacle creature to call upon the evil spirits while the frog monster drains Hellboy’s life from his body and Abe is nowhere to be seen.
Choosing Act Three: Hellboy uses all his remaining strength to pull a grenade from his belt and destroy the frog monster. Boom!
Finale: Rasputin is about to conclude his séance with the seven great powers of evil but Abe (acting under Elihu’s trance) stabs Rasputin with a harpoon. Liz wakes from her trance, causing Rasputin and the tentacle creature to burst into flames. The house caves in. Abe and Liz run but Hellboy lingers; there’s something he still needs to do. Rasputin, now a flaming skeleton, comes back to life to say that if he dies Hellboy will never know the truth about himself. Hellboy chooses to not know (Theme) and “kills” Rasputin (“kills” is in quotes because Rasputin vows to return).
Final Image: Outside the house, there is a quick wrap up. Abe doesn’t remember anything, neither does Liz. Only Hellboy is haunted by Rasputin’s final words, vowing to return. Meanwhile, Rasputin’s clan, frozen in a cryogenic chamber begin to thaw.