Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Others is the tenth collected edition of Mike Mignola's comic book series Hellboy, collecting Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1-3, Hellboy: In the Chapel of Moloch, Hellboy: They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships and the story "The Mole" from "Free Comic Book Day 2008: Hellboy." The collected edition features an introduction by Gahan Wilson. As with Hellboy stories generally, it was published by Dark Horse Comics.
The Crooked Man, scripted by Mignola with art by Richard Corben, was first published from July 2008 through September 2008 as issues 1-3 of an eponymous limited series. The issues were numbered 33 through 35 of the overarching Hellboy series.
Wandering in the Appalachian mountains in 1958 (after "finishing up some stuff down South"), Hellboy encounters Tom Ferrell, a native of the region returning for the first time in decades to atone for his youthful initiation as a witch. Ferrell has never practiced magic but carries a "witch-bone" which has gotten him safely through his travels. They befriend Cora Fisher, a witch driven to magic by personal tragedy, and encounter Effie Kolb, the youthful-appearing witch who first initiated Tom, and who brings Tom his dying father who she has ridden to death transformed into a horse by a magic bridle. Tom resolves to take the corpse of his father to a church up in "The Hurricaine," a part of the mountain dominated by "The Crooked Man," an eighteenth-century miser and war profiteer named Jeremiah Witkins hanged for his crimes but then sent back from Hell to be the region's own version of the Devil. Tom invites along Hellboy and also Cora whose soul he hopes to save from the Crooked Man - "It's too late for me. He's gonna have me -- but if I can do right by her and my pa -- I guess I will a done somethin."
Tom and Hellboy discuss the burden Hellboy is carrying that must be many times worse than Tom's but which he hasn't started to feel yet. They try to take Cora through a region of coal mines but since a 1902 collapse the mines had been infested with deformed cannibal witches descended from the Roanoke colony. Cora can hear the witches calling her. Tom tells Cora they're safe while it's daylight but in the Hurricane they're "on the devil's time" and night falls immediately. Cora explodes into a shower of small demonic animals from whom Tom and Hellboy are only saved by Tom's first use of his witch-bone. They arrive at the church to find Cora's ghost waiting for them, and the church's pastor, blind Reverend Watts, who tries to persuade Tom that whatever he's done he can still be saved. Effie and the region's witches surround the church grounds which they cannot enter, calling to Ferrell to join them. The Crooked Man arrives.
There is a brief interlude how-to page where a witch named Grammy Oakum and her cat familiar instruct the reader on how to create witchball projectiles for cursing enemies and in the process damning oneself to Hell.
Back at the church Witkins calls in demanding Tom pay him his debt. Reverend Watts confronts Witkins and is tempted with piles of gold for rebuilding his church, and with the return of his youth and his sight. Witkins sends the coffins of the graveyard's more evil residents hurtling into the church, some of them young women restored to beauty to torment Watts further. Watts prays, successfully, to be made old and blind again. The Crooked Man reminds Hellboy of his demonic origins: "Be a sport, reach over there and snap Tom's neck for me. Fetch me that lucky bone of his, and come on outta there. We'll have a good ol time!" Learning that the bone is what Witkins is after, Watts takes Tom's hand containing the bone and squeezes the holy spirit into it - they burn a cross onto the blade of a shovel and give it to Hellboy ("That fella's got a hard road ahead of him, and no end of trouble ... let him get some licks in while he can.") who dispatches Witkins with it. The witches go fleeing, and in the morning with Tom's father buried in the churchyard, Tom and Hellboy go up to Wikins' mansion to finish him off. Witkins sits clutching the souls of his victims which appear as gold coins in jars - Tom tosses him his witchbone which sends him and perhaps his victims' souls to Hell. They find Effie who is a very old woman and put her bridle on her, turning her into a horse on whose side they paint the words "BEWARE! I AM A WITCH!"
"They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships", written by Mignola and Josh Dysart with art by Jason Shawn Alexander, was published by Dark Horse in 2007 for limited free distribution to promote Konami's Hellboy: The Science of Evil video game. The story pits Hellboy and Abe Sapien against the ghost of the pirate Blackbeard. The title is from Psalm 107: "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters/These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep."
Newburyport, Massachusetts, 1986 - Marc Arrow, a waterfront fortune teller, finds a truncated skull in an antique shop when the cabinet containing it spontaneously topples over - touching it brings him his first legitimate psychic vision and so he kills the proprietor with a handy sextant and steals it. A month later the BPRD are staking out North Carolina's Ocracoke Island, the antique dealer's ghost (communicating via medium) having tipped them off to the theft of what they realize is the skull of the legendary pirate. A walkie-talkie carrying Abe Sapien encounters a robed figure sitting on the beach which legend has haunted by Blackbeard's headless body, while in a motorboat approaching the beach a local historian fills Hellboy in on the known history of Blackbeard's death and of his skull, passed down from owner to owner as a macabre drinking goblet. Marc has partnered with criminal Whitey Pacelli to bring him to the island - the ghost appears, and when Marc insists on negotiating with it himself, Whitey shoots him. His partner dead, Whitey attempts to hold the head for ransom but Blackbeard's body bisects him with a cutlass. Hellboy confronts the re-formed Blackbeard and is shot in the shoulder. Meanwhile, Abe finds he is talking to the undead body of one of Blackbeard's victims, as more gather in the surf. They swim off after Blackbeard and Abe follows. Hellboy punches off Blackbeard's head and the body nearly kills the historian when he reaches for it. Hellboy and Blackbeard fight in the water and Blackbeard invites Hellboy to join him as a pirate, to which Hellboy replies with a deadpan "Let me think about it." Blackbeard's dead victims rise around Blackbeard and drag him into the water - Abe, who has swum to the location, sees Blackbeard's body pulled into the depths, its head dragged behind it in one hand and screaming a stream of bubbles. Abe greets Hellboy who comments "Everybody loves a pirate," and they head back to the mainland.
In The Chapel of Moloch, story and art by Mignola, was first published in October 2008 as a one-shot issue of Hellboy (numbered Hellboy issue #36 on the inside front cover).
Tavira, Portugal, 1992. Hellboy and a New York art promoter visit the home which the latter has rented for his friend and protégé Jerry, an American painter meant to be preparing work for an important gallery show. Jerry has been working in the old chapel attached to the premises, but has stopped painting and turned to sculpting a gigantic bull-headed humanoid in clay which (based on his now-incoherent mumblings) depicts the deity Moloch. At night when the sculpts, the non-lockable chapel doors will nevertheless not open. Jerry is asleep in the house as they investigate the chapel, full of Jerry's paintings, and Hellboy notes that Jerry is "ripping off Goya," prompting the promoter's retort that Jerry, in reappropriating Goya for relevant modern work, is "saving Goya's ass!" which Hellboy seems to find unconvincing. Hellboy investigates the sculpture whose clay bleeds when poked with a trowel. Elsewhere in the chapel he finds a mark of the Knights of St. Hagan (a fictional analogue to the Knights Templar) of the sort left by their investigators at sites where they've stamped out serious occult practice. The two wait inside the chapel for Jerry to arrive. When he does, a minuscule hunched corpse climbs up onto his shoulders from out of a hole in the floor. As it whispers to Jerry (who begins to decorate the sculpture's base with a motif of corpses in fire), Hellboy produces a relic from his pockets, "a silver button from the coat Bishop Zrinyi was wearing when he fought the Carpathian goat" and tosses it into the corpse's eye, lighting up the inside of its skull and making it run about in agony. As the corpse topples senseless back into its hole, the Moloch statue comes to life and Hellboy readies to destroy it while a re-awakened Jerry shouts "No! Don't do it! The paintings aren't working! I'm just ripping off Goya!" When Hellboy shatters the sculpture a giant beating heart is revealed whose aortas and ventricles start to extend into tentacles as (over Jerry's protesting screams) Hellboy shoots it. Jerry laments that he'll never paint again, to Hellboy's immediate and expressed approval. "Also stay away from sculpture." He tells Jerry's friend to have their landlord do something about the hole in the floor.
"The Mole", written by Mignola with art by Duncan Fegredo, was first published as a story in the 2008 Free Comic Book Day free Hellboy comic. It takes place shortly before Hellboy: Darkness Calls.
England, the home of Darkness Calls' Harry Middleton. A drunken Hellboy is playing cards with Middleton and two other ghosts, who notice a mole on his hand. He wakes up alone at the table to find that the mole has gotten bigger. It rapidly swells to his own size and bursts to reveal another demon, who emerges from the boil leaving nothing of Hellboy but his empty skin and his apocalyptically powerful stone right hand. Hellboy's skin tears away from the hand and blows out the window, finally coming to rest on a weathervane across town. Left alone in the room, the demon takes the stone hand and begins to use it to end the world. At that moment Hellboy awakens, for real this time, back at the table. He empties his shotglass, and, reassuring himself that it was "just a dream," refills it.
The collected edition featured a section of Dysart's, Mignola's and Corben's preparatory sketches for the collected stories, and an essay by John Pelan entitled "Manly Wade Wellman: American Mythmaker," introducing readers to the pulp writer to whom The Crooked Man was written in tribute.