Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Name: Elizabeth “Liz” Sherman.
Creator: Mike Mignola.
Appearance: Hellboy and BPRD.
Occupation: Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense agent.
Quote: “I don’t like the term firestarter. I just don’t.”
No character survives the change from print to the silver screen completely unchanged. A classic example is how the world now looks at BPRD agent Liz Sherman. Many people who are only somewhat familiar with the Hellboy franchise were introduced to it by the two movies, so their main, or at least first impression of her, is as the manic pixie dream girl portrayed by Selma Blair.
In fact when I looked for pictures of Liz for this post, I had a hard time finding pictures of her, as I envision her, short red hair, middle aged, beret, gold cross and a cigarette in her hand. The way she is portrayed in the comic books. Even most fan art being put out there now is influenced by the movies and the two direct to DVD cartoons. Now I love the Hellboy movies and I think Miss Blair did a great job in them, but she only played one aspect of a very complex character.
More to the point the movies only deal with one period of Liz’s life. As a young field investigator trying to escape from a terrible childhood event. The comic books cover her life and experiences from 1973 to 2013, and as a world weary survivor of a major occult war she is no longer the person who she was when she was a young almost naive child.
Before I go more into Liz as a comic book character I would like to briefly discuss the character in the direct to DVD animations Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron. Selma Blair also does the voice acting in these. Here she is even younger and less self-assured. Instead of being a romantic interest for The Big Red, she is more a little sister, to Hellboy and Abe. The two movies are a snapshot of her life, in a universe that is different from the main canon world. Still I love these shows, for what they are and their interpretation of Liz, but it hard to stack up two movies against comics, which have had a twenty year run.
Liz’s origin story in all versions is the same. She was a young pyrokinetic who was unable to control her fire powers and accidently destroyed a full block, killing among others her entire family. In the comic books this caused her to lose her faith in Catholicism. However that changed when a ghost of a witch possessed her on her first official mission for the Bureau, and she had to be exercised, by a priest, to rid herself of the malevolent spirit. At the end of that arch her faith is restored she puts back on her golden cross, and sets off to fight the good fight again.
In the comic books the Earth has been ravaged in a war with supernatural powers. Much of the US was destroyed. Liz has lost friends in this war and been betrayed by those who were placed in charge of her. As Hellboy disappeared and others on the team seem to fall into a stupor of melancholy it was up to Liz to strike the final blow against the invading preternatural forces.
Liz has quit the bureau nearly a dozen times. The pain and pressure of fighting the things that go bump in the night just becoming too much. At one time she even joined a group of monks to learn to control her power. Though she in the past she has always returned when her fellow humans needed her the most. Currently in the comic arc she had once again gone into hiding after losing her powers. There has not been any official announcement if she will ever return.
So weather a tough middle-aged grizzled warrior against the occult, or as a young fresh investigator, Li Sherman’s ability to regain her faith and willingness to keep returning until the final battle makes her a comic book women who is more than skin deep.