I bought the rest the next day.
That was my introduction to Hellboy. I was a fan of weird stuff, the paranormal, The X-Files, Unsolved Mysteries, etc etc, and Hellboy was right in my wheelhouse. When I was teaching myself to write screenplays, I adapted "Wake the Devil" as an exercise. I even included a funeral scene for Professor Broom, which wasn't in the comic but did make its way into the film. I think I even mailed a copy on 3 1/2" disk to Mike. (Remember those?)
When I stopped buying comics regularly, I still bought Hellboy. There was a period where I just didn't have the money and was not living near a comic store anymore so I missed a bunch of issues. But I later bought every trade and got caught up. Although Mignola handed over the art duties to Duncan Fegredo, the story Mignola had woven for "Wild Hunt" and "Storm and the Fury" were some of the best comics I had read in a while.
Meeting Mike at a con a few years ago was probably one of the few times I was starstruck by a comic creator, which I'm sure Mike would think is incredibly dumb. (I remember having a nice chat with Christine though!) I happily had my copy of Hellboy #1 signed by Mike and also picked up 20th anniversary print and a "From The Vault". He did seem a little grumpy, but apparently that's not
out of character.
When I was teaching myself digital painting a couple years ago... yup, Hellboy but mixed with Frazetta. Which I thought was funny because it's more of a satire of Hellboy than anything since the book is so quiet, dark and brooding, and the painting isn't.
Mike Mignola stepping away from Hellboy seemed inevitable to me. Especially after 20+ years. Hellboy will always be with us, and there will probably be more Hellboy comics, like the "Hellboy and the B.P.R.D." series. Just not drawn by Mignola.
Mike's decision to "go off and paint" seems pretty Mignola-esque to me from the various podcasts and interviews I've listened to over the years. He seems funny like that. And I think we're all waiting with baited breath to see what worlds he comes up with one painting at a time.