Elizabeth Sherman

With Emy H we meet today the girlfriend and later wife of Hellboy, at least in the movie continuity: Elizabeth “Liz” Sherman, portrayed by Selma Blair. In the first movie, she’s a retired B.P.R.D. agent deadly afraid of her own pyrokinetic abilities, as she can’t control them and constantly risks to burn everyone around her to ashes (something that turns out pretty useful, as she pulverizes the ever-resurrecting Sammael). She’s manipulated by Rasputin to come back to action, as she’s one of the keys to resurrect the Ogdru-Jahad. In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, she got married with Hellboy after years of courting, and she’s even expecting baby twins from him, in the promise of a family tainted by an obscure prophecy of the Angel of Death, and that would have been deepened in a never realized third and final chapter. In the comics, she’s indeed a powerful incendiary, but she doesn’t have romantic ties with Hellboy, and she’s quite older than her movie counterpart. Let’s see together.

Elizabeth Sherman was born in Kansas City, Kansas, on April 15, 1962. She was raised in a Catholic family, and it’s mainly because of this that, when she was ten and her pyrokinesis started to manifest with small fires, she believed they were the results of her sins, and tried to keep them secret. With sheer force of will and a lot of prayer, Liz kept her growing powers under control, until she believed to have made them disappear for good. This turned out to be tragically wrong in June 1973: she was attending to a neighbor’s birthday, along with her parents and her little brother. Among the kids at the party, there was one who was particularly annoying, and who kept pulling her ponytails… until he pulled too hard, and Liz unconsciously answered to the pain with a massive burst of fire, that destroyed an entire city block and killed thirty-two people, including her family. When the firefighters intervened, they found only the eleven-years old girl, “miraculously” unarmed, in the midst of ashes, burnt skeletons and what little remained of the houses. Also the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense was there, and asked to take custody of the girl, perfectly understanding what she was and what she was capable of, but Liz’s extended family didn’t believe in paranormal phenomena, and they obtained custody instead. The decision wasn’t the best one, as Liz grew more and more depressed, as she caused fires unwillingly, and her relatives moved her from one to another constantly. Eventually, in May 1974, even her relatives gave up and, afraid of her destructive abilities and overall convinced of their reality, delivered her to the B.P.R.D., under condition that her well-being was preserved. The B.P.R.D. scientists took her in and studied her powers, but the girl was kept in constant isolation, with only researchers in fire-proof suits being allowed to approach her. She wasn’t allowed physical contact, and barely had snippets of conversation once a week. Understandably, she grew more and more depressed, believing herself to be a curse to the world. Then she knew Hellboy.

Hellboy was a large red demon who seemed to come directly out of Liz’s imagination of Hell… but he was also the kindest man she had met in the B.P.R.D. yet, and he came to her offering a lollipop, just to break the ice. The two became friends, and Hellboy helped her in accepting herself and into adjusting to her new life, so that she came out of her depression and started to open up also with the scientists, who in the following years helped her in learning how to control her abilities. Hellboy became some sort of a big brother for her, and everytime he came back from a mission, he always visited her to tell her the story. Hellboy wanted Liz to come out of the Bureau and see some world, and Professor Bruttenholm finally agreed to that, bringing the girl along with himself to a mission in Massachusetts, in 1976. The two had been called to exorcise the spirit of a woman who had been executed centuries before as a witch, and Liz ended up empathizing with her, not believing she was guilty. Unfortunately, the woman had indeed been a witch, and she tried to possess Liz to exact her revenge. Bruttenholm and the local priest managed to exorcise the witch, saving Liz and the village, and Liz came back home with a little more experience of what it meant being an agent for the Bureau… as well as with a romantic story behind her back, as she had formed a close bond with a local boy, Teddy, and shared with him her first kiss. Back to the Bureau, she committed herself even more in learning how to control her powers, and she finally forgave herself (almost) for killing her family and all those other people. She even re-embraced her lost faith, and started wearing her cross again. Finally, in 1980, upon reaching legal adulthood, she chose to remain in the Bureau, and she became a full agent… but she still tended to lose control in stressful situation, putting at risk the lives of her colleagues. This policy frustrated her, and she left the B.P.R.D.. Then she returned. And left again. Then she returned. Between 1980 and 1994, she quit and came back for a total of twelve times. No matter how much she fought with her superiors and the other agents: apparently, she had finally found a new family she didn’t want to stay without.

Liz Sherman is a broken woman who’s slowly and laboriously putting her pieces back together, trying to forgive herself for what she is and for what she’s (unwillingly) done, and to start her life anew, albeit with all the frailty and the unbalance she’ll always carry along. She’s an extremely powerful pyrokinetic, able to create and control flames, to wrap herself in a protective fiery cocoon, to fly using fire and, after an intense training with monks who taught her how to control her abilities through meditation, even to turn her entire body into living flames; she’s also an extremely skilled hand-to-hand combatant, having been trained as an operative since she was eleven. Just as powerful as she is volatile, Liz Sherman lives her powers as a curse, a force she can barely control which determines her life and her own nature… but it’s only by embracing them fully that she can finally start that new life she’s been looking for for so long.

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