When I interviewed creator, writer, and artist Mike Mignola at the 2009 Emerald City ComiCon, I had to smile and nod when he mentioned his side project, The Amazing Screw-On Head, because I knew next to nothing about it. Afterward, I decided to do some digging, and while I could not find reasonably priced, available copy, I did uncover a few interesting tidbits. In 2002, Mignola wrote and illustrated The Amazing Screw-On Head as a one-shot comic, and it went on to win the Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication. A few years later, Mignola developed the comic into a pilot for the SciFi (now, cringingly, "SyFy") Channel. (Unfortunately, it was not picked up for further episodes.) Not too shabby for a comic with a quirky title; if only I could read it.
Cut to this September, when Dark Horse Comics will release a special hardcover edition of The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects, including three never-before-published short stories and "The Magician and the Snake," another Eisner Award-winning tale, all written and drawn by Mignola.
The hardcover is a slim one--104 pages--and the titular story is only about a quarter of the page count, but it packs in the signature Mignola creepiness and humor as if it were all too aware of its abbreviated length. After finally devouring the contents, I'm at a loss at how to describe it without doing the absurdity a disservice. To begin with, President Lincoln unblinkingly calls upon "Screw-On Head," who, as his name suggests, is a detached head with a threaded neck that allows him to be twisted into various vessels/bodies to thwart evil. He is aided by Mister Groin, who, as his name does not suggest, is a well-dressed and soft-spoken partner of Head's. Together, they are assigned with stopping the nefarious plan of Emperor Zombie and a giant catfish-headed dragon. It's as crazy as it sounds. Coupled with the deadpan storytelling, the outlandish visuals (aided in no small part by colorist Dave Stewart) and off-kilter chain of events make this a sure-to-please read for fans of the goofier side of the Hellboy auteur.
"The Amazing Screw-On Head started out as an idea for a toy. It wasn't a serious idea, just a thought--a robot head, threaded like a light bulb, that you could screw into different robot bodies. I like that. I still want that toy"¦I created a comic that was pretty much just for me," writes Mignola in the supplemental section of the hardcover. He also reveals that two of the stories, "The Prisoner of Mars" and "The Witch and Her Soul," were written specifically for this collection. The short stories veer in tone from folktale to Sci-Fi hysteria, and if they feel a bit slight, it's only because it's so easy to want more when Mignola both writes and illustrates his work. New artwork from Mignola has been sparse the past few years, making this collection a must-read--and it's full of alien jellyfish, low-tech machines, vampire bats, and ominous statues.
In November, a new Hellboy collection, Masks and Monsters, arrives (this is the third Hellboy collection this year after The Wild Hunt andThe Crooked Man and Others), along withB.P.R.D. Vol. 14: King of Fear, which has the tough task of following Vol. 13, also released in 2010 and one of the better B.P.R.D. trades out there. While I'm at it, I might as well mention Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels, which centers around a very peripheral character from the usual books and is impossibly fun. As the Hellboy universe continues to sprawl and branch out, a book like The Amazing Screw-On Head serves as a palate cleanser. Think of it as a brief but welcome diversion for readers already steeped in the Hellboy mythos.
Now, where to find that pilot episode? Anyone have suggestions?