The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects
Writers - Mike Mignola and Katie Mignola. Artist - Mike Mignola
Publisher - Dark Horse Comics. $17.99 USD
As Mike Mignola confides in the Story Notes at the back of the book, 2003 was a good year, as he won an Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication for the title story here, originally presented as a one-shot, and he and his daughter won an Eisner for Best Short Story for their collaboration, “The Magician and the Snake,” also collected in this volume. I recall that while “Screw-On” was a well-received change of tone, some folks were resentful of Mignola’s kid coming in and getting the most prestigious award in the comics industry for her first comics work, just because her dad took the idea and made it look as good as everything else he does.
I only mention this because even Mignola’s throwaways and non-Hellboy muscle flexings have merit, though sometimes it takes a clutch of them juxtaposed to really work. And sometimes the story has to age a bit. As the title suggests, this is an odds-n-sods compendium of the few non-Hellboy/B.P.R.D. Mignola work for Dark Horse that had yet to be collected. Add to that that the main story is among MIgnola’s most lighthearted, and expectations were going to be low for a lot of readers.
And yet, as with his Hellboy universe, Mignola really works hard to create a seamless work, with threads running through the stories and other pieces newly created to add more corners to this, as I understand it, separate universe from Hellboy. Although “Screw-On” the story is the same as originally presented, I’d forgotten that the object villain Emperor Zombie was after, the jewel of Gung, tied into a 1998 anthology story, “Abu Gung and the Beanstalk.” Perfectionist he is, Mignola completely redraws this one and expands it to almost twice its original length. “The Magician and the Snake,” well, I still can’t go so far as calling it award-worthy, but there is an oddly sweet quality to the friendship between the two creatures, and it’s god a nice, random quality not usually seen in Mignola’s work.
Mignola carries the lighter tone of “Screw-On” into two new stories here, “The Witch and Her Soul” and “The Prisoner of Mars.” The former wouldn’t be out of place as a Hellboy story aside from the easygoing Devil, and the latter pays off “Screw-On” with a bizarrely silly, and kind of beautiful, sci-fi/horror story for Zombie’s sidekick, Doctor Snap, which is told in the back of a pub named, “The Magician and the Snake,” a nice touch. “In the Chapel of Curious Objects,” however, while not really a story, pays off “Magician,” by recalling its potent imagery by making a shrine to it. It might have been a better idea to keep the lighter tone of the other stories with some brighter colors or some whimsical touches in this chapel, rather than the usual Mignola montage of creaky doors, stained glass, enigmatic statuary and the requisite shadows. Not that it doesn’t look good. And the Victorian portrait gallery from the original one-shot of scary old women and the demonic monkey has some creepy old men added, which helps tie the book together in a way both simple and resonant with the promise of untold tales.
Those who own the original stories separately may be reluctant to drop $18 on something like 32 pages of new material, some of which are basically pin-ups and four of which merely expand one of the old stories without dramatic improvement. But woven together as they now are, there’s a kind of chemical reaction, the work as a whole more memorable and tingling with more promise than the pieces would separately. It’s really the way to experience it.
— Christopher Allen
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