The Amazing Screw-On Head
Art by Mike Mignola
|Publisher||Dark Horse Comics|
|First appearance||The Amazing Screw-On Head|
|Created by||Mike Mignola|
|Abilities||Can have his head removed and reattached to any one of a number of robotic bodies, some of which possess such features as projectile grenade fists.|
The idea for the character was inspired by action figures, particularly Batman ones, which seemed to Mignola to be the same figurines with different paint jobs. Mignola imagined a robot with a head that screwed onto different bodies to suit the occasion, hence "Screw-on Head". An animated pilot, based on the plot of the comic, was made by the Sci-Fi Channel in 2006, with Bryan Fuller as writer and executive producer and Chris Prynoski as director. Similar in tone and theme to Mignola's better known Hellboy, The Amazing Screw-On Head is a black comedy.
Screw-On Head is an agent for President Abraham Lincoln. He is summoned by Lincoln to track down Emperor Zombie, an undead occultist and originally a groundskeeper at Hyde Park. Zombie and his henchmen, the vampire Madam and scientist Dr. Snap, have stolen an ancient manuscript. This will allow him access to the temple of Gung, a warlord who nearly conquered the world over ten thousand years ago with supernatural power gained from "a fabulous melon-sized jewel", which Zombie obviously plans to use for himself.
With the aid of his manservant, Mr. Groin, and dog Mr. Dog, Screw-On Head manages to track down Zombie, but not before the villain and his henchmen find the treasure: instead of a jewel, the tomb contains a turnip with "a small parallel universe" inside. Zombie unleashes the Demigod within, but Screw-On Head manages to defeat it in combat.
The 22-minute pilot differs from the comic mainly in that the characters are fleshed out with backstories. Rather than a master of languages, Emperor Zombie (David Hyde Pierce) is the first of Screw-On Head's (Paul Giamatti) manservants, who has turned to evil despite Screw-On Head's advice. Out of revenge for his first defeat, Zombie developed what he refers to as a "petty vengeance fetish", killing the seven replacement servants after him, and before Mr. Groin (Patton Oswalt), in gruesome ways. Zombie's vampire mistress, now named Patience (Molly Shannon), is much more talkative; a flashback reveals she was Screw-On Head's former love, until snatched from him by a vampire servant of Zombie. Instead of Dr. Snap, Emperor Zombie's other servants are a monkey named Ricky and two horrible old women named Aggie and Geraldine (both voiced by Mindy Sterling), one a werewolf and the other a cannibal who apparently takes over Dr. Snap's role as scientist as well.
The pilot begins with the theft of the Kalakistan fragment and Professor Fruen (the only man who can translate it), by Zombie's henchmen. Emperor Zombie smokes Fruen in a giant hookah to gain the knowledge to read the fragment pertaining to Gung's temple. An interlude has Screw-On Head track down Patience in Marrakesh, then torture her to try to find Zombie's whereabouts.
At the conclusion Zombie sinks to the bottom of the Mississippi River while his henchmen kidnap Mr. Dog by impaling him with an anchor from an air balloon. President Lincoln gives Screw-On Head permission to deal with whatever supernatural things lurk in the western frontier after signing the Homestead Act.
On July 12, 2006, The Amazing Screw-On Head TV pilot was aired online at scifi.com with a survey to decide whether or not the show goes to series. According to Mike Mignola on the November 29, 2006 Fanboy Radio podcast, the series was not picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel. The pilot was released on DVD on February 6, 2007.
- Screw-On Head (Paul Giamatti) - Literally a screw-on head, apparently made of metal; Abraham Lincoln's top agent in occult matters. He was well over a hundred years old at the time of the American Civil War. Nothing is known about his origins.
- Emperor Zombie (David Hyde Pierce) - Highly intelligent and articulate for a zombie; he apparently brought about his own undead state using ancient, forbidden knowledge, out of a lust for power.
- Mr. Groin (Patton Oswalt) - Screw-On Head's ninth manservant. He aids Screw-On Head in many ways, including acting as a surrogate body.
- Abraham Lincoln (Corey Burton) - The President of the United States and Screw-On Head's boss.
- Patience (Molly Shannon) - Vampire lover of Emperor Zombie. Renamed Patience in the pilot, while mortal she was the only woman Screw-On Head ever loved.
- Aggie and Geraldine (Mindy Sterling) - Two of Zombie's servants. One is a werewolf, the other a cannibal who takes over Dr. Snap's role from the original comic.