The Amazing Screw-On Head is the title of a one-shot comic book written and drawn by Mike Mignola and published by Dark Horse Comics in 2002, starring the character of the same name.
Mignola got the idea from action figures, particularly Batman ones, which seemed to be the exact same figurines with different clothes-and heads. So he imagined a robot with a head that screwed onto different bodies to suit the occasion - hence the "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 of Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls fame as executive producer. While similar in tone and theme to Mignola's better known Hellboy, The Amazing Screw-On Head is a comedy.
The Screw-On Head is an agent for President Abraham Lincoln
, fulfilling much the same role as the modern-day fictional B.P.R.D.
(Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense). In the comic (and television pilot), 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 vampiress
"Madam" and scientist Dr. Snap, have stolen an ancient manuscript. This will allow him access to the tomb of Gung, a warlord who nearly conquered the world over ten thousand years ago with supernatural power gained from "a fabulous melon
", 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 (including his vampire lover) find the treasure: instead of a jewel, the tomb contains a turnip with "a small parallel universe" inside. Zombie unleashes the demon 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 is the first of the Screw-On Head's manservants, who has turned to evil despite the Head's advice. Out of revenge for his first defeat (which he at one point refers to as a "petty vengeance fetish with [Screw-On Head's] manservants") he has killed the seven replacement servants who had served before Mr. Groin in gruesome ways. Zombie's vampire mistress, now named Patience, is much more talkative; a flashback reveals she was the Screw-On Head's mortal lover, until snatched from him by a vampire servant of Emperor Zombie. Instead of Doctor Snap, Emperor Zombie's other servants are a heavily armed monkey and two elderly women, one a werewolf and the other a cannibal
who apparently takes over Doctor Snap's role as scientist as well.
The pilot begins with the theft of the manuscript, along with the only man who can translate it, by Emperor Zombie's henchmen. Emperor Zombie "smokes" the translator to read the manuscript pertaining to Gung's tomb. An interlude has Screw-On Head track down Patience in Marrakesh, then torture her to try and find Emperor Zombie's whereabouts.
At the conclusion Emperor Zombie sinks to the bottom of the Mississippi 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 12th 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 29th 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.
- The Amazing 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 forbidden Ancient Evil knowledge, out of a lust for power.
- Mr. Groin (Patton Oswalt) - Screw-On Head's ninth butler. Like most superhero butlers he is capable of almost anything, and aids Screw-On Head in many ways, including acting as a surrogate body.
- Mr. Dog - Screw-On Head's dog. Appears to have been reanimated, but only after being stuffed and mounted. Its lack of organs gives it the benefit of relative invulnerability, but its lack of muscles and mounted position paralyze it from the head down. Wheels seem to have been installed on its base in order to allow Mr. Dog to be moved by those more able-bodied. Able to smell evil anywhere in the world.
- Abraham Lincoln (Corey Burton) - The President of the United States and Screw-On Head's boss.
- Madam/Patience (Molly Shannon) - Vampire lover of Emperor Zombie. Named Patience in the pilot, she was the lover of Screw-On Head while mortal.
- Doctor Snap - Emperor Zombie's personal scientist. He wears a brown suit reminiscent of a spacesuit and a helmet with a lightbulb on top. He is turned into a frog-demon (based on a shoggoth - creature by Howard Phillips Lovecraft) at the end of the comic.
- Ricky - One of Emperor Zombie's servants, a crown-wearing chimpanzee (referred to as a monkey) capable of operating a variety of firearms with deadly accuracy. (Note: Ricky appears to be based on a character from the Hellboy story Box Full of Evil: in the story a character is transformed into a chimpanzee; he later falls into a pit of treasure, and a crown is seen on his head. The character also uses a gun in the story)
- The Amazing Screw-On Head won the 2003 Eisner Award for Best Humour Publication.