by Curt Holman
Hellboy II: The Golden Army opens this weekend, and the film's dark visual splendors affirm that director Guillermo del Toro is one of the major visionary filmmakers of our time even though some of its thematic and emotional content doesn't have the same punch as the first Hellboy. Del Toro is such an outlandishly stylish film fantasist that sometimes it's easy to overlook the contribution of Mike Mignola, the comic book artist/writer who created the Hellboy for Dark Horse Comics and works closely on the films. Mignola shares a writing credit with del Toro for Golden Army.
In the comics, Mignola's shadowy, Gothic-drenched artwork tends to be more stark and his dialogue more spare than their equivalent images in the Hellboy movies. There are two animated Hellboy films, but perhaps the best cartoon showcase for the tone and look of Mignola's work is "The Amazing Screw-On Head." This exceedingly odd 20-minute animated horror spoof features the voice of Paul Giamatti as a low-tech mechanical secret agent circa the Civil War called "The Screw-On Head." (Yes, other characters, like Abraham Lincoln, address him as "Screw-On Head.") David Hyde Pierce voices his arch-villain, the foppish ghoul Emperor Zombie. From Bryan Fuller, creator of "Pushing Daisies," the 2006 pilot film looks exactly like what you'd get if the creators of Adult Swim made a Halloween-themed version of "Wild Wild West." The introductory scheme perfectly captures Mignola's penchant for occult action scenes and demented whimsy:
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