Fun Friday! The Amazing Screw On Head, plus Opera!

It’s Friday!  Getting ready for the weekend, which I hope will be quieter than last weekend.  No more Space Pirates!  I’m thinking a nice excursion, maybe a zeppelin ride, something stress-free.  I hope you have big plans for your days off (for those of you lucky enough to have the weekend off).  So anyway, it’s Fun Friday!  And have I got some treats for you today!

Let’s start with The Amazing Screw-On Head.  Okay, so there’s this comic book writer named Mike Mignola.  He is the creator of the comic book series Hellboy, which I’m pretty sure most of you have heard of.  So it seems back in 2002, Mignola wanted to work on something other than Hellboy, and had this bizarre brainstorm that he eventually cooked up into a one-shot Steampunk comic book called The Amazing Screw-On Head (which you can find here).   The title character, whose actual name is apparently really The Amazing Screw-On Head (most characters call him Screw-On or just Head).  He’s just a mechanical head, and keeps a number of task-specific mechanical bodies; he attaches his head to whichever body is best suited to the task at hand.  He works for the Lincoln Administration as a sort of metal James Bond, defending America against vampires, zombies, mad scientists and demons.  He’s aided in his work by his faithful valet Mr. Groin, and his dog, aptly named Mr. Dog.  The art is quirky and, while not precisely “beautiful,” is wonderfully compelling.  The writing is nothing short of brilliant, delightfully tongue-in-cheek, as you can probably guess from what I’ve told you so far.  Think a demented Men in Black with steam added.  A quote that is typical of the fun:

Emperor Zombie: You went on and on about how sweet the candy was, then told me not to put it in my mouth, and got mad at me when I did.
Screw-On Head: If by “candy,” you mean ancient forbidden evil, then yes, I told you not to put it in your mouth.
Patience the Vampire: I think your forbidden evil is fresh as a daisy.
Emperor Zombie: Thank you, darling.

See what I mean?

Now, apparently somebody at the SyFy Channel got the notion to turn this comic into a cartoon, a series pilot which never got picked up.  So this one twenty-minute show is the only thing that exists.  And what a show it is!  All the characters are there, fleshed out, and the tone?  Oh, God, the tone.  There’s a reason this thing has become an underground cult classic.  Paul Giamatti plays Head, and David Hyde Pierce plays Mr. Zombie, a delightful villain who is attempting to steal an ancient manuscript from the Museum of Dangerous Books and Papers.

This show is as bizarre as its source material.  Mignola is a genius.  I have giggled at this thing all week. You can buy the DVD, with all its extras, here.  But don’t take my word for it; it’s up on YouTube.  Watch it here:


Okay, so what’s next?  How about some music?  I was websurfing this week and stumbled across the web home of writer and composer Paul Shapera.  This.  Guy.  Is.  Brilliant!   I can’t seem to find out very much about the man himself.  But he writes rock/jazz operas.  What first caught my ear was his Steampunk opera, The Dolls of New Albion.  The story follows four generations of the McAllister family and their lives in the Steampunk city of New Albion.  It starts with lonely scientist Annabelle, who tries to revive her dead lover Jasper by transplanting him into a mechanical body.  It doesn’t end well for her, for Jasper, or for the city.

You can buy the album on iTunes,  or you can listen to the whole thing track by track, for free, at Shapera’s website here.  Interestingly enough, you can also watch it as a play; it was staged in London, and there’s a video of a workshop performance here (I haven’t figured out how to embed Vimeo videos, so you’ll have to follow the link instead).

Shapera does more than Steampunk, though.  When you go to his website, you’ll see a dozen or more projects like New Albion.  The one I like best is The New Albion Radio Hour, a Dieselpunk opera.  Its story is a little fragmented, like the Steampunk story, but I just love the sound.  With an announcer at the beginning of the tracks, it has a genuine Old Time Radio Show feel to it, which is genius.  Same as before:  you can buy the entire album, or you can listen to it, track by track, for free on the webpage, right here.

In short, this Shapera guy is a genius.  Check out his “Cthulhu Funksical;”  I’m not really into funk, particularly, but still great fun.  AND!  According to his blog, he’s approaching the crucial stages of recording an Atompunk opera.  I wanna hear it already!  If I were twenty years younger, I’d be following this Shapera guy around, demanding to have his babies.  Or to create mechanical steam-powered babies for him. Or something like that.

Okay.  Enough gushing from me for today.  Yeah, I know I got a little carried away.  But what can I say?  I had a lucky week for treasure-hunting!  I’d like to see more of your treasure-hunting.  If you have something Steampunk, Dieselpunk or New Pulp that makes you go “wow!” send it along to my email address listed on the About AJ page.  You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook from the About page.  And don’t forget to comment, share, tweet, let your friends know!

Ta for now!

Categories: Dieselpunk, Fun Friday, Music, Steampunk, Video | Leave a comment

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