Today is Mike Mignola’s birthday, which gives me a perfect excuse to post about this new Criterion release of Cronos, with a Mike Mignola cover and new commentary tracks and a short film and a high quantity of awesomeness all around.

In honor of the occasion (or so I choose to believe), I finally received my copy of The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects last night. You’ll have to wait (with bated breath, I’m sure) for a full accounting of it, but the first thing I did upon receiving it was, of course, clasp it to my breast, after which time I sat down and read the whole thing straight through, probably faster than I should have. I’m looking forward to taking more time with it in the next few days, but suffice to say that it was, as the title might suggest, amazing.

Though the original comic is hard to come by, most folks are familiar with the titular Screw-On Head thanks to the animated series pilot of the same name. This is actually the first time I’d ever read the original comic, and it’s very close to the pilot in some ways, and very different in others. I like this one better, of course, though the pilot certainly has many charms.

The rest of the stories, though, are the best part for me. The most new Mignola art we’ve gotten in several years, they’re also some of the best Mignola art to date, which makes sense as the stories are largely just excuses for Mignola to draw some of his favorite stuff. They’re all incredible, and I’m not going to bother picking a favorite right now, which would be a futile gesture anyway in a book so filled with awesomeness.

I’ll obviously be talking more about this once I’ve had a chance to read through it more than once and to better pore over the drawings, but for now, happy birthday to Mike Mignola, and a heartfelt thanks to him for this comic, and all the others he’s given me over the years.

I’ve gotten the luck of checking out a couple of comics in the last few days that are worth talking about at some (minor) length. First off, thanks to the good folks at Dark Horse, I was fortunate enough to get a free, unbound, black-and-white preview copy of the first issue of the new Baltimore series by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, and Ben Stenbeck. Ben Stenbeck remains one of my favorite of the non-Mignola artists working in the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. gestalt, and the story itself is intriguing. Plus there’s a vampire zeppelin corps! It was a series that I was already pretty excited about, and the preview issue was just icing on the cake.

Then, my copy of the Beasts of Burden hardcover collection came last night. I haven’t gotten a chance to read the whole thing yet, but it’s absolutely gorgeous, and what I have read is amazing. Beasts of Burden is basically my favorite current non-Hellboy comic, and this collection is the perfect place to pick up everything that’s been published in the series so far. Plus frog monsters! Grave-dirt golems! Where can you possibly go wrong here?

(Seriously, best frog monster ever. I am so going to steal it and work it into a story someday. I’d steal grave-dirt golems, too, but I already beat Dorkin to the punch on that one.)

When other artists started drawing regular runs of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series, I regarded the move with trepidation. Mignola is not only my favorite creator but also my favorite artist (as anyone reading this probably already knows), and the idea of other people taking on his signature character seemed like a losing proposition. And certainly, you will rarely find me saying that I’m glad when Mike Mignola didn’t draw something, but so far most of the other artists who have come on board have been great.

Duncan Fegredo has been drawing the regular Hellboy mini-series starting with Darkness Calls, and he’s done a fantastic job. Meanwhile comics legend Richard Corben has been doing shorter Hellboy stories and one-offs. His first contribution to the Hellboy mythos was “Makoma” (as collected in the back of The Troll Witch & Others). I liked “Makoma” well enough, but I certainly wouldn’t put it anywhere near the top of my list of favorite Hellboy stories. More recently I’ve read “Hellboy in Mexico” and, now, “The Crooked Man,” and I have to say that, while I’m hesitant to suggest that any story shouldn’t be drawn by Mike Mignola, I’m also not sure that anyone could’ve done either of these stories quite like Richard Corben did them. They’re some of the best Hellboy stories I’ve read (and I’ve pretty much read them all), and Corben’s art hits the tone of them perfectly. “Hellboy in Mexico” is probably my favorite of the two (and one of my favorite Hellboy stories, period), but “The Crooked Man” has some of the best and spookiest images I’ve ever seen in a comic, bar none.

As I said in my Goodreads review, for a Hellboy book with only one story illustrated by Mike Mignola, The Crooked Man & Others is a classic. It helps that “In the Chapel of Moloch,” the story illustrated by Mignola, is a great one, but the majority of the book is concerned with “The Crooked Man,” Hellboy’s first foray in the Appallachian folklore of Manly Wade Wellman, a favorite of both Mignola and myself, though I admit that I’ve only managed to read a handful of his stuff.

I also recently got a copy of Nesting, a single-story chapbook by Christopher Golden and illustrated by Mignola, in the same style as their novel Baltimore or “Mechanisms,” their contribution to the Hellbound Hearts anthology. Like “Mechanisms” it’s only got a handful of tiny illustrations, most of them of rocks, which is a little disappointing. I still liked it, but I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to pick it up in chapbook form. (Especially since I liked “Mechanisms” better.) I’m hoping that eventually Golden and Mignola will put out a collection or something of short stories illustrated in that style, featuring both “Nesting” and “Mechanisms.” That I would definitely buy.