This story was originally a script for the pilot episode of
a proposed TV series called Buckaroo Banzai: Ancient
Secrets and New Mysteries. The script was titled
"Supersize Those Fries", changed to "Return of the Screw"
for this 3-issue mini-series. (Another title considered for
the story was "Lizardo's Own Private Idaho".)
The title "Return of the Screw" is a play on the title of the
1898 Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw.
On cover B of this issue, the shadow cast on the wall behind
Whorfin and the woman looks to be that of Buckaroo himself,
as we can see that's he's holding a gun and has a guitar
slung across his back.
On cover C of this issue, the Lectroids in the background
are green for some reason instead of red or black!
In his mental communication with Buckaroo on page 1, Xan
paraphrases Buckaroo himself, saying, "No matter where you
go, there I am." In Across the 8th
Dimension, Buckaroo said, "No matter where you go,
there you are."
On page 1, panel 2, the gearshift of the Jet Car has a
caduceus printed on the knob. This is the symbol of the
medical professions, of which Dr. Banzai is a member.
Notice that the panels of pages 1-5 are laid out as if their
borders are crossbeams, probably intended to indicate the
Japanese-style divided rooms of the Banzai Institute
Buckaroo is sleeping in during the nightmare depicted on
these five pages.
At the time of this story, Penny has already been killed by
Hanoi Xan. Buckaroo still seems to be tormented by her
death, so it may have happened relatively recently, placing
this story in 1986 or maybe 1987.
On page 7, Buckaroo remarks that Jimmy Oh (aka Illinois
Mongoose) died while climbing the Himalayas on his
honeymoon. But "Of Hunan
Bondage" Part 2 depicts Illinois Mongoose dying of
injuries sustained while saving Buckaroo from Hanoi Xan's
men in China. The Himalayas is a reference to the Himalayan
Mountain Range in Asia which hosts the world's highest
Another discrepancy regarding Illinois Mongoose is
that while he is named Jimmy Oh here, he is referred to as
"Of Hunan Bondage" Part 1.
Since Kawolski died in "Of Hunan
Bondage" Part 2, maybe the "Illinois Mongoose"
nickname was inherited by Jimmy Oh afterwards; perhaps
Kawolski had been Jimmy's mentor and so Jimmy took the
moniker in his honor.
The name "Lady Gillette" was originally used for a razor
marketed towards women by Gillette, introduced in 1963.
On page 9, Mrs. Oh is driving a pink Cadillac convertible,
circa 1965. The script refers to it as a Mary Kay Cadillac;
these are pink Cadillacs given by the Mary Kay cosmetics
company as co-op leases to their top sales people as long
they maintain a certain level of sales and team members.
I would assume the Banzai Institute seen in this issue is
the Banzai Institute West in Arizona, otherwise known as
Complex 88, as mentioned in the DVD extras of the movie
Across the 8th Dimension,
based on the different (Japanese) look of the main compound from
the New Jersey one seen in
Across the 8th Dimension,
and on the desert landscape seen around. (The TV pilot
script suggests this is correct.)
If the art here is following the original TV pilot script
accurately, the Japanese banners hanging outside the
Institute translate as "AT PEACE UNTIL DISTURBED" and "WE
The credit and identification cards of Emir Locarno found in
Mrs. Oh's purse on page 11 are an
card (American Association of Retired Persons) and a
Visa credit card.
Also on page 11, Buckaroo states that after the Panther ship
of the Red Lectroids was shot down over New Jersey at the
Across the 8th Dimension,
the feds cordoned off the crash site and took the dead
aliens to Area 51 where the bodies were supposedly autopsied
and cryogenically frozen. Area 51 is a top secret U.S.
military base in the Nevada desert, suspected by some of
housing the remains of extraterrestrials and technology of
their crashed ships. Buckaroo also refers to Area 51 as
the twilight zone; this is a reference to the classic
Twilight Zone TV series of 1959-1964, an anthology of
fantasy, horror, science-fiction and suspense.
On page 12, Buckaroo tells Mrs. Oh to try some of Mrs.
Johnson's famous son-of-a-gun soup. This is a reference to "sonofabitch
stew", a stew that was/is made by cowboy cooks in the
American West out of the beef and offal of calves and
sometimes other parts and seasonings. In the presence of a
lady, the cowboys would refer to it as "son-of-a-gun
Perfect Tommy tracks Locarno's home address as 493 West
Robinson, #36, Chicago, IL. There is no such street in
Chicago in the real world.
On page 13, New Jersey refers to Dr. Emilio Lizardo as
The cover of the Buckaroo Banzai comic book New Jersey is
reading on page 13, panel 5, appears to show the man in the
pickle costume of Pete's Pickles who will later appear in "Return
of the Screw" Part 2. From Jersey's
dialog, it seems the issue he's reading is intended to relate
the story of
Across the 8th Dimension, or
a portion thereof. (The TV pilot script describes the cover
as featuring a crazed Lizardo.)
As he reads the comic book, it doesn't really make sense to have
New Jersey saying he remembers this one and describing the
plot of the issue, that being the story of Dr. Emilio
Across the 8th Dimension.
New Jersey was in on the story from the beginning as part of
Team Banzai! It makes more sense in the original TV pilot
script, where the character reading the comic is relative
newcomer Johnny Concho instead of New Jersey.
The Jet Car appears to have had mach of its internal cab
mechanisms removed (or, perhaps, miniaturized?) to allow
room for additional passengers (for example, the
OVERTHRUSTER cradle is now missing); the vehicle now holds 5,
including the driver (or 6, counting a person in the machine
gun turret, which is a new addition to the vehicle).
On page 14, Red River Daddy erroneously states the year of
the Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast
as 1937. It was actually 1938.
On page 15, we see that the Jet Car is now capable of
On page 16, Buckaroo says that Dr. Lizardo used to be
referred to as Ninestein because he was nine times smarter
Also on page 16, Buckaroo suggests that John Whorfin's
is co-mingled with Lizardo's human DNA, so he now passes for
Perfect Tommy refers to the city of Chicago by several nicknames:
Chi-town, City of Big Shoulders, that tottling (sic) town,
and the Windy City. These are all real nicknames that have been
applied to the city.
On panel 5 of page 16, we see the same slash marks on the
back of the Jet Car's driver's seat as we saw being made by
Hanoi Xan in Buckaroo's nightmare on page 2. This may
suggest that the intermingling of Buckaroo's dream and Xan's
mental intrusion were being psychically reflected in
reality in some ways.
On page 17, a Chicago local refers to Locarno's two men as
Siegfried and Roy. Siegfried and Roy are two
German-American entertainers who had a magic and exotic
animal show at the Mirage in Las Vegas, Nevada from
When Perfect Tommy enters the building that housed Locarno's
apartment on page 18, notice that there are multiple
instances of graffiti on the walls that read "John". This
suggests the graffiti is likely the handiwork of John
Whorfin and other Red Lectroids, who go by a title that
sounds like that name.
On page 19, Perfect Tommy is referred to as Tommy Lee. Is
this his real name? Or is he just being confused with that
other rocker from Motley Crue?
The "gun" the young Blue Blaze Irregular holds on Tommy on
page 19 appears to be made out of a potato, a spark plug,
and other electrical parts. It seems the weapon may have
been made by the Red Lectroids before they abandoned the
The girl's mother mistakes the photo of Locarno for George
Washington. Washington was a general and hero of the
Continental Army during the American Revolution and the
first President of the United States.
On page 22, dwarves riding on the shoulders of taller guards
appear again at the Temple of Deception in the Valley of the
Naive in Myanmar, just as they did earlier at Hanoi Xan's
base in China in
"Of Hunan Bondage" Part
2. Although Myanmar (also known as Burma) is a real country in Southeast Asia, the Temple of Deception and the
Valley of the Naive appear to be fictional constructs of the
The background wall behind the aged professor-ish presenter
on page 22 is riddled with bullet holes, an early clue that
his platform is frequently used for executions.
The aged professor remarks that they may soon have help from
ex-Soviet physicists willing "to work for food" in their
search for the long-rumored heavy metal element Nazium. This
sounds like an exaggerated reference to scientists formerly working for
the Soviet Union after that country's government collapsed in 1991. If
this story does take place in 1991 or after, it seems like a
long time for Buckaroo to have continued mourning Penny's
death (in 1986 according to the novelization of
Across the 8th Dimension.)
On pages 22-23, Hanoi Xan appears to be bathing in blood.
Notice also that Xan has very long, sharp fingernails and
large, snake-like leeches are on his body and in the blood
On page 22, panel 3, Xan has a wine glass in his hand and a
bottle of Eadu de Vipere sitting behind him, presumably his
beverage. Eau de Vipere is French for Viper Water. What
exactly Viper Water is, I don't know.
On panel 4 of page 22, Xan says, "I see dead people." This
is likely a reference to the now-famous line spoken by young
Cole Sear in the 1999 film The Sixth Sense, even
though "Return of the Screw" would seem to take place
significantly before this.
On page 23, panel 4, Whorfin-as-Lizardo seems to light a
cigarette by touching the tip to his tongue.
Page 23 reveals another nickname of Hanoi Xan, the
Black-Goat Son of Baphomet. Baphomet is an imagined pagan
deity that is largely the creation of Christian folklore
regarding paganism; since 1855, Baphomet has been associated
with the Sabbatic Goat image drawn by French artist and
occultist Eliphas Levi (1810-1875).
Page 24 reveals three other names for the World Crime
League: World Capital Lending, the Black Parliament, and the
Hundred Devils Who Come Out at Midnight.
On page 24, Whorfin implies he is 350 years old.
It's possible that the blood bath and/or the Viper Water
allows the aged Hanoi Xan to attain a youthful appearance.
On page 25, a young Asian man calling himself Henry Shannon,
Xan's personal secretary, comes out to greet Whorfin and the
Lectroids. "Henry Shannon" is an obvious English-based
sound-alike of "Hanoi Xan".
On page 26, the exposed Lectroids appear to have small
suction-cup-like growths on their fingers (see the Lectroid
fingers in the image in the item below). A possible use for
these growths is depicted in
"Tears of a Clone" Part 2, in
which we see a Lectroid clinging to the ceiling like
The photo held up by Whorfin at the
end of the issue appears to be a
Tesla tower (though Buckaroo sees a
similar drawing of it on the wall of Locarno's apartment on page 20
and says it looks like a "seismic resonator"). The Tesla tower concept was
designed by Nicola Tesla at the end
of the 19th Century and was intended
to 1) broadcast telecommunications
around the globe and 2) allow the
wireless transmission of electricity
across great distances. Tesla ran
out of money before he could
complete his first two large-scale
towers and was not able to convince
further investors to provide funds.
||Tesla tower under
construction at Wardenclyffe circa
Buckaroo Banzai: Return of the Screw Preview Edition
The preview edition of this issue was a 50-cent
black-and-white special that printed the first 8 pages of
the story, plus a text piece by Dan Berger on how the story
developed from the initial TV pilot script to the 3-issue
mini-series for Moonstone. It also contains some personnel
profiles for some of the Cavaliers. The profile for Red
River Daddy reveals that he was formerly an animator at
who was hired by Planet 10 to create a cartoon avatar to
represent them to the U.S. President. He is now a
percussionist for the Cavaliers and is chief game designer
at the Banzai Institute's new gaming division. The
Across the 8th Dimension
reveals that games are a large part of the way the Institute
teaches its recruits, so a video game division makes more
sense than it might at first sound.
In New Jersey's profile it is revealed that he
surgically separated the
siamese twins Linda and Twinda so that Linda could be
executed by the state of Texas for a murder committed by her
of which Twinda was innocent. New Jersey has since married
Twinda and is semi-retired from the Institute.
Perfect Tommy's profile tells us his real name is unknown
(at least to the public). It is believed he and Buckaroo may
have met at Phillips Exeter, a reference to
Exeter Academy, a private high school in Exeter, New
Hampshire which teaches by the Socratic Method of asking
questions and inviting discussion.
He then spent some
time at MIT
and in the
The profile also
suggests he frequently changes his hair color. Tommy is described as a "wicked lead
guitarist" and is always "turned up to eleven", possibly a
reference to the metafictional rock band
Tap (maybe Tommy has played with them?).
The Lady Gillette profile reveals that she busted up a
vaccine ruse by World Contagion Limited, an illicit company
of the World Crime League.
Notes from the TV pilot script "Supersize Those
The script states that Reno is a Mexican matinee idol.
In the script, New Jersey's role has been replaced by a
newer Cavalier named Johnny Concho.
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