Mike Mignola is a master storyteller and Lobster Johnson is proof of this. Mignola’s title, Lobster Johnson has several details that could make it a really bad book: a silly name for a title, it’s a horror/action/noir cross-genre, it’s set in the early 20th century, the main character wears pilot gear from the era and has a left hand that burns the shape of a lobster claw into the foreheads of his victims. But the glue that makes all of this work is Mignola’s top notch comic book crafting skills.
Mignola knows the physical action of reading a comic book: the turning of a page, the spectacle of two pages spread in front of a reader, and how that reader’s eyes scan from left to right instinctually. And for his own titles, the books he writes, Mignola only works with artists that understand these same conventions of smart storytelling. Mignola uses these tools of the trade in his writing to build action and suspense that never lets the reader stray from the book that he’s made for them.
Mignola also understands that characters must be archetypical to catch a reader’s eye and originally detailed to keep the reader coming back. Lobster Johnson may be another vigilante in a dark alley but he has that silly name that readers always want to know more about and his books are never really about him. Lobster Johnson stories are as much about him as they are about the characters, the people around him: the unlucky journalists sucked into Lobster Johnson’s world and the team that makes him that much more explosive. Lobster Johnson on the level character is about a world.
Because Mignola has established all of these mad comic book skills, he can easily set up the framework of a readable and more importantly, not-distracting story that can then be sprinkled with these crazy, even ludicrous details that form a wonderful title and keeps readers engaged.