Death's Head

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Death's Head
Death's Head II
Death's Head (inset) and Death's Head II on the cover of The Incomplete Death's Head #5
Publication information
PublisherMarvel Comics
First appearanceThe Transformers (UK) #113 (May 1987)
Created bySimon Furman
Geoff Senior
In-story information
AbilitiesRobotic strength, speed, durability, agility, reflexes, and vision
Expert tracker

Death's Head is a fictional comic book character, created by writer Simon Furman and Geoff Senior. Originally published by Marvel UK, he later appeared in comics produced by their parent company. Death's Head is a robotic bounty hunter (though he prefers the term "freelance peace-keeping agent") and antihero. He has a characteristic habit of adding "yes?" to the end of his sentences.

Death's Head first appeared as a supporting character in The Transformers #113 in 1987, before crossing over to other titles, including his own series. In 1992 the character was substantially revised and revived as Death's Head II. The name was revived in 2005 for Death's Head 3.0, written by Furman; while he planned to tie the series into the extant character only hints made it into print. In 2009 the original version was revisited by Kieron Gillen, and has since appeared in numerous Marvel titles.


Death's Head was originally created as a "throwaway character" for use in the UK Transformers comic; a bounty hunter influenced by Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns to be featured in a single story arc partly to introduce the strip's transition to the future and then, according to writer Simon Furman, "be discarded down the line (probably at the end of the first story arc)". Furman said he chose the name Death's Head for the character while being unaware of the "Nazi-connotations of the name", referring to the Waffen-SS Totenkopf Division, whose name translates to "death's head". The character's first appearance was to be drawn by Geoff Senior; the artist's initial design greatly impressed Furman, who went back and reworked the character's dialogue and role in the scripts. However, as Transformers was a licensed book any characters created for the title became the property of the franchise's owner, Hasbro. To avoid this happening, Furman and Bryan Hitch - then a young artist pitching to Marvel UK - hastily produced an untitled one-page strip featuring the character, often referred to as "High Noon Tex", to ensure the publisher retained the copyright;[1] the strip was subsequently published in a number of Marvel UK titles in 1988, some time after the character had appeared in Transformers.[2]

Publishing history[edit]

Death's Head
The cover to Death's Head #2, art by Bryan Hitch and Mark Farmer.
Publication information
PublisherMarvel UK
Publication dateDecember 1988 - September 1989
No. of issues10
Creative team
Written bySimon Furman
Steve Parkhouse
Artist(s)Bryan Hitch
Lee Sullivan
John Higgins
Geoff Senior
Penciller(s)Liam Sharp
Art Wetherell
Inker(s)Mark Farmer
David Hine
Paul Marshall
Jeff Anderson
Steve Parkhouse
Letterer(s)Annie Parkhouse
Colorist(s)Nick Abadzis
Editor(s)Steve White

Guest appearances[edit]

Death's Head debuted in Transformers #113, dated 13 May 1987 and written by Furman and drawn by Senior. The character played a major part in a storyline than ran through to #120. Due to the weekly frequency of Transformers, the character was rapidly drawn by several different artists including Will Simpson (who got to portray the mechanoid making an instant impression by destroying the Autobot Bumblebee), Jeff Anderson and Dan Reed. Death's Head swiftly proved popular with readers and returned for two further stories, printed in Transformers #133-134 (with the former featuring a cover rendered by Dave Gibbons) and #146-151. The latter, dated 6 February 1988, saw the character propelled through a 'time portal'.

He emerged in the pages of Doctor Who Magazine #135, in April 1988, meeting the Seventh Doctor. Death's Head had been created to interact with the building-sized Transformers; the device of the Doctor using "one of the Master's Tissue Compression Eliminators" allowed the character to be reduced to the same rough height as a human, allowing better interaction with other Marvel characters. This set Death's Head up for his next appearance, in Dragon's Claws #5 (Nov. 1988).

Death's Head[edit]

Dragon's Claws was the first of a planned series of American-format British titles which editor Ian Rimmer hoped to launch. Death's Head was chosen to be the subject of the second series, which launched the month after his appearance in Dragon's Claws. Hitch was assigned to draw the series, and the character's near-destruction battling the Claws allowed the artist to redesign Death's Head. The first seven issues took place in 8162 - the same year as the setting for Dragon's Claws, who guest-starred in Death's Head #2 - and introduced a colourful supporting cast of misfits.

The first issue prompted a letter from Stan Lee, praising the character and creative team; however, not all reception was positive - reviewing Death's Head #1 for Amazing Heroes, Virginia Williams-Pennick was critical of the issue, negatively comparing the storytelling and dark humour to that of Judge Dredd and ABC Warriors and calling the result "bland".[3] From the eighth issue time travel was introduced into the mix, heading to a rematch with the Doctor and a transfer to the present day. This was written by Steve Parkhouse, the first time the character had appeared in a story not penned by Furman.

Subsequent issues saw Death's Head cross paths with the Fantastic Four and the Iron Man of 2020. Hitch meanwhile had struggled to keep to the monthly schedule, leading to a variety of artists working on the series. However, sales were poor; Dragon's Claws had been cancelled after 10 issues in April 1989, and Death's Head would stop when it reached the same number. Furman would later claim that the poor sales were caused British retailers - not used to the US-size dimensions of the book compared to the magazine size of most other British titles - struggling to merchandise it properly.[4]

Instead, in 1990 Death's Head would switch to the anthology Strip, Marvel UK's attempt at a more mature anthology title to match Deadline and Crisis. The story, "The Body in Question", was serialised in Strip #13-20 and told Death's Head's origin while tying up other loose ends from the ongoing series, and featured fully-painted art by Senior. Following the story's completion in the magazine it was collected into an album format, while several issues of the series were collected in a trade paperback called The Life and Times of Death's Head.

American appearances[edit]

By this point Death's Head had already been formally introduced to American readers, having paid back the favour for Death's Head #9 by appearing in Fantastic Four #338 (dated March 1990).[5] By this point Furman had also started work for Marvel UK's parent company, initially on Transformers before moving to other titles. These included a fill-in issue of Sensational She-Hulk (#24, dated February 1991), which would see the bounty hunter team up with the Jade Giantess to fight a number of bottom-feeding villains, and an eight-page strip in Marvel Comics Presents #76 (dated May 1991). An appearance in the latter anthology had been mooted since 1989, but failed to happen.[6]

Back in the UK offices, Rimmer still had faith in the character and planned a four-issue Death's Head limited series, to be written by Dan Abnett. However, in April 1991 he was replaced as Marvel UK editor-in-chief by Paul Neary, who was not a fan of the character. Plans to feature the character on trial, facing the death penalty and flashing back to how he'd got there, were scrapped.[7]

Death's Head II[edit]

Neary had ambitious plans to radically expand Marvel UK into the lucrative American market. His model involved commissioning British-made American-format comics, which would then be split up and serialised in multiple-feature British magazines while also being exported to the USA as standard comic books, thereby allowing Marvel UK to meet the preferred format for both markets. He felt that the character had "seen his best days"[8] and that the design was outdated;[9] however, it would take time for Neary to commission other works and he instead planned to radically overhaul the mini-series. Based on Neary's sketches, Liam Sharp produced a Predator-influenced design that was selected. The character was named Death's Head II to emphasise the shift from the earlier version; Furman and Senior were removed from the series. Sharp would instead draw it while Dan Abnett devised a storyline where the new body was originally that of a cyborg called Minion which tracked down others and assimilated their minds. Minion was able to destroy Death's Head but his personality was able to wrest control of the powerful body - and as a side effect leaving the character with a more typical heroic personality.[8]

Death's Head II[edit]

Death's Head II
The cover to Death's Head II (Vol. 2) #1
Publication information
PublisherMarvel UK
FormatLimited series (Vol. 1); ongoing series (Vol. 2)
Publication dateMarch - June 1992 (Vol. 1); October 1992 - March 1994 (Vol. 2)
No. of issues4 (Vol. 1); 16 (Vol. 2)
Creative team
Written byDan Abnett
Penciller(s)Liam Sharp
Simon Coleby
Doug Braithwaite
Inker(s)Andy Lanning

initially it appeared Neary had picked the perfect time to launch his initiative. The ongoing success of the likes of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Alan Davis and Jamie Delano had left the American market highly interested in fresh British creators, while Marvel's Spider-Man #1, X-Force #1 and X-Men #1 had helped to trigger a speculator boom whereby customers would buy multiple copies of new titles, expecting them to become valuable collectors' items at a time when early issues of older comics were fetching huge amounts in high-profile auctions at the likes of Sotheby's. In this climate, Death's Head II #1 (dated March 1992) sold 196,000 copies on export alone; while those for the second dropped to 132,000 this was an expected fall and still impressive numbers. Neary thus commissioned an ongoing Death's Head II series alongside a raft of new titles, including Digitek, Warheads, Motormouth and Killpower and Hell's Angel. Neary sought to model the new books on Marvel's success in the Silver Age of Comic Books; not only were the new titles all linked by the common thread of the shadowy Mys-Tech organisation, but the characters also frequently crossed over into each other's books. They also often featured guest appearances from popular American superheroes; the initial limited series featured the Fantastic Four, as well as a gritty alternate universe version of The Avengers, while the new ongoing launched with an arc featuring the X-Men Blue Team soon after they had starring in the eight-million selling X-Men #1.[8] However, these appearances were rarely reciprocated, and Death's Head II's only foray into American-produced titles at the time was a brief, terminal cameo in an issue of Excalibur.

The ongoing Death's Head II initially matched the sales figures of the limited series, and some issues sold their entire first print run. Marvel UK scrambled to produce further material featuring the character. The limited series Battletide pitted Death's Head II in combat with the likes of Killpower, the renamed Dark Angel, Motormouth, Wolverine and Psylocke; sales of around 200,000 an issue ensured a sequel,[10] the imaginatively named Battletide II, would follow in 1993; Death's Head II & the Origin of Die-Cut was a two-issue series introducing Marvel UK's latest character, a bald armoured psycho with a 'pscythe' in place of his left arm; and The Incomplete Death's Head was a 12-issue 'maxi-series' reprinting most of the original Death's Head's post-Transformers, pre-Minion adventures. Neary had to be talked into the latter by editor John Freeman, and featured framing sequences of Death's Head II relating the events to his side-kick Tuck.[11][better source needed] However, Overkill - the magazine reprinting the material for the British market - struggled to make much of a domestic impact.

Meanwhile Minion's creator, the amoral genius Doctor Evelyn Necker, created two similar cyborg killers, smartly named as Death Wreck and Death Metal, that would have their own adventures and battle Death's Head II in a mini-series called Death³. Marvel UK even showed up at the Lord Mayor's Show in 1993, with staff members dressed as popular superheroes and Death's Head II.[12] However, the oversaturated comics market would collapse dramatically in the summer of 1993. Numerous titles were abruptly cancelled or drastically reorganised. Paul Neary told Comic World that this was a "trimming of fat" to allow Marvel UK to focus its marketing efforts on "our strongest characters" and claimed the canceled projects would see the light of day in 1994. Two titles that did still run were spinoffs of Death's Head II in November, with house ads brashly comparing them to other popular comics[13] as part of a marketing strategy to portray the new Marvel UK as a lean, hungry company that could hold its own against the larger (and implicitly duller) competition.[14] However, the attempt to re-center the line on Death's Head II was unsuccessful; the series was cancelled after #16, which only sold 7,400 copies (at the time even lower-ranking Marvel US titles were selling around 30,000 copies per issue).[15] The continuing crash saw new series Death's Head II Gold cancelled after #1, the completed Loose Cannons (featuring the character prominently) axed before going to print[16] while a partly-finished Death's Head II/Punisher crossover was abandoned[17]

In 1994 Marvel UK stopped publishing in the US market.[18] David Leach, then a Marvel UK editor, was greenlit to write a new reboot on Death's Head II in the mid-90s, which featured only that character and no other ties to the previous series. Leach's title for the series was Death's Head Quorum, and Simon Coleby was slated to be the artist. It was part of a wider reboot of Marvel UK, involving four titles. Leach got the job after telling Paul Neary that the character was boring and joking "we should completely overhaul him, reduce his power, lose the time travel aspect and set it in present-day England", only to find Neary liked the idea. The series would have a powerful entity called the Time Keeper, meant to be watching timelines but had started creating hunting tournaments out of boredom, viciously beating DHII, depowering him, and stranding him in 1990s Earth: the remaining personalities in Death's Head II's databanks form a quorum and force Death's Head to follow their orders or they'll shut down his body. Death's Head would join a secret community underneath London, preyed upon by the hunts organised by the Time Keeper, and finally get revenge on the Time Keeper but decide to stay in London; the first issue would also end with Death's Head's "mask" being broken and showing his "true human face" (Leach apparently believed Death's Head II's face was a mask). However, the comic was wound up before more than #1 could be written, and the details are only known because of a November 2010 interview with Leach.[19] Instead, the company was taken over by Panini Comics, and Neary was sacked.

Creator Furman disliked the revamped character; feeling he "lost his most important aspect; the dark-edged gallows humour. So in and of itself I think it's a very tight, proficient and action-packed comic that really tapped into that early 90s anti-hero vibe. But to me it was never Death's Head. It was another character."[4] In October 1993 he wrote What If (Vol. 2) #54, a tale showing Death's Head surviving Minion's attack and later killing the cyborg, something Furman has said was "deeply satisfying and cathartic".[20]

Death's Head 3.0[edit]

In 2005 Marvel ran a poll on their website asking visitors to choose the subject of the relaunched Amazing Fantasy. The choices were between Woodgod, Wundarr the Aquarian, the Texas Twister and Death's Head. The latter went on to claim 49% of the vote, winning easily.[21] Furman stated that he contacted Marvel as soon as he became aware of the poll.[22] Editor Mark Paniccia had already intended to contact Furman to ask him some questions about the character,[21] and their conversation also led to Furman writing the story. While the Minion project is mentioned as the reason for Death's Head being given his name, no other ties to the previous Death's Heads were included.[22] He had originally intended to imply Death's Head 3.0 was the original, in an early form,[23] but Marvel refused.[4]


For the next few years Death's Head made only fleeting appearances. In 2006, Liam Sharp and Bryan Hitch pitched a Death's Head revival mini-series, originally for Marvel's Ultimate line, which was not greenlit. The details of the pitch are unknown, though the design for "Ultimate Death's Head" (based mainly on DHII) is available online. Sharp's comments on the latter were that the revival was "on the surface a real gung-ho macho nationalistic piece of work—but anybody who knows me would know it wouldn't have stayed that way for long...".[24] In 2008, Abnett and Lanning used Doctor Necker as a member of Project Pegasus while writing the ongoing Nova; Necker was working on a project to develop a cyborg called "Minion". The pair note "This is us just having fun—the Death's Head thread has recently been worked back into the Marvel Universe via Planet Hulk, and we thought we would tie a few loose ends together."[25] Paul Cornell featured Death's Head in a cameo appearance in the final issue of Captain Britain and MI13; he mentioned in an interview that he wrote the splash page due to #15 being the final issue and had no plans before to use Death's Head "because the character isn't actually British".[26]

Instead the original Death's Head returned to the main Marvel Universe in the 2009 mini-series S.W.O.R.D., written by Kieron Gillen. He noted "if you can't bring back a time-traveling dimension-skipper, who can you bring back?"[27] Despite not being required to do so legally, he asked Furman before using the character.[4] Subsequently the character also appeared in the Panini Comics title Marvel Heroes #33-34 (March 2011), and battles The Hulk in "The Brute and the Bounty Hunter," written by Furman with art by Simon Williams.[28][29] In an interview, Furman observed that the character was still popular because "he'll never change or compromise or grow or repent or agonise like most comic book characters. He's this unchanging, uncompromising rock that other characters bounce off. But you still kind of love him. Weird."[4]

Gillen used the character again in his run on Iron Man, while Andy Lanning used both Death's Head and Death's Head II in Revolutionary War.[30] After a cameo appearance in Infinity Wars: Sleepwalker (October 2018),[31] Death's Head starred in his own four-part miniseries by Tini Howard and Kei Zama beginning July 2019.[32]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Death's Head[edit]

Death's Head's mechanoid body had originally been constructed to host the life energy of the techno-mage Lupex, a psychotic who hunted beings for sport and stole their bodies upon killing them. However a woman named Pyra, who wished to steal Lupex's secrets, ultimately decided to use the mechanoid body against him. She gave it a cold, calculating business-like mind but before it could be used against Lupex the body was stolen by an unknown party, enlarged to the size of the Cybertronians, and catapulted through time. Death's Head was used as a pawn by Pyra, while Lupex had begun to hunt Death's Head with the intention of gaining his body. Driven to his mental limits and nearly killed, Death's Head was eventually able to defeat Lupex and, refusing to be anything like his "father", killed him while declaring he "kill[s] only for profit or survival!".[33]

In 2007, Death's Head attempted to claim the bounty Autobot leader Rodimus Prime had placed on missing Decepticon leader Galvatron. After interrogating his lieutenants Cyclonus and Scourge discovered that Galvatron had used a device to travel back to 1987. He used similar technology to follow his quarry to Earth, destroying the Autobot Bumblebee on his arrival, and later battling the Decepticon Soundwave. Having followed, Rodimus attempts to cancel the contract as he plans to do the job himself; as it is both are outmatched and Death's Head loses an arm to the crazed Galvatron.[34] The Decepticons subsequently hired him to kill Rodimus, a job he was happy to take. However the Autobot was eventually able to buy out the contract, and assigned him to destroy Cyclonus and Scourge instead.[35] Tracking the pair led him to the planet Junk, where they all fell under the mental control of Unicron. Death's Head tried to resist the control but was manipulated into killing Shockwave, only to eventually help Rodimus Prime seal Unicron within the Matrix. Finally, prevented from escaping the scene by the explosions wracking the area Death's Head forced himself, Cyclonus, and Scourge through Unicron's time portal, vowing to kill them "another time".[36]

However, he instead collided with the TARDIS in the timestream. After a confrontation with its pilot, the Time Lord known as the Doctor, he found himself shrank and then tricked into travelling to 8162.[37] Arriving in the 'Pool, he ended up battling Greater Britain government agents Dragon's Claws, sustaining heavy damage before having a building fall on him.[38]

Death's Head was recovered by the Chain Gang and rebuilt (with a redesigned body) by one of their members, Spratt.[39] In exchange for this rescue, he confronted Dragon's Claws again on the Chain Gang's behalf, defeating and capturing Scavenger. When the Claws came to recover their missing member, Death's Head defeated Dragon but opted not to kill him, instead walking away and stating that his chronometer was "a minute slow" and his contract had therefore expired. The Chain Gang were arrested and Spratt, who had escaped arrest, opted to join Death's Head.[40]

Death's Head and Spratt then relocated to the Los Angeles Resettlement, where Death's Head once again went into business as a Freelance Peacekeeping Agent.[41] Death's Head was later hired by Dogbolter to capture the Doctor and his TARDIS, which led him to being stuck in the present day, where he confronted the Fantastic Four[42] and was then sent by Reed Richards to the year 2020 - where he met the Iron Man of that era.[43]

Death's Head II[edit]

Eventually Death's Head was beheaded and his personality "assimilated" into the mind of the cyborg Minion. Minion was a cyborg created by Doctor Evelyn Necker, a long-term pet project created after years of research which included the Xandarian Worldmind being temporarily uploaded into the Minion program's gestalt matrix.[44] By the year 2020, she was an employee of A.I.M. and the final Minion (as well as its prototype, Death Wreck) was designed to protect the organisation from a psychically predicted threat; it killed and assimilated the minds of multiple targets as preparation.[45]

Death's Head's personality overwhelmed Minion's programming before it could take out its final target - Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four - and they became the gestalt lifeform that called itself Death's Head II.[46] Death's Head II soon met up with Tuck, an artificial human from the pseudo-medieval planet of Lionheart, where humans had outlawed advanced technology and waged war against androids and cyborgs.[47] Neo-Nazi black mage Baron Strucker IV magically combined himself with the original Death's Head's corpse to become the supervillain Charnel, a recurring enemy for Death's Head II and the threat AIM had predicted.[48]

Death's Head II later fought in the Battle of London Bridge, preventing Mys-Tech from sacrificing everyone in Britain to Mephisto. However, when Mys-Tech resurfaced years later he decided to use them to flush out Necker in a time before she meddled in his life, taking an offer from them to capture the hero Captain Britain.[49] To undertake the mission he left Tuck behind in the future, and she hired the original Death's Head to track him. The two incarnations of Death's Head were able to battle Necker and Mys-Tech, though the original was captured.[50] Death's Head II nevertheless helped battle Mys-Tech's second attempt to sacrifice the people of Britain. After the threat was ended, both Death's Heads and Tuck returned to the future.[51]

Alternate versions[edit]

  • In the Days of Future Past timeline, Death's Head II was part of Britain's Resistance Coordination Executive. Along with many of the organisation's most powerful members he was destroyed by a Sentinel assault.[52]
  • In an alternative timeline, Death's Head was able to escape Minion, and rebuilt his injured body into a larger, more heavily armed form. Meanwhile, the Minion cyborg went on to kill Reed Richards, only to be possessed by Strucker and become Charnel itself. Evelyn Necker had to hire Death's Head to stop this threat. Using a time machine, Death's Head went back in time to gather the surviving Fantastic Four and several other superheroes, offering them a shot at avenging Reed by ending Charnel — and then let them all get killed softening up Charnel for him. Using his firepower on Charnel and goading him at not using the full potential of his gestalt mind, he got the cyborg to access these scientific minds, knowing this allowed Reed Richards' mind (still fighting within Charnel) to take control of the cyborg's motor functions, allowing him to kill it.[53]
  • Death's Head appears in X-Men '92 to collect a bounty on Lila Cheney and is teleported with the others to a distant planet inhabited by mutant Brood.[54]


In other media[edit]


Video games[edit]

Board games[edit]

  • Death's Head was added to the superhero-featuring board game HeroClix in 2013, after winning a fan poll in 2012.[55]


Collected editions[edit]

Title ISBN Release date Issues
Death's Head: The Body In Question 1-85400-217-1 October 1990 Material from Strip Magazine #13–20
The Life and Times of Death's Head 1-85400-238-4 30 November 1990 Death's Head #1, 4–5, 7, 9–10
Death's Head Volume 1 1-905239-34-3 February 2007 High Noon Tex, Doctor Who Magazine #135, Dragon's Claws #5 and Death's Head #1–7
Death's Head Volume 2 1-905239-69-6 October 2007 Death's Head #8–10, Death's Head: The Body In Question, Sensational She-Hulk #24,
Fantastic Four #338, Marvel Comics Presents #76, Doctor Who Magazine #173, What If? vol.2 #54
Death's Head: Clone Drive 978-1302917876 December 2019 Death's Head (vol. 2) #1–4
Death's Head: Freelance Peacekeeping Agent 978-1302923365 March 2020 Dragon's Claws #5, Death's Head #1–7 and 9–10, Death's Head: The Body In Question,
Fantastic Four #338, Sensational She-Hulk #24, Marvel Comics Presents #76, What If? (vol. 2) #54, Marvel Heroes #33


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  31. ^ "If You Are Not Quite Sure What Happened in Infinity Wars #3, Sleepwalker Explains..." Bleeding Cool News And Rumors. 3 October 2018.
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