Monday, November 23, 2009

The Curious Case of Death's Head


The above panel is from the first issue of S.W.O.R.D., the new ongoing series from Marvel by Kieron Gillen and Steve Sanders. As you can see, that character there is called Death's Head, probably one of the silliest names ever. Now I haven't read many comics in which he appeared, and I don't know much about it, but with that kind of name, you remember every one of his appearances. And the one I did remember, was somewhat conflicting with this most recent one, hit the jump to see what I mean.



You can't quite see it in the above panel, because Death's Head is appearing through an hologram, but once Beast and Abigail Brand sneak into his ship, we find that Death's Head is actually very, very big.

Kirk mentioned in last week's Moments of the Week that he used to appear in the old Marvel UK Transformer comics, which explains the size. I'm not British, so I have never read said comics, but I have read another series in which he made an appearance: Captain Britain and MI 13 by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk. Take a look...


That's Death's Head on the bottom, but he looks wildly different and appears to be human sized (it's hard to tell because of the perspective, but in another page he also looks the same size). More importantly, is that he appears to be in the service of the UK, as opposed to being a space "freelance peace-keeping agent" (a.k.a. a bounty hunter).

What was even more puzzling to me is that a character appeared two different times in wildly contradicting manners, in two books that had the same editorial team (Nick Lowe and Daniel Ketchum). I was ready to start the editorial lynch mob, lighting the torches with the fires of fanboy  rage, and grabbing the pitchforks of righteous statements... but first I decided to look up the character in Wikipedia. I'm glad I did, as it cleared up quite a lot.

Death's Head character history and it's creation is somewhat complicated, having appeared in a bunch of different titles including the aforementioned Transformers, Doctor Who, Fantastic Four, She-Hulk etc. Along the way he was revamped three different times, and it seems that all three different versions of the character have the tendency to have little appearances like the ones above. For example, another version appeared in the Planet Hulk storyline, and the recent Project Pegasus storyline in Nova. The fact that the character can time travel and dimension hop means that any of his appearances and returns from death can be easily explained away.

There is no bigger moral to this story, but I know I was confused about this, so hopefully I cleared it up for someone else as well. Now if someone can explain to me why he says "Yes?" every time he talks, I'd be all set.


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21 comments:

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I just assume he loves to speak in little questions that refer to him. He sorta sounds like a metallic Bond villain with a case of Timothy Dalton a la Hot Fuzz bad acting going on. Anyways, it makes me laugh, yes.

Flip The Page said...

easy answer: in captain britain and mi13 it's Death's head 2 and in sword it's death's head 1.

different characters.

Aaron K said...

Coincidentally, a few days ago I read Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson, Vol. 1 in which Death's Head appears in issue #338. In that issue, he is much more similar visually to the S.W.O.R.D. version above than to the Captain Britain version, though he's basically the same size as the FF, not gigantic. And he does say "Yes?" alot, though really only about one in every five or six sentences. Every long sentence he speaks is normal, but if it's a short sentence, you can bet your bottom dollar it ends with "Yes?". I find it rather charming/amusing.

Matt Ampersand said...

I don't know why, but I imagine Death's Head having a British accent. I mean, sure, he was created for Marvel UK, but he's a space robot, he shouldn't have an accent!

And yet, in my head, he does.

Aaron K said...

@Matt Why wouldn't a robot have an accent? If I were a robot and could (maybe) pick my accent, I'd go British too. Death's Head has good taste! Further, I'd imagine that universal translators somehow determine what sort of personality and attitude the speaker displays and consequently choose the appropriate accent. If you're prim and proper, you get British; if you're a doofus, you're American; if you love shrimp on the barbie, you're Australian; if you have no cultural identity of your own other than a love of beer, you're Canadian. :)

Flip The Page said...

my contribution to all good british comics fans is to link to these beauties:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Deaths-Head-1-Simon-Furman/dp/1905239343/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259015916&sr=8-2

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Deaths-Furman-Walter-Simonson-Parkhouse/dp/1905239696/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259015916&sr=8-3

two brilliant volumes of this iconic character that's sneaking back

Monch said...

I believe Flip The Page has the answer it's different versiones. And Planet Hulk/Nova versions were called Deaht Head 3.0

Randallw said...

I have a What If comic with Death's Head where he survives the attack by the creature that became Death's Head 2. Apparently that second robot was an AIM cyborg that absorbed Death's Head's personality and got taken over. The What If I have is where Death's Head survived but later on uses various heroes to destroy the second robot. It can't be cannon though because it resulted in the death of the Fantastic 4, Captain America and War Machine.

El Gostro said...

I know this guy from my obscure underground comic articles from the early nineties,wasnt aware there were 2.0 and 3.0 versions
Was happy to see him though ^_^

About the comic itself,Brand doesent convince me at all,she looks to have been shot straight out of th emithras initiative (which would be fine by me except for --->) with a Lara Croft pose and personality to boot,it's funny that a lot of people who complain about the nineties seem to like this character so much...

mrpeepants said...

I started out reading this thinking I had no idea who Death's Head is because I didn't read S.W.O.R.D. but then he was in 3 other series I read. Don't remember seeing him. Will now though, I like those top 2 panels of him. Funny costume and funny name.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see someone liked the old version of Death's Head (pre-90's Marvel UK). Liam Sharp's revamp took most of the humor out of the character & replaced it with women in skin-tight costumes. A dime a dozen in the 90's. Feh.

KentL said...

I always assumed Death's Head I had a French accent, thus the "Yes?". Kinda like Pepe LePew.

maybetoby said...

I love Death's Head, I hope we see more of him

googum said...

Fun! I might have to dig that up. I have a couple of the old, first Death's Head appearances, including a rematch between him and Doctor Who. I do believe the Doctor somehow shrank DH from Transformer-sized to a more human scale...

angelophile said...

That's Death's Head I there, as opposed to Death's Head II, who was the mid-90s relaunch of the character. In that origin the mechanoid that became Death's Head II killed the original and absorbed his memories. Of course, it gets complicated with the original popping up, but can be explained away by his being a time-traveller and being killed in one possible alternate future anyway.

The size issue's worth questioning though, since last time we saw Death's Head I he was human sized . Worth noting, howver, that he originally started out as a character in the Marvel UK Transformers comic and was Transformer sized, but was shrunk down to human size by Doctor Who. Yes, Death's Head is the Kevin Bacon of geekdom.

Anonymous said...

death's head used to be a giant robot. somehow he got shrunk at some point. then was blown up and rebuilt. then later "died" to become deaths' head II. the one you see in the captain britain book.

the deaths' head in sword is apparently the original death's head before he was ever blown up or shrunk (although he's drawn a bit differently).

he's a great, and very underrated character. although i hate death's head 2 and 3.0. i am glad they are showing him as he used to be and i hope that eventually he comes back completely as the original death's head, and not DHII or 3.0.

sherlock said...

the original deaths head was created in the future and was normal size. later on he went through some sort of dimensional hole grew larger and ended up in the transformer universe. later on while travelling through same the tardis and deaths heads ship collided (slyvester mccoys doctor) and used the sonic screwdriver to shrink him to human size. a long time later A.I.M created the minion cyborg out to collect different personalities to create the perfect cyborg but when minion absorbed deaths head something went wrong and after a battle of personalities deaths head won and took over the minion cyborg and became death's head 2. death's head 3 has nothing to do with death head 2. deaths head 2 has two brothers the prototype and drunk death wreck and an advanced brother death's metal.

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