Skull for a Head

When skin moisturizing goes horribly wrong.

A character has a skull for a head. This may be because the character is a supernatural being, or due to some disfigurement that makes their head look like a skull. Occasionally used to make a robot look menacing, with a skull instead of a head - see Skele Bot 9000, although this also covers robots whose whole bodies look like skeletons.

In all cases of this trope, the rest of the body is relatively normal (i.e., not an animated skeleton.)

See also Dem Bones, Flaming Skulls, Flying Face and Skeletons in the Coat Closet.


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    Comic Books 
  • Ghost Rider has one that's on fire.
  • Judge Mortis in Judge Dredd has a cow skull for a head.
  • There's a demon in The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael (and the Dead Left in his Wake) who commands Charon, and also has a cow's skull for a head.
  • Bludgeon in Transformers tends to have this; in G1 it's just the face of his Pretender shell, but the movie version has this as his main robot head.
  • While the original character was just a guy in a mask, some versions of Captain America's Arch-Enemy the Red Skull qualify:
    • After having his consciousness transferred into a cloned duplicate of Captain America's body, the original Red Skull accidentally inhaled a dose of his own "Dust of Death" - a chemical similar in effect to Joker Venom. Ordinarily, the Red Skull's dust kills its victim, while also transforming the head into a red skull. In this case, due to his cloned body's Super-Soldier Serum, the Skull didn't die, but merely gained an actual red skull for a face.
    • The Red Skull's daughter, Sin, suffered a similar fate, but her face looks like a red skull due to relatively "normal" disfigurement - an explosion and severe burn damage.
  • Death's Head, a freelance peacekeeping agent who appeared in Marvel's Transformers and Doctor Who comics.
  • Borderline example: the Doom Patrol archvillain the Brain is a Brain in a Jar perched atop a chess piece-like pedestal. The upper portion of the pedestal is designed to look like a skull.
  • Batman villain the Black Mask originally just wore an obsidian mask. But Cameron Stewart, artist of Catwoman 14 drew him with a blackened skull which later writers picked up on.
  • In the B.P.R.D.-verse, a Nazi supervillain known as The Black Flame had a skull wreathed in black fire. Decades later, one Mr. Pope from Zinco Enterprises takes up the mantle of The Black Flame; he wears a skull-shaped helmet.
  • The Blue Knight of Astro City wears a face mask that projects a holographic skull.
  • One What If? story showed a world where Captain America came into being during The American Civil War when Native American magic gave skinny Union soldier Steve Rogers a body to match his heart. His racist commander "Bucky" Barnes was likewise affected by the spell, turning his head into a fleshless skull and causing him to become the villain White Skull.
  • Skully/Cranicola of Brazilian comic Monica's Bug-a-booo is an extreme case: he's a skull that lost its body and lies atop a rock.
  • The WildC.A.T.s villain Helspont has a flaming horned skull for a head due to his possession of Acuran host.
  • Atomic Skull (Joe Martin) from Superman.

    Films — Animated 
  • A plot twist in Wreck-It Ralph: the character of Turbo, the protagonist of a racing game, has chalk-white skin, sunken eyes, and yellow, grinning teeth. Guess who's the bad guy...?
  • The mechanical Cat Beast from 9 has an actual cat's skull incorporated into its head.
  • The Horned King from The Black Cauldron is a horned variation. While he's an undead evil sorcerer, the rest of his body looks quite normal compared to his positively skull-like head.

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus. In a sketch about a hospital for overacting, there's a brief animation of actors portraying Hamlet giving his "To be or not to be" speech. At one point they pull the flesh off their heads, leaving them with only their skulls on their shoulders.
  • The Master does this in the Doctor Who finale The End of Time. Due to an accident during his resurrection, he's burning up life-energy faster than he can take it in, which results in his skull showing through his skin. He had a skull-like face earlier, in "The Deadly Assassin," but it applies even more here, because the Tenth Doctor even calls him "Skeletor."
  • There is an episode of Boy Meets World, where the gang is in detention and being stalked by a killer who wears a skull mask.
  • Kamen Rider:
  • Emperor Gruumm from Power Rangers S.P.D.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Older Than Print: The gods Cihuacoatl and Mictlantecuhtli, in Aztec artwork, each have a form where they have a skull for a head.
  • Baron Samedi, perhaps the best known deity of North American voodoo, usually gets portrayed as having a skull face. Countless impersonators have mimicked the look with makeup.

    New Media 
  • A popular game on Facebook called War Metal has a character appropriately called Skullkeeper who fits this trope.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons.
    • 1st Edition
      • The Gambado from the Field Folio supplement.
      • Module I12 Egg of the Phoenix. The cleric MacKurian's dead body had a cow's skull attached to it. It is later changed into a revenant form and occupied by MacKurian's spirit, leading to the final confrontation with Doc.
    • One of more freakish monsters in Forgotten Realms is "lichling". A 6'' cockroach with human arms and legs and skull-for-a-head, feeding on the fear, immune to normal weapons and thus hilariously lethal. It can slowly grow to 80' long, but is likely to be destroyed sooner. They're spawned by demiliches. In thousands.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Chaplains have skull-designed helms, as do Eversor assassins.
  • In BattleTech, the archetypal 100 ton assault mech, the Atlas, features a head stylized after a human skull. Making it "as ugly and foreboding as conceivable" was explicit part of the design specs.
    • The Banshee is only 5 tons lighter than the Atlas and also features an angular screaming skull face.
    • This trope plus Cephalothorax gives us the Ursus, best described as a Humongous Mecha with a skull for a torso that also happens to look like a giant head with arms and legs.

  • Shadow Tracker from G.I. Joe (released in 2011) looks like a Predator expy, but is this trope once his mask is removed.
  • The He-Man knock-off line Combo Warriors has Satana, who has skin on the right-side of his face, but the left-side is a skull.
  • Skullossus from League of Super Evil has a floating expressive skull in a jar for a head.

    Video Games 
  • Modern Warfare features Ghost, who wears an iconic skull mask.
    • Ghost was so popular that his mask became the inspiration for the titular unit of Call of Duty: Ghosts, who all wear custom skull masks.
  • Blacklight Retribution has the "Bonebreaker" helmet, which places a stylized skull faceplate on one of the default helmets.
  • Some incarnations of Scorpion from Mortal Kombat depict him as having a flaming skull for a head.
    • Most other times, it's a non-flaming skull. It's never made clear whether this is a supernatural power of his or if that is his actual head now.
    • Scorpion's fellow undead Noob Saibot has an alternate costume in Mortal Kombat 4 that gives him one, too. Along with his shadow powers and Sinister Scythe, it makes him look a lot like The Grim Reaper.
  • Mephisto of Diablo has this. My goodness! So horrible!
  • Duskull from Pokémon.
    • One can make a case for Marowak too: in its pre-evolutionary form as Cubone, it wears its mom's skull as a helmet. After it evolves, the skull's become fused to its head.
  • In RuneScape, the normal form of the Mahjarrat is this when they haven't been rejuvenated for a while.
  • Applies to every character in Raskulls, aside from the Pirats.
  • Mumbo from Banjo-Kazooie. According to his backstory, his head became a skull because he was placed under a magic spell by the evil witch Gruntilda, who was once his student.
  • Murray from Monkey Island. However, his skull is all that's left of him after Guybrush destroyed his boat.
  • The Skullmonkeys and Klogg from The Neverhood.
  • Like his namesake suggests, Skull Man from Mega Man 4.
  • Harpies and Medusa in Will Rock.
  • Rogath, one of Dage the Evil's Generals from AdventureQuest Worlds, has a horned skull for a head.
  • Kirby Mass Attack: Necrodeus also has a horned skull for a head, as well as a clown-like nose on it.
  • This example, combined with exaggerated Facial Horror, is the result of what happens if Lance can't escape the deadly Beautifier in Vivi's Funeral Salon in Brain Dead 13.
  • Skullmageddon, the Big Bad of Double Dragon Neon (naturally, since he's a walking, talking Expy of Skeletor).
  • In Little Kings Story, Cow Bones of the Cemetery, one of the UMA Guardians. Its skull comes off sometimes.
  • The Jersey Devil in The Wolf Among Us is depicted as having a horse's skull for a head when he takes on his true form.

  • Lord English from Homestuck has a green skull for a head, natch.
    • Calliope and Caliborn have the same thing going on, being Lord English's sister and younger self, respectively.
  • Various characters in Coga Suro 2 adopt this look when activating their Immortal-given powers- their skin turns grey, their hair white, and their head into a grey skull that glows from within.
  • Edward from Monster Pulse, since his face turned into a monster.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, the supervillain Grue uses a black skull wreathed in the darkness he generates as his first Cool Mask. When he is later captured by Bonesaw, she discusses making his face like that permanently.
  • The titular character of Inferno Cop.

    Western Animation 
  • Skeletor in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) and its reboot. He was simply a guy whose head looked like a skull; in one episode of The New Adventures of He-Man we even see that he has some hair up top. In the 2002 series, however, Keldor's face was melted off by a vial of acid - his life was saved by Hordak, but at the cost of his head now being a skull floating above his shoulders.
  • Justice League examples:
    • "Only a Dream": Dr. Destiny uses his powers of illusion to achieve this look. He reverts to a normal appearance when recovering from a punch to the face, and when he is finally defeated.
    • Atomic Skull also has a skull wrapped in green fire, which he could fire energy blasts from.
  • Slade from Teen Titans had this while acting as Trigon's undead servant, because in life he was burned to death by lava. As he kept it hidden behind his mask, however, it was only glimpsed a couple of times near the climax of that storyline.
  • In Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, Ezekiel Rage usually gets the "Phantom of the Opera" motif, what with his face badly burned and him having to wear a white mask. His Questworld avatar, though (which we see in "The Edge of Yesterday"), actually has a skull for a head.
  • Mr. Skullhead from Animaniacs.
  • The Scarecrow from the Batman: The Animated Series revamp (the New Batman Adventures) had a shriveled zombie-like face with the skin seemingly shrunk to the bone - if it was a mask or not is still up for debate.