Death's Head is a Marvel Comics Comic Book character created by Transformers comic scribe Simon Furman and Geoff Senior. He was originally intended as a one-shot throwaway character for Marvel UK's Transformers series, but proved sufficiently intriguing during creation that the original script was rewritten so he would survive.
Death's Head's second published appearance was in Transformers UK #113 (May, 1987) when he was contracted by various Transformers to assassinate members of the opposing faction. During a battle between the Transformers and Unicron, Death's Head fell into a time portal and crashed into the Doctor's TARDIS. In defense, the Doctor (then in his seventh incarnation) shrank him to human size and sent him off through time, leading to a confrontation with the Dragon's Claws, a futuristic militia group. Though nearly destroyed in battle, Death's Head was recovered and rebuilt by a tinkerer named Spratt. After settling his score with the Dragon's Claws, Death's Head (with Spratt in tow) left to resume business as a Freelance Peacekeeping Agent. Prior to all that, however, Death's Head appeared in the one-page story "High Noon Tex" in several Marvel UK comics to ensure the character rights remained with Marvel rather than ceding to Hasbro.
His appearances have included crossovers with the G1 Transformers (in The Transformers), Doctor Who (in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips), the Fantastic Four, She-Hulk, and Iron Man 2020. He starred in a ten-issue comic book series in 1988, along with a graphic novel (Death's Head: The Body In Question), assorted stories in Strip magazine, and several reprint compilations.
Death's Head has been redesigned and spun off several times by Marvel UK, most notably as Death's Head II, Death Wreck and Death Metal. In 2005, Simon Furman returned to the character by creating Death's Head 3.0 for Amazing Fantasy. In 2009 Death's Head I appeared in the S.W.O.R.D. mini-series penned by Kieron Gillen. In March 2011, issue #33 of Marvel UK's Marvel Heroes featured "Hulk vs. Death's Head," written by Ferg Handley and Simon Furman. In 2013, Death's Head I reappeared as a supporting character during two storylines of Kieron Gillen's Iron Man run, and again as an antagonist of Jeff Loveness' Nova run. In 2018, he showed up in the Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk mini-series and in 2019 he got a new limited series of his own.
Death's Head (the original, yes?) exhibits the following tropes:
- An Arm and a Leg: Lost an arm to Galvatron at one point.
- Arch-Enemy: Many, most notably Big Shot, who became Axe-Crazy in his vendetta against Death's Head.
- Berserk Button: Death's Head insists on being called a "freelance peacekeeping agent"; people calling him a Bounty Hunter never do so twice.
- Black Comedy/Deadpan Snarker: Death's Head's preferred form of wit, usually delivered with a Bond One-Liner after completing his latest assignment.
- Cranial Processing Unit: Death's Head can continue to control his body even after being decapitated. In Death's Head II issue #1, he gets "assimilated" by being stabbed in the head.
- Crossover: Going by the stories, Death's Head has encountered the Transformers, the Seventh Doctor, and the mainstream Marvel universe (both present and future). Best to just chalk it up to the multiverse...Geoff Senior: "He really was the ultimate intergalactic, time and space hopping, hitch-hiker of the Marvel Universe playing a role kind of similar, in some respects, to Lobo in DC Comics."
- Death Is Cheap: During an appearance in Iron Man, he is stuck inside a self-destructing superweapon, and isn't shown making it out. He shows up in a different title a few months later, completely intact.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Death's Head stands as one of the few beings to ever walk away from a battle in the center of the mind with Unicron, even after provoking him repeatedly.
- The Dog Bites Back: When he was hired by a group of rebels to assassinate an oppressive king, Death's Head discovers he was actually set up by the King and expected to die in an ambush. Death's Head proceeds to kill the palace guards and the King — completing the original contract.Rule One: Always honor a contract but never trust a client!
- Everything Is Racist: A Running Gag during his crossover with Iron Man. He repeatedly accuses Tony Stark of being prejudiced against robots.
- Fantastic Racism: He's not fond of organic life. Upon learning that Darkhawk is actually a human piloting an android body:Death's Head: I assumed you were a superior mechanoid life-form. Instead, you're little more than a grim reminder of a fate worse than death, yes?
- Freelance Peacekeeping Agent"Anyway, client's money is good, eh? Beyond that, I don't care who I kill. Who they are, what they've done, doesn't concern me."
- Future Me Annoys Me: Doesn't think too highly of his 'successor'.
- Grand Theft Me: Forms part of his origin story.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: As long as he's paid, anyway.
- Improvised Weapon: Death's Head is willing to improvise weapons from whatever is at hand, including furniture, barbecue skewers, and doors."Skilled warrior is only out of ammo when room is empty, yes?"
- Insistent Terminology: "Freelance peacekeeping agent," yes? Not a mistake anyone will make twice if I can help it, right?
- Law Enforcement, Inc.: The self-described "Freelance Peacekeeping Agent" Death's Head.
- Let's You and Him Fight:
- Occurs in Death's Head #10, when an Upper-Class Twit manipulates Death's Head and Iron Man 2020 to fight each other while he bets on the outcome.
- Occurs again in Fantastic Four #338, when Death's Head is hired to investigate a temporal anomaly and runs into the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Thor.
- And in Kieron Gillen's Iron Man run. First time was gladiatorial combat, second was because Death's Head was being controlled.
- Losing Your Head: In their first encounter, Iron Man 2020 decapitates Death's Head in battle. Annoyed, Death's Head used his headless body to beat up Iron Man and work off his aggression.
- Magitek: Death's Head was created with a mixture of technology and magic, originally intended as a replacement body for his creator.
- Mind Rape: Was on the receiving end of this from Unicron.
- More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk gives him a mouth full of fangs, complete with Gold Tooth.
- Mr. Fixit: Spratt is competent with a toolkit, but not to the level of a Gadgeteer Genius.
- Only in It for the Money: This is Death's Head's primary motive; he considers revenge to be unprofitable, and selfless heroism to be a weakness. When he does perform "good" deeds, he'll justify it in terms of profit or reputation, such as taking down a rampaging mechanoid for free before a large crowd for the publicity.Rule Three: Never kill for free, but it pays to advertise!
- This goes so far that when he was told he had to save his future self he refused at first because he doesn't do jobs for free. After a bit of convincing, he settled for doing it as "life insurance".
- Robotic Psychopath: He is severely lacking empathy, understanding of people and has terrible control over his impulses.
- Rocket Boots: What he uses when he needs to move around the battlefield, or leave it.
- Samaritan Syndrome: Averted; on the rare occasions when Death's Head acts altruistically, he either has an ulterior motive or Lampshades himself for "being soft".
- This point is hammered home at the end of What If? #54, after sacrificing the Fantastic Four and several other Marvel heroes in a fight to the death against Minion/Charnal:"It's strange, this hero thing. Whole lives devoted completely to helping others. For no financial reward whatsoever. Struggling ceaselessly against impossible odds, risking almost certain death to help those in trouble. I...I just hope it's not catching, yes?"
- This point is hammered home at the end of What If? #54, after sacrificing the Fantastic Four and several other Marvel heroes in a fight to the death against Minion/Charnal:
- "Second Law" My Ass!: He obeys no organic, and likes very few of them.
- Sidekick: Spratt.
- Skull for a Head: Though it's more robotic and alien than most examples.
- Spin-Off: From the Marvel UK comic book series.
- Swiss Army Appendage/Swiss Army Weapon: Death's Head has several different weapons that he can swap his right hand with. His most common ones are a mace, an axe, a blaster, and several different types of missiles.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: The first incarnation has made numerous appearances after Death's Head II came into being, including the two meeting (and fighting) each other. The chronology of the appearances from his perspective is anyone's guess. To quote Kieron Gillen: "If you can't bring back a time-traveling dimension-skipper, who can you bring back?"
- Unexplained Recovery: Death's Head surviving a collapsing superweapon in Iron Man wasn't adequately explained the next time he appeared in Revolutionary War, though he mentioned something about "backups".
- Verbal Tic: Death's Head often uses terse sentences, and ends most of his sentences with questions, and more frequently with "Yes?", "Right?" and "Eh?"
- What If?: To address the personality change of Death's Head II, Simon Furman and Geoff Senior wrote What If? #54, "What If Death's Head I Had Lived?" In it, Death's Head survives Minion's attack with an emergency teleportation device. He rebuilds his body into a larger, more heavily-armed form, then recruits various Marvel heroes in a Heroic Sacrifice against Minion's One-Winged Angel form before destroying him personally. Simon Furman has said that writing the story was "deeply satisfying and cathartic".
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: He gets annoyed when organics treat intelligent robots like they are just unfeeling machines."Youre not one of those guys who has a code against killing 'except for robots'? I hate those krypto-fascists."
Death's Head II was originally a cyborg named Minion, created in 2020 by AIM scientist Dr. Evelyn Necker to protect the organization from a vague psychically predicted threat. In preparation, Minion was sent to assimilate the knowledge and personalities of the 106 most deadly individuals in the galaxy, killing them in the process.
The original Death's Head was one such target; after assimilation, however, he overwhelmed Minion's programming before it could take out its final target, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Calling itself Death's Head II, the Minion cyborg proceeded to have various adventures as a traditionally heroic (and less amoral) figure.
Death's Head II exhibits the following tropes:
- Arch-Enemy: Charnel, the corpse of the original Death's Head possessed by Baron Strucker IV.
- Arc Welding: With the 3.0 versions. See, during Planet Hulk, several 3.0 style Death's Heads were working for Hulk, and he brought them to Earth in World War Hulk. A few months later, in the Nova tie-in for Secret Invasion, it turned out some of those 3.0s had wound up in the care of Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S., and one Doctor Evelyn Necker, who was later shown to be working on her own little secret project for AIM...
- Assimilation Backfire: As noted in the description, trying to assimilate the mind of the original Death's Head was what turned Minion into a new Death's Head.
- In the What If? story Death's Head escapes their initial encounter, and Minion proceeds to successfully kill and assimilate Reed Richards. After Strucker merges with Minion and becomes Charnel, Death's Head combats him by pushing him far enough to tap into all available resources, which includes the mind of Reed Richards. Because Reed's recorded mind also retained his morals and willpower, it manages to stall Charnel just long enough for Death's Head to finish him off.
- The Dark Age of Comic Books: What he evokes huge build, unnecessarily built arms, generic stances, dark and edgy dialogue. Pretty much the whole set.
- Follow the Leader: Death's Head II's design is clearly meant to invoke the Rob Liefeld style popularized during The Dark Age of Comic Books.
- You'll also be forgiven if you mistake Death's Head II for a Predator at first.
- Heroic Build: Not necessary heroic, but very stocky.
- Hot Scientist: Evelyn Necker.
- In Name Only: Most fans of the original Death's Head felt that Death's Head II was not the same character — he was not written by the original writer, exhibited none of the mannerisms and personality quirks of the original, and ended up as a generic Darker and Edgier Boring Invincible Hero. The backlash was so great that the original creators of Death's Head, Simon Furman and Geoff Senior, wrote What If? #54 for Marvel just to show their take on what should have happened instead.
- Oddly, the handful of appearances he has had post-2000 have shown him lapsing back to old speech patterns and profit-oriented thinking. Given the amount of time travel in his backstory, some fans theorise that these stories show the original Death's Head before his fatal encounter with Minion.
- It's not just a fan theory in S.W.O.R.D. - not only is it set before Death's Head was shrunk to human size, but it's even set before his Transformers appearances - Beast suggests that instead of 'Bounty Hunter' or 'Personal Recovery Specialist', Death's Head should call himself a 'Freelance Peacekeeping Agent'. Death's Head likes the term.
- Shapeshifter Weapon: Death's Head II's right arm can shapeshift into different weapons as needed.
- Sidekick: Tuck, an artificial human from the planet Lionheart.
- Split-Personality Merge: Death's Head II is the collected personalities and knowledge of the personalities he's assimilated, with the original Death's Head being the most dominant.
- Stripperiffic: Tuck.
- Temporal Paradox: Necker's project to develop a protector against the predicted threat to AIM directly results in the creation of said threat as Baron Strucker IV fuses himself magically with the remains of the original Death's Head and becomes Charnel. What If? #54 played a variation of this, as Death's Head survives, but Strucker then fuses himself with Minion instead, preserving the paradox.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Not Death's Head II, but his creator, Dr. Necker, during Revolutionary War. In her appearances in Nova, she'd been a surprisingly benevolent mad scientist (due in part to having the hots for Richard Rider). In RW, she attacks both Death's Heads.
- Wolverine Publicity: Death's Head II was very popular in the UK market for a while.