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"His name is Death's Head. He kills people for money. If you're one of his targets then that's all you're going to know about him; if you're thinking of hiring him then be warned -- he's expensive and he always collects on his debts!"
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.
To ensure the character rights would remain with Marvel instead of Hasbro, Death's Head's first published appearance was in the short backup story, "High Noon Tex" (1987). Death's Head first appeared canonically 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 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.
His appearances have included crossovers with the 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.
Death's Head (the original, yes?) exhibits the following tropes:
- Arch Enemy: Many, most notably Big Shot, who became Axe Crazy in his vendetta against Death's Head.
- Badass Automaton
- 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.
- 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!
"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."
- 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?
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Many of the crossover stories cannot be reprinted due to licensing conflicts, most notably with Doctor Who and Transformers. The various reprints usually explain these omitted stories as missing archival records.
- IDW Comics has recently reprinted the story where the Seventh Doctor crashes into Death's Head in Doctor Who Classics.
- Law Enforcement, Inc.
- Let's You and Him Fight: Occurs in Death's Head #10, when an Upperclass 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Robotic Psychopath
- Rocket Boots
- Samaritan Syndrome: Averted hard; 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?"
- Second Law, My Ass
- Shared Universe: 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...
- Sidekick: Spratt.
- 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.
- Verbal Tic: Death's Head often ends his sentences with "yes?" or "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".
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.
- The Dark Age of Comic Books
- 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
- 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've happened instead.
- 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.
- Wolverine Publicity: Death's Head II was very popular in the UK market for a while.