British comic fans are rejoicing that the original Death's Head, the fan-favorite crossover character from Marvel UK, is coming back to comics, with his original writer on board.
"Overdue, yes?" said Simon Furman, who co-created the character back in 1987 with artist Geoff Senior. Furman will write the character again in March in a two-part Death's Head vs. Hulk story as part of Marvel UK's kid-targeted line, Marvel Heroes.
"I hadn't written the original Death's Head since 1994, so it was quite a big deal for me to be writing him again in a new story, for a new audience," Furman told Newsarama. "These days, most comics are aimed at older teens and adults, so the idea of re-introducing Death's Head to a younger audience was very appealing."
American readers might remember Death's Head 3.0, a newer version of the character, or the recent introduced in the U.S. in Kieron Gillen's short-lived S.W.O.R.D..
But the original Death's Head was introduced in a Transformers comic in 1987, then ended up crossing over in a Marvel UK comic for the British phenomenon, Doctor Who. Soon he was starring in his own Marvel UK title and graphic novel.
"That was the great thing back then," said Simon Williams, the artist who's drawing the new Hulk story. "Marvel had the various licenses to publish these properties, making these crossovers possible. I can remember at the time how cool it was that you had this character, who had fought everyone from Rodimus Prime, Galvatron, the seventh Doctor to the Fantastic Four and She-Hulk! I had always wished back then that they'd have had him fight the Hulk, but I never dreamt one day I'd be drawing it."
For fans who may not be familiar with the character, Death's Head is a bounty hunter who kills people for money. "Kind of tough to love a character like that, you'd think. But he has quirks, and I think that's what makes him appealing," Furman said.
Probably his most noticeable and imitated quirk is that he ends most sentences with "yes?" or "eh?" or "huh?" He's also strictly business, killing for money only. "So there are never any thoughts of revenge or wounded pride. He's strictly business," Furman said, but added that Death's Head "doesn't want to be called a bounty hunter, even though that's what he is. It's 'freelance peacekeeping agent, yes?'
"Also in the dark, dark humor of the strips and his weird and wonderful supporting cast — he occasionally has a 'pet' vulture who kind of follows him around," Furman said. "He's just unconventional, and that's where his appeal lies. He's just... different, I suppose. One of a kind."
Although Death's Head never became an A-list character in the Marvel Universe, he has fiercely loyal fans. "He's much loved, in his dark and twisted way, and that's very pleasing for me," said Furman, who is the script supervisor on the new animated TV show, The Matt Hatter Chronicles. "I knew that when this new story was announced on my blog we'd get a great buzz going from the fans, and that's certainly been the case."
Williams is among those fans and lobbied hard for the return of the character. "I've been a huge fan of the character ever since he debuted in Marvel UK's Transformers," Williams said. "I've asked — well, pestered — editor Ed Hammond for ages about featuring Death's Head in one of their titles, and to say it was a dream come true when Ed sent me the script for this is an understatement."
The artist has what he describes as an "old-school" style, and he intends to use that on Death's Head. "My biggest influences as a comic artist include Sal and John Buscema, and I'll admit that shows in my work. Original Death's Head artist Geoff Senior is another influence, so when working on this strip I decided to go for the classic look to the character," the artist said. "I'm a regular guest at the UK Transformers convention Auto Assembly and fans always tell me that the version they'd like to see."
Fans who are worried that this is a simplified 'kids' comic "needn't worry," Williams said. "This is pure, classic Marvel UK Simon Furman Death's Head, and I'm saying that as a fan."
Because Marvel Heroes comics are only available in the U.K., American readers who want to check out the Death's Head story are out of luck. "What I suggest is to email the great folks at Marvel and tell them you want to see it as well," Williams said. "Marvel reprinted a UK Spectacular Spider-Man story a few years back, featuring a Spider-man/Captain Britain story by Jim Alexander and Jon Haward, and it would be a dream come true to see this reprinted in the U.S."
That's something Williams will be lobbying for, as part of his campaign to revive Death's Head and bring him back to prominence, even in the U.S. "I'm just hoping this may lead to some more appearances from the character," Williams said. "I for one would love to draw him again. If Marvel is reading, I've got one thing to say: Death's Head/Deadpool anyone?"