DEATH’s HEAD vs. DEATH’s HEAD II – Surprising, Yes?

Revolutionary War: Death’s Head II
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

The Marvel UK stalwart Death’s Head is returning to comics in 2014. Which one, you say? Both!

It all starts this Wednesday in Revolutionary War: Alpha as the greatest heroes of Marvel’s UK line come back to life to face the return of an old threat. For many people Death’s Head is the face of the Marvel UK line, and on February 12 both the original and the famous Death’s Head II get a chance to shine in Revolutionary War: Death’s Head II. Written by the event’s chief writers Andy Lanning and Alan Cowsill, this pairing of the two Death’s Heads is a real first and the writers promise to make it a memorable one. Illustrated by Irish artist Nick Roche, this one-shot works as both a key part of the Revolutionary War event and a standalone story for fans of the horn-headed bounty hunters.

Newsarama spoke with Lanning and Cowsill about writing the two Death’s Heads, as well as discussing the recent appearance of Death’s Head in Kieron Gillen’s Invincible Iron Man series.

Newsarama: We’ve talked to you about Revolutionary War as a whole, and now we’re here to talk about the one-shot, Revolutionary War: Death’s Head II. What can you tell us about this issue, specifically?

Andy Lanning: Without going in to spoiler territory, this one-shot shows how Death’s Head is involved in the bigger Revolutionary War story. It picks up after the shocking ending of the Alpha issue - what shocking ending I hear you ask, well that would be telling! All we can say is that you’ll be getting a double dose Death’s Head action as Death’s Head I makes a welcome return from his recent appearances in Invincible Iron Man. If memory serves this is the first time we’ve seen both Death’s Heads together in print for over 20 years.

Alan Cowsill: As Andy said, I think it plays part of the bigger picture but also plays around with Death’s Head’s history.

Nrama: Andy, for me Death’s Head II was how I first came to know you, years before your cosmic work. You co-created him with Dan Abnett and Liam Sharp, so let me ask: have you talked to them about reviving him here for this?

Lanning: Just for the record, I didn’t co-create him, that was all Dan and Liam based on the original who was created by Simon Furman and Geoff Senior. I was just an inker for hire back then but still have very fond memories of the Marvel UK days. We didn’t really consult with Dan or Liam as the one-shot was more tied into the greater Revolutionary War story but we managed to get Liam roped in to do a variant cover for the one-shot which was awesome. Even though he’s very busy with the great stuff he’s doing with Madefire Comics (check them out it’s well worth it!, he jumped at the chance to work on Death’s Head again. We’ve found that a lot of the old creators from back in the day still have a soft spot for these characters and have been more than happy to join in.

Cowsill: I’m a big fan of Liam’s Madefire stuff. In fact I’ve liked Liam’s art since we first met back in my Games Workshop days over 20 years ago so it’s great to have him onboard for a variant cover. And it’s an ace cover too. I know Liam’s really fond of Death’s Head II so hopefully him, Simon and Dan will enjoy the issue. I was editing some of the Death’s Head spin-off books back in the day and used him front and center on Overkill (an old Marvel UK anthology) so it’s fun finally getting to write his further adventures.

Nrama: Back onto the subject, the big draw for hardcore Marvel UK fans isn’t just that they’re returning is that you’re pitting Death’s Head II against the original, Death’s Head. Can you talk about this meet-up?

Credit: Marvel Comics

Lanning: One of the main reasons we wanted to do Revolutionary War was to revisit the Marvel UK characters as it had been over 20 years since they were in print. We wanted to represent the characters we have a lot of fondness for to the comic readers of today and obviously Death’s Head II was the break out title back in the 90s so it was a no-brainer we’d be using him. It was pleasant coincidence that Kieron Gillen had been using Death’s Head I in Invincible Iron Man recently too so it seemed fated that we should try to fit him into the story as well. The fact that both robots are time travelling bounty hunters made this easier to do. In fact, the events that are told in the original Death’s Head II series from 1992 haven’t even happened yet! It was set in the year 2020!

Cowsill: It’s a little scary to think we’re closer to 2020 than we are to when Death’s Head last had his own series! Can’t really talk too much about the issue for obvious reasons but I think long term fans of both incarnations of Death’s Head will be happy. And don’t forget Tuck going to be there too!

Nrama: How does this book fit within the larger Revolutionary War event?

Lanning: It’s a pivotal part of the bigger story. Death’s Head role is somewhat ambiguous, both of them, but he proves to be a main player, even if it’s a tad reluctantly.

Cowsill: All the one-shots tie in but, for the most part, can stand alone as stories in their own right. Obviously it’d be impossible to do a title like Revolutionary War without giving the Death’s Heads a big role in it.

Nrama: Can you pick out a specific scene, piece of dialogue or moment from the issue you can share with us that’ll get readers excited about the book?

Lanning: There’s quite a few really, we’ve found ourselves having a sly giggle at some of the Easter egg references we’ve seeded throughout the issue. We challenge readers to spot them, there are a fair few. One of my favorite lines is a Nick Roche cracker: Death’s Head I spots his future self and exclaims; “That’s me? Bioorganic components? Droopy horns? no CAPE?! Tuck was right, I DO need saving!’

Cowsill: I’m fond of the little Easter eggs in there for long term fans too. I like to think we’ve given both Death Heads their moment. I’m especially fond of the first time we see Tuck in this issue and what she’s been up to!

Nrama: Working on you as you mentioned is Nick Roche. While Nick wasn’t around during the original Marvel UK days like you two, he’s one of the big art talents coming out of Ireland these days. How’d you end up working with him, and how’s it look so far with what he’s turning out for this issue?

Lanning: I worked with Nick previously on Transformers and we kept in touch. I know Nick is a huge Marvel UK fan and an even bigger Death’s Head fan as he grew up reading them (blimey, that makes me feel old!), so I was really pleased to put his name into the hat when we were choosing artists. When I told Nick he was drawing the Death’s Head book, I heard the whoop of joy from Ireland to London! Nick’s an awesome artist and we’re working with him old school Marvel style as he’s working from a plot and has already contributed some killer one-liners! It’s always fun working this way with an artist you trust. As the pages have been coming in, we’re given the chance to look at the story with a fresh eye and add, change or even remove dialogue to suit. I can see why Stan Lee and Jack Kirby worked so well this way back in the day.

Cowsill: Nick’s ace. A book like this really needs someone with a lot of love for the character and Nick really does love Death’s Head. You probably know that part of the reason he was put forward for the job was because of a twit pic he did of Death’s Head, demanding to draw the character if Marvel ever did another story. This was before it was on the cards. So I guess it was destiny. His art brings a real energy to the party that I think readers will appreciate.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: I don’t want to get too far ahead of things, but I have to ask --- if Revolutionary War goes well could you see these heroes, together or in some sort of solo/team formula, returning again on a regular, ongoing basis?

Lanning: We’d love the opportunity to return and play in the Marvel UK bit of the Marvel Universe. These are some great characters that we hope people will enjoy revisiting or getting to know for the first time and there is a wealth of continuity in the MUK-universe that hasn’t been explored since Paul Cornell’s great Captain Britain and MI13 series, which was almost 6 years ago now. We’d come back without a moment’s hesitation and we know there are a fair few top creators out there who’d like to come join us in the future too, so, fingers crossed!

Cowsill: I think we’d both love to do more. Not only featuring the characters in Revolutionary War but some of the other Marvel UK characters we couldn’t quite fit in because of story structure. There’s a lot of love in the British comic industry (and beyond) for many of these characters so it would be great to bring them back for Round Two. And we already have a few ideas for what happens next!

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