With the new Death’s Head mini series by Tini Howard and Kei Zama launching later this month from Marvel in comic shops, it’s no surprise that a collection is also on its way, an “Omnibus” edition of Death’s Head adventures, scheduled for March 2020.
“Meet one of Marvel UK’s biggest stars – the robot for hire known as Death’s Head!” reads promotional copy I’ve seen for Death’s Head: Freelance Peacekeeping Agent. “Just don’t call him a bounty hunter, yes?
“Join the android assassin in this pulse-pounding collection of his original adventures, from distant dimensions to the far future. Death’s Head has his sights locked on an array of enemies – and will encounter familiar faces including the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, She- Hulk and Arno Stark, the ruthless Iron Man of the future! But are you ready for Death’s Head’s mind-bending origin? For that matter, is he?!
“Buy this book and stay healthy, yes?”
Death’s Head: Freelance Peacekeeping Agent, a 400-plus page collection, features Dragon’s Claws #5 (published in 1988); Death’s Head #1-7, 9-10 (1988); Death’s Head: The Body in Question Graphic Novel (1990); Fantastic Four #338; Sensational She-Hulk #24; What If? #54; Marvel Heroes #33; and material from Marvel Comic Presents #76.
The Death’s Head series was first republished by Marvel UK in the 12-issue The Incomplete Death’s Head, but it was Panini UK who published book collections of the original stories, back in 2007, over two volumes. Both are still available in limited quantities… and for crazy prices, on Amazon, at least, for Volume One, which is listed at over £197!
The first Panini volume included the first seven Death’s Head stories from his short US format run, the character’s original one-page strip drawn by Bryan Hitch used by Marvel UK to stake their claim to the character, “Crossroads of Time”, the Doctor Who crossover that saw the bounty hunter shrunk to human size, and his encounter with Dragon’s Claws.
The second volume saw Death’s Head head into the far future and into the past, locking blasters with a host of enemies both villainous and noble, including the Fantastic Four and the corrupt Iron Man of 2020. It included Death’s Head #8-10, The Sensational She-Hulk #24, Fantastic Four Volume 1 #338, Marvel Comics Presents Vol.1 #76, Strip #13-20 and What If… Volume 1 #54.
MISSING IN ACTION…DOCTOR WHO!
Omitted from this new Marvel collection is Death’s Head #8, “Time Bomb”, a story featuring characters originally created by Marvel UK for Doctor Who Magazine. Marvel does not currently have a Doctor Who license, and presumably the rights issues – and the whole Doctor Who/ Death’s Head connection – are a bit of a minefield for the company today.
“Time Bomb!” reunited the Seventh Doctor with Death’s Head, who he first encountered in DWM Issue 135, in “Crossroads of Time”. In that story, the Doctor shrinks Death’s Head from his then giant size to near human – a story that precedes Death’s Head’s first encounter with Dragon’s Claws and the Death’s Head series.
The story implies the Doctor was a part of the Marvel universe by showing that the TARDIS had landed on top of the Four Freedoms Plaza, headquarters for the Fantastic Four.
(Of course, the Doctor has crossed into other universes in several adventures, so why not Marvel’s? This hasn’t stopped Doctor Who continuity experts from getting pretty worked up about the implication that the Doctor could be a Marvel Universe character…)
Lest anyone be in any doubt of the Doctor’s interference in Death’s Head’s long life, when the original Death’s Head series was first republished in the The Incomplete Death’s Head comic series, I commissioned then Death’s Head II writer Dan Abnett to script a “framing story” I created, which revealed the Doctor had interfered in the affairs of the original robot bounty hunter and his cyborg successor many times.
In the early 1990s, Death’s Head II, designed and first drawn by Liam Sharp, was by far MUK’s most popular and best-selling comic in the US market ever, and demand for more Death’s Head came down from Marvel US to sate fan demand. MUK Editorial Director Paul Neary was not keen on the original character’s early stories, which had in part prompted his revamp, but he needed to respond to the orders from New York.
The Incomplete Death’s Head framing sequence to retell the original Death’s Head’s story, with art by the current Death’s Head II artist Simon Coleby was also designed to appeal not only to fans of the original character (who I liked, even if Paul didn’t!), and Death’s Head II fans. If Doctor Who fans bought it too, then that couldn’t hurst sales, could it? (The TARDIS Data Core has a feature on the Incomplete Death’s Head‘s here).
OUT SOON: ALL NEW DEATH’S HEAD
Originally created by Simon Furman and Geoff Senior in the 1980s, the new Death’s Head series in comic shops from 31st July 2019 is written by Tini Howard with art from Kei Zama, with covers by Nick Roche.
Variant covers have also been created by Liam Sharp and Mike McKone (for #1) – plus on offer wil be stunning “connecting covers” from John McCrea and Mike Spicer. Here’s a checklist so far of the series, with covers so far.
• Death’s Head on the Transformers Wiki
Great account of the bounty hunter’s early tales!