Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Death's Head and High Noon Tex.

I recently received an email from a pleasant chap by the name of Thomas West, who asked me the following question.

"Hi. Can settle an argument for me? You know Death's Head? The first one from Transformers? I heard that Marvel UK put him in an extra strip in some of their books, just to make sure he wasn't owned by Transformers rather than them. Is this true?"

In short, yes. That pretty much was the case. Death's Head was created for Marvel UK by Simon Furman and Geoff Senior. Furman wanted to use the character in the stories he was doing for the UK Transformers comic. But the problem there was that if Death's Head made his first official appearance in the pages of Transformers the from a copyright point of view he would be considered part of the Transformers universe, first and foremost. That would mean that as soon as Marvel ended it's license agreement with Transformers Marvel UK would no longer be able to use the character (Or Marvel in general for that matter). Furthermore, any other company who picked it up, such as Dreamwave or IDW now, could potentially use the character in their own stories, as part of owning the license.

Obviously, Marvel UK did not want this to happen.

And so in 1987 Marvel UK put out a one page strip called "High Noon Tex" in the back of some of its books. This story was published before Death's Head's Transformers debut, and therefore stamped Marvel UK's possession on the character for continued use. And for those curious over what the strip looked like, well, here it is:

Death's Head was a character who pretty much travelled across every Marvel UK title that would have him, in both his true incarnations. Yes, he spent some time in Transformers. But he also spent some time in Doctor Who, as well. And while. if he were to reappear in modern Marvel Comics, he wouldn't be able to legally refer to those experiences in panel, they very much DID happen. His original incarnation also turned up Fantastic Four #338 (By Walter Simonsen) and Sensational She-Hulk (Vol.2) #24 (By Simon Furman & Bryan Hitch). 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.

He is sorely missed, and long overdue a revival. If only as a guest appearance somewhere would still be great. Is a cameo in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy relaunch, too much to ask?

In way of a bonus, while I was digging through my old books to find High Noon Tex I also found the great Godilux advert for Death's Head's own series. Enjoy.

Keep those emails and comments coming, folks! I'm slowly getting back up to speed.


  1. Do you know in what issues HIGH NOON TEX originally appeared? I have never been able to find it before September 1988, which I assumed were reprints, and recently there have been allegations that it really never appeared before these 1988 issues. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Death's Head and the associated discussion page.

  2. Sadly, David I don't know for sure. The scanned page I posted up comes from one of my 'Clippings folder'. Like many a child of the 80s my parents wanted me to throw out all my comics just as soon as I had read over them. As a compromise I would often clip out stories and adverts which I enjoyed, past them onto cardboard, or punch holes into them, so that I could put them in ring binders. But sadly that also meant that key details (Such as actual dates) have been lost to me.

    I've spent a fair few years trying to replace old issues of Action Force and Transformers because of this. I still have most of the folders, although sadly my folder of several years of Combat Colin strips appear to have gone walkabout between house moves.

  3. If memory serves me the High Noon Tex story was not published prior to DH's first appearance in Transformers. It was created and done prior to the appearance to secure the Copyright for Marvel and then was published later.

    High Noon Tex certainly isn't in any Transformers comics prior to #114.

  4. It's certainly one of those very tricky situations fashioned through the usage of brand-created characters guesting in a book which is only licensed to that brand.

    I could quite understand Transformers fans deeply wanting the chance to see Death's ~Head appearing in IDW Transformers stories. They probably feel that Death's Head is a character they remember so strongly from the peak of Transformers as a comics property.

    But the thing is that the vast majority of Death's Head's appearances were not in Transformers. He turned up in Doctor Who, in Fantastic Four, in She-Hulk, not to mention getting spots in Marvel Comics Presents and his own What If...?

    He visited a lot of other places aside from his own three series and spin-off character books. There was a lot.

    I personally am glad he is still a Marvel UK property. I just wish that Marvel would bring him back properly.

  5. I'm glad he moved relatively swiftly out of the Transformers books. He's an interesting character in his own right and his initial appearance worked well enough in the Galvatron arc and then the two parter where he went up against Rodimus Prime. But his appearance in Legacy of Unicron was unnecessary I thought and he'd outgrown the TF universe and needed to play elsewhere.

    Thankfully he did just that.

    I agree, Death's Head if done right with a good creative team has a lot of potential.

    Sadly I can't see it happening anytime soon.

  6. I guess that really depends...

    You know it's funny, that did that poll in 2005 for old characters to be revamped for appearing in Amazing Fantasy - which Death's Head won by a landslide. Now granted, it was probably heavily loaded towards Death's Head, but that many people DID vote for him.

    There is demand for the real Death's Head to return. The problem is that the Death's Head of Death's Head 3.0 was never going to be that. I always got the feeling that Furman had been given such a very rigid structure to work within, that it was always going to fail.

    But as we see time and time again in comics, all ANY character needs is the right writer to show an interest.

    If you'd suggested five years ago that Captain Britain was going to EVER have a book bear his name again, a lot of people would have laughed at you. And ten years ago the concept that Luke Cage, Iron Fist or Spider-woman would ever be Avengers was even more laughable.

    It just shows that if a writer in Marvel's good books likes a character they WILL make a comeback.