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.