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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 358: Marvel Comics Presents #76

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. As it’s now December, I will be examining the LAST pages of random comics, so watch out for SPOILERS! Today’s page is from Marvel Comics Presents #76, which was published by Marvel (yes, really!) and is cover dated May 1991. Enjoy!

Young Kieron Gillen LOVED this story, I'll wager

MCP #76 is, of course, famous for being part of Barry Windsor-Smith’s serialization of Wolverine’s “origin” at the Weapon X facility, but you know me – I just like to be contrary! So instead, let’s check out this page, from the third story in the issue, the Death’s Head one written by Simon Furman, drawn by Bryan Hitch, inked by Mark Farmer, colored by Joe Rosas, and lettered by Richard Starkings. Damned Brits, taking over the comics industry like that!

This is a quick short story (the stories in this anthology were a mix of serials and one-offs) in which Death’s Head is hired to find a big-game hunter, who gets the drop on him. There’s a Skrull, too, who wants revenge on the hunter – a dude named Soul – and convinces Death’s Head to take him along when he tracks Soul. Just as Soul is about to kill Death’s Head, the Skrull plays a note on an instrument that kills that large animal behind Soul. That’s Death’s Head narrating “and the pain can kill them!” as the animal totters and falls right on top of Soul. The Skrull, as we can see, has died, and Death’s Head wonders what the point of revenge is – he’s a for-profit kind of guy! Furman, who created Death’s Head (I think this is the 2.0 version, but I’m not sure), does a nice job in a few panels of capturing the cadence of his voice, his beliefs, and his (probably) unintentional sense of humor – I haven’t read a lot of Death’s Head comics, but it seems like he’s funny without meaning to be.

Hitch was still early in his career at this point, but he had worked with Furman before (he drew Death’s Head’s first appearance), and he was already becoming a pretty darned good artist (he was still channeling Alan Davis a bit, but there’s really nothing wrong with that). The “stakk” in the first panel – the big animal – somehow has reared up on its hind legs rather quickly, as it’s on all fours in the previous panel, but that’s not Hitch’s fault, and he draws it well. Soul looks to the left in Panel 2, as he realizes he’s about to die, and Hitch draws him with a very nice, “oh shit” expression on his face, while the black shadow about to overwhelm him is a good touch. This is a bit of a cheeky story, so Hitch – or Starkings – gives us a nice, somewhat silly sound effect in Panel 3, as the “stakk” lands on Soul – the crooked lettering makes it more humorous, as does the word itself – “FWUMM” just sounds ridiculous, and Soul’s demise is somewhat so. As Death’s Head stands up and looks at the now-dead Skrull in Panel 4, Hitch doesn’t forget to draw Soul’s hand sticking up from underneath the great beast. Panel 6, like Panel 2, is a nice close-up – Death’s Head is a robot, so his facial expression doesn’t change, but Hitch makes him a bit more pensive by having him “scratch” his chin and by enlarging his pupils. He’s not worried, but he is thoughtful, because he knows he needs Soul’s head, but he also thinks the “governor” might like the “stakk” as a trophy. That Death’s Head – always thinking!

This is fun little story that means nothing but shows off some of Marvel’s young talent in 1991. I know the market won’t support a book like this today, which is too bad – sometimes you got some neat stories in the back while you were reading Windsor-Smith’s Wolverine epic!

Next: It’s been a while since we’ve seen some really old-school comics, so let’s get to another one. The last line of this comic might be the best way to end a comic … ever! Find some more old-school comics in the archives!

6 Comments

Pretty sure Geoff Senior did the first Deaths Head.

I too have this fun short story. This is Death’s Head after he was shrunk to human size by The Doctor (of Doctor Who) but before he was absorbed by Minion to become Deaths Head II. (Chronologically, one of the earliest Death’s Head stories is now Kieron Gillen’s S.W.O.R.D. in which Beast first gives DH the idea of calling himself a “freelance peacekeeping agent”.)

Michael: According to Wikipedia, Furman and Senior created the character, but he had to debut in a Marvel book before he could show up in Transformers. So Furman wrote a single-page story that Hitch drew. That’s what I was counting as the “first Death’s Head” story. And as we know, Wikipedia is NEVER WRONG!!!!! :)

Drancron: Ah, I see. I have very little experience with Death’s Head, and I didn’t feel like reading it on Wikipedia, so thank!

Greg: Yeah, Wikipedia *is* actually wrong about that ‘first’ Deaths Head story. :-) Transformers #113 is DH’s first appearance, by Geoff Senior and Simon Furman, from May 1987. ‘High Noon Tex’, his retroactive and fake first appearance is even signed Hitch ’88 and was published in Marvel UK comics in the September of 1988. http://img146.imageshack.us/img146/9205/textrd.jpg What happened, is that Marvel realised after Death’s Head’s popularity in his Transformers appearances that Hasbro technically owned the character. Thus, ‘High Noon Tex’ was cited as DH’s first appearance, which would make him a Marvel character and enable Marvel to release the Death’s Head ongoing, use him in Doctor Who, etc. (This is further evident by the fact that ‘High Noon Tex’ was drawn not by Geoff Senior, who created Death’s Head and drew his first appearances in Transformers comics, but by Bryan Hitch, who drew the Death’s Head series as of the December of 1988.) If ‘High Noon Tex’ was in fact drawn in, say, April of 1987 then it would be Hitch’s first published comics work, predating his real first comics work by a couple of months, back when he was seventeen years old.

Drancron: Yeah, I knew that they published him in Marvel UK book to retain possession, but I didn’t know they faked his first appearance. That fooled people? Man. One wonders why Hasbro hasn’t demanded the rights to Death’s Head, as it seems they’d be within their rights.

” I know the market won’t support a book like this today,”

Do you mean anthology books with offbeat, non-mainstream storytelling? What about Dark Horse Presents which has been published since last April. DC’s Solo is another title that comes to mind that admittedly didn’t last long. To say that no one is making the effort-even the big two- is untrue.

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