View Single Post
Old 2013-09-30, 07:45 AM   #4
One with the Matrix
Skyquake87's Avatar

I think its a bit disingenuous to blame the fall of Marvel UK on its roster of characters. The collapse came about due to the company suddenly mushrooming its production beyond its capabilities in 1993, coupled with Marvel having trouble after the speculator bubble burst in 1994 which saw them pull the plug and ultimately sell the UK wing to Pannini.

The original launch characters of Hell's Angel, Knights of Pendragon II, Death's Head II were all strong sellers running to 16 issues a piece before the plug was pulled. Warheads was cancelled at # 15 and suceeded by a 2 issue limited series Black Dawn and was to be survived by a DHII team - up Loose Cannons, which was to be fully painted. Motormouth lasted 12 issues and is the only other Marvel UK character aside from the original Death's Head to manage an appearance in an American Marvel book outside her own UK book (all of which rather made a nonsense of UK editors cramming in the X-Men into all Marvel UK books to "mainstream" them - the 'guest star' idea becoming a one-sided arrangement to the detriment of the UK books as far too many pages were given over to US guest stars).

A lot of the second year output of the 'Genesis' relaunch was pretty poor. Whilst Cyberspace 3000 and Wild Thing were good, there was a lot derivative sub-Image crap like Gun Runner, Die-Cut and Super Soldiers with silly over-muscled men running around with big guns. A small beacon of quality could be found in the Marvel UK's actually very good Frontier imprint - which mined the sort of mature readers territory the company were tapping into prior to Paul Neary's arrival.

Whilst I will agree that Lanning's IDW Transformers work was pretty piss poor, both he and Dan Abnett had a celebrated run on Marvel's cosmic characters and both of these writers, along with Revolutionary War co-conspiritor Alan Cowsill, largely cut their teeth at Marvel UK. Lanning's co-writing duties with Abnett even back then turned out some of the better Death's Head II material in the shape of the two Battletide mini-series.

I remain optimistic that this will be a decent little outing for the characters, following a bit of cheer leading by Paul Cornell in the short-lived Captain Britain and MI13 which briefly featured some of the above characters, as well as Kieron Gillen's championing of the original Death's Head in S.W.O.R.D and Iron Man.

I disagree with Cliffy's snippy comments about the original Death's Head. The original character has proved he has a resonance and longevity that the other M:UK characters haven't had. In terms of his own comic book, it delivered a decent slab of 2000AD-lite adventures in much the same way as Dragon's Claws. Where others may see decay, I saw an attempt to flesh out the character and show more of him. The team up with the Fantastic Four was largely played for laughs and worked well - in much the same way Spider-Man does when mixed with The Punisher or Ghost Rider (1990s version). I never saw much of the bastardry that Cliffy mentions, more just a cold, clinical way of getting the job done which was carried over to his own book. I think great things were hoped for of Death's Head, perhaps in no part due to Walt Simonson's interest (then writing/ drawing FF for Marvel US) which got the character a foot in the door abroad and helped raise the UK arm's profile a little.

@ Summerhayes
Death's Head II was a cyborg built by AIM scientist Dr Evelyn Necker in 2020 to save the company from an unseen catastrophe that wipes the firm and all its staff out. This construct was dubbed Minion and was sent to through time to scavenge the powers and abilities of 106 individuals (think Sylar from heroes). Issue 105 on that list was Death's Head, the only mechanoid on that list. Besting and defeating Death's Head, the cyborg went rogue but its original programming managed to reascert itself and it went after the final target : Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Dr Necker persued the cyborg, saving Richards whom managed to bring Death's Head's personality to the fore. Death's Head II then time jumped at random, ending up on the planet Lionheart where he met Tuck, a replicated organic whom became Death's Head's new partner.

After a cracking limited series, which took its queues from the big films of the time (T2 and Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves), the ongoing struggled to find direction and purpose for the character. After signature artist Liam Sharp left at #4 of the ongoing, folk started to realise that cool visuals and witty one-liners weren't enough to maintain interest in the character, as borne out in a very critical letters page in #10. An adventure on Mars in issues 12 - 14 started to inject a bit of direction (and also introduced the world to artist Salvador Larroca), and Liam Sharp returned with the marvellous Death's Head II : Gold, but this came late in the day and at a time that Marvel US were about to pull the plug.

Despite all the Marvel UK books disappearing by May 1994, US Marvel titles continued to offer subscriptions for Hell's Angel and Death's Head II which suggests there was some interest in keeping the most popular titles going, but ultimately this never came to pass.
Skyquake87 is offline   Reply With Quote