Unless the government opened your head up and removed it, you have a skull. So does the guy next to you on the bus, the woman riding the elevator with you, and the kid who serves you coffee at Starbucks. In fact, skulls are a common trait shared by all living humans. So then why are they so damn scary?
Take the skin off a head and it immediately gets freaky-looking, which is why it works as such a great intimidator in comic books. Your character needs to be scary right away? Give him the ol’ Skull Face (which, surprisingly, doesn’t have an entry in Urban Dictionary). Frank Castle knew that skulls were scary, so he put one on his shirt. Who else went with the skull? These 10 heroes and villains!
?Reapers generally rock the skulls, and Batman comics didn’t disappoint. They gave us TWO Reapers for the price of one! (Not really, you have to buy both issues.) The first one was a concentration camp survivor seeking revenge. He died, but showed up recently after being cryogenically frozen. The better-known Reaper showed up in Batman: Year Two as the son of Wayne-killing criminal Joe Chill. You might recognize the costume design from the film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
?Golden Age and gorgeous. Yup, that describes this skull-woman. Fantomah was a creation of comic legend Fletcher Hanks back in 1940. She had all sorts of magical powers (never really defined, she could do almost anything Fletcher could think up) but to use them, her pretty face would turn into a blue skull. On the whole, I’d think it would derail a first date, but not a second or third. Fantomah’s considered one of the first superheroines, and it’s a shame she hasn’t made more appearances recently (outside of Tim Seeley’s Hack/Slash), since she’s public domain and dressed in a pretty modern tank top.
8) Mr. Bones
?Not many heroes in the DCU have been saddled with a backstory and personality as inconvenient as Mr. Bones. First off, he’s part of a medical experiment by a deranged gynecologist named “Dr. Love.” This experiment made his skin and organs invisible, so he looks like a skeleton. And he has a cyanide touch and super strength. Then, he was a villain for a while and talked only in very awkward rhyming couplets. And he smoked all the time. Then he became a hero and worked with Infinity, Inc, then the Department of Extranormal Affairs, becoming a regional director. Complicated backstory aside, it’s always a joy to see him show up.
7) Dr. Destiny
?There’s “nuts” and then there’s “Dr. Destiny nuts.” The guy’s been a persistent JLA foe for decades by controlling the dreams of his victims. He even went as far as killing people in the JLA cartoon, and that almost never happens in children’s TV. Destiny’s best appearance has to be his short stint early on in Gaiman’s Sandman, where he slowly tortures a diner full of hostages over 24 hours.
6) Atomic Skull
?The first Atomic Skull in the 1970s shared an origin with so many villains of the time, as a scientific experiment gone wrong. He had a good run of it, battling Superman and later showing up in Birds of Prey. The second version, from the ’90s, is way more fun and it’s a shame he doesn’t show up more. He thinks he’s the hero in a 1930s action serial! He talks like he’s a matinee idol and hallucinates Superman is his nemesis, Dr. Electron. He really needs to show up more, because that’s just a fun character quirk that hasn’t been exploited enough.
?Nobody doesn’t love Taskmaster. He’s so bad he’s good, and so good that he has a hard time being bad. Originally kind of a one-note character who faced off against the Avengers and Captain America, he’s garnered himself a nice cult following that led into a mini-series that’s happening even as we speak. Taskmaster made his name as the villain who taught all the other villains how to fight, but doesn’t have a problem crossing the aisle and siding with the heroes. And he’s cocky as all hell, and that makes for fun reading.
?Crossbones could have been one of those flashy ’90s villains who showed up in a cool costume, got whupped on for an issue or two of Nightstalkers, showed up in an annual, then got relegated to crowd scenes in the Hood’s hideout in Dark Reign. But thankfully he hitched himself to the right star, the Red Skull. As skull-faced henchmen go, there’s none better. He even assassinated Captain America! Now Crossbones is a member of the Thunderbolts, purportedly doing good deeds, but that won’t last.
3) Black Mask
?Marvel’s got a Red Skull? DC’s got a black one, and he loooooves to torture people. It’s his M.O., really, and his most recent action figure came with a power drill accessory, since that’s what he tortured Spoiler to death with. He also forced Catwoman’s sister to eat the corpse of her own husband. He’s really nasty on that individual level, which makes him more disturbing, yet less successful than his Marvel counterpart.
2) Ghost Rider
?In comics, having a skull for a face usually indicates you’re a bad guy. With Ghost Rider, he just uses it to scare people. Flaming skulls are scary, people, you don’t need me to tell you that. As a spirit of vengeance, his empty eye sockets can immobilize anyone with fear, and anything he rides around on catches on fire too (think: fiery horse ridden by Sam Elliot). He’s already shown up in the movies, and as one of the most unique playable characters in the first Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Coming soon: Ghost Rider 2, starring the equally weird-faced Nicolas Cage.
1) Red Skull
?His skull face has been awesome since 1941, although he was pro-Nazi then so he was immediately hated. It served him really well though, earning him starring roles in the two Captain America movies. Hugo Weaving’s playing him in the new one. Remember him? He was Elrond in Lord of the Rings. Could be worse. They could have gotten Sean Astin to do it. Anyway, Red Skull’s Captain America’s #1 enemy, and just putting him in your comic automatically makes it a classic. It’s true, he’s used sparingly, and only for epic conquest. No petty bank robberies, he’s out for the world!