Real Name: Unrevealed

Identity/Class: Demon (allegedly; unspecified centuries ago to 1950s)

Occupation: Murderer

Group Membership: None

Affiliations: None

Enemies: Tom Fenton, Professor Thaddeus Thornton

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: Skull-Face (as called by Tom Fenton)

Base of Operations: Mobile in Hollywood, California

First Appearance: Mystery Tales I#6/1 (December, 1952)

Powers/Abilities: Despite having no internal organs or musculature, Skull-Face could still move about and had greater than normal strength. Presumably, he also possessed the power of telepathy, as he could speak, even though he had no larynx. His lack of eyes made him immune to what would otherwise be blinding flashes of light; possibly he was also immune to illusions. His only truly offensive maneuver was to bite or throttle people.

Height: Unrevealed (6'; by approximation)
Weight: Unrevealed
Eyes: None (see comments)
Hair: None

(Mystery Tales I#6/1 (fb) - BTS) - An unspecified number of centuries ago, an unidentified man was burned at the stake for "being a demon"; under unrevealed circumstances, his skeleton eventually came into the possession of the owner of a curio shop by 1952.

(Mystery Tales I#6/1 (fb)) - Fifteen years earlier, the horror movie Skull-Face played in packed movie theaters across America, and the film became a blockbuster hit.

(Mystery Tales I#6/1) - In 1952, a group of Hollywood movie producers decided to give their business "a shot in the arm" by remaking Skull-Face for a whole new generation of movie-goers who had never seen the original. They began a massive advertising campaign to raise public interest, which involved newspaper hype, television commercials, skull-masked men wearing sandwich signs, and having airplanes sky-write (or sky-draw, I guess) giant skulls in the sky. But publicist Tom Fenton came up with an idea with a little more zing that would make the whole world Skull-Face conscious: Since everybody knew Skull-Face was just a movie character, he proposed to create a real Skull-Face!

   Fenton first went to a curio shop to buy a skeleton; although the shopkeeper had one on display, he refused to sell it to Fenton, because it was supposedly that of a man who had been burned at the stake for being a demon, and it was too dangerous for anyone to have. However, when Fenton pulled out a thousand dollars in cash, the shopkeeper was more than willing to part with it.

   An hour later, after Fenton dressed the bare skeleton in trousers and a jacket (so that it resembled the Skull-Face movie character), he went to the movie studio and made arrangements with Professor Thornton to stage a phony experiment as part of his publicity stunt. Thornton chained the skeleton to a chair and aimed various electrical devices at it, then Fenton contacted several newspaper reporters.

   When the reporters arrived hours later, Fenton told them about Professor Thornton's "experiment," and how the skeleton would be continuously bombarded with 50 million volts of electricity for 24 hours a day, until it came to life. Although the reporters didn't buy all that nonsense, they thought it would still make a great story; and so it was reported that the actual skeleton used in the Skull-Face movie remake would be brought to life. While the publicity campaign got into high gear, the skeleton sat in Thornton's laboratory, with electricity constantly running through it.

   Two months later, Fenton's publicity stunt proved to be a success, and the studio made millions on advance bookings for the new Skull-Face movie. With the advertising campaign over, Professor Thornton went back to his lab to throw out the skeleton. Of course, it turned out the "experiment" really DID work, for the skeleton was now alive -- he really had been a "demon" after all -- and the skeletal scoundrel strangled Thornton.

   The next day, the professor's body was discovered by Fenton, who immediately called the police. Noticing the skeleton missing from the chair, Fenton claimed that the killer had to be Skull-Face, and that being hit by all that electricity must have really brought the skeleton to life. But a police officer angrily ordered Fenton to leave, because they were there to investigate a murder...not to give free publicity to a movie!

   Fenton next went to a newspaper and insisted that Thronton's killer must've been Skull-Face, because the skeleton was gone when he found Thornton's body. The newspaper editor admonished Fenton for having no decency, because he seemed to be turning a tragic murder into a plug for the movie. Wherever he went, people turned a deaf ear to Fenton's story, until he finally gave up.

   But one night in his apartment, Fenton got an unexpected visitor -- Skull-Face! The skeletal being blamed Fenton for his being brought back to life in such a gruesome form. As the fleshless fiend menacingly approached him, Fenton desperately telephoned the police for help, but the police chief disregarded his call, figuring it to be just another publicity stunt ("That guy'll do anything to get his movie in the papers!"). While the revived skeleton murdered him, even Fenton's neighbors ignored his dying screams, as they thought that he was just working on a new publicity record for the horror movie.

   Afterward, Skull-Face left the deceased Fenton's apartment, presumably to go on a killing spree.

Comments: Created by Stan Lee and Tony DiPreta.

The cover of Mystery Tales#6 (see Main Image) mistakenly depicted Skull-Face with eyes.--Ron Fredricks

Information from Mystery Tales#6 originally came from my good friend Crusher Hogan, owner of a vast Timely/Atlas collection. Thanks again, Crusher! [This story was reprinted in Tomb of Darkness#20 (May, 1976), where it was mistakenly credited as being from Mystic#6; most of these images were taken from that reprint.--Ron Fredricks]

Crusher notes that: "Why a demon would have a skeleton is left unexplained! [Or another question might be: Why wouldn't one?--Snood.]-- perhaps what was meant was that the guy whose skeleton it was had been possessed by a demon."

Our own Omar Karindu speculated that the long-dead sorcerer who became Skull-Face was actually Thulsa Doom. This Robert E. Howard character was quite the powerhouse in the Pre-Cataclysmic Era, and even in the Hyborian Era, but he could well have fallen on hard times in the last 12,000 years.

Now that would be a cool story, I think--Snood.

As seen in What If? I#9, Skull-Face had a counterpart (who wore a hooded robe, and looked somewhat like the embodiment of Death) on Earth-9904, until that reality was erased by Immortus; details of that Skull-Face's participation in the story follow below:

(What If? I#9) - In 1958, Skull-Face was one of several superhuman criminals assembled by the Yellow Claw as part of his scheme to capture President Eisenhower. Alongside Electro, the Great Video, and the Cold Warrior, Skull-Face kidnapped Eisenhower, and took the President to the Yellow Claw.

Later, FBI agent Jimmy Woo sneaked into the Yellow Claw's base, and was taken captive by the Claw; but Suwan summoned the Avengers, whom Woo had brought together. Skull-Face confronted Marvel Boy -- since he had no eyes in the empty sockets of his fleshless skull, he proved to be immune to the light bursts emitted by the young hero's bracelets; Skull-Face counterattacked by biting Marvel Boy's arm. As the battle continued, Marvel Boy hurled Skull-Face into the Cold Warrior, causing the living skeleton to be shattered into pieces. Gorilla-Man subsequently used one of Skull-Face's leg-bones to club the Great Video over the head. (Outside of walking around and being... well, a skeleton, Skull-Face really didn't pull his weight in the Yellow Claw's team).

(For a good while, it was presumed that the 1950s Avengers from Earth-9904 existed on Earth-616. But they were seemingly ret-conned out of existence when Kurt Busiek destroyed their reality in Avengers Forever. However, in a personal communication with Busiek (on Avengers Message Board), he specifically stated that he did not wipe the Avengers of the 1950s from existence -- only one alternate timeline containing them was wiped out. The group may well have existed in the mainstream past, but they just weren't called the Avengers. He suggested the name: "The G-Men".

Later, when Agents of Atlas was published, it was explained that the heroes did team up together on Earth-616, only they were called the G-Men and 3-D Man never joined, which explained that the What If issue's reality (Earth-9904) was the one that Immortus actually destroyed.)

Profile by Prime Eternal. Expansion by Ron Fredricks.

Skull-Face has no known connection to:

Tom Fenton has no known connection to:

Professor Thaddeus Thornton has no known connection to:

Skull-Face movie

A horror film made circa 1937, it played to crowds of movie theater audiences across America. At the time, it became the greatest money-making picture ever made, and grossed 30 million dollars.

Fifteen years later, a group of Hollywood movie producers decided to remake the classic horror film for a new generation of movie-goers who had never seen the original.

--Mystery Tales I#6/1 (fb)

Tom Fenton

A publicist with a Hollywood movie studio, he came up with a brilliant idea to promote the remake of the original Skull-Face horror movie.

Fenton first purchased a skeleton from a curio shop, despite being told it was that of a man who had been burned at the stake for being a demon. Then he had Professor Thornton stage a phony experiment by constantly bombarding the skeleton with electricity, in an attempt to bring the skeleton to life, all in an effort to generate public interest in the movie.

Fenton's publicity stunt was a tremendous success, bringing the movie studio millions of dollars in advance bookings for the new Skull-Face movie, and Fenton earned a sizable bonus for it.

But as it turned out, the skeleton really did get brought back to life! It first killed Professor Thornton, and later murdered Fenton while he was in his apartment.

--Mystery Tales I#6/1 (d)

Professor Thaddeus Thornton

A famous biochemist, he was on the payroll of a Hollywood movie studio, where he maintained a laboratory.

One day, publicist Tom Fenton brought him a skeleton and arranged for Thornton to stage a phony experiment, as a publicity stunt to promote the new Skull-Face movie. Thornton chained the skeleton to a chair and continuously bombarded it with electricity, to bring it back to life -- although Thornton knew it would never work, he still thought the stunt would make a good story for the reporters.

Two months later, the publicity stunt proved to be a success, because the movie studio made millions on advance bookings for the Skull-Face movie. When the movie's advertising campaign was over, Thornton returned to his lab to throw out the skeleton. But as fate would have it, the phony experiment DID work, for -- to Thornton's disbelieving eyes -- the skeleton had been brought back to life!

Subsequently, Professor Thornton became the first (but not the last) victim of Skull-Face.

(Comment: My guess is that Thornton was already acting as the technical advisor for another movie when Fenton came up with his publicity stunt, which would explain why he had a lab at the movie studio.)

--Mystery Tales I#6/1 (d)

images: (without ads)
Mystery Tales I#6, cover (Main Image - Skull-Face by movie poster)
Mystery Tales I#6/1, p3, pan3 (Headshot - skeleton; curio shop owner (background))
Mystery Tales I#6/1, p4, pan2 (skeleton chained to chair, bombarded with electricity)
Mystery Tales I#6/1, p4, pan6 (Skull-Face strangles Professor Thornton)
What If? I#9, p25, pan2 (Earth-9904 - Skull-Face, immune to Marvel Boy's light bursts)
What If? I#9, p26, pan5 (Earth-9904 - Skull-Face shatters after being hurled into Cold Warrior)
Mystery Tales I#6/1, p1, pan1 (original Skull-Face movie playing at Rialto theater (circa 1937))
Mystery Tales I#6/1, p2, pan8 (Tom Fenton)
Mystery Tales I#6/1, p5, pan4 (Tom Fenton sees Skull-Face in his apartment)
Mystery Tales I#6/1, p5, pan5 (Tom Fenton telephones police as Skull-Face approaches)
Mystery Tales I#6/1, p4, pan4 (Professor Thaddeus Thornton)
Mystery Tales I#6/1, p4, pan5 (Professor Thaddeus Thornton discovers skeleton is alive)

Mystery Tales I#6/1 (December, 1952) - Stan Lee (writer/editor), Tony DiPreta (pencils/inks)

First posted: 10/29/2002
Last updated: 09/04/2022

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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