THE IRON SKULLMedium: Comic Books
Published by: Centaur Publications
First Appeared: 1939
Creator: Carl Burgos
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The Iron Skull was not the first robot to have a series in comic books. That would be Bozo, an early star at Quality Comics (Blackhawk, Torchy), who made his debut in September of 1939. But the Skull was second, coming along during the following month. Furthermore, he represented a
significant advance over Bozo. The Iron Skull was a full automaton, able to think and act under his own direction, whereas Bozo was merely a device used by his master.
This suggests he was actually the first cyborg in comics, an achievement usually credited to Robotman, with a human brain inside that skull of steel. Bolstering this possibility is a peculiar, but human-like, vulnerability. The Skull is said by modern-day observers to have been subject to damage through "the main artery in his left forearm."
Whatever he was, The Iron Skull was part of the first blossom of the superhero genre, having debuted in Amazing-Man Comics #5, along with Mighty Man, Minimidget and other very early jumpers-on to Superman's bandwagon. The publisher was Centaur Publications, which also did The Eye, Fantoman and others.
He didn't have an actual origin story, but just turned up in the middle of an act of villainy, which, of course, he foiled. The story was created by cartoonist Carl Burgos, who was also responsible for such diverse heroes as an off-brand version of Captain Marvel, and the original Human Torch.
The Skull kept on foiling villainy in subsequent issues of Amazing-Man, and also appeared in Stars & Stripes Comics (The Shark, The Voice). He continued doing so as long as Centaur published comic books, but that wasn't very long. His final appearance was in Stars & Stripes #6 (December, 1941). The company put out its final batch of comics the following month.
In 1992, Malibu Comics (Men in Black, The Trouble with Girls) followed industry trends by creating a superhero universe of its own, and appropriated the Centaur characters, who had since fallen into the public domain, for the purpose. Iron Skull was revived, along with The Arrow, The Masked Marvel and others from that line, as part of The Protectors, Malibu's answer to Archie Comics' The Mighty Crusaders or Flaming Carrot's The Mystery Men. Predictably, the line went straight to an early grave.
The Iron Skull is still in the public domain, but nobody has chosen to revive him again.