I have a confession to make: although I really never had the He-Man toys and only occasionally watched the cartoon, I was a HUGE fan of the live-action ‘Masters of the Universe’ movie! Yes, the one with Dolph Lundgren. No, I’m not ashamed. Hmm? Umm, I was maybe 13 when it came out. STOP ASKING ME QUESTIONS!
Ahem. Anyhoo, the reason I still love the MOTU flick is New Jersey’s favorite son, Frank Langella, as Skeletor. The cartoon Skeletor was, well, cartoonish. Stupid, incompetent and surrounded by even stupider and more incompetent henchmen, toon Skeletor was a JOKE. But Langella Skeletor – “Langellator” – was AWESOME. Frank eschewed the scenery while looking pretty darn cool in that skull makeup with the fangs. Skeletor gets the bulk of the cool scenes and quotable dialogue from this film and, spoiler alert, gets a really nifty golden god outfit at the end of it that REALLY should have been a toy.
And that was probably it: the start of my apparent love for characters that are basically men with skulls for heads or in skull masks or skeleton costumes. Sure, Red Skull is in that mix, also Ghost Rider. But here are three skull or skeleton based characters you may not know about!
While we pretend Superman was the first “superhero”, Lee Falk’s ‘The Phantom’ had already been around a few years when the Man of Steel debuted. But an even earlier character was Ogon Bat (the Golden Bat), a Japanese superhero who can be traced back to 1930.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “What do bats have to do with anything?” Shut up.
Ogon Bat looks like a golden skeleton guy in a Dracula cape who flies and carries a scepter with magic powers. His herald is a bat and he maybe can turn into a bat. Plus, he has a bat-symbol armband (or is it a tattoo? whatever), so the name makes SOME sense. He’s an undead Atlantean warrior. Chances are, you’ve never heard of him. Except if you’re my age or older and from some South American country! Ogon Bat was known as Fantoman or Fantomas in the Spanish dubbed version of his cartoon. Oh, did I mention the live action movie? Yeah, he had a live action movie in the 60′s. It makes Power Rangers look like ‘Avatar’. I’m proud to say I own it.
Now, this next character is not a superhero, nor is he an undead warrior from Atlantis. But he IS a comic book villain!
Kriminal (yes, I’m spelling it right) was a character in Italian comic books, which were known as “fumetti”. Italians do comic books very differently! Kriminal is DEFINITELY a bad guy. He steals, he kills, he always gets the girl. Think a James Bond villain who gets to do all the cool Bond stuff and win. Oh, and he wears a stylized black and yellow skeleton costume. He doesn’t even have a secret identity – everyone knows he’s Anthony Logan, suave English rascal. For no apparent reason. He just likes to wear it. And if you laugh at him over that, he’ll straight up murder you.
Did I mention the live action movies? Kriminal starred in TWO live action movies in the 60′s! Because he’s just cool. And THESE movies were GOOD. They aren’t in English, but it almost doesn’t matter.
Now, the farther East you go, the less they worry about pesky things like copyright laws. So Kriminal got directly copied. Like, DIRECTLY.
Enter Kilink, which translates as “Killing”. Yes, present tense. That’s his name. Kilink is a ripoff of Kriminal who appeared in photo comics. He also wore a skeleton costume, although a more normal one than Kriminal’s, if there’s a “normal” skeleton costume! The Kilink stories had a LOT more sex and violence than even Kriminal got up to.
Did I mention the live-action movies? Umm, yeah, there’s a reason for that. These were made in Turkey and were so cheap that I’ve seen home movies that looked better. Still, you got a supercriminal in a skeleton costume – who, in the movies, fights Turkish Superman, for some reason! Yeah, copyright laws REALLY go away by the time you reach the Middle East.
I’m willing to admit I watch these. I own the first Kriminal film and the Ogon Bat flick. I’ve seen the rest (except there’s a Kilink movie I never found). And I gotta say, I enjoy them very much. Watching stuff like this is all the fun of being paid to take experimental drugs without those pesky side effects.
So sometimes, when the Cobra Kai in their Halloween outfits or even Langellator just aren’t enough, I turn on one of these frenzied foreign features and just marvel at the skulltastic, skeletondrous ossiomeness.