Featured Columns

January 8, 2010

Unsung Characters of Comicdom: Deathmark


This week’s profile is dedicated to a Deadpool/ Punisher hybrid who rocks an insulated black unitard. He’s faster than a coffee-weaned feral kitten, has more agility than a cybernetic spider-monkey, and is more deadly than an anthropomorphic dolphin shooting lasers from its blowhole. Wielding duel samurai blades, he slices his prey with more ferocity than a speed-freak dicing a pickle with a Slap Chop. His preferred methods of killing include: ninja-kick induced decapitation, lethal impalement and/or multiple lacerations, and beating people about the body and face until the last spark of life leaves their body. This batshit crazy assassin may be decked out in a thick neoprene wetsuit, but he’s not going for a morning surf-session in the arctic circle. Instead, he simply wants to bathe in the warm red blood of his hapless victims. He’s mentally unstable, animalistic, and blood-thirsty. His name is Deathmark, and he’s this week’s Unsung Character of Comicdom!

Secret Identity: Mike (last name unknown)
Alias/ Codename: Deathmark
Powers: Mixed martial arts, lethal hand-to-hand combat abilities, weapons expert
Weapons: Two perfectly balanced razor-sharp katanas, and a Glock
First appearance: War Party #1
Most memorable quote: “You couldn’t cut a deck of cards!” (last words spoken to a knife-wielding assailant before breaking him in half via a swift kick to the mid-section)

Although Deathmark mostly uses his sword for killing, it also doubles as a menacing phallic symbol.

Origin: Mike’s life was changed forever when he decided to join a covert division of the US government known only as the Agency. Soon after signing up, his identity was erased, and a small explosive device was surgically implanted into his brain. During his training, he abandoned a majority of his humanity and used the Agency’s seemingly unlimited resources in order to mold his body into the epitome of physical perfection. One of his many physical trials included gladiator-type battles against numerous death row inmates. After being armed to the teeth, his assailants were told they would gain a full pardon if they could kill Mike. He never lost, but his mind became more warped with each fatal blow. Eventually, the last whisper of his conscience was extinguished, and he was molded into the ultimate killing machine known as Deathmark. After becoming an authorized assassin for the Agency, he was given access to an unlimited arsenal of weapons. Because most of his training consisted of lethal hand-to-hand combat, Deathmark had become accustomed to getting his hands dirty. So, he wanted something efficient, lethal, and messy. For his personal armory he chose two katanas. He also carries a Glock, but Deathmark has never so much as pierced human flesh with a bullet. In his mind, it’s blades or fists first, and he considers his gun a last resort for worst case scenarios. The authorization to assassinate a target is based on the odds for success. If the probability of the kill is 50% or higher, he gets a green light. Otherwise it’s officially a no-go. There’s an option to disobey this directive, but not without a price. If he doesn’t successfully complete a low-probability assassination and return to base within forty-eight hours, KA-BOOM! That’s right. They detonate the bomb in his cranium, and it pops like a casaba melon full of dynamite. These potentially suicidal missions are not encouraged by the Agency, and it’s strictly on a volunteer basis. But Deathmark is always more than willing to take the risk. His place in this life is clear. He’s a killer; he’s expendable, and he knows it. Because of this, Deathmark is more than a predator, he hunts his prey with an animal instinct that’s much deadlier than what mother nature ever intended. Human life has lost all value or substance, including his own.

Roger Sullivan

Allies: Red is Deathmark’s contact at the Agency. He’s a slender, pipe-smoking G-man, whose primary job is to acquire information, authorize hits, and serve as the Agency‘s liaison to Deathmark. He examines the missions’ stats, and then decides the percentages for success. When it’s lower than 50%, Red attempts to persuade him to bow out, at least until his chances are better. Whether he does this for the purpose of the Agency’s efficiency or because he actually cares about Deathmark’s survival is unknown. On one occasion, Red would not grant authorization for a particularly risky mission, and Deathmark responded, “Authorize the hit, damn it!” Red conceded, but reminded him of the “little bomb planted in his thick skull.” This haunting reminder didn’t cause a second of hesitation for Deathmark, who simply responded, “Yeah, I get it,” before setting his watch and beginning the hunt.

Remember kids, never take more than you can handle, and always know your dealer.

Antagonist: A fifteen-year-old boy named Roger Sullivan illegally enlisted into the Marine Corps in order to serve his country in the jungles of ‘Nam as a minor (a trait that Deathmark actually admires). During a mission shortly after his arrival, a solider in his platoon tripped a mine, triggering an ambush. Young Roger began to have a nervous breakdown in the midst of mêlée and fell to his knees in hysterical tears. His sergeant offered a solution,  in the form of an experimental drug called The Lift. It was designed by the Agency to eliminate a soldier’s fear during combat scenarios and ultimately turn the user into a merciless killer. In a fit of panic, Roger took ten times the safe dosage. Which, in turn, caused him to go completely insane with rage. Almost immediately, he began to hallucinate, causing him to envision the enemy as horrific demons. He rose to his feet and lifted his rifle, but as The Lift coursed through his veins, his own platoon appeared to morph into terrifying creatures from hell (to see more Unsung action involving demonic hallucinations in ‘Nam, click here). Paranoid and confused, Roger killed everyone in sight, including his comrades. After the effects of the drug wore off, he was consumed with guilt and went AWOL, fleeing to New York City. Years later, the Agency found him and placed an order to have him killed. Their intent was to eliminate the only remaining solider who used The Lift during combat in the Vietnam War. Deathmark was assigned the mission of assassinating the ex-Marine, but he was given no information concerning the Agency’s involvement in the incident in ‘Nam. He simply assumes that Roger is a treasonous murderer who deserves execution without trial (which just happens to be Deathmark’s specialty).

Deathmark was furious when his unpublished nude variant cover popped up on the internet.

Deathmark was intended to be an ongoing series, but it ended with issue #1. The comic’s publisher, Lighting Comics, produced a handful of other ongoing titles, one of which was later printed by Image Comics (CreeD), but they eventually fizzled into obscurity. Today, Lightning Comics is mostly remembered for a gimmick in which they produced variant covers that contained nude renditions of their busty heroines. You can still score many of their titles for a couple of bucks on comiccollectorlive.com (including Deathmark and the aforementioned variant covers). I haven’t read anything else from them, but if Deathmark is an accurate representation of the publisher’s stories, I’d say it’s definitely worth looking into.

If you want to see what became of the Zyskowski brothers, the creative team responsible for Deathmark #1, click here (HINT: It has absolutely nothing to do with comics).

Josh Jones



  1. Billy

    Seems like a pretty cool character. Deadpool/Punisher

  2. Kristin

    He looks dangerously close to a Punisher image lawsuit or something.

    And for a 15-year-old, his nemesis looks like a middle aged man. I guess the serum aged him, too?

  3. @Kristen- It’s not very clear in the comic, but there appears to be a 25 yr gap between Roger Sullivan’s origin and the Agency’s order to have him killed. This would make him about 40 at the time of his first confrontation with Deathmark.

    The funny thing is, those scan’s of Roger Sullivan are from the origin story, and he definitely does not look 15 yrs old there! LOL…and he doesn’t look any different before taking The Lift. Strangely enough, he somehow looks younger in his modern incarnation in New York.

  4. Wendy

    I like how you can find humor in the darkest of acid trips. hilarious!

  5. Steven Zyskowski

    Great article. Makes me wish I were still writing comics sometimes. Those were great times. Thanks!

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