The artwork of the first Danzig record was perfect. A white skull occupied both panels of black gatefold. All was secondary to the skull. No track list was present. Even the actual logo was pushed to the bottom corner. Visually stimulating, the skull boldly ushered in the next chapter of Glenn Danzig’s storied career.
Of course Glenn was using the skull long before his eponymous debut. It was unveiled with the birthing of Samhain. Unlike the Crimson Ghost, this new creation was not taken from Hollywood. It had no immediately identifiable source. Many assumed the skull was an original piece of art conceived for a post-Misfits band.
Glenn certainly took ownership of the art. The skull appeared on t-shirts, gig flyers and the covers of both Initium and November Coming Fire.
After Samhain morphed into Danzig, Glenn experimented with new designs. By affixing the skull to an inverted cross, a dark mutation of the classic image was born. T-shirts were printed and the cross was crafted into a pendant worn around the singer’s neck.
The cross was tame in comparison to the infamous “God Don’t Like It” shirt. Here, the skull strangles Jesus beneath a Danzig logo covered in thorns.
By far, the most enduring design has been the classic skull in plain black and white. Countless t-shirts were sold in this manner. Thirty years after Initium, the skull is STILL used as the backdrop for live performances. It’s no wonder that legions of metalheads refer to this iconic image as the Danzig skull.
Occasionally, one would hear the name “Crystar” applied to Danzig’s famous skull. Confused Danzig fans that turned to Google found a surprise. Rather than the expected heavy metal sites, an assortment of comic book blogs flooded the search results.
One by one, each site revealed the true origins of the Danzig skull. The iconic symbol was no original creation conceived for Samhain. Rather, the skull was taken from an obscure comic book.
The proof is there for all to see. Beneath a demon-warrior and scantily clad blonde, plainly sits the famous skull used by Glenn Danzig. The art was not drawn for the Initium album cover, but for the 8th issue of The Saga of Crystar: Crystal Warrior comic series.
To my knowledge, Glenn Danzig has never publicly acknowledged the comic series, or the illustrator, Michael Golden. He certainly had opportunities. The first Danzig VHS had a memorable segment where Glenn is interviewed about his comic book obsession. There is no mention of Crystar.
Perhaps Glenn was embarrassed by the toy tie-in. Yes, in the 80’s tradition of GI Joe and Transformers, a line of action figures were manufactured and sold in tandem with the ill-fated comic series.
Neither the toys nor the comic books were a success. The series folded after only eleven issues. Only a tiny smattering of comic fans would have seen this skull. The vast majority of humanity never laid eyes on Crystar Number 8.
Did Michael Golden receive compensation for the appropriated work? One hopes, but online sources suggest that it’s unlikely. For what it’s worth, a special piece of art was saved from obscurity. Thanks to Danzig, the Crystar skull is now an instantly identifiable image in popular culture.