SKULL began as an organization of common criminals who sought to compete with The 100 for territory and influence in the city of Metropolis. They made their first moves against underworld bosses who were formerly a part of Intergang prior to the disastrous blow struck against them by Clark Kent and Superman. One of the Man of Steel's first encounters with agents of SKULL was in the way of thwarting their attempted assassination of one such reputed ex-Intergang leader, Samuel Simeon. In another of their early exploits, they sought to fix wrestling matches in a racket that was exposed by Lois Lane.
After securing their foothold, SKULL rapidly acquired access to the latest in high technology applications, due to their connections to Dr. Albert Michaels, the Chief Administrator of the Metropolis branch of S.T.A.R. Labs. Unbeknownst to Michaels's cohorts, he was afflicted with a seizure disorder that would eventually cause him to convulse to death, and only scientists in the employ of SKULL had an experimental cure in the form of a Radium-powered brain implant. SKULL offered to extend their services to Michaels in exchange for his clandestine support of their endeavors.
At one point, SKULL raided an excavation site of the Kobra Cult to steal an alien matter-transporter ray they had uncovered. To sequester the device for further use, SKULL placed the matter-transporter ray in Michaels's custody, to be kept under wraps with the cover excuse of a secret S.T.A.R. R&D project. Eventually, SKULL inducted Roger Corben, the brother of the late Kryptonite-powered cyborg villain Metallo, into their ranks. Roger joined SKULL for a chance to get back at Superman, though SKULL's leaders had other ideas in mind once they learned from Michaels that various synthetic elements stored at S.T.A.R. Labs could be combined together into an artificial Kryptonite power source. During the consequent SKULL raid on S.T.A.R., Roger was deliberately crushed beneath a pile of falling debris by a laser-blast sent from his comrades. SKULL rebuilt Roger into a second Metallo, energized by their newly synthesized artificial Kryptonite, and kidnapped Steve Lombard to draw Metallo and Superman into a fight at a sports arena. Although at a disadvantage, Superman defeated Metallo, and Metallo activated a suicide button that seemingly deactivated his internal mechanics.
SKULL initiated another scheme to use a phoney meditation center as a front to brainwash Metropolis's political and economic elite into serving their purposes. Lois Lane stumbled onto this plot entirely by accident, while covering a more innocuous angle of the story for Morgan Edge, but quickly connected the SKULL brainwashing ring to the recent assassination of Metropolis's District Attorney. SKULL brainwashed Lois into searching out Clark Kent for assassination, but Clark switched in and out of his Superman alter ego at super-speed in order to confuse and break her mental programming at a subliminal level.
Far from discouraged by past failures, SKULL had obtained intelligence that new Kryptonite samples had begun to find their way to Earth from space and launched an operation to recover these, codenamed "The Kryptonite Pipeline." Superman learned of the existence of the Pipeline while revisiting a site near a Central City ski resort where he had discovered Kryptonite embedded in the Earth's crust hours earlier. This was Superman's first indication that traces of Kryptonite crystals strewn throughout the underground had managed to avoid the iron-transmutation chain-reaction that destroyed the majority of Kryptonite on Earth a few years before.
SKULL experienced another major disruption in their plans when Roger Corben revealed that he was not as deceased as it initially appeared and had deduced that SKULL engineered the "accident" that destroyed his human body in order to use him for their experiments. Metallo stole SKULL's matter-transporter ray from S.T.A.R. Labs, causing Albert Michaels to go into hiding for his own safety. Meanwhile, Metallo used the ray to go on a killing spree, remotely exchanging the hearts of numerous known SKULL agents with phosphorescent green fake-Kryptonite rocks. Using a tip from Lois Lane's prior run-in with SKULL, Superman located SKULL's base and staged a police raid once Metallo had predictably appeared to crush the syndicate's central leadership group. Both Metallo and the leaders of SKULL were arrested, though Michaels succeeded in using the matter-transporter ray to escape.
Michaels underwent the procedure to implant a radium-powered device in his brain, but the device soon began to malfunction, accelerating instead of retarding the rate of his seizures. Michaels's pain was the price paid to unlock a new source of power, as the renegade scientist discovered that he could harness his epileptic brain's bioelectricity to release potent blasts. Michaels rechristened himself The Atomic Skull and overthrew his remaining organizational superiors, becoming the new and undisputed leader of SKULL. Blaming the deterioration of his condition on Superman's capture of the only SKULL scientists that could have helped him, the Atomic Skull devised a revenge plan on Superman that involved contaminating the Earth's ionosphere with radiations from a nuclear warhead powered by samples retrieved through the Kryptonite Pipeline. This would theoretically destroy Superman's powers forever, but the Man of Steel found a way to outwit Michaels and dealt the original incarnation of SKULL a fatal blow.
A splinter-cell of SKULL, known as Skeleton, later tried to leverage their access to some of their parent-organization's hi-tech equipment, but Superman and Lois Lane pulled off a successful ruse to trap them by publicizing a new exhibit in the Ancient Egyptian wing of a Metropolis natural history museum. The Atomic Skull later attempted to re-establish SKULL, starting with only himself and a human/panther hybrid named Felicia, but Superman and Man-Bat aborted these plans before they could truly begin.
SKULL was reorganized by amoral scientist Dr. Simon Pons and given a new national scope, with branches specializing in different activities across the United States. This new version of SKULL was more careful than its predecessor to avoid the attentions of superheroes.
The Outsiders were among the first to learn of SKULL's reorganization when their cyborg operative Earl Dukeston infiltrated Station Markovia, posing as a representative of the United States Government, and attacked Geo-Force in an attempt to kidnap Dr. Helga Jace. It was indicated that Jace's scientific research was of interest to Dukeston's superiors. Apparently, SKULL had promised Dukeston that his human brain was still intact within his robotic body and that they would transplant it into a fully healthy clone body after 20 years of his service to their organization. After an attack by Katana split open Dukeston's robotic headcase and proved that he had no human brain, Dukeston flew into a suicidal despair and leaped into the Pacific Ocean.
SKULL later hired a thief to steal the medical records of the late Jason Burr and paid a small-time criminal to consent to a surgical procedure whereby his nervous system was altered into a replica of Jason Burr's. This was part of a stratagem to force Kobra to do SKULL's bidding, by threatening to torture and kill Kobra using the long-distance neural connection that Kobra had to Jason Burr while the latter was still alive. SKULL forced Kobra to steal nuclear missiles from a United States Army base, which Kobra warned the Outsiders about beforehand by broadcasting an image of a skull into the mind of Looker with his Psi-Helmet. Meanwhile, the Outsiders' former leader Batman learned of SKULL's designs by investigating the original theft of the medical records. Together, Batman and the Outsiders routed SKULL, but the man to whom Kobra became neurally linked suffered fatal injuries. Halo used her healing aura on the injured man and Kobra, but whether due to unequal absorption of the aura or sheer force of will, Kobra survived while the other man perished.
At a later date, Major Disaster was hired by SKULL to steal the research data aboard Station Markovia and destroy it, meeting opposition from the Outsiders, Batman, and The Atomic Knight. Simon Pons learned of the Markovian government's connection to the Outsiders from the video feed relayed by Major Disaster. Though he was reinforced by a SKULL strike team, Major Disaster's mission was thwarted when the heroes managed to overcome the villain. In the process, Station Markovia was blown to smithereens.
Years later, SKULL cornered Metamorpho in Paris, France, and captured him following another run-in with the Outsiders. SKULL converted Metamorpho into plutonium and planned on using his body to power a nuclear bomb. The Outsiders pursued SKULL to their base in France, causing Simon Pons to activate the bomb as a diversion. However, Looker used her powers on Metamorpho to stop the countdown, and the Outsiders captured Pons before he could escape by helicopter.
SKULL came under new financial backing by the Hamilton Court investment firm. Directed by Hamilton Court's owner Charity Hamilton, SKULL invaded Monster Valley in Siberia with robotic drones programmed to kill Charity's cousin Brenton Hamilton, the legitimate heir to the family business and fortune who had been lost there as a child after a plane crash. The Justice League of America intercepted SKULL and destroyed the drones, under the wrong assumption that SKULL's goal was to capture Monster Valley's dinosaurs and train them for paramilitary purposes. Brenton, who was raised by dinosaurs under the name of "Makson," returned to civilization and took control of Hamilton Court, but learned that his family was responsible for the incursion into Monster Valley and summoned them to a high-society charity gala in Midway City in order to gather them in one place and slaughter them. The JLA discovered the true goals and identity of SKULL's backers after tracing the origin of their robot drones to a base on Infinity Island. Makson was blocked from seizing bloody vengeance on his relatives by the JLA, but Charity Hamilton was subsequently arrested for the attempted murder of her cousin, in addition to a host of financial crimes and cybercrimes that the JLA leaked from SKULL's Infinity Island HQ.
Links and References
- Superman #323
- Outsiders Annual #1
- Justice League of America (Volume 5) #9
- Superman #310
- Outsiders #7
- Superman Family #184
- Superman Family #182
- DC Comics Presents #35
- Superman #317
- Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #21
- Superman #296-299
- Superman #301
- Superman #327
- Superman #315
- Superman #316
- Superman #324
- Superman #334
- Outsiders #6
- Outsiders #25
- Outsiders (Volume 2) #20
- Booster Gold (Volume 2) #31
- Justice League of America (Volume 5) #8