From (Skull) Man to Rider


With my last post, I mentioned how Kamen Rider Skull appeared to be a reference to the proto-Kamen Rider work – The Skull Man. I figured I’d show how it got from point A to point B, most likely missing some stops along the way.


Pre-Skull Man was Shotaro Ishinomori’s famous Cyborg 009, started in 1964. The leader of the evil organization Black Ghost was know as Skull, and his appearance was as above: all-black suit with a skull-shaped helmet, rib pattern on his chest and a flowing cape with a tall collar.


Here is a figure of the original design by Ishinomori for his 1970 The Skull Man one-shot manga (within a mock-up Den-O ticket). Instead of being a warrior of justice, Tatsuo Kagura seeks vengeance for the death of his family. A true anti-hero, not giving a second thought to killing those standing in his way of revenge, the dark motif of the skull is very fitting.

Very much a refined version of the Skull outfit. The helmet exposes part of the face, and the rib pattern has given way for decorative latches that still evoke the same imagery. The cape has lost its flashy collar and instead simply wraps around the neck.


Soon thereafter, Ishinomori was asked to design The Skull Man for television. That design was transformed into a grasshopper motif instead, leading to the first Kamen Rider in 1971.


Jump ahead to the 1990s. Ishinomori requests Kazuhiko Shimamoto to make a follow up to the original Skull Man story. Using concepts from Ishinomori, Shimamoto releases the seven-volume 1998 The Skull Man manga. The suit design is generally the same.


Come the turn of the millennium and after Ishinomori’s death, the manga Kamen Rider Spirits begins in 2001. Author Kenichi Muraeda rewrites the origin of Kamen Rider ZX for this ongoing series. He also brings back Kazuya Taki, an FBI agent and friend to the original Double Riders.  Taki becomes the Skull Rider, a human ally to the cyborg Kamen Riders. The outfit is based off a leather biker getup with spare black armor, black scarf, shot gun rounds and a skull painted on the black helmet.


In 2007, the traditional Skull Man outfit gets a major face lift in The Skull Man anime and one-episode live-action prologue. The helmet is highly detailed and form fitting. The cape is replaced with a long jacket. All the clothing is shiny leather and has attached shoulder and knee pads, similar to Spirit’s Skull Rider and the revisited designs from Kamen Rider: The FIRST.


Just to mention for mentioning’s sake, 2008’s Farewell Kamen Rider Den-O the Movie introduces Kamen Rider Yuki, whose first form is Skull form. Obviously, no visual relation, but I did review the movie, so check it out.


And now we get to Kamen Rider Skull from the Kamen Rider W half of the upcoming December movie pairing Kamen Rider × Kamen Rider: W & Decade: Movie War 2010. While the suit seems to simply be a black repaint of the Kamen Rider W outfit, the helmet is very Skull Man-esque. However, this one is fully enclosed. The scarf seems to wrap around the entire neck, similar to Skull Man’s cape as well.

This list is merely keeping within the Ishinomori genealogy when looking at the Skull Man suit influence. The skull motif is always a powerful one, thanks to its close relationship to death. We’ll see just how fitting it’ll be for Kamen Rider Skull when his movie comes this winter, and keep your eyes out for any other Skull Man references.


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