Living in the small town of Neftelensk, Russia, the Skinner of Souls keeps a low-profile in hopes of escaping detection by the government. He marries an unnamed woman and they have a daughter, Oskana. Fourteen years pass of a relatively non-eventful marriage and family life until tragedy strikes. Oskana's health deteriorates and, for all his powers, the Skinner of Souls can do nothing to save her. He watches as the young girl soon dies. Already distressed, the Soul Skinner discovers something else: his wife is a government agent (a Flagwatch) assigned to observe him. Neither she nor her employers care enough to help Oskana with state resources so as to avoid the risk of blowing the agent's cover.
Written by Fabian Nicieza and drawn by Andy Kubert.
Major Story Arcs
Only appears in A Skinning of Souls as the main antagonist.
Learning of his wife's duplicity, especially after the two of them "helplessly" watched their daughter die, the Skinner of Souls shreds her mind and transforms her body into an empty shell. He then turns on the town of Neftelensk and makes every person feel his pain, also transforming each individual into a mindless shell. The children, however, prove immune, as they are too innocent to have felt as he has.
The Russian government, upon losing contact with the Flagwatch and failing to sense any life in the town of Neftelensk, sends two of the Exiles to investigate: Darkstar and Alexi Garnoff. The Skinner of Souls overpowers them easily and relishes in their pain and humiliation. The government next sends in Omega Red to discover what the Soul Skinner is doing. They engage in a mighty battle, but Omega Red's death spore coils are no match for the Skinner of Souls. Omega Red is soon another empty shell that can be manipulated by the Soul Skinner's telepathy.
The government next sends in the X-Men. The Skinner of Souls takes them down easily, all except Colossus who is accompanied by Colonel Vazhin. He strips each X-Man of their minds but gets hung up on Cyclops. There he finds someone who has had to lose a child as well. How, he wonders, does one find the strength to go on after such a crisis? Shaking it off, he heads after Colossus so as to prevent him from finding out his weakness.
It's too late, Colossus has already found the children and has begun to formulate how to defeat the Skinner of Souls. The Soul Skinner is able to preempt Colossus, however, when Illyana (the sister of Colossus) is brought in by the Russian government to do an experiment that is hoped will send the Skinner of Souls to another dimension. The Soul Skinner seizes upon the mind of Colossus and begins to shred his soul. He sees that Colossus entertained the notion of sacrificing his sister to rid the world of the Soul Skinner. It is here that he finally loses his mind completely and he's visited by an apparition of his dead daughter, Oskana. She asks him how he can judge anyone else when he's had to do nothing for those he cared about. Seeing his folly, the Skinner of Souls gives in and decides that he does not want to inflict anymore pain.
The rest of the X-Men and are able to awaken from their forced stupor and Psylocke plunges a psyblade into a child to absorb all the innocence. She then uses this knife to inject the Skinner of Souls with that innocence. Instead of allowing this new sensation to flood his mind, the Skinner of Souls simply turns off his brain, allowing his body to occupy a vegetative state. Not convinced that the danger is over, Vazhin shoots the Soul Skinner in the head.
The Skinner of Souls is a Soviet Mutant with psionic abilities, particularly the ability to enter the minds of others and bring forth their anguish, despair, and regrets. He feeds on these emotions until what is left behind is the mindless body of a victim. He can control these mindless bodies as pawns. He can also cast illusions and render particular details invisible. While human, he mostly projects a monstrous psychic manifestation of himself.