The Complete UK Captain Britain

Captain Britain Weekly #1-39;
Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #231-253;
Hulk Comic #1, 3-30, 42-55, 57-63;
Marvel Super-Heroes #377-388;
The Daredevils #1-11;
The Mighty World of Marvel #7-16;
Captain Britain #1-14.
New Mutants Annual #2
X-Men Annual #11
Captain America #305-306
The Knights of Pendragon #1-18
Captain Britain and MI13

Shortly after I discovered the work of Alan Moore I learned that he had written Captain Britain for Marvel UK and I immediately wanted to read those stories. In 1987, Chris Claremont and Alan Davis collaborated on Excalibur Special Edition and I again wanted to read those Moore/Davis Captain Britain stories. A year later, the popularity of the Excalibur ongoing series led to the release of a trade paperback collection of the last 17 installments of Captain Britain’s UK series. These stories were very good, and although they were drawn by Alan Davis, they had been written by Jamie Delano. I still wanted to read those Alan Moore stories! Finally, in 1995, Marvel released a Captain Britain mini-series (somewhat deceptively titled X-Men Archives: Captain Britain) which featured the stories immediately predating those contained in the tpb, drawn by Alan Davis and written by Dave Thorpe and… Alan Moore!

I was familiar with earlier appearances of Captain Britain in his original costume (from Marvel Team-Up #65-66 among others) as well as more recent appearances (such as New Mutants Annual #2, X-Men Annual #11 and Captain America #305-306), but I was interested in the significance of his sartorial shift. The first story in X-Men Archives: Captain Britain #1 cleared that up, but the stories began in medias res (or so I had perceived at the time), and I wanted to know what happened before that!

Flash forward nearly 15 years to 2009 and the recently concluded Marvelman/Miracleman discussion which got me interested in Captain Britain all over again! Marvel recently released a Captain Britain Omnibus, and judging by the costume the title character was wearing on the cover, I was about to have my curiosity slaked at last! So I culled some duplicated comic strip collections from my shelves and traded them in for the hefty volume, only to discover it contained only the Thorpe/Moore/Delano and Davis stories I already owned! But I also found out that all of the original stories I was interested have been collected in British editions.

So starting soon I will begin to cover Captain Britain’s entire UK run!

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  • I only have the Moore-Davis issues that were collected into the TPB (covered on the old board here), so I eagerly await your descriptions of the other writers' issues. And I'd probably like to reread the Moore-Davis run myself.
  • I have two Captain Britain TPBs. I need to check and see what they contain. I'm sure one has the stories from the b&w magazine.
  • I am eager to begin this discussion myself, and in fact, was prepared to start yesterday, but a huge project dropped into my lap and work comes first. I've already started to read the Claremont/Trimpe material from Captain Britain Weekly. I don't know how much time I going to devote to the early stuff because very few on this board will have had the opportunity to have read it. What most of you will have read is the Thorpe/Moore/Delano and Davis material starting in Marvel Super-Heroes. I do plan to incorporate material from the previous discussion into this one when I get to that point, and have been working (behind the scenes) toward that end for some days now.
  • I actually have quite a few of the of the Moore Captain Britain stories, but I have yet to really read them. Probably, one of the quickest resells for my LCS though. I bought them 5 minutes after he did.
  • This, with Warrior, was one of the titles that dragged me back into seriosu comic collecting with "A rag, A bone, A hank of hair."

    Book purchased and ready to discuss!
  • I've only managed to find issues 1 and 2 of the original Weekly runs but I have gotten all but 2 issues of the large format vol 2 run. I would have gotten the omnibus by now if I wasn't in the midst of trying to build a new computer but hopefully the wife will make it my birthday purchase in couple months.

    When Captain Britain Weekly debuted in October of 1976 it was unique among Marvel Comics printed for the British market in at least two ways: first, the lead feature was in color (or “colour,” if you prefer), and second, it was all-new. 100% of Marvel’s British output in those days consisted entirely of black and white reprints of American comics, but Stan Lee’s idea was to try to capture a little bit of the old Marvel magic aimed squarely at English readers, so he ordered a new series set in Britain, featuring a British cast and to be released solely to a British audience. The catch was, it was written and drawn in America, by Americans. The results were mixed.

    Before I go any further I would like to go on record as saying that I love this series! Even more so than reading some American Marvel comics from the ‘70s I’ve never read before (of which there are a few), these Captain Britain stories seem to me to be more like comics from another dimension rather than merely from another country (if that makes any sense).

    The title itself lasted 39 issues. The first 23 Captain Britain stories were in color, but the entire comic switched to black and white with issue #24 for the remainder of its run. Each issue featured a seven page story featuring “The newest — and greatest — Superhero of all” (and when the story ran eight pages a couple of times, Marvel UK offered a “Special Bonus — A Captain Britain do-it-yourself colour page”), and the rest was comprised of Nick Fury and Fantastic Four reprints in black and white as well as puzzle pages.

    The first volume of Captain Britain reprints #1-23, the color issues, and that what I’m going to deal with today. Chris Claremont wrote the first ten issues, then handed the writer’s pen over to Gary Friedrich who wrote the rest. All of the first 23 issues were drawn by Herb Trimpe and inked by Golden Age artist Fred Kida (of Airboy fame). I don’t know if it’s even possible to feel nostalgic about something one has never seen before, but this series makes me feel nostalgic so I guess it is.

    I prefer Claremont’s journeyman work to his more experienced style, but his work here is more that of an apprentice. He must have been working with a list of American English to British English words at his side, because his early scripts are peppered with substitution such as “petrol lorry” for “tanker truck.” My favorite (if you can call it that) is the substitution of “ha’penny” for “penny-ante” in the following sentence: “My friend, Captain Britain eats ha’penny hoods like you for breakfast!” (Oddly, “spanner” was not substituted for “monkey wrench” in one scene; my guess is that Clarmeont wrote it that way and editor Larry Lieber changed it back.) Claremont’s foreshadowing and exposition are also particularly ham-fisted: “Sounds ominous, doesn’t it, friends? Unfortunately, it’s a tale for another time as, right now, Brian’s attention is grabbed by an urgent, feminine cry!”

    “Brian! Brian!”

    “Wha--? It’s my sister, Betsy!”

    Regarding the art, my first favorite character was the Incredible Hulk so I’m always happy to see a hitherto unknown sample of his work from the height of his career. Not everyone thought so, though. Here’s what Alan Moore had to say about it in an article he wrote for Marvel Super-Heroes #389, soon after he himself had taken over the writing of the Captain Britain strip: “The explosive two-dimensional quality present in Trimpe’s best work, while splendid when it came to delineating Lego-brick New York skyscrapers, looked a little bit out of place in a setting of darl British moorlands complete with standing stones.”

    Hmm… Perhaps there’s something to that critique after all.

    I have always preferred Captain Britain’s original costume to his later one, but I’ve never heard of a Briton who felt the same way. Perhaps Alan Davis’ intro to the 2001 collection explains why: “The heraldic Lion rampant that was the inspiration for CB’s chest logo had been hijacked byt the British egg marketing board, as a sign of quality, for their 1950s “Go to work on an egg” campaign. So, understandably, Captain Britain was known as a “good egg,” hard-boiled, a shell of a man, scrambled, a bit of a yolk and countless other bad puns.”

    Moving on to the stories themselves, the first two issues presented the origin story (eventually reprinted for an American audience in Marvel Tales #131-133) in which student/physicist Brian Braddock is granted his powers by a Druidic priest and priestess (not yet revealed to be Merlin and the goddess Roma) by choosing the Amulet of Right over the Sword of Might, essentially the power of Life over the power of Death. Rubbing the amulet transforms not only his clothing in to his costume, but also physically increases his size and strength. Essentially, he has the strength and stamina of a Golden Age Superman, not invulnerable but very, very strong. He cannot fly nor leap tall buildings in a single bound, but by using his staff as a pole vault, he is able to clear “several hundred meters in a single leap!”

    Whereas the origin does have a lot of kinetic energy, the story and character are little more than an amalgam of Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Dr. Strange and even Fawcett’s Captain Marvel. Worse, Claremont’s original plot didn’t call for the hero to appear in costume in the first issue at all, which caused Marvel editorial to sloppily lead off with a two-page fight scene from part two, then catch up to that point via “flashback.” The first villain was Reaver, a failed nuclear terrorist.

    Issue #3 introduces supporting cast member Chief inspector Dai Thomas (whose wife was an innocent bystander casualty during a superhero battle while visiting New York City) as well as Brian’s school friends Courtney Ross, Sandy York and Jacko Tanner. The Brian Braddock / Courtney Ross / Jacko Tanner triangle is so similar to the Peter Parker / Liz Allen / Flash Thompson one that Chris Claremont ought to have paid Stan Lee royalties. Because of the weekly nature of this series, natural break points are difficult to find, but this one is more or less standalone. In addition to interacting with the newly introduced supporting cast, Captain Britain encounters a group of bank robbers lead from behind the scenes by the enigmatic Vixen.

    Issues #4-7 introduce the threat of Hurricane, a failed meteorologist, who origin is so campy and cliché ridden that he might just as well have been bitten by a radioactive tornado. Issue #5 introduces two more member of the supporting cast: Dr. Neil Mackenzie, Brian’s mentor from the university, as well as Kate Fraser, Inspector Thomas’s more sympathetic partner.

    In issue #8 Captain Britain again encounters the same gang of bank robbers from #3 before this subplot to nowhere is forgotten, never to be mentioned again. More importantly, this issue introduces Brian’s sister Betsy, a charter pilot, and his brother Jamie, a race car driver. The villain is the horseback riding psychic threat Dr. Synne, a failed nuclear physicist. Pay attention because here, as Claremont transitions to Friedrich from issue #10 to #11, is where the plot becomes confusing.

    In Claremont’s last issue, after having suffered a psychic by Dr. Synne, Betsy is taken by her bothers to the Morder Research Centre and placed under the care of one Dr. Ramsey, who actually works for Dr. Synne. Friedrich quickly turns the tables, however, and establishes that Synne himself is actually being controlled himself by a computer built by the Braddock siblings’ deceased father (Brian blames himself for the death of both his parents, but that’s another story), and housed in the basement of Braddock Manor and which manifests itself as a humanoid hologram called Mastermind!

    Whew! But that’s not all! Issue #15 serves as a segue between stories as Captain Britain defeats Mastermind and Nick Fury and Captain America enter the plot! By the next issue the real mastermind is revealed to be none other than the Red Skull! It is never quite explained just exactly what the Skull’s connection with Captain Britain’s father was nor, by extension, how Mastermind, Dr, Synne, Dr, Ramsey and the Morder Research Centre fit into his plans, but the plot moves so quickly one is tempted to just go with it. Suffice it to say that his ultimate goal is to bring about the downfall of Britain and that even then-Prime Minister James Callaghan figures prominently in the Skull’s machinations.

    Captain America quest stars through issue#27. I’m quite pleased with this storyline as I’ve never been entirely pleased with the state of affairs between Captain America and the Red Skull as Jack Kirby left them after his mid-70s tenure on Cap’s own title. The Skull left Captain America temporarily blinded, and it’s very easy to imagine that, after Cap’s eyes healed, he followed the Skull (however inadvertently) to England to pursue their battle.

    Also introduced in this storyline is England’s counterpart to SHIELD, STRIKE, which stands for Special Tactical Reserve for International Key Emergencies. By the end of #23, the last issue in the first tpb, things are still not resolved. Nevertheless, this is a good point at which to end volume one (and this post) because next issue, everything changes.

    If the artist of the first 23 issues made me feel pleasantly nostalgic, the art team of #24 made me feel absolutely thrilled: John Buscema inked by Tom Palmer! Buscema and Palmer illustrating a story featuring Captain America and SHIELD? Don’t let the circumstances surrounding the publication of this title fool you: this is an American comic book! (Reportedly, Marvel UK editorial didn’t think too much of it in the first place, anyway.) It reads and looks very much like a 1970s-era Marvel stateside black and white magazine.

    Buscema remained on the title through issue #30, and Palmer and Kida embellished alternating issues. Gary Friedrich remained as scripted and co-plotter, but editor Larry Lieber was also given writing credit throughout the remainder of Freidrich’s run. The new team capped off (no pun intended) the Red Skull plot in issue #26, tied up loose ends in #27 and transitioned into the new threat, Lord Hawke, but that’s a post for tomorrow.
  • Has Marvel ever reprinted the stories from the British Hulk series?

    I had two of the Hurricane issues for a while. The Fantastic Four reprint was from #112 and split in two. A new splash page was drawn for the second part.
  • Not that I know of... not in the U.S., anyway.

    I'm working from a series of Captain Britain tpbs published by Marvel UK which I got from
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