The top 5 best Excalibur covers featuring Captain Britain

In its 125 issue run Excalibur had a varied mix of stories, writers, artists and covers some excellent others not so. Today I am going to focus on 5 of what I consider to be the comics best covers which feature Captain Britain.

First up is the cover to issue 18 which features Captain Britain to me re-imagined as a manga character. Chris Wozniak is the person responsible for a very straightforward cover but one with a great idea, years later Marvel went manga mad on a lot of their characters, but I think this cover is one of their first forays into this theme.

excalibur issue 18

Next is issue 33 by Steve Lightle, who draws an image that rings true in my heart of Captain Britain dishing out deserved justice to Nightcrawler. Now I’m aware Nightcrawler has a lot of fans who won’t enjoy this image, but his lust for Cap’s girlfriend Meggan means for me he had this cover coming for some time.

excalibur issue 33

Let’s move on to issue 51 drawn by the king of Captain Britain artists Alan Davis, this is a great image of the Excalibur team redrawn as dinosaurs which really catches the eye. Davis has produced some great art here that not only looks good, but makes you want to pick the comic up and find out what on earth is going on.

excalibur 51

Issue 60’s cover by Scott Kolins is another great example of the humour that ran through Excalibur. Kolin’s almost feral Captain Britain rescuing or kidnapping the helpless Meggan looks great while raising a smile at the same time.

excalibur issue 60

For my last cover from issue 125 we return to Excalibur’s emperor of art Alan Davis. This issue was to be the last we saw of Excalibur for a while but the send off with the marriage of Cap and Meggan at last gave fans closure to their long romance. Davis draws the happy couple with all the skill he bought to his renditions of them over the years, and the turmoil in the background is a great contrast.

Excalibur 125

Agree or disagree with my choices ? Let me know how you feel in the comments below, and join me later in the week for the top 5 worst Excalibur covers featuring Captain Britain.

Happy Birthday Jack Kirby and please support Kirby4Heroes

Today if he was still alive comic book writer and artist Jack Kirby would be 97 years old, even though he is no longer with us Jack’s granddaughter keeps his legacy alive on his birthday by raising money for charity at Kirby4Heroes.

Kirby4Heroes asks people to donate to the Hero Initiative – a non-profit organisation which helps those involved in comic books who have fallen on hard times and need help medically or financially.

Captain Britain by Jack Kirby

Captain Britain by Jack Kirby

You too can donate by clicking the previous link, and if you want to know more about this great cause watch the video on that site.

The best thing is you don’t have to do an ice bucket challenge, so why not go and donate NOW!

I think this is the oldest Captain Britain trading card ever.

I bought this card from ebay last week and I think it’s the oldest Captain Britain trading card I own if not the oldest one ever printed.

It’s from the Marvel Super Heroes card game from 1977, which was also the year Cap debuted.

IMG_0454-0.JPG

Anyway only a short post today as it’s a bank holiday here in the UK.

Captain Britain in we’re all going on a summer holiday

The Captain Britain Blog is taking its annual seaside holiday trip , normal service will be resumed on September 1st.

Hopefully the holiday will be less eventful than these Captain Britain trips I’ve previously covered.

Captain Britain goes to the Seaside

Captain Britain visits New York

Captain Britain visits Scotland

And the time Captain Britain visited Spider-Man and they ended up in

Captain Britain in Murderworld

 

 

Captain Britain and Grant Morrison.

If I was asked to rate my top five comic book writers Grant Morrison would certainly be in my top three, maybe even occupying the prestigious number one slot. Hence I was a little disconcerted when I read his comments about Seventies Captain Britain in his book Supergods.

Morrison starts by saying: “When Marvel dipped its toes in the British market by launching Captain Britain, the assignment was handed to American anglophile Chris Claremont on the grounds that he’d visited the place once or twice and had a fondness for TV shows like The Avengers.”

Morrison then goes on to comment that Captain Britain was created to “appeal to a mainstream American sensibility weaned on the Marvel tradition…England was depicted as a place of Tudor tea shops and cobbled streets. Scotland could be rendered in its entirety with a single drawing of a castle flying a tartan flag.”

The quote got me thinking about how much of it was actually true, so I decide to revisit Captain Britain from 1977 and see how much of what Morrison said seemed correct or not to me. Let’s be honest I undertook this not as an excuse to bash Morrison, simply because I thought it might be interesting to look at the quote in context.

As a quick aside in Captain Britain Volume 2 issue 13 from 1986 Morrison wrote a short story about Captain Granbretan, who is pictured below.

captain granbretan by Grant Morrison

For some reason the good Captain reminds me of Morrissey, anyway let’s move on.

First let me address the idea that the book was handled by an American anglophile, certainly writer Chris Claremont was born in Britain though artist Herb Trimpe was probably more of an anglophile having lived in the UK for some time, and traveled its length and breadth. So Morrison is correct Claremont and Trimpe could indeed be described as anglophiles, but I’m certain Marvel threw their best staff at Captain Britain to make it a success, and I’m sure Claremont and Trimpe would have been wanted to contribute whether they had a British connection or not.

Certainly when re-reading Seventies Captain Britain some of the ideas and art are so anglocentric it’s almost like the comic was made out of tweed. We have Merlyn, knights of old, ancient moors of mystic power and a sword in the stone, and they’re just in issue 1. Does this “anglophile” touch make the comic any worse, hell no it makes it the origin of Britain’s greatest superhero, just what it should be. Anything non-British shoehorned in would make Captain Britain’s illustrious origin and adventures all the less for it.

Captain Britain jigsaw inspiration panel

Next we need to look at the Britain Cap is launched into, is it all ” Tudor tea shops and cobbled streets?”

Well the first issue takes place on a mysterious moor and inside a secret nuclear complex, not really very Tudor to say the least. However Cap does see a lot of action in London, where the distinctive landmarks of the city are woven into the plot, I can’t recall many Tudor tea shops though.

Let’s not forget north of the border and is it true that  “Scotland could be rendered in its entirety with a single drawing of a castle flying a tartan flag?”

Well check out my post on Captain Britain verses the Loch Ness Monster to see if you agree with that statement of Morrisons . OK it’s hard to tell the action takes place in Scotland if you take away the loch and Nessie, but the story is none the worse for its basic depiction of Scotland. I actually dislike comics that spend too many panels telling me where the action is taking place as it usually means the story suffers.

One statement of Morrison’s that certainly rings true is that Captain Britain was created specifically to “appeal to a mainstream American sensibility weaned on the Marvel tradition.”

My full thoughts on this statement and how Captain Britain was originally meant to be the UK version of Spider-Man can be read here. But yet again Marvel were not seeking to reinvent the wheel with Captain Britain, they knew what worked comic book wise, and they were never going to stray from their winning formula and risk losing sales revenue.

Super Spider Man and Captain Britain 231

So Grant Morrison was actually quite accurate in his summary of Captain Britain, but even so I’m certainly not going to burn my copies of All-Star Superman or WE3 in protest at what he said, there far too good for that. To me the facts about Captain Britain Morrison uses are to me what defined Cap and made sure he has a place in our big super hero loving hearts today. Without anglophiles and Tudor tea shops Captain Britain could have easily become a more mundane hero and not one that inspires me to write about him many years after his 1977 debut.

A Captain Britain RPG gallery

Ever since I was introduced to the RPG game Golden Heroes I often imagined myself taking to the city streets and skies to bring justice to evil doers as Captain Britain.

Sadly I never got the chance to role play as my favorite hero but a lot of other people did, so here is a gallery of Captain Britain and some look-a-likes that people have RPG’d with over the years.

Captain britian RPG

Alastair Savage kindly provide the above scan of an advert for Marvel Super Heroes from White Dwarf magazine dated 1985.

Captain-Britain

From the Marvel Heroic Role playing game another version of Cap.

City of Heroes Captain Britain

From the now closed MMO City of Heroes , Hero 1, their version of Captain Britain.

Marvel War of Heroes Captain Britain

Marvel War of Heroes Captain Britain Excalibur

From Marvel War of Heroes two versions of Captain Britain, with and without Excalibur.

Marvel RPG Cap

Another Marvel Super Heroes Captain Britain.

nightcrawler rpg

From Alastair Savage again another advert scanned from White Dwarf magazine of Captain Britain’s Excalibur team-mate Nightcrawler.

My thanks to Alastair for his scans which inspired today’s post. Why not check out his blog here.

The life and death of Ultimate Captain Britain

When people use the word “Ultimate” you know they are talking big, brassy and bold, you hear of the “Ultimate Warrior,” an “Ultimate Party album” or if you visit my local take away the “Ultimate Kebab.“ But can this definition of the word Ultimate apply to Ultimate Captain Britain, and is he even deserving of such a title?

To help you understand a little more about Ultimate Captain Britain let me try to explain about the Ultimates comic book series, and the Ultimate Marvel Universe in which he appears.

The Ultimate universe is not really part of current Marvel Comics continuity.

The Ultimates were created by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch.

The Ultimate team are like the Avengers on crack.

download

Anyway moving on, I’m not the greatest Mark Millar fan, but his “Red Son,” “Swamp Thing“and “Old Man Logan“ are among some of my favourite comics. However, when we take a look at Millar’s Ultimate Captain Britain we shall see why I feel he is anything but.

Ultimate Captain Britain

Hardly a distinguished intro for Ultimate Captain Britain.

(Please excuse the quality of this post’s scans, my copies of the Ultimates don’t seem to have worn well, but clicking on them makes them a bit better.)

Ultimate Captain Britain saw his comic book debut in Volume 2 issue 2 of the Ultimates series, written by Millar and drawn by Hitch, Cap went on to make sporadic appearances in the rest of the second volume of the Ultimates and other related titles. But just how does Ultimate Captain Britain differ from his regular Marvel universe counterpart, and why does this as I said earlier make him anything but Ultimate?

Well the first difference that comes to mind is Ultimate Captain Britain’s costume…

ultimates-4-captain britain

…the overall look is quite good and I feel Bryan Hitch’s design is excellent and pays homage to Alan Davis, but I’m not loving the – to me – out of place gloves and “flying helmet” head piece. Also as you can see in pictures with his helmet off Cap actually looks a lot younger than we might expect, almost a teenager.

The most radical difference between the Caps though is when Millar tells us about Ultimate Captain Britain’s background/origin and we see he has stripped it of any Arthurian element that forged the original Marvel Universe’s Cap. This Ultimate Cap is a man of pure science, and he has used his physics knowledge to design the exo-suit he wears, while working alongside a European task force run by his father. While I love to see an intellectual Cap the lack of Merlyn and the “Britain” of Captain Britain leaves the character a little flat, and removes anything that lends itself to the title Captain Britain. Hell, Brian Braddock might more accurately call himself Captain Exo-Suit or Captain Big Brain as there is little to lend himself to taking up the title of Captain Britain other than he is from there, and has a red, white and blue costume.

However in some ways the grounding of Captain Britain makes sense as later in the Ultimates Thor brings a dimension full of Nordic folklore and kick ass to trouble all the heroes. The shock value of this in the story might have been diluted if we learnt the Ultimate universe wasn’t as rational as we had been lead to believe via the supporting character of Captain Britain.

Millar stripping Cap of his essential qualities carries this forward into his super heroic exploits. No Loch Ness Monsters or rescuing the Queen; instead this Cap aids stricken Submarines, or disarms Middle Eastern nations.

Ultimate Captain Britain disarms the middle east

Worthy yes, fun no. Four words that not only sum up Ultimate Captain Britain, but also to me could be applied to the Ultimate universe as a whole.

Ultimate Captain Britain swings between being unlikable as when we see him here kissing Captain America’s arse…

Ultimate Captain Britain sucks up to Captain America

Captain Britain sucks up to Captain America

.. to thoroughly fantastic as we can see in this brilliant image of Cap doing his best Superman impersonation.

Ultimate Captain Britain does Superman

But sadly an ignoble fate awaited Ultimate Captain Britain once Millar had finished with him. In Jeph Loeb’s Ultimate Universe crossover –the imaginatively entitled Ultimatum – Cap is blown up during an attack on the Houses of Parliament. Weakened, he succumbs to cancer caused by the very suit he designed and new Ultimates writer Jonathan Hickman has his brother Jamie takes on the tights of Captain Britain. A rather inglorious end really for Ultimate Captain Britain, but an oddly fitting one for the brash Ultimate universe.

Jamie Braddock as Ultimate Captain Britain

Ultimate Jamie Braddock as Captain Britain

Sadly the Ultimate Universe version of Jamie Braddock is nowhere near as mental as the regular Marvel Universe one – this might be due to regular Jamie’s lack of clothes?

Jamie Braddock by Alan Davis

Regular Marvel Universe Jamie Braddock

So there you have Ultimate Captain Britain, an example I feel of how super heroes were supposedly made more real in the nineties, and while some of the changes worked, a lot more didn’t. Now I always love a Cap story that acknowledges he is a genius but the lack of originality to Ultimate Cap’s origin seems to me to rob him of any identity that links him with actually being Captain Britain, and just makes him Captain Anybody.

However, you cannot deny the massive impact Millar and Hitch’s two Ultimate series had upon Marvel. Without them there would have been no Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in an Avengers movie or three great Iron Man films with Robert Downey Jr, and super hero cinema would have been much poorer without these. So Marvel let’s cut a deal, if Captain Britain is in the next Avengers movie I’m willing to forget all about his Ultimate persona.

Avengers Movie poster with Captain Britain