Today is a great day for Captain Britain fans as on this day 38 years ago the UK’s best hero made his debut in Captain Britain issue 1, so you could say today is Captain Britain’s birthday.
That idea got me thinking about why so many people like me have strong feelings about Captain Britain, and why despite his erratic treatment at the hands of his creators at Marvel Comics people still love him. What is it about the good Cap that makes me take to the internet and write about obscure details of his chequered career, instead of writing about The Fantastic Four or Daredevil – two of my other long-term Marvel faves.
Well to understand how I came to love Captain Britain it makes sense to start at the beginning with just how did I come to own my first Cap comic?
Way back in the mid nineties I was an avid comic book fan but my wages of the time didn’t allow much choice when it came to my weekly pull list, a list that was 99% Vertigo comics. This meant I tended to look down my nose at spandex adventures as I was a mature reader!
Also limiting my comic choice was the fact that my money was tight which meant I often would forgo a visit to the comic store to visit a second-hand book shop in Birmingham which had a large second-hand comic selection – it was called Readers World.
Reader’s World was a chaotic mix of books, magazines, comics and a whole lot more. Shelves overflowed onto the floor, long boxes were scattered liberally around the shop and every available space bulged with items for sale. The shop seemed to me to have a fine disregard for the alphabet and finding what you were looking for was often impossible, but gems discovered in the shop were all the more pleasurable for this. My most prevalent memory of the shop was that musty dusty paper smell that a lot of second-hand shops seemed to have but none had such a musk as Readers World.
Anyway on one of my trips to Readers World fresh from a diet of Watchmen and V for Vendetta I came across a battered Captain Britain comic – I can’t remember the exact issue – where I was surprised to see Alan Moore listed as the writer. Without paying for it I read it – times were hard remember – and I was instantly drawn to the action and the dialogue; this was superheroes as they should be done I thought.
So began my quest to piece together more Cap Moore, but as those were the days when trade paperbacks were few and far between my Captain Britain collection grew in a patchy fashion. Cap appearing in Excalibur helped as Marvel put out a trade of some of his pre-Excalibur adventures then Moore’s Crooked World was collected. I snapped up any Cap comics I could find, and started reading Excalibur. This helped as my love for Cap blossomed to the point where as I said earlier I tend to be obsessive about him, but I like to think I do it in a well-mannered and British way.
But what was it that made me want to read more Cap what was it that made me want to buy that torn and tattered comic languishing in the bargain box of a second-hand shop, and hunt for more. I’m going to try to pin it all down with a list.
As I said I was a Vertigo collector, and because of this I tended to look down my nose at superhero comics and might have done so with Captain Britain if anyone but Alan Moore had been the writer. But the fact that such a writer with a distinguished pedigree wrote spandex adventures meant they couldn’t all be that bad I thought. So my comic book snobbery actually had a positive effect, and instead of retreating into more and more obscure books I took a bold step out into the colourful world of superheroes and found out I had been missing a lot. If it wasn’t for Captain Britain I might never have tried Batman, Captain America and many more. So that’s one of the reasons I love Cap so much; he was my first real superhero.
Next, oh that Davis art.
A lot of early Captain Britain was drawn magnificently by Alan Davis, and his fabulous eye candy certainly was a draw to Cap’s adventures. Because of this I was more than willing to move onto Excalibur and continue revelling in the art I had come to love, despite its early issues confusing links to X-Men continuity and poor treatment of Cap.
I needed to take a Vertigo break.
Vertigo was and still is an exceptional line of mature reader comics, but bloody hell they could be depressing quite a lot of the time. Looking back to my constant diet of Sandman, Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol and Shade I’m not surprised I embraced Cap as his adventures were the polar opposite to the Vertigo anti-heroes. I started to read comics where yes the good guys might get a bloody nose, but they were nowhere near as depressing as my previous comic choices. Cap cheered me up and while I have no less respect for Vertigo and still buy their wares I needed a change, and that’s what I love about Cap is that he brought this into my comic book world and probably kept me collecting and enjoying comics long after I might have become jaded.
So there you go that’s why Captain Britain is my favourite superhero and why I’m writing about him today and will continue to keep writing about him until I run out of ideas. I still read Vertigo comics by the way, it’s just now I have a lot more varied choice in my comic book collection and that can only be a good thing.
Join me later in the week when I take a sideways look at Captain Britain’s debut issue and examine just how much his origin was influenced by the decade I myself grew up in , the Seventies.
Until the why not join me in wishing Cap happy Birthday and sign off in the comments below if you have any Cap memories you wish to share.