Captain Britain at Wimbledon. The joyful insanity that is Spidey Super Stories 32.

Did you know that in 1978 Captain Britain appeared at Wimbledon or as it was known then Wimbleton? Did you know that at the hallowed tennis club he joined Spider-Man in a tennis match against Dr Octopus? No? Well all of this happened in Spidey Super Stories issue 32, let me tell you about it.

Before we start I must confess I only found out about this story in the last twenty-four hours and I am indebted to followers of the Captain Britain fans’ page and blog Facebook page, in particular Janet Black for bringing this piece of Captain Britain madness to my attention. This story is so great it would be rude not to share it with my readers but first a bit of background

Started in the Seventies Spidey Super Stories was a comic spin-off from the TV show of the same name. Issue 32 saw Spidey team up with Captain Britain in a rather topical adventure set at the Wimbledon/Wimbleton tennis tournament. For those who like the facts this story was written by Jim Salicrup and penciled by Win Mortimer, it was published in March 1978.

Please enjoy the story as it appeared so many years ago below, apologies for the quality of the scans they are taken from YouTube.

Cap attempts to foil a heist by Doc Ock. You have got to love those old fashioned bank bags full of coins, so impractical.

Super Spidey stories 32 Captain Britain 2

Spidey in London for various reasons joins in, only for there to be the usual mix up. I love the last panel here with the “SOCK” as Cap brains Spidey.

Super Spidey stories 32 Captain Britain 3

Aunt May is dragged into the fight as Doc Ock uses her as a hostage to get to Wimbledon/ Wimbleton. At no time is it explained why Aunt May has a flower pot on her head but moving on.

Super Spidey stories 32 Captain Britain 4

Cap and Spidey team up and head after him, despite the petty name calling. Flag face indeed!

Super Spidey stories 32 Captain Britain 5

Doc Ock shows he’s certainly not going to play fair.

Super Spidey stories 32 Captain Britain 6

Armed with a web bat and staff Captain Britain and Spidey challenge Doc Ock. Gotta love those super mustaches on the Wimbleton judges.

Super Spidey stories 32 Captain Britain 7

And Doc Ock reveals his true motives, stealing the Wimbledon/Wimbleton prize money.

Super Spidey stories 32 Captain Britain 8

Luckily with a combination of web and force field Cap and Spidey stop the nefarious villain.

Super Spidey stories 32 Captain Britain 9

And with Aunt May rescued by Spider-Woman, Doc Ock is marched off to jail

Super Spidey stories 32 Captain Britain 10

I’m for once lost for words, this one-off story is so mad and marvelous in its insanity. I love the idea that Captain Britain appeared at Wimbledon/Wimbleton, I love the idea Doc Ock is good at tennis simply because he has so many arms and I love the fact Cap uses his brains and force field to capture the Doc.

I’m not sure why Wimbledon is renamed Wimbleton, I mean it was only in 1977 that Cap faced off against the Queen and Marvel didn’t see fit to change anything then so why Wimbledon’s name was altered is beyond me?

Apparently I’m informed this isn’t Cap’s only appearance in Spidey Super Stories and I have an eBay order out for another wild tale. If your interested in this series why not check out Robin Barnard and his talented friends excellent parodies of these comics on Facebook. Check it out here.

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As there’s no Captain Britain in Time Runs Out this week here’s some puzzles to help you pass the time.

This week in Avengers 38 and New Avengers 26 Time Runs Out continues, but sadly without any Captain Britain appearances. So to help you pass the time until Cap does show up here are some puzzle pages from the pages of Seventies Captain Britain weekly.

captain britain shadow puzzle

I’m not sure how Cap lost his shadow and why you need to be careful finding it again but that tag line for next weeks puzzle of A Lion in Winter sounds intriguing doesn’t it?

captain britain maze puzzle

Oh it’s just a maze. Would Richard the Lionheart be afraid of it? Sadly that answer is lost to history, unlike the terrible lion pun.

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Captain Britain, The Sweeney and the Seventies.

Despite Captain Britain being a fictional superhero and me being a forty year old blogger with too much time on his hands we both have something in common, in that we are both children of the seventies. Cap made his debut in 1977 whereas I made mine a few years earlier, and I was a lot younger. However I like to think we both “grew up” in the Seventies so to speak.

So today I have decided to look back on my memories of the Seventies and see how much of an influence those years had on Captain Britain’s early stories. Read on to discover how Seventies cop shows, smoking and sci-fi films all – in my opinion –  had a direct effect on the origin of Captain Britain.

So let’s start by looking at the TV of the Seventies and a program that I think had a major influence on the design of Captain Britain’s world. No it wasn’t Dr Who, though I did discuss its influence on Cap here, I mean cop shows and one I was probably too young to be watching, The Sweeney.

Almost immediately as you read Cap’s if you’re a citizen of the UK you can’t help notice how Captain Britain’s Chief Inspector Thomas channels The Sweeney’s detectives.

Chief Inspector Thomas aka The Sweeney

Chief Inspector Thomas

 

The Sweeney cops

The Sweeney’s Regan and Carter

The reason I am sure is that maybe without the benefit of much reference material in the Seventies Captain Britain artist Herb Trimpe may well have turned to the TV for help, and the Sweeney was one of the most popular Seventies cop shows – well in my school anyway.

I even believe the Sweeney’s influence on Captain Britain extends to the Police Cars portrayed in early issues, let’s compare, here is a real Seventies Cop car

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s a Captain Britain Cop car

Seventies Captain Britain cops 2

And here is a Cop car from the Sweeney.

The Sweeney Car

Coincidence?  I think not, anyway time to move on.

A common chant on Seventies TV news and in the papers was the phrase, “nuclear power no thanks.” The reason behind this was the world’s growing desire to see the end of nuclear weapons and power plants that many believed were time bombs of the worst kind. I want to focus in on nuclear power plants as that is where Captain Britain worked.

Captain britain and Darkmoor Nuclear Centre

Nuclear power in the Seventies was a growing source of what was believed at the time to be safe energy without reliance on fossil fuels, and I remember barely a week going without the news covering demonstrations against anything nuclear. So it’s no surprise that when Claremont tried to make Captain Britain rooted in current – Seventies – culture that he chose nuclear power. Interestingly this was also the first reference to the fact that Captain Britain was a genius, something that became an erratic personality trait as his character grew.

Now another memory of the Seventies was triggered by the last panel of the above picture, let’s look at it in more detail.

Captain Britian physics genius

Yes Cap like a lot of people I knew in the Seventies smoked, hell Cap’s that hard he’s even smoking inside a nuclear power plant! Everyone as I grew up seemed to smoke due to I imagine the lack of health and safety info about its dangers, cigarettes and beer were even advertised in between kid’s Saturday morning TV shows in the UK. Smoking also invaded Seventies children’s lives even further as there were sweet cigarettes and pipes! Because of this large smoking culture it’s no surprise that Captain Britain lights up, but if memory serves me correctly this is the first and last time we see him with a pipe, though his battle with alcohol was to plague him for a lot longer

Licorice Pipe Candy

Children’s Licorice pipes

In the summer of 1977 Star Wars hit cinema screens and science fiction was never the same again, but there is one particular point in that film that to me is reflected in Captain Britain. You see in the film when Kenobi and Vader duel I can’t help but think of this scene from Captain Britain.

Captain Britain duels Darth Vader

To me this whole fight wears its Star Wars influence firmly on its sleeve even down to the design of the baddie and that the staff and sword wielded by the combatants could just as easily be lightsabers. Have a look at the Marvel version of the famous Star Wars duel below, and marvel at both scenes incredible sound effects.

star-wars-4

So there you have four – probable – Seventies influences on the early stories of Captain Britain. Influences I would like to point that are really only recognized by me casting my mind back nearly forty years to when I was very young. Agree or disagree please sound off in the comments section below.

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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.

The Captain Britain that nearly was. UPDATED.

UPDATED 24/07/14- see below for the costume colour reveal.

UPDATED 25/07/14 – lots of new pages found.

As a Captain Britain fan you may not be aware that he nearly had a very different start to his comic book career. It all started In 1973 when UK comic publisher IPC floated an idea for their version of Captain Britain which remained hidden for many years, until its reveal in the Captain Britain trade “A Hero Reborn.”

Code named JNP52 (Juvenile New Project 52) to keep the idea secret from other publishers this Captain Britain was placed in the hands of writer Tom Tully while Eric Bradbury handled the art. Tom Tully was a distinguished comic scribe better known for his work on UK football strip Roy of the Rovers; while Bradbury had a long list of sterling work on UK comic strips and was later to draw the controversial Hook Jaw for 2000AD.

Below are the only two pages of pencils that exist for this project, click to enlarge. ( UPDATED Not true check out Super I.T.C.H. here.)

the captain britain that nearly was

Comic book guru Dez Skinn a former IPC employee who bought this secret project to light is interviewed in the Captain Britain trade about this Cap who never was, and why the comic never took off. Skinn puts it bluntly:

“Imported US comics sold around 10-15000 a month whereas UK titles sold in excess of 250,000 a week. So the super hero style was hardly a model worth emulating.”

What would this Cap have been like? Skinn answers:

“The IPC version differed in every way imaginable. rather than an anglicized Spider-Man (see my article about that here ) …it was far more SF based strip with a bleak future-Britain where our hero comes back in our time of need, almost Arthurian.”

Sadly beyond the one page feature in the Captain Britain trade from where I drew the above interview quotes there are little details about this alternate Cap. This doesn’t stop me however from arming myself with the star scepter of speculation, and trying to second guess some more details about this Captain Britain that never was.

The first thing that strikes me is a passing resemblance to Miracle/Marvel man, I’ve done a composite picture below for comparison.

Miracleman Captain Britain comparison

I’m going to imagine the prototype Captain Britain might have even been wearing a similarly coloured costumed to his counterpart; as red, white and blue being the UK’s national colours it would be rather unpatriotic if he wore anything else.

UPDATED – see the tiny pic below for the actual costume colour reveal. Please note the quality isn’t that great but the costume colour is the red, white and blue I predicted plus some dashing yellow boots and wristbands.

image

Theses new details came from the forum post here which links to the Albion comic database about this version of Cap which you can read about here for more details.

As for the setting it was quite common in comics of the Seventies to imagine the future as an atomic wastelands devastated by war or instead a world controlled by a 1984 type dictatorship. As Captain Britain is super powered I think the writers would have gone with atomic destruction,the reason for this is that irradiated monsters and insects that might be present would have given our hero a worthwhile tussle or two. Sadly the new picture posted above just shows Cap beating up some generic looking thugs with not a mutated foe in sight.

Now is this Captain Britain a product of the comic’s dystopian future or was he summoned through time and space to this new world? I imagine Cap as a time traveler for two reasons. Firstly Cap being new to the setting allows it to be explained in great detail for the readers, and secondly a certain time travelling BBC hero Dr Who was extremely popular at the time this idea was around, so a time travel element to the story might have lured in readers.

This never was Cap does have something in common with the one who was to emerge from Marvel UK a few years later. Note Skinn said  that his coming in the time of Britain’s need was almost Arthurian, the Captain Britain we know and love today had his origin and many of his adventures firmly in the Arthurian mythology with characters like Merlin etc.

So what do you think of the Captain Britain that never was? Sound off in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was Seventies Captain Britain meant to be the UK version of Spider-Man?

While recently re-reading some of Captain Britain’s earliest adventures, I found I was beginning to harbor a growing suspicion about his role in the Seventies Marvel Universe. Then when I came to his first official US cross-over in Marvel Team Up 65-66 my suspicion became a conviction, was the Captain Britain of the Seventies meant to be the UK version of Spider-Man?

Grabbing my Seventies Captain trades I started to make notes, and found a list of similarities between Cap and Spidey which seemed to reinforce my conviction. So join me now as I present my light-hearted list of why I believe Captain Britain could have been mistaken during the Seventies for Spider-Man, and remember if I kid I do it out of love for the characters involved.

Parentage – Or lack off.

Peter Parker and Brian Braddock are introduced to us as orphans, Pete’s parents were killed in an air crash and Brian’s died at the hands of the super computer Mastermind. Interestingly they both, unlike some comic book characters, never made the direct choice to become heroes because their parents were dead.

Death of Captain Britains parents 1

The death of Captain Britain’s parents

Boffins.

Captain Britain and Spider-Man are both highly intelligent, some might say almost to the genius level. Sadly after the Seventies Cap’s intelligence took a tumble –  though to me he still remains a physics genius – while Spidey was never ” lobotomized ” by his writers.

. Spider man science whizz

Similar costumes.

Both our heroes costumes are red and blue and both bear a chest logo that defines who they are. While we’re on looks both our boys in the Seventies were never drawn predominantly muscled, of course Cap’s body mass changed later on but only to rightly represent his change of powers and costume. Super Spider Man and Captain Britain 231

Both threatened to quit the day job.

There’s almost a symmetry to these respective Cap and Spidey covers which show them walking away from their superhero personas. Interestingly both have to be reminded of their responsibilities by Spidey witnessing a crime or Cap being berated by Merlyn, to both quickly change their unemployment prospects. Spider Man and Captain Britain quit

Your problems don’t end when the suit comes off.

Captain Britain and Spider-Man both had turbulent family lives that caused them problems outside their superhero issues. Spidey has his frail Aunt May to look after while Cap had a dependent sister and brother. In a similar vein both had troubled love lives with rejection and misunderstandings from the fair sex aplenty. Last but by no means least both had friends and family turn on them , Spidey mainly with the his Green Goblin troubles and Cap with sister Betsy targeted by villains or his brother Jamie’s racing career used to lure him to his death.

Jamie Braddock

A pensive Jamie Braddock

 

The misunderstood hero.

As well as their rosta of super powered crooks Cap and Spidey both had enemies who had no powers determined to bring them down no matter what the cost. For Spidey trouble was never far away with newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson constantly on his case, while Cap had to deal with the strong-arm of the law in the form of detective Dai Thomas who constantly dogged his footsteps.

spider man threat or menace

So there you go the main reasons I believe Seventies Captain Britain was heading down the road to becoming the UK’s Spider-Man, until the talented team of writers and artists at his helm took him in his own unique direction, laying the ground for his eighties triumphs. If you want to see my thoughts on some of Cap’s distinct seventies adventures then go here.

I’m well aware here a lot of my arguments could apply to Captain Britain and Superman or any one from a whole host of superheroes, but as Cap and Spidey often appeared in the same comic it just struck me as more logical to compare the both of them.

Agree, disagree or think Seventies Captain Britain was a unique hero in his own right. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below,

Captain Britain in Night of the Hawk.

Welcome back to my look at the early adventures of Captain Britain, when we last saw Cap he and Captain America had just defeated the Red Skull but heroes can never rest.

But first the Cap facts. Night of the Hawk came out in Captain Britain issues 27 to 32 published in 1977, it was written by Gary Friedrich and Larry Lieber with John Buscema and Tom Palmer handling the art, but we now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Our adventure starts with a blissful Brian Braddock remembering how he helped an old friend of his Professor Scott by building him a fully functional mechanical hawk, keep quiet at the back if you have already guessed where this adventure is going.

Captain Britain dreams of hawks

In a quick flashback we learn the prof has been robbed of his real hawk pets by pollution, hence Cap making him a mechanical one out of the goodness of his heart.The sneaky Prof then takes this harmless toy and recruits an out of work munitions engineer to upgrade it to a destructive level, so armed the Prof begins his crusade too rid Britain of all its sources of pollution but a photo of his hawk in action leads Captain Britain to his door.

Munitions worker

Cap and the hawk face off but by snatching his quarterstaff Cap is defeated, typically with the hero at his mercy the Prof does as all good villains do and refrains from killing him, instead he inserts a homing device into Cap so his hawk can track him down later.

Widening his targets for destruction the Prof seeks to destroy Piccadilly Circus , however Cap is on the scene and so faces off again against the hawk. Seemingly unable to defeat the mechanical bird and concerned about the effects of the battle on the innocent bystanders Cap poses for a moment of guilt before the police arrive and he and the hawk flee the scene.

Captain Britain feels guilty

Just a quick interjection here look at how guilty Cap is and how well this comes through in the art just with the look in his eyes and the angst ridden fists, Buscema and Palmer really nail the art in just one small panel. Then in the next shot that evil grin on the Prof’s face is just superb and we are left in no doubt he’s mad, bad and dangerous to know !

Cap flees to his university for safety but the Prof and his foul feathered fiend follow him and again they fight but this time the hawk seizes Cap himself and carries him high into the air without his quarterstaff. Now next the story does something we rarely see in Captain Britain comics and that is it allows our hero to solve his dilemma with his brain power, as Cap rewires the hawk to carry him to safety

Captain Britain rewires the hawk

But as Captain Britain lands the law is waiting for him and yet again he is threatened with an unmaksing until a mysterious voice rings out summoning Cap to an unknown fate.

Captain britain is summoned

These seventies stories are an insane roller coaster of action, angst and then more action, its hard to put across to anyone reading this article that each chapter of Night of the Hawk is only about seven pages long, yet so much happens. Surely the ability to put so much story into so little a space is due to the tight scripting of Friedrich and Lieber but they are helped in no small manner by the art team who use every single panel be it big or small to great effect.

Anyway join me again soon for the next Captain Britain seventies story which is a real milestone in his early adventures.