It’s Captain Britain vs. Hitler as Weird War 3 is declared.

What sort of comic do you get if you cross an alternate dimension where the Nazis won the war, with a Professor X who seeks to advance the world to the next stage of evolutionary development by psychically executing mutants, where the X-Men are known as the Reichsmen and Captain Britain has to thwart Hitler’s plans to exterminate all mutants.

The answer is you get Excalibur: Weird War 3, which I rate as one of the best if most depressing Captain Britain adventures I’ve probably ever read from his early Excalibur career. But before we delve into the book itself let’s have a look at who was on its creative team.

excalibur_weird_war_3

Excalibur: Weird War Three was a one shot graphic novel that came out around December 1990 and was written by Michael Higgins, a man who is no stranger to Excalibur having written for the ongoing series and its spin-off adventures in Marvel Comic Presents. Art chores were handled by Tom Morgan and Justin Thyme. Now if you think that last name sounds odd it’s because Marvel on their website inform us its a pseudonym that includes the artist Chris Wozniak. I also believe the pseudonym includes Joe Rubenstein because he is credited along with Wozniak with a sketch at the book’s end. I have no idea why this was done, but one thing’s certain is that the book’s art does not suffer for this.

Excalibur: Weird War 3 opens with the psychic execution of a bunch of mutants in an alternate dimension; the shock of which it seems is enough to transfer Excalibur across the multiverse to the source. Here we learn the Nazi version of Professor Xavier is trying to advance mutant kind to their next evolutionary phase by executing mutants in their thousands, all to no avail.

Captain Britain Weird War 3 executed Mutants

Behind the scenes lurks an aged Hitler supported by the Red Skull, both aware of Xavier’s plans, and about to use them for their own dastardly advantage.

Excalibur mistaken for their Nazi counterparts Lightning Squad are sent to see the Reichminister of genetics Doktor MacTaggert to see if they are fit to serve the Fuhrer or should they face extermination. A brawl ensues between Excalibur and the Nazi version of the X-Men known as the Reichsmen, in which I’m happy to say the Reichsmen well and truly get their arses handed to them by Excalibur.

Captain Britain Weird War 3 The Reichsmen

As the fisticuffs calm down Doktor MacTaggart comes clean.It seems she is possessed by the real doctor from Excalibur’s own dimension, and disguises the team as Lightning Squad before sending them to end Xavier’s experiments.

In a short aside Xavier and the Red Skull show us exactly what happens to mutants who fail to live up to the Nazi’s standards, as we witness the gruesome fates of their dimensions versions of Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman and others.

Captain Britain Weird War 3 The fate of the X-Men 1

Captain Britain Weird War 3 The fate of the X-Men 2

Excalibur face off against Xavier just as Hitler seeks to use the power of some recently executed mutants to complete his cunning plan of turning back time and making himself young again. I’m not sure if this plan also includes cutting Xavier’s marvelous eyebrows – I hope not.

Captain Britain Weird War 3 Excalibur vs Professor X

At first it seems as if the bad guys will win, but then other worldly forces intervene. The result is that Xavier and the Red Skull are slain, and Hitler is regressed to an extremely young stage.

Captain Britain Weird War 3 The fate of Hitler

Excalibur are transported home and it seems that Professor X ‘s experiments turned him into the ultimate mutant he was searching for all along, and he now acts as guardian of the Nazi dimension .

Confused? Here’s Phoenix with the science bit.

Captain Britain Weird War 3 Pheonix explains it all

After all the anguish luckily all is forgotten in a  Scooby-Doo type ending, with obligatory forced laughter

Captain Britain Weird War 3 bizzare comedy ending

As I said earlier just because this story depressed me doesn’t mean it’s not a good story, let me explain. I feel it takes skill to take an often funny comic book team and place them in a believable scenario where humor cannot save them, and they have to rely on each other and their powers. The fact the story depressed me really means the writer has done an effective job, I shouldn’t come away from a story that stars Hitler and that also has holocaust parallels feeling happy.

I like that Weird War 3’s pace and tone change our usual perception of Captain Britain and Excalibur, then when you add in the art which is nicely grim with washed out colours you get the perfect horrific undertones for the book. Yes the story is the complete opposite of what the team often face but it’s not any less for this, comics shouldn’t be afraid to shy away from real world horrors as long as the source material isn’t an excuse for bad jokes and inaccuracies.

On a different note it’s nice in Weird War 3 to see Captain Britain and his team make a very good show in all the fights they get into, as Higgins writes a group that works well together; while the great art makes for some frantic action. Perhaps the only fault I can find with the book apart from the overly jolly ending is that I wish there had been more room to explore Cap and the Nazi version of his sister Betsy. However, these are minor faults in a book I enjoyed reading when it first came out, and again on my return to it many years later.

Have you read Excalibur: Weird War 3? What did you think of it? Should it have been a mature readers book?  If you haven’t read it would it make your pull list ?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below

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The top 5 worst Excalibur covers featuring Captain Britain

Earlier this week I looked at all one hundred and twenty-five covers of Excalibur and picked my five favorites with Captain Britain on. Now it’s time to look again, but this time present to you my top five least favorite Excalibur covers that feature Captain Britain.

Before I start I need to make one thing clear, this is not an exercise in bashing artists. Everyone who works to put together a comic has problems to overcome such as deadlines or other commitments, which might mean on a particular day they might not produce their best work. Also some of the covers I have chosen are drawn well, but are here because another design aspect means they don’t do it for me.

Excalibur issue 107 by Salvador Larroca

The cover to Excalibur issue 107 by Salvador Larroca is the first to catch my unforgiving eye simply because Captain Britain seems to have been hit with a dose of Pym particles and shrunk to half his size. Larroca is a great artist – don’t believe me check out his Iron Man run – but a midget Cap hiding in the background is something that just looks plain wrong.

Excalibur issue 79 by Ken lashley

Excalibur issue 79’s cover by Ken Lashley contains Britannic, so I am instantly against it because of this. Even if the art for this cover was almost at a level of Pre-Raphaelite awesomeness it would make this list as seeing Britannic just makes me want to bleach my eyes.

Excalibur issue 38 by mark badger

Excalibur issue 38 by Mark Badger contains the star of Excalibur getting the crap beaten out of him by second-rate Avenger Wonder Man. Now I like a cover that shows the hero about to encounter peril or danger, but if you have to resort to a cover that shows a comic’s hero having the living daylights beaten out of him by a guest star, then it shows a lack of respect for the comic in question.

Excalibur issue 36 by Dave Ross

Excalibur issue 36 by Dave Ross just seems to get Captain Britain’s anatomy all sharp and bony so he looks a little odd, though I must admit after the last cover it’s nice to see him victorious for a change.

Excalibur issue 6 by Alan Davis

 

Now this Alan Davis cover is excellent except for one small detail, and that is who forgot to colour in Captain Britain?

So there you have my top 5 least favourite Excalibur covers that feature Captain Britain. Agree or Disagree ? Let me know in the comments below.

 

The bizzare world of early Captain Britain trading cards.

Trading cards are funny old things they can be great money makers for comic book companies but they can often seemed rushed and the heroes they portray bear only a passing resemblance to their funny book counter parts.

Here are some Captain Britain trading cards that were released as part of the Marvel Universe series that came out yearly from 1990 – 1993, see what you think of their representation and arbitrary facts about our favourite hero.

Here is the card from 1990.

Captain Britain Marvel Universe series 1 1990

OK the art is a bit lacklustre and the suspect did you know fact really only occurred in this terrible story here, not a great start and then there’s mention of Cap being hot-headed which you will see becomes a sadly common theme. However all this daftness pales into insignificance next to the info ( pulled from who knows where, ) that Captain Britain has taken part in 514 fights. If you take into account Cap came along in 1976 and this card was released in 1990 then he was having a fight nearly every 10 days whereas using the same data from the Hulk card he was only having a fight every 14 days , make of that what you will !

Anyway enough maths here is the card from 1991.

Captain Britain Marvel Universe series 2 1991

OK so there is better art and a more accurate fact on this card but I am never a fan of Captain Britain being portrayed against something British just in case it seems whoever picks up the card needs a further visual clue as to who he is. However this pales against Cap’ s intelligence rating of 2 out of 7, I mean is this meant to defend the comment that he is still hot-headed ?

Lets move quickly onto the card from 1992.

Captain Britain Marvel Universe series 3  1992

So in the last 12 months Cap has obviously been going to night school or something similar because his intelligence has increased by a whole point ! But hold on what’s this in the description it seems Captain Britain now has a selfish nature and check out the date on the Cap quote its 16 years old, sack the fact checkers I say !

Lastly here is the card from 1993

Captain Britain Marvel Universe series 4 1993

Yet again another succesful year of home study for Cap sees his intelligence rating increase again but in all honesty this card disgraces itself in many ways, poor art, the wrong rating again for Captain Britain’s intelligence when we know he is a genius and I must mention the art again, why does it look like Cap has set his farts on fire or is passing terrible wind?

As a bonus and a break from the insanity here is a very early Cap trading card from the seventies.

Captain Britain card from Marvel game

My things were simpler then and better for it.

I hope the Marvel UK revivial doesn’t include Plasmer.

Marvel UK is fondly remembered by a lot of Brits as a powerhouse of ideas that was cut short in its prime and for the most part that is quite true. However like all comic book companies Marvel UK had their share of clunkers in this case the black sheep of their funny book family was certainly Plasmer.

Plasmer was a four-part mini series created by Glen Dakin and Pascual Ferry put out by Marvel UK in 1993, the heroine of the title was a shape-shifting artificial life form who fought bad guys. To be honest I had hoped to include more detail about the comic but I struggled to get past the first few page of issue 1, so instead here is the titles appalling treatment of Marvel UK staples Captain Britain and the Black Knight.

Plasmer 2 with Captain Britain

Check out the terrible tag line , the goofy expressions on everyones faces and the just general awfulness that is the cover to Plasmer issue 2.

In issue three sales have got that bad that another guest star is shoe horned in.

Captain Britain and Plasmer

So while I’m looking forward to the new Marvel UK relaunch ( which you can read about here or here with my own thoughts added, ) I’m seriously hoping Plasmer’s invite gets “lost” in the mail.

Phew what a scorcher, Captain Britain swimsuit special.

A trip to the seaside is as British as real ale, pork scratchings or a 99 with a flake, so to see Captain Britain in a beach setting would only be natural and not open him up to ridicule by Marvel comics in any way, would it ?

Sadly the answer is no, so let me tell you how more poor depictions of Captain Britain came about. In 1992 and 1993 Marvel decided to release swimsuit specials featuring their heroes modelling swimwear in a beach fashion shoot setting, as Excalibur was one of their best-selling comics Captain Britain and his team featured in both comics.

Here’s Excalibur from the 1992 issue drawn by Adam Hughes.

Excalibur Marvel swimsuit special 1992 by Adam Hughes

OK so first things first the team are wearing swimwear with the brand name ” Gaijin, ” which means alien in Japanese, way to go Marvel that’s quite disrespectful to say the least for a team with UK members, anyway onto Captain Britain who is the only male hero in this book deemed unsexy enough to not show his torso and he has ended up wearing what looks like a Victorian bathing costume.  Actually Cap fares better in the picture than Nightcrawler who is squeezed in the back almost as if as the picture was being finished Hughes realized he had forgotten to put him in and is he really that unpopular he has to play volley ball with himself.

Think it can’t get any worse, lets look at 1993’s Excalibur swim suit picture drawn by Gary Frank.

Excalibur Marvel swimsuit special 1993 by Gary Frank

Yes Captain Britain is now so popular he has been relegated to the background to cook the barbecue and in case you didn’t know the team were from the UK can you spot the Loch Ness monster ( which isn’t as good as this one that Cap fought.) Nightcrawler again fares almost as badly as Cap with his suggestive hot dogs and lascivious grin and surely he could have walked from the barbecue it’s not that far away?

Perhaps next time someone draws Captain Britain at the beach he needs to be wearing a kiss-me-quick hat, drinking a cup of tea and riding a donkey ? Don’t laugh it might be an improvement on these previous outings.

Captain Britain visits New York and doesn’t have a nice day.

Many years ago I was fortunate enough to holiday in New York and can honestly say its a great city full of friendly people and I would recommend visiting it to anyone. Sadly when Captain Britain visited the Big Apple he didn’t have as great a time as I did but was it really his fault?

Cap’s misadventures take place in Excalibur issue 8 from 1989, seasoned scribe Chris Claremont was the writer and Ron Lim was the guest artist filling in for the talented Alan Davis.

So how did it all go wrong for Captain Britain, well the comic opens with the Excalibur team resting in New York after appearing in the X-Men cross-over event Inferno ( with all the subtlety of a beef slice in a vegetarian sandwich,) but that’s a discussion for another post. Waking early to find his girlfriend Meggan has vanished from their hotel Captain Britain forgoes whiskey for breakfast and sets out to find her, sadly as his uniform was destroyed in a previous issue he has to resort to wearing a track suit.

Captain Britain in excalibur 8 , no 1

While on his travels Cap stops a robbery but notices his strength is declining and as his track suit is shredded in the melee he has to resort to a quick change from a sports shop, notice here just for cheap laughs Cap is placed in tight shorts and a skimpy top. Things go from bad to worse for Captain Britain as he is pick pocketed, finds he has lost his power of flight and is forced to take a taxi to scour the streets for Meggan.

Captain Britain in excalibur 8 , no 2

Just when you think nothing more degrading or cheap can happen to poor old Cap he is arrested for kerbcrawling, no I’m not making this up and the final cherry on the cake of indignity is he finds all his superpowers have deserted him. One quick explanation to the NYPD later Cap finds Meggan who has to pay for his jaunt as he finds himself without any taxi fare.

Captain Britain in excalibur 8 , no 3

So there you go a terrible day for Captain Britain but who’s to blame, the writer’s ignorance, Cap’s blunder factor ( discussed yesterday here, ) or what ?

I don’t think we can blame the writer’s lack of knowledge of Captain Britain’s character as Chris Claremont created Captain Britain and wrote his early adventures, as for his blunder factor @arbitrarygenius made a good point on Twitter that its essence is so very British and self-deprecating that it leads me to believe that Claremont was perhaps writing Cap to conform to a stereotypical view of a Brit on holiday   ?

Looking at Captain Britain’s early Excalibur escapades especially this one has left me with a bad taste in my mouth but I find myself loathe to criticize the comic being as it was the first regular Captain Britain comic I collected. But be critical I must as every single issue up to Excalibur 8 makes a fool of Cap for cheap laughs and as I said yesterday even the removal later in the series of this ” blunder factor,” never really untarnished his image.

So there you go a lot can happen in a ” New York minute, ” especially if you are a poorly written British superhero cursed with a blunder factor and the only point of reference for your escapades is perhaps the song ” an Englishman in New York ? “

Captain Britain’s worst moments – Secret Avengers 22.

Sometimes writers or artists just don’t get Captain Britain and instead of coming across as the mighty hero he is the good old Captain just comes across as a buffoon. Even when writers ” get ” the Captain they often have to bow to the editors who want the hero who is flavor of the month to take center stage in that weeks comic.

Take these panels from Secret Avengers 22 by Remender and Hardman, here the Captain suffers if not the slings then at least the arrows of outrageous fortune.

Captain Britain joins secret avengers 1

This is Hawkeye’s diabolical treatment of Captain Britain when he thinks the Cap just wants his role as leader of the Secret Avengers, a role he is more fitted for than Hawkeye certainly.

The argument continues with Captain Britain rightly pointing out he is a far better choice for Secret Avenger’s leader.

Captain Britian joins secret avengers 2

Captain Britain is quickly relegated to the role of team strongman, surely he will fit in there and be left alone ? The cover of the follow-up issue quickly makes you realise the small position Captain Britain is going fill on the Secret Avengers team.

secret avengers 22 cover where is Captain Britain

So the mighty Captain Britain must now play second fiddle to that one trick pony Venom ! I’d like to say I stopped reading at this point but I didn’t because Captain Britain comics are few and far between so sometimes you just have to take what you can get.