Captain Britain across the multiverse part 2.

Earlier this week I published a list of five superheroes from across the vast multiverse of comics that I felt had influenced or been influenced by Captain Britain. Today I look at my final five choices and some runners-up, part one can be read here.

zenith (1)

Rock star, superhero and slayer of elder gods Grant Morrison’s Zenith has something for everyone. Created for UK weekly sci-fi mag 2000AD in 1987 Zenith’s legal shenanigans were only sorted out last year allowing fans to finally see his adventures reprinted in an affordable format. Zenith was a mix of slack behaviour, superhero style action and Morrison using him and the cast to make attacks on the Conservative party. Interestingly enough another hero with Captain Britain similarities named Maximan turns up in a flashback set during the war, sadly he is quickly dispatched by his Nazi counterpart Masterman.

miracleman28

The self-styled Man with no Time for Crime Big Ben was a supporting character in Alan Moore’s Miracleman run – interestingly like Zenith only now out of legal obscurity and with affordable reprints. Big Ben was a deluded superhero who saw all his adventures in a comic book style, sadly he had his arse well and truly kicked by Miracleman. But still you have to admire his style, the bowler, brolly and natty suit combo clearly showing where his loyalties lie.

Eagle_cover_1989 Dan Dare

Dan Dare the squared jawed, clean-cut astronaut and all round hero debuted in UK magazine Eagle in 1950 and is still going strong today. Reimagined by Grant Morrison and Garth Ennis, Dan has always been a popular hero and he still has new adventures printed three times a month in the fan publication Spaceship Away, showing you can’t keep a good hero down. Dan was famous for his stiff upper lip, never breaking his word, being an ace pilot and roundly thrashing his arch-enemy the Mekon every time they met.

Garth1Titan

Washed up on the shores of Scotland Garth’s nationality is suspect, but as Superman is often referred to as American as his rocket crashed there I’d like to think we can apply this theory of nationality to Garth. Garth debuted in UK newspaper the Mirror in 1943 and began his interdimensional quest to thwart evildoers and right wrongs which continued up until 1997. During the Seventies and Eighties when I read Garth every day in my dad’s newspaper I certainly remember him as a daring hero who battled evil often with the help of a nubile lady who would have difficulty keeping her top on.

charleyswar-paperback-2

Last on my list in World War One veteran Charley Bourne from the definitive war comic book tale Charley’s War published by Battle comics from 1979 to 1985. Charley had no superpowers except some might say luck, perseverance and bravery, and his story is often hailed as the best war comic ever written and is now collected for all to enjoy.

So I hope you have enjoyed my look across the multiverse of comics at Captain Britain’s ancestors and “family” , here’s the runner-up list of more heroes I could have discussed if I’d had the time.

Codename Warlord – Lord Peter Flint

Rat Pack

Tough of the track – Alf Tupper

Johnny Red

Blade

Kelly’s Eye

Pete Wisdom

Janus Stark

Major Easy

I’ve no doubt there’s many more UK influenced superheroes out there and if I’ve missed any off please feel free to drop them into 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.