Thursday 28 February 2013

It's Starting Again

Welcome to Part 7 of

Where we get to see the publicly known "facts" of Captain Britain's origins through the rather biased eyes of Dai Thomas courtesy of some fantastic Alan Davis art…

(I love the last panel BTW… I hope I did it justice!)

And I treat you to a trip though the parts of the publishing history and most of the villains from Captain Britain Volume one, most of which appear in this fantastic drawing here (from last weeks page)

Via parts of the "A short history of Britain" as written by Alan Moore and as originally published in Marvel Super Heroes 389

"Chris Claremont lasted as writer until issue eleven, when Gary Friedech took over. In those first eleven issues we were introduced to Brian Braddock and his supporting cast, a number of minor-league villains such as the Reaver"

"the Hurricane,"

"Captain Britain and his spectral protectors Merlin and Roma, and obscure character called the Vixen who was mentioned twice and then utterly forgotten about"

Well, all we actually saw was the Vixens Henchmen…

"Gary Friedech had different ideas as to where the story should go, however.  Quickly wrapping up Claremont's trailing "Dr Synne" plotline…"

"he embarked upon a epic brining in Captain America, Nick Fury, The Red Skull, Prime Minister James Callaghan and a British version of S.H.I.E.L.D. called S.T.R.I.K.E. No, I'm sorry I can't remember what it stood for"

next was…

"the tale of Lord Hawk…"

a bit later on…

"With issue 235" Of Super Spiderman and Captain Britain Weekly "Larry Leiber reappeared to handle the plotting chores and for something like sixteen issues we were treated to the spectacle of The Captain loosing his last shreds of dignity at the hands of The Highwayman…"

"The Manipulator"

"Dr Claw and his Evil Mutants"

"The Loch Ness Monster, a bunch of Aliens, Werewolves, Vampires and of course that much-loved old stand-by the Devil himself."

"Mercifully, issue 247 was the last time that any original Captain Britain material was used in the Pages of Super Spiderman"

In Seven Days time:-  More Captain Britain - It's the return of Chris Claremont, and can anyone guess which British born artist he brings with him?

Sometime In-between now and seven days :- We will be rudely interrupted by a crow bar placed firmly on my head…

Thursday 21 February 2013

They made me choose, but there was no choice

Welcome to Part 6 of

In which we continue through a retelling of Captain Britain's origin from his own lips, via the incredible art of Alan Davis, and what a page this is!

The choice in question being between "The Sword of Might" and "The Amulet of Right"

The choice being asked by Merlin (who is unnamed) and Roma (Referred to as "The lady of the Northern Skies")

A Choice that for Brian Braddock was not a choice, as was originally seen in Captain Britain Number 2, October 20th 1975

But wait a minute, didn't we see Captain Britain in issue 1 and yet in issue 2 he hasn't even been "born" yet? So what happened here

And what happened to Chris Claremont?

We can actually answer both questions at once, thanks to Chris himself, from his introduction of Captain Britain : The Birth of a Legend, Volume 1

"Mind you, the creative process never quite goes as easily as you hope.  In the case of Captain Britain, we produced an entire eight page debut story, plot and layouts, only to have our editor spike it because as far as he was concerned, we'd forgotten to include the hero.  Sure, he was on the splash page,but nowhere else in the issue was there an appearance of Captain Britain in uniform.

It was lovely art (and it really was) but the story was a total set-up, no pay-off.  The fact that he was set to appear a week later in the second issue meant nothing to him, without the hero there might not be a second issue.  And oh yes, we really needed an appropriate super-hero villain.

So, back to the keyboard, back to the drawing board, time to try again.  We open with our hero in a fight scene and tell his origin in flashback,and away we go."

"Pity I didn't take the opportunity to ask Herb (Trimpe) to get rid of Brian's pipe; ahh, how times have changed.

The foundations of the series was laid with those early issues - conflicted young man, his (twin) sister the air pilot (Betsy, with a super-hero destiny of her own), their big brother the world-class champion racer(Jamie), a girl-friend (Courtney Ross). And of course the primal conflicts - am I the right man for this job and is this job one that the world truly needs?

I didn't last long on the series back then.  The editor and I had vastly different views of both the character and the handling of the material and so I took my leave"

The editor in question (as the page above shows) was none other than Larry Leiber (Stan Lees brother)

So Chris also was made to choose but had no choice

Although Chris obviously never gave up completely as we will see soon….

NEXT WEEK:- More origins as we take a whistle stop tour through all the villains and the creative teams in Captain Britain Volume 1, with none other than Alan Moore

Wednesday 13 February 2013

The Birth Of a Legend

Welcome to part 5 of

This week we get what I think is the start of a pretty unique retelling of Captain Britain's origin, from none other than the Captain himself…

After a wonderful set of panels from Alan Davis which further defines both Brian Braddock, Betsy and their relationship while at the same time setting the mood for telling the story within the story…

But what was the story behind the story - who created Captain Britain and what did they think of their own work and the circumstances surrounding it?

Issues 1 - 10 of Captain Britain (which was a UK Only weekly published comic) was written by Chris Claremont, Penciled by Herb Trimpe and inked by Fred Kida.  Issue 1 debuted Wednesday, October 13th 1976.

Who better than Chris Claremont himself to spill the beans?

From his introduction of the "Before Excalibur" Captain Britain Trade paperback (Printed in 1988 which was the first reprint of all of Alan Davis's post Alan Moore Captain Britain strips, including the one I am attempting to recreate)

"Once upon a time, O best beloved - and very, very long time ago it was, way back in the happy, halcyon, innocent days before Thatcher and Reagan when some of us were a lot younger than we care now to admit- Marvel Comic, in its infinite corporate wisdom, came up with the notion of producing an original series of comics for the UK Market.

Instead of publishing reprints of already extant American material, or distributing the current run of US titles, we'd do a series about Britons, set in Britain and published in Britain.

To compete with a hefty collection of weekly British comic magazines, we'd create a -hopefully- top drawer hero, in the tradition of Captain America, who would spearhead Marvel's drive for intentional dominance.  Because a flagship figure was wanted for this flagship book, the character was christened CAPTAIN BRITAIN.

Thing was, in those Dark Ages - before anyone Over Here quite knew what was Over There - nobody was sure if there were writers and artists who could handle Marvel-type characters and Marvel-type stories, especially since the creative editing on the book would be handled in New York (no faxing back then, and no international Federal Express either, which meant the deadline pressures would be horrendous).

So I was tapped to create the character and write the series (Hey, I'm a Londoner by birth, they must have figured that must count for something, right?) and Herb Trimpe - who at the time was living in Cornwall (and who was, and is, not only an ace at meeting deadline, but also one of the best story-tellers in the business and a absolute prince to work with) - was chosen to pencil it."

So to help compare and contrast with the recreated Alan Davis page above here is the corresponding pages from Captain Britain number 1 :-

NEXT WEEK:- We continue with more on Captain Britain's origin and we answer whatever happened to Chris Claremont to make his run so short…

Thursday 7 February 2013

Heavens to Betsy!

Welcome to part 4 of

This week Dai "Hard" Thomas digs further into the personal history of Brian Braddock, which among many other things features 2 different appearances by both Brian and his twin sister Elizabeth "Betsy" Braddock…

Betsy first made her appearance in Captain Britain issue 8 "Riot on Regent Street"

Which, really should have been called "Riot nowhere near Regent Street" given that Regent Street has rather unique architecture which singularly fails to appear within…

Harsh words?! - Well, what did Alan Moore think?

In his essay "A short history of Britain" which originally appeared in Marvel Superheroes 389 (which appeared before he wrote his Captain Britain rebirth story line ,"A rag, a bone, a hank of hair") he had this to say…

"American writers and artists, when called upon to depict Britain, invariably decide that it looks either like modern day Chicago or that it most closely resembles Bulgaria somewhere around the turn of the century.  In both instances the policemen dress like something out of Sir Robert Peel's wildest nightmares and the remainder of the characters are unable to utter the most simple sentences without getting all their aitches in the wrong place.  This has been one of the problems plaguing Captain Britain until fairly recently"

That aside for a moment - Within a few panels of being introduced by Chris Claremont

Betsy was showing some sign of physic ability…

Which Alan Moore also mentions in the self-same essay…

"We was told that Betsy possessed physic powers"

and then

"everyone forgot about Betsy's embarrassing physic powers"

and concluded by saying…

"We may even find out what happened to Betsy Braddock and her Psychic powers.

Do not adjust your reading habits. The best is yet to come even though I says so myself as shouldn't"

So again, we had a start of a story and character developed by Chris Claremont (just like Dai Thomas last week) which was not progressed much further by any of the subsequent writers that followed

That is of course until Alan Moore made good on his promise in The Daredevils issue 03 "Thicker Than Water" as also illustrated by Alan Davis

In which Betsy calls Brian out of the blue (well okay more like out of the purple…)

And they initially do not even recognise each other…

and Betsy is developed from there onwards

In this particular issue she is both the sounding board and the grounding for Brian Braddock, she represents the readers point of view

For all of the fantastic epic and incredible reality bending stories of Alan Moore's Captain Britain, I personally preferrer something a little more human and grounded like these Alan Davis stories that followed

For reasons which hopefully you will see as we continue

NEXT WEEK:- We start to delve into the origin of Captain Britain himself...