Thursday 28 March 2013

He Gave Me A Second Chance

Welcome to part 11 of

In which we see Captain Britain overcome seemingly impossible odds to win, but at a high price as my attempt at this beautiful Alan Davis page hopefully shows…

And of course hopefully everyone knows already, that the "Jaspers Warp" storyline and the The Fury shown in the first 2 panels was of course written by none other than Alan Moore

But this was at the early days of Alan Moore's carrer, it was his first real ongoing comic, certainly his first actual Super - hero comic

But what did Alan think about Captain Britain - let's hear from Alan himself from "A short history of Britain" as originally published in Marvel Super Heroes 389 September 1982:-

"Captain Britain always seemed like a good idea. Oh, certainly his career has suffered numerous false starts, hiccups and outright disasters, but through it all there has been the abiding impression that the Captain could have been a contender.

The mere thought of Britain, a nation previously only known for Vera Lynn…"

"… and a series of fascinatingly demented murderers,"

"...producing it's own superhero was indeed an exciting one.  So exciting in fact that in 1976 Stan Lee decided to spare us any undue agitation by producing one for us.  On October 13th the first issue of Captain Britain hit the stands.

The Captains earliest adventure, printed in what our primitive minds would later come to know as "colour…"

"…, were pencilled by Herbe Trimpe and inked by Fred Kida.  The explosive two dimensional quality present in Trimpe's best work, while splendid when it came to delineating Lego-brick New York skyscrapers, looked a little out of place in a setting of dark British moorlands complete with standing stones.

Chris Claremont, who scripted the series in those early days, seems to have been a little constricted by corporate decisions concerning the character.  For example the Brian Braddock / Courtney Ross / Jacko Tanner triangle seemed to be little more than Peter Parker / Liz Allen and Flash Thompson of Spiderman fame played at the wrong speed."

"As for Captain Britain's character itself the general impression was of Captain America somehow tangled up with the origin story of the Mighty Thor.  What we were getting, in fact, was an American superhero wrapped in a union jack."

No, not THAT union jack, Alan!

Anyway Alan Moore continues on in this vein for a while through Captain Britain's publishing history (and you can see most of this in some of the previous instalments) until he reaches the Dave Thorpe / Alan Davis relaunch

"any doubts we might have had vanished with the appearance of Marvel Super Heroes No. 377, September 1981.  Here we had a new uniform…"

That Actually was more of a union jack….!

"a new world and a new creative team in the shape of Dave Thorpe on scripts and that big chap from Corby whose name escapes me for the moment handling the artwork.  Verging on the surreal at times, Captain Britain took on the overtones of a quirky British eccentricity that immediately distanced him from his carbon-copy pseudo-American origins.

It was almost perfect.  The only ingredient needed to rocket The Captain to new nights of international stardom and artistic triumph was me."

"I took over the scripting of Captain Britain with the last page of the episode featured in Marvel Super heroes 386…"

"… and within less than two issues had managed to kill off all the major characters, including Captain Britain himself…"

Alan Moore of course brought back Captain Britain and gave the character his literal second chance in Issue 1 Of "The Daredevils"

And what followed after that is history in many more ways than most people realise - in Alan Moore's Captain Britain we have (amongst many other things - these are just the most obvious examples)

Multiple parallel earths (yes Marvel 616 gets its name from these very stories) that get destroyed at a flick of a switch

a apparently completely unstoppable and unbeatable enemy (as its mechanical)

In fact you can make the case that practically any big main stream comic event after 1982 has its basis in Alan Moore's Captain Britain

While one could argue as to if that is correct and if so is it really good or bad, one can't help but notice that something significant has been left behind - that is the Captain himself

That is part of the context that is lost, the story no matter how good exists to serve the character right?

NEXT WEEK: We finally hear from Alan Davis himself and we conclude our look back on Captain Britain!

Thursday 21 March 2013

I Was Decked Out In New Colours

Welcome to part 10 of

In which we catch up to the point in Captain Britain's publishing history in which Alan Davis Joined as the artist and where everyone immediately thinks Alan Moore must be the writer and created everything that follows...

But it wasn't Alan Moore who helped relaunch Captain Britain on this occasion, it was Dave Thorpe who most people completely overlook, Which seems a bit unfair

So to redress the balance, let's hear from Dave himself from his introduction from Captain Britain Volume 4 : The Siege of Camelot

We join Dave after Paul Neary chose him to be the writer of Captain Britain:-

"After a few weeks Paul explained to me his plan for relaunching Captain Britain, who had laid moribund in comics limbo for a good while.  He wanted to team me up with a new artist Alan Davis, and completely overhaul the character with a new costume, introducing him to an alternative England in order to create a different identity to the Chris Claremont - Herb Trimpe creation and Steve Parkhouse's celtic epic."

"The idea was to produce a superhero relevant to a modern British readership that would reflect something of contemporary UK. It was Paul who, despite my reservations, came up with the idea of a comic sidekick in the form of an elf on a surfboard"

"Both Alan and I had much enthusiasm but little experience - we were learning on the job. I concentrated on creating a new pantheon of villains and supporting characters to populate a new story world."

"The first story had an environmental theme - The Junkheap That Walked Like a Man - environmentalism being a parallel passion in my life."

"Another story introduced a multicultural flavour, as I was living in Brixton, and so had Captain Britain taking a young Afro-Cabrribean girl for a fly around, to convey a sense of wonder"

"I developed an overarching storyline of cosmic proportions involving Saturnyne, a beautiful enigmatic figure from another dimension modelled visually on Lauren Becall..."

"and developing the concept of alternative Captain Britain's -- Captains UK, England, Albion etc and Merlyns overall control theme.

Many of these characters and concepts were developed and expanded upon by subsequent writers such as Alan Moore and the Excalibur team"

NEXT WEEK: It's Alan Moore, no more need be said!

Thursday 14 March 2013

It's the power and the glory singing in the veins

Welcome to part 9 of

In which we get a beautiful character defining moment for Captain Britain as he relates his history to his sister and talks of the "the power and the glory singing in the veins" in this simply incredible Alan Davis page:-

In fact almost everything you need to know about Captain Britain as a character is covered in this one page, as despite the struggle he has had to endure he clearly enjoys what he is doing, no sign of angst or guilt here

The defined character coming about as a result of the struggles of adjusting to being a mythical super hero

But Captain Britain was canceled right? 

Yes if you was here last week, you saw that Caps Adventures ended on the high note of a 2 issue appearance in Chris Claremont and John Byrne's Marvel Team up with Spider-man

But Captain Britain returned around 2 years later within the pages of the legendary uk only Hulk Comic, possibly one of the most important all UK comics ever published (and as mentioned before on this blog with Night Raven )

So lets find Who brought cap back, why he brought him back and what he thought of his adventures up until this point

The who of course is Dez Skinn 

And Dez explains everything else himself in his introduction to Captain Britain Volume 3 : The Lion and The Spider, so take it away Dez:-

"Two years before we launched Hulk Comic, there had been a blip on the UK comics graph in the short-lived adventures of a star-spectre wielding British superhero.  His 39 issues had been created by the US marvel bullpen and reflecting their successful template somewhat failed to be in tune with UK sensibilities.  But I felt he had unrealised potential although I was reluctant to herald the return of - let's be honest here - a failed idea."

Dez's approach to this problem was to reintroduce Cap into the pages of Steve Parkhouse's very mythical (almost lord of the rings) story as beautifully illustrated by John stokes 

As a

"A haunted amnesiac, wandering the shores of south west England, whose presence acted like a magnet to bring back legends of magic and witchcraft and far more"

"Regular Marvel readers were given clues to the stranger's identity, as such characters as Modred, The Nether Gods and the Twelve Proud Walkers infiltrated the series' pages."

"But it wasn't until the Black Knight's destiny caused a clash with this mystery man and both were seen to bear similar mystic runes on their chosen weapons that the riddle was resolved."

"On the Black Knight's utterance of his mentors name, the strangers mind began to clad and he was revealed to be the hero Merlyn sought… Captain Britain!"

And Captain Britain made his cover appearance on Hulk comic number 20 

and continued to appear until the Hulk comic was canceled with issue 63

But what do you know, you can't keep Captain Britain down!

NEXT WEEK:- We hear from Dave Thorpe as we continue our journey through Captain Britain's origins!

Thursday 7 March 2013

Kindly Confine Yourself To The Facts

Welcome to Part 8 of

Where Dai Thomas is told to "Kindly Confine Yourself To The Facts" in his rather opinionated relaying of the publicly known history of Captain Britain via a another breathtakingly beautiful page by Alan Davis…

We also see a "mug shot" of  Slaymaster who would go on to be Captain Britians' nemesis when Alan Davis started his run - one "old"character that was not created by Chris Claremont!

And yes, the (original costume) Slaymaster did appear in the multi villain free-for-all panel, getting a kick to the jaw...

We pick up the Behind the Scenes History from Last Week - Via one more part of the "A short history of Britain" as written by Alan Moore and as originally published in Marvel Super Heroes 389

"Issues 248 to 253" Of Super-Spiderman and Captain Britain Weekly "featured a Captain Britain / Spiderman team up reprinted from the American Marvel Team Up issue 65 and 66.  With Chris Claremont and John Byrne turning in a vintage job it was a breath of fresh air after the catalogue of horrors that had come before."

Yes Chris Claremont had not forgotten Captain Britain and his star was rising when he was assigned to the Marvel Team-Up title, along with then newest hot art talent John Byrne

Somehow Chris managed to sneak one but two consecutive issues of the same team up past editorial, showing how much he cared for the character he helped to create

These two issues and in particular the UK Captain Britain Summer Special that reprinted these issues was one of my most favourite comics when I was younger, in fact I loved that so much that when I saw action figure comic pack featuring the comic and action figures of Spider-man and Captain Britain, I just had to get it and both Spider-man and Captain Britain are loitering on my drawing table to this date!

The Story Telling both in the characterisation and the art simply has to be seen to be believed and was one of comics that set me following and admiring John Byrne's fantastically prolific and brilliantly drawn and told comics

Needless to say following this came Chris's and Johns definitive run on Uncanny X-Men which has to be one of the best and most consistent run of comics it has been my privilege to read! (and Incidentally, Arcade debuted in these two team up issues along with Murderworld, before both went over to Uncanny X-Men )

One thing I was never aware of until very recently is that John Byrne actually 2 drew brilliant pages just for the UK Super-Spiderman and Captain Britain Weekly as insert splash pages and it is with some pride I present these "missing" pages here for you all to enjoy at long last!

But despite how popular that comic was in both the USA and the UK, the writing had long been on the wall for Captain Britain

The reprint of the team up comics was the end of Captain Britain for nearly 2 years, having already moved through 2 different UK weekly comic titles

But thats is not going to stop Captain Britain... !

NEXT WEEK:- Captain Britain lives again! Via Dez Skinn and The Hulk Comic - see you there!

Friday 1 March 2013

Robin DIES!

Unless you have been living on the moon, you can’t have failed to notice that Dc Comics seem to a have a big problem with my fictional heroic counterpart, resorting to outright killing him twice:-

And of course I would not like to even guess how many times a comic featuring Robin got cancelled (even in the last six months only) – the last one I saw (and actually read) which got cancelled was of course the Tiny Titans

Oh, I hear you say, but it’s Grant Morrison, not DC comics.  Well I beg to differ, as I doubt Grant was pretending to be Jim Starlin or responsible for all those cancelations and I don’t think that Grant has any beef (if you excuse the expression) with me even if Matt Seneca compared him to me

I doubt Grant even knows who I am or would care if he did

So I have to think, it’s DC Comics who have it in for me – I mean would like you to wake up to maelstrom of tweets and Facebook entries suggesting that you will be shortly die by horrific impalement?

I mean yes I know its isn’t me but still the name is the same

So I have to wonder what it is exactly I have done to deserve this?

Oh I know exactly WHAT…

It’s this…

Yes I launched the limited run print edition of WHAT MEN last weekend at the London Super Comic Convention, which luckily DC did not attend… (As several people delighted in telling me)

Still I think DC knows that WHAT MEN exists as…

Three panels from WHAT MEN have been published, in Studies in Comics issue 3.2 December 2012 (thanks to Doug Noble, who’s tweet quote about WHAT MEN appears in the above advert)

Oh, that means nothing?

DC Comics put out a warning to retailers that Before Watchmen Doctor Manhattan "will feature several pages “printed upside down” but that “This is part of the storytelling, and should not be considered an error.” 

This was just before the London Super Comic Convention. I sent a copy of the bleeding cool article to my friends at orbital comics who was one of the few people to get an advanced preview copy of WHAT MEN

Oh, that is just a coincidence?

A few days later (after the LSCC) Bleeding cool then had an article showing that Before Watchmen Doctor Manhattan actually has mirrored images directly commenting on each other,

With the comic being provided by orbital comics

Another coincidence, that specific…?

Orbital comics just featured me in an interview all about what men in their podcast the orbiting pod

Which is here and was posted on orbitals site by another person also called Robin...

Chris J Thompson was the person who interviewed me, who also coincidentally has a quote in the WHAT MEN advert above

Oh that’s all just happenstance, a question of being in the right time in the right place (many times over), and having the right name, right?

OK, so what on earth would Dc be upset about if indeed they are?

Would it be that WHAT MEN is on sale now and you can get hold of a physical copy If you like for just £4.00 from ebay?


But to clarify £4 is the print cost of 96 pages black and white - I make no money from the sale of any printed item (I never have done) in fact I usually lose money – I never claim copyright (unlike Roy Liechtenstein) or even pretend the work is mine and I always make an effort to try and contact the creator and let them know what I am doing – See below signed panel from WHAT MEN as shown to and signed by Dave Gibbons

Also WHAT MEN is available for no money at all on this very blog  and in fact I only went to print as people asked me to!

Could it be that WHAT MEN also features mirrored images just like Before Watchmen Doctor Manhattan and I have precedence on this?

Absolutely not – The concept of mirrored images is hardly unique, though I don’t think anyone has ever taken it to the extent I have where in the print edition there is no front, back, middle, top, bottom, left right, beginning or end and every single mirrored image is direct opposite each other reflecting each other into infinity as well as being directly commented on in the dialogue.

I mean DC freaked out a over a couple of pages!

Meanwhile I am almost directly quoting the entire opening quote from “the outer limits” (a deliberate choice) “We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical” and the entire comic is a  puzzle to be unravelled that can be said to be infinite

My personal favourite mirrored pages in WHAT MEN is the ones featuring a sneaky appearance by Snoopy from Peanuts on the dead little girls slipper (which is covered over with a sunflower in the Watchmen motion comic)...
Or maybe (and this seems to be the most obvious choice) DC comics object to being so openly questioned on their moralities, on their treatment of creators, the contractual nature of work for hire and how that destroys creativity as well as people working for DC personally (by name) addressed all within the readdressed content of a comic they originally produced?

If that is the case – well I can only think that is only because they are resistant to changing any of their polices

Regardless of it they refuse to listen to adapt or to change and regardless of if they agree with the viewpoints within WHAT MEN or not, the central point is that the treatment of creators is specifically why comics are in such a bad way – no other reason. All DC have to do is adapt and change a bit and they would benefit greatly

In fact if anything I would prefer to see them go on to greater heights and remember that when all is said and done creativity comes from the heart, it comes from a passion and expressing that passion and that anything that is done to stifle, stymie control or otherwise limit that expression destroys that expression, dilutes it down until it becomes meaningless pap, so you end up with abused zombie creators and fewer and fewer fans

You can’t keep shifting the same old same old before everyone gets fed up and leaves, so there is no choice but to adapt and adjust

Support creativity, treat creators as the precious resource they are, respect their opinions, respect their rights, actually pay them a half decent wage, heck why not even give the health care, without them all you got is blank pages!

And when all is said and done Marvel do get addressed equally along with DC and Marvel are not trying to kill Robin!

So yes why shouldn’t I try and hijack the latest lame cash in move by DC to generate sales and try and put it to more useful ends  - even more so when it has my name written all over it

I mean we must all know you can’t kill an idea, ideas are bullet proof

To me, killing Robin is an open invitation

So either buy WHAT MEN or read it for free, all I ever want is for you reading to stop and have a think and wonder just how many its contents reflect reality and what if anything would you like to do about it – and that’s all

You can take or leave it, like or hate it

As Alan Moore quite rightly said “I leave it in your hands”