Wednesday, August 28, 2013


One positive thing I will say about these old Captain Britain stories is that the pace is frenetic. It feels like reading a comic strip, where every storyline leads directly into the next, with no downtime in between. I assume this is due to the weekly schedule of the series. On top of that, Cap's adventures went black-and-white about halfway through the Skull storyline, which adds to the "newspaper strip" feel of the whole thing.

Case in point: Immediately following the Captain America/Red Skull storyline, Brian Braddock passes out in his bed and dreams about nutty ol' Lord Hawk, a hermit for whom Brian constructed a robotic bird some time back.  To keep him company. A. Robotic. Bird.

Anyway, at precisely that moment, Lord Hawk has decided to take his bird out and terrorize England because things aren't how they used to be.  If I recall correclty, he wanted to return to a simpler time, when men and their robot birds lived off the land, and all those pesky modern conveniences weren't around to get in their way.

Despite the silliness of the story, it should be noted that most of the Lord Hawk chapters are illustrated by veteran Marvel artist John Buscema, who worked on practically every single Marvel character in a career that spanned decades.  His best known works are likely his long association with Conan the Barbarian, and his run as Roger Stern's AVENGERS artist in the 80s.

Captain Britain, then, is forced to battle his hermit friend and destroy his bird.  Hawk is defeated and Jacko Tanner and Dai Thomas almost unmask Cap after the fight, but Commander Lance Hunter of STRIKE arrives, pulls rank on Thomas, and takes Cap into his custody instead.  Cap is injured after his fight with Hawk, and Hunter brings him to STRIKE headquarters for first aid.

This leads into a relatively important story to the Captain Britain mythos, as Cap lies on a medical table, his consciousness pulled from his body by Merlin.  The wizard finally reveals his true identity to Cap, runs his champion through a couple of tests, and then upgrades his scepter, giving our hero the ability to fly for short bursts. Cap then awakens in STRIKE HQ and escapes.

Cap's adventures become even more painfully juvenile at this point, so I'll provide as quick a run-down as I can, to keep myself sane.  But first I'll note that the remainder of Captain Britain's stories are drawn by Ron Wilson, a journeyman Marvel artist known best to me for his run on THE THING during John Byrne's run as writer-artist of the FANTASTIC FOUR.

In a single chapter written by the prolific Len Wein, Cap is introduced to the Highwayman, a motorcycle riding, chain wielding villain with the most painfully stereotypical cockney accent ever committed to the printed page. At the same time Cap is fighting this villain, we are introduced, via a pretty obviously unrelated sub-plot page -- as was standard Marvel practice at the time -- to another new villain calld the Manipulator.

But since Lieber's "1950s Superman" approach does not understand or favor the art of the sub-plot, in the very next chapter -- now written by Jim Lawrence -- the Highwayman is suddenly revealed to be working for the Manipulator as part of a complicated plot to take over the British Navy. Captain Britain and Dai Thomas foil the villains' plans in short order (a relative term, however, since the story is still painfully long).

It's unclear if Wein's story was meant as a fill-in or if he was preparing for a longer run on the title.  The fact that he set up a couple of brand-new storylines would seem to indicate the latter, but at any rate, he was gone after a single issue -- it's easy to imagine him departing under similar circumstances to Chris Claremont -- and the remainder of Cap's adventures under Lieber are written by Lawrence, a writer I personally had never heard of.  Glancing at some credits online, it appears he had a very small output for Marvel, with the CAPTAIN BRITAIN stories comprising practically everything he ever wrote for them.

Now, the speed round: in subsequent chapters, Brian and his college chums, including the long absent Courtney Ross, travel to Loch Ness and meet the alien who operates the famous monster.  Returning to London, Cap crosses paths with a vampire-werewolf hyrbid (because sometimes one alternate monster form just isn't enough) called the Black Baron, who kidnaps Courtney. The following story gives us Cap, in full costume, aboard a jet liner with several celebrities, all of whom have won tickets to a special vacation on the mysterious "Eden Island".


I would just like to remind everyone that at the exact moment this was happening, Chris Claremont was planting the seeds for "Dark Phoenix" over in UNCANNY X-MEN.

Anyway, the owner of Eden Island is the villainous Dr. Claw, and he has a bunch of genetically mutated animals running amok there.  Cap defeats them and saves the day.  Hooray.

Next up, and mercifully so, is Lieber's final storyline as Captain Britan's editor -- and what do you know, it's actually kind of important -- Cap meets Slaymaster!  Though the gimmicky Riddler/Joker-style villain here bears no resemblance to his reinvention at the hands of Alans Moore and Davis a few years down the line, at the very least we can thank Lieber and/or Lawrence for planting a little seed with an awesome codename.

So that's it.  These are some recaps and thoughts on the original run of Captain Britain stories. But we aren't done yet!  There's still plenty more Cap ahead.


Next time: I'll give a brief recap of my overall impressions of the Lieber era, then Chris Claremont returns briefly to Captain Britan as our hero meets Spider-Man!


  1. a hermit for whom Brian constructed a robotic bird some time back. To keep him company. A. Robotic. Bird.

    Ah, comics!

    travel to Loch Ness and meet the alien who operates the famous monster.


    Seriously though, this stuff just sounds dreadful.

  2. I fully admit that it was a chore to get through... though like I said, John Buscema's artwork on the Lord Hawk chapters is pretty spectacular. I didn't mention it above, but some of his chapters are inked by his future AVENGERS collaborator, Tom Palmer.

  3. Oh, I'll definitely have to check those out - Buscema inked by Palmer is one of my all time favorite art teams.


  4. I don't want you to think I'm only writing to be contrary, Matt, because these recaps are enjoyable, but "1950s Superman" is a very different beast that what you're describing. Lesser versions of Marvel's own classic '60s/'70s stuff, maybe — like Archie's 1965-66 campy superhero revival, subpar material from Marvel itself, or perhaps most on the nose the 1974-75 Atlas/Seaboard line edited (in part and then entirely, with several creative about-face jolts) by... Larry Lieber. 1950s Superman didn't continue from issue to issue, poorly or otherwise, and while it could definitely be silly it just wasn't aspiring to the same kind of storytelling as Captain Britain.

    1. Yeah, "Fifties Superman" was about the best analogy I could come up with, though I was never totally satisfied with it. What I was going for is basically that these stories are super-simplistic, notwithstanding their serialized nature.