Captain Britain, a typical cover. Artists: John Buscema and Joe Sinnott.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1976
Creators: Chris Claremont (writer) and Herb Trimpe (artist)
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Captain America has been both a cash cow and an icon for Marvel Comics through most of the company's existence. In fact, symbolizing U.S.-as-superhero, he's among the few comic book characters that actually deserve the over-used adjective "iconic". But as Marvel, which began as a side interest …

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… in the publishing activities of a single individual, grew into the world-spanning entertainment factory it is today, it occurred to them their product shouldn't seem quite so America-centric.

Hence, Captain Britain, the first major character to emerge from Marvel-UK, the company's British subsidiary. He wasn't quite the first "captain" to represent another country in comics (Captain Canuck beat him into print by a year), but he's right up there.

Captain Britain was launched in his own weekly comic book, the first issue dated October 13, 1976. Weekly publication is the norm there, as monthly is in the U.S., but Cap got only eight pages even tho he was the title character — the rest were filled with Fantastic Four and Nick Fury reprints. The all-new Captain Britain story was written by Chris Claremont (New Mutants, Ms. Marvel) and drawn by Herb Trimpe (The Hulk, Son of Satan).

Cap started out as Brian Braddock, a physics student at London's fictional Thames University. He was nearly killed when The Reaver, a super villain, attacked the research center where he worked part-time. Hovering between death and life, he had a vision in which Merlin the magician and a sky goddess (later identified as Merlin's daughter, Roma) offered him a choice between two magical artifacts: the Sword of Might and the Amulet of Right. He chose the amulet. Merlin and Roma declared him Britain's champion and infused him with mystical energy that gave him superhuman strength and stamina. It also decked him out in a superhero suit with a lion rampant on its chest and little Union Jacks here and there (including two on the forehead that looked like red, white and blue eyebrows). Finally, it supplied him with The Star Sceptre, which had various useful powers of its own. Brian woke up, took care of The Reaver, and was thereafter in the superhero business.

Brian's first American appearance was in Marvel Team-Up #65 (January, 1978), where he met Spider-Man. From then on, he was firmly ensconced in the Marvel Universe, and available for guest appearances and group memberships anywhere within it.

But by that time, he was a series-less orphan. What Marvel's management had failed to take into account was that Americans are very unusual in seeing their country as a superhero. While that attitude isn't completely unknown in Britain, it wasn't strong enough to sustain the concept beyond 39 weekly issues. The last was dated July 6, 1977.

But that wasn't the end of him. Aside from his activities on the guest-star circuit, he got a series in Britain's Marvel Super-Heroes title, where The Avengers were in front to sell the book, in 1981. There, he got a new costume that consisted of one big Union Jack. Later, still wrapping himself in his country's flag, he was transferred to Mighty World of Marvel. These stories were reprinted in the U.S. in 1995-6, as a seven-issue mini series.

He was back in his own title, as a mere monthly this time, with a January, 1985 cover date. It lasted 14 issues, the final one dated February, 1986. Instead of mainstream Marvel stories, the reprints (mixed with a little new material) in the back pages were of British heroes such as The Black Knight and Night Raven, the latter of whom was mostly unseen in the U.S. This series was reprinted in America as a trade paperback.

Next, they packaged him up with a few X-Men characters, and called the group Excalibur. This was his most durable gig ever, lasting most of the 1990s (it ended with #125, October 1998). The X-Men connection gave the company an excuse to market his mid-1990s reprints as part of Marvel's most powerful franchise. Excalibur was briefly back in a 2001 mini-series, in which Captain Britain was the main star.

Since joining Excalibur, Captain Britain has been subjected to the horrors that befall comic book characters that don't have much commercial value of their own — he's been jacked around from one bizarre, life-changing storyline to the next, leaving him virtually unrecognizable. His sister (recently deceased but more recently back) turned out to be a superhero as well, name of Psylocke. More significantly, he's been retconned into an extra-dimensional aristocrat. Currently, he, with his wife Meggan (who also turns out to be a superhero), is the ruler of Otherworld and protector of the Multiverse. He's appointed someone else to be Captain Britain.


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Text ©2005-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.