Captain Britain #1
Week Ending Oct 13, 1976
Cover Price: 10 pence
Characters: Captain Britain / Brian Braddock, Dr. Travis, Reaver / Joshua Stragg, Merlin, Lady of the Northern Skies
First appearance: … everybody. Actually I don’t know that. To the Wikipedia! … yes.
Or I could’ve just gone on to the first page, which has ‘a personal message from Stan Lee’! It’s Britain’s greatest superhero! (I’m pretty sure that’s not true, at least yet)
For you who don’t know, British comics come out weekly. Because of this, they are shorter (this one is 10 pages, including the cover) and often at least partially in black and white (this one is in full color).
I first read about Captain Britain during my ‘I love the X-men’ phase, in Excalibur, which, at the time I was reading it, was excellent (Cross-Time Caper era, for those of you who know). Anyway, let’s get on with the story.
‘Born in fulfillment of an ancient dream — forged and tempered in the fires of defeat and death…‘
‘… a man gifted with superior powers and abilities–‘
‘– he is that rarest of all men:’
‘ a Super-Hero! ‘
The artist is not, in fact, Jack Kirby, but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Our hero, clad in brilliant red, amply emblazoned with the Union Jack and displaying the English lion, and with a permament and somewhat inexplicable shadow about the face, damn near leaps off the page with his whacking stick.
We also get hints what is going to happen in the background, which is a bit silly if you think about it, as this is the second page in a nine page story, so why bother? There’s also a bit of Kirby Krackle serving absolutely no purpose, because, hey, why not?
I don’t know why I described it and then showed the pic anyway, but hey, I’m not going to waste that overally complicated sentence.
So we start in the middle of our story ‘in the remote fastness of the Cheviot Hills, just south of the Scottish border’, which I’m sure thrilled somebody reading this for the first time.
You couldn’t see it on the splash page, but besides the Union Jack over his face, Cap’s also got one on each arm, because, again, why not? He’s probably got Union Jack boxers on too.
Because this is England, Cap is fighting a guy in a full suit of Medieval-style armor, complete with big poofy purple feathers coming out of his helmet. I can’t tell if Reaver’s minions are carrying rayguns or just Kirby-teched normal guns, but they don’t get a chance to use them before Cap knocks them out, while thinking, in classic Marvel fashion, ‘I’m such an awesome fighter! But how?! I’m a physicist, not a super-hero!’ Cap, um, it comes with the goofy costume, along with the ability to think three pages of text in the five seconds it would take to beat these guys up.
Oh, we also get some classic onomatopoeia:
And people narrating their action as well, because comics.
Reaver: He dodged my blow at the last second!
Remaining conscious minion: Yeah, we saw that.
Okay, Reaver’s silly purple plume curves from the top of his head in a perfect arc up, down, and to halfway down his back. It’s like a blanket. Those are some serious feathers.
And Cap spontaneously says his name, which he didn’t know up till this point. Can I just point out that while starting in the middle of the story is exciting and all, it’s also silly. We don’t know what’s going on because it’s just two people in silly costumes we don’t know fighting for an unknown reason. And apparently our hero doesn’t know what’s going on either. I know Marvel is about everyman heroes (at least when this story was written), but this is goofy.
Annnd cue flashback. In the middle of a fight. Because why on earth would Cap bother paying attention? After all, he’s unbeatable!
The flashback panels are nicely done. The first one starts with typical thought bubble scallops and then they all have rounded corners. It’s a nice subtle way of setting it apart.
I’m always inordinately pleased about pipe-smoking characters. I don’t remember ever seeing Brian with a pipe before. He must have given it up when he finished college.
Any, Brian was working as an assistant to Dr. Travis, supposedly just until the next term starts, at a Darkmoor Research Center – I’m sorry Centre -, where they’re developing a fusion reactor system. OK, that name is just forboding. As is the strange aircraft disappearing behind the hill in the last four panels.
And the world’s most ridiculous vehicle bursts through the wall! Thus introducing our villain. Who appears to be wearing a mohair trenchcoat.
And they kidnap everyone but Brian, who races off on a motorcycle, looking very silly. (Something about a nice suit and a little bike just is odd). But he gets blinded by the strange aircraft – which he doesn’t seem fazed by at all – and drives off a cliff in a fireball. Is this the end? Nope, he gets saved by – and I’m not making this up – the giant floating heads and hands of Merlin and ‘The Lady of the Northern Skies’ to get judged ‘on peril of [his] immortal soul!’
And thus we end, still in flashback mode! What’ll happen next week?! Aside from the stuff we saw at the beginning of this issue?
Credits: writer: Chris Claremont, artists: Herb Trimpe & Fred Kida, (doing an excellent Kirby impersonation, yay for house styles?), letterer: I. Watanabe, colorist: Marie Severin, editor: Larry Lieber. (Specifically, Herb Trimpe did pencils and Fred Kida did inks, according to the Grand Comics Data-Base.)
I’m not marking the Age on these, but if you’re curious, it’s Bronze Age.