Saturday, 3 March 2012

Where It All Began: Captain Britain No.1



It's 1977 and Britain needs a hero, not just any old hero, we need a British hero. America had Captain America, and we needed a Captain America type character this side of the pond to appeal to the British public. Captain Britain was born, Albion's Captain America to fight the good fight.

The opening splash page is a real piece of work, and does the job of grabbing your attention.
'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!'

Written by Chris Claremont, and drawn by Herb Trimpe, the story starts, not at the start, because most origins start off pretty boring, and you need to grab the public's attention straight away, but half way through the first battle.

As Cap fights he does a lot of thinking about why he's got these powers, and shows a lot of surprise at his prowess.
He even questions his name, Captain Britain, because he's not a Captain. Captain America was in the army in WWII, so warrants a Captain's title, but Captain Britain? At this stage in the developement of the character the Captain Britain Corps were not in existence, so no justification for the name.

The main villain, and first all-round would-be world dominator, Cap faces, is Joshua Stragg, who goes under the name of The Reaver, a Suit of Armour wearing, sword weilding bad guy.

So now you're hooked with all the action, it was time to tell the story of how Brian Braddock became Captain Britain. It starts in the Darkmoor research centre where Brian Braddock is working, when Joshua Stragg bursts in with all his henchmen, to steal the research, which will give him the power to rule the world.

The young Brian Braddock makes a run for it, and is chased by Stragg, and his henchmen. Brian jumps on a motor-bike and speeds away, but crashes the bike over a cliff.

It looks like Brian's had it, he crawls forward, barely alive, where he's greeted by a woman's voice, 'Welcome to the Siege Perilous, Brian Braddock -- Welcome home.' The voice belongs to Roma, who is known as The Lady of the Northern Skies', she is accompanied by Merlin, who gives him a choice. Choose the Sword or The Amulet.

Here ends the first issue. On the cover of this issue it states 'Special Origin Issue', which is only half true. Captain Britain's origin still hasn't been told in full, plus this issue doesn't explain why Joshua Stragg has armour, and a sword. All these questions are answered in issue 2.

So why was this first issue so good? Why did it appeal to the British super-hero loving public? British comics were very different to their American counterparts, and for this comic to work you needed a mix of American and British appeal. You had the American style hero in costume, plus you had a typical boys adventure style, with a bit of Arthurian legend mixed in. The Dick Barton type cliffhanger at the end made you think, I want to know what happens next, and with it being a weekly comic you didn't have to wait long.

I'm re-reading all the early Captain Britain comics, and I'm really intrigued to find out if there's any mention of Brian Braddock's connection to Otherworld in these early days. Roma saying 'Welcome home Brian', has made me think of more recent adventures, with his father being a previous ruler of Otherworld. How far back was the intention to have Brian Braddock connected?

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