Monday, 27 July 2015

A bit of Marvel Frontier Comics back matter.

Glancing back at the two issues of Paul Neary and Liam Sharp's Bloodseed, for the Marvel UK A to Z piece, was an interesting experience.

As I've said before, I always felt that of all the material from the imprint years the Frontier Comics material has probably aged the best. While there was some question over Bloodseed itself, the others maintained a perfectly plausible background role within the Marvel Universe but never suffering because of it.

I mean sure, Mortigan Goth: Immortalis featured an in-continuity appearance from Doctor Strange, and Spitfire too, but it wasn't the same kind of inconsequential guest appearances which so many readers had criticised in the main Marvel UK imprint.

It was for plot reasons. And well-reasoned ones too.

It was more in-step with the level of quality British readers had seen from the original Knights of Pendragon series. Which after all was so pivotal in those imprint years happening at all.

For those who have heard about the upcoming Marvel Frontier Comics collected edition, and are curious to know what they might be looking at here, I thought I'd paste in the back matter from both issues of Bloodseed, which may just give you what you are looking for.

That was the mission statement at the top, those were the first wave of 4 titles and the suggestion of more titles to come. 

Further to my previous article, and something I entirely failed to mention in that 2009 piece, is that there actually was an explanation given for Bloodseed's shortening from 4 to 2 issues, listed in the back of the second issue:

There is still a real sense of the ongoing in the sign-off, there. And certainly a plan for further titles. 

Which there were, in a fashion. Prologues for, at least.

'The Marvel Frontier Comics quarterly' did see light in the form of the Marvel Frontier Comics Special. You can see its contents page, here:

Evil Eye was a small strip written and drawn by Strange Embrace and The Bulletproof Coffin writer David Hine.

The Fallen, on the other hand, was written by Nick Vince. The art though, came courtesy of 2000 AD legend D'Israeli (Matt Brooker). 

Really makes you wonder what could have been, eh?

Oh, and there eventually was a letters page. Even if it only was for one final issue. 

Mr Joey Marchete of Union, New Jersey (if you are still out there) you were the lucky individual.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

From the Archive: It Came From Darkmoor's Marvel UK A to Z : B is for...

Returning after a slight delay this the second in a series republishing earlier entries from the It Came From Darkmoor archives.

The following article was first posted in July 2009. There has been one piece of additional information added (as you'll see when you reach the end of the article) and a little bit of reformatting to suit the modern shape of the blog, but otherwise it appears here pretty much as it did back then. Once again, I hope you enjoy it.

Welcome to the second of It Came from Darkmoor's Marvel UK A to Z columns. The intention of this column is to spotlight a few of the more obscure Marvel UK characters - the kind who are probably less likely to come up in conversation or whose overall contribution to Marvel UK has not yet been acknowledged by this Blog.

We continue, as I guess would only be sensible, with the letter B. And in this alphabetical series...

'B' is for BLOODSEED

Lysander Bloodseed, in fact. 

Or if not in fact the certainly at least in theory.

Bloodseed was the brain-child of former Marvel UK E-i-C Paul Neary, Death's Head II artist Liam Sharp, and Motormouth artist Cam Smith. As with other titles such as Mortigan Goth (A link for those with shorter memories) and Dances with Demons, Bloodseed was created for the somewhat short-lived Marvel UK sub-imprint of titles which went under the banner of Marvel Frontier Comics - a more adult orientated line of books which were more akin to DC's Vertigo line than to standard superhero comics. 

The aesthetic for Bloodseed is quite an interesting one. On the surface it does very much seem like a European-styled Fantasy comic, with the familiar presence of swords, monsters and magic. 

Bloodseed fights with a sword, he has magical healing powers, he battles fantasy monsters and giant ape-like brutes. You can see elements of Tarzan here, of Conan, of Marvel's Ka-Zar, pr other pulp adventure characters of this kind. It would not be out of place in a European fantasy anthlogy, and I do mean that in a positive manner.

It's also likewise relatively European in its attitude towards nudity. 

Yes, Bloodseed is fighting naked on that page, if that's something which you felt needed clarifying. 

There is also a heck of a lot female nudity throughout the book - something which would certainly not escape the attention of a teenager (and certainly didn't with this one) reading this book back in 1993. There are female naughty bits EVERYwhere! And frequently with very little attempt to cover them up.

But, by and large, it's not purely for titillation. It is plot driven nudity for the most part. When we join Lysander Bloodseed's story he is dragging his naked and only semi-conscious self through the snowy wastes of a planet he later discovers to be named Themax-2, trying to remember how it is that he came to be here, and perhaps more importantly who the hell he actually is. 

The answer to which (to his current mind, anyway) is that he is Lysander, Warrior-King of Elyssium, a Kingdom in the land of Utopia. Elyssium is a Warrior Nation, whose landscape looks like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, where the men are built like Tarzan and the women built like porn-stars - all of whom appear to hold a fundamental distaste for the wearing of clothing. He rules as King, and Elyssa - a busty amazon type with flowing black hair and seemingly just as much distaste for clothing as the rest of her kin - is the loyal consort at his side. His one true love.

Sound just a little too good to be true? 

Well, you'd not be wrong. 

And how can he be King of Elyssium when a woman named Elyssa is also wandering the land, with the same set of memories, also believing herself to be the Queen of Elyssium? In her memories she rules Elyssium, with Lysander as her royal consort. And he's certainly not the Lysander we've already met...

The same memories, but two different people both believing them to be their own. 

The truth of course, is that these are all false memories - implanted visions of a past that seemingly never was. Despite seeming like a fantasy world, it is at least partly a façade. A fair amount of what Bloodseed has been seeing is revealed to be a holographic computer simulation. Part of a method for both controlling and testing him. 

He's actually the latest in a line of humanoids created by a company called "Gene-Corp" on behalf of an unnamed client. He's not the first, merely the latest in a production line of Bloodseeds, being tested for survival. As was another one-armed Bloodseed who Lysander later encounters, a dead test subject wearing the same armour as him which Elyssa stumbles upon, and in fact Elyssa herself.

Each Bloodseed appears to be 'birthed' out into the world, with these false memories in their head, and placed into a Darwin-esque scenario where they are expected to kill off the other test subjects. Each subject is a peak physical specimen, possessed of the ability to heal others by touch, some kind of telekinesis, and (if they reach the correct point in the program) they will be given a 'Helmet of Truth' a semi-sentient mask which allows the wearer to discern what is real from hologram. 

Lysander and Elyssa's progress in these trials eventually alerts the attention of Gene-Corp's Chief Engineer, who having convinced Lysander to remove his helmet (unfortunately triggering Elyssa's programming, and setting her trying to kill him) then contacted his client. And that's kind of the twist in this tale. Their client goes by the name of Lord Juno. And he comes from Earth. 

Only he's a dinosaur. A very eloquent, English speaking dinosaur.

Beyond that we know very little more.

Because, unfortunately, two issues complete issues of Bloodseed is pretty much all we got.

What does this all mean? Well that, I guess is purely open to your own interpretation. 

For my own part (and I'd add that this purely conjecture, here) I speculate the following:

Lord Juro can speak. Maybe, just maybe, he is part of some kind of super intelligent/super evolved race of Dinosaurs. From Earth, but who fled Earth just before whatever ice age/meteor strike/catastrophe actually brought about extinction of their lesser evolved kin. 

They used to hunt humans. For sport. And after thousands of years elsewhere in the galaxy they have decided that they missed doing that. That is something they used to enjoy. It's about time they brought that back.

As far as they know though, there are no more humans. They figure them to have been wiped out, along with everything else on Earth. How could anything have survived that ice age/meteorite/catastrophe? 

So as far as they know, that's an avenue they cannot go down.

Juro's people therefore approach Gene-Corp to rectify that. A gene-tailoring company on the other side of the galaxy, capable of growing them some humans to hunt. Selectively bred, peak of their physical condition, humans. Humans designed to give them a challenge.

Themax-2 is the test world for this enterprise. But it's only part of a grander plan. The first step in a much larger scheme. A plan being to return to, and repopulate, the Earth with new genetically engineered subjects just like Bloodseed, and then to use this planet as some kind of messed up dinosaur hunting reserve.

But as I say, that is only conjecture. The way I've thought it through in the past 20+ years.

In reality it's honestly hard to say what the actual plan for Bloodseed was. For all we know Lysander may have been returned to the modern day Marvel Universe? For all we know Elyssa would have killed Lysander and traveled back to Earth herself? Maybe there would even have been some explanation as to what that giant glove/claw Bloodseed is wearing on the cover of #2 was?

Is that a glove? Or is it his actual hand? It's hard to say.

I mean it looks like it could be made of the same materials as the helmet, but what if-?

But I digress.

While I get the feeling that there was actually a longer story planned out for Bloodseed we didn't get to read it. While it was initially planned as a four issue limited series it was cut down to just 2 issues by the time it saw print. Two issues and (what seemed to be) a Prologue tale in the Marvel Frontier Comics Special

All of the Frontier titles came out during the tail end days of Marvel UK, shortly before the US office closed things down and sold off parts of the business elsewhere. 

The promised second series never came to pass.

Bloodseed remains a character and a series which still holds a certain amount of interest for me. Compared to Liam Sharp's later work some of the artwork here does seem a little rough around the edges in places, but I do see some early roots of a later style in play here. And conceptually I do believe there was a decent story being taken through its paces in the two issues we got. There aren't enough series with these kind of European fantasy elements at Marvel these days. It's a great shame that we never got to see how it could have panned out.

Update: If you are curious about Bloodseed - or indeed any of the other Marvel Frontier books - then January 2016 might just be your lucky month. Earlier this week this week, as I sat down to prep this article, I was alerted to the following listing which had turned up on Amazon:

The UK store listing is without a description of the collection. However, on the US store page the following blurb on display:

A forgotten gem from Marvel UK is uncovered, dusted off and collected in its entirety for the first time! Who is Bloodseed? And what is his mission in a barbarian world of talking pterodactyls, giant lizards and remnants of technology from a long-lost civilization? Something is haunting author Sam Wantling's dreams - could he be a Child of the Voyager? Will James Owl survive his dance with demons when he discovers that he is the heir to a great Native American spirit?

That's right. A complete collection of all the books which were put out under the banner of Marvel Frontier Comics. An unexpected release to have found its way into the wilds. Not least because this does actually appear to be a release from Marvel in the US. Most previous UK material has been reprinted by Panini Comics here in the UK.

I would definitely recommend this collection, based on that promised content. Having reread all of the Frontier books a few years back I can confirm that they actually have aged pretty well. These were the books which seemed to be defining the direction in which Marvel UK was trying to go in those later days for the Imprint. Doing something a little different. Darker and more serious tales within the Marvel Universe.

It's only a shame that it had to end when and where it did. 

'B' could also have stood for: 

The Battletide: A demonic gestalt entity, powered by the souls of fallen warriors, which tore its way through the universe. As seen in the mini series Battletide and Battletide II.

The Bane: The big, bad, adversary of the Knights of Pendragon and age old nemesis of the Green Knight. 

The Bacillicons: Digital analogues of human mercenaries brought into play to hunt down and kill Digitek, the pages of his limited series.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

From the Archive: It Came From Darkmoor's Marvel UK A to Z : A is for...

As promised earlier in the year this is the first in a series republishing earlier entries from the It Came From Darkmoor archives.

The following article was first posted in June 2009. There have been a few minor updates which needed to be included since its first posting, a little necessary reformatting and a couple of hyperlinks added, but otherwise it appears here much as it did back then. I shall be reposting one of the A-Z pieces each month until we catch up to a point where I can continue this series anew. I hope you enjoy it.

Welcome to the first of It Came from Darkmoor's Marvel UK A to Z columns. The intention of this column is to spotlight a few of the more obscure characters from Marvel UK's annals - the kind who are probably less likely to come up in conversation or whose overall contribution to Marvel UK has not yet been acknowledged by this Blog.

We begin, as is frankly logical, with the letter 'A', and in my alphabetical world...

'A' is for APESLAYER.

Let's go back to 1975, a year before Captain Britain became the first truly acknowledged UK originated Marvel material. This was the 70s and Planet of the Apes was huge, having turned into a global fan phenomenon which had inevitably sparked a licensing deal in the USA between Marvel and 20th Century Fox for a Planet of the Apes comic. It was a Black and White comic, which was later reprinted in colour, and ran to 29 issues between 1974 and 1977, adapting the movies and also adding new material.

At roughly the same time Planet of the Apes weekly began reprinting these stories in the UK (It should be pointed out that the preferred format for Comics in the UK has always been weekly, or fortnightly. In the 70s especially the expectation for weekly content was a given. So don't you go telling ME DC were doing something new and groundbreaking with 52! :) ). But of course reprinting material weekly, when it was being originated monthly, threw out an eventual but inevitable problem.

There wasn't enough US material being published quick enough to meet UK demand.

And so it was that in March 1975, with #23, a new story set in the the Planet of the Apes universe began, featuring a new human character called APESLAYER.

The Plot and Concept of this new story is attributed to Marvel Legend Roy Thomas, with pencils attributed to Neal Adams and in later issues to Howard Chaykin. The script attributed to Gerry Conway. All well-recognised and respected creators for Marvel, I'm sure you'd agree.

Which might be reason to wonder quite as to how or why they came to be writing such an off-shoot story for a licensed comic from Marvel UK.

Apeslayer was very much part of a world where the Apes ruled, where he had been brought up a human slave, forced to fight in arenas for the amusement of the simian rulers of Earth, only to later free himself and make it his mission to wage war on his oppressors...

Pause there a moment. Does any of this sound a little familiar? 

A little like another Roy Thomas concept from the 70s, maybe? 

In fact, doesn't  Apeslayer himself bear a certain physical similarity to Roy Thomas' Killraven - "Warrior of the Worlds" from Amazing Adventures?

Well, there might be a reason for that. 

Because he kind of... IS Killraven. 

In a truly bizarre turn of events, in order to fill in the gaps while waiting for new American material, the fledgling UK arm of Marvel comics literally decided to turn Killraven into Apeslayer. To re-purpose existing Killraven material as new stories to use as part of their Planet of the Apes series. 

And the changes between the two were pretty much purely cosmetic - changing the length of Apeslayer's hair, removing Killraven's headband and armlets, changing Martians for Apes. 

It's still Neal Adams' art. Just... altered. To fit the new purpose. 

A few name changes, to mask the swap, and that was it. 


A few years ago, back when Paul Cornell's Wisdom series re-introduced comics readers to Jonathan and Maureen Raven, some posters over a comic book resources were unaware of the connection to Killraven. I posted up the following images as reference.

Compare those now to the two equivalent Apeslayer pages from Planet of the Apes.

Jonathan 'Killraven' Raven becomes Jonathan 'Apeslayer' Dozer. Maureen Raven becomes Maureen Dozer.

Truly bizarre. And the length of Apeslayer's hair does not actually match between Covers and the stories themselves. Or indeed the spelling of his name. All very strange. The same story, with the barest of changes made. 

Notice that some supporting cast members do not even get their name changed, they remain the same - Anne Carver remains Anne Carver. 

How the decision was made to pass off the altered strip as part of the Planet of the Apes publication is certainly a curious one. To my knowledge Killraven had not been reprinted in the UK at that time, so it's not implausible the editors thought that nobody would notice the similarities. But it certainly raised a few eyebrows among UK readers a few years back, when Marvel printed an Essential Killraven volume - to find themselves greeted by a rather curious feeling of deja vu.

I've often wondered how Thomas, Adams et all felt about their work having been re-purposed in this fashion. Whether they knew about it, or whether they've been told about it in the years since. It seems such an unethical thing to have done, but I suppose Killraven was Work for Hire comics work. If Marvel US were happy with it happening I doubt they'd have had much in the way comeback on it.

Ethics aside - What are the chances of an Apeslayer revival? 

Not... very likely. :)

He'll be covered as a property under the Planet of the Apes license. As of 2014 that comics license was in the hands of BOOM! Studios. By rights, I suppose, they could use the character. They haven't. And in all honesty, I doubt that they will. BOOM! are focusing primarily on books relating to the 2011 reboot of the Apes franchise, which began with the rather brilliant Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

While it is not implausible that we might see the mighty Jonathan Dozer turn up in this rebooted continuity? I'm not going to hold my breath on that. :)

For those wanting to read more of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes title they are actually available online, in pdf format, through Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive - which you may find worth a visit.

'A' could also have stood for: 

The Anti-Being: Chaos Bringing enemy of Dark Angel and Death's Head II, and one giant mass of negative energy.

Afrikaa: Mohannda-based Black Axe and Black Panther ally, powered by the Heart of Africa.

Abslom Daak - Dalek Slayer: Doctor Who character, who's purpose in life should be rather clear from his title.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

In memory of Herb Trimpe.

It was with great sadness this past Tuesday that I learned of the passing of comics artist Herb Trimpe, at the age of 75. Sad, because though I never met him, Herb's art did have a very definite impact on my formative years as a comic reader.

I'm sure to some of you, especially for those who have come in to comics in the past 10-15 years, Herb Trimpe's name is probably not instantly recognisable. For those of you who do recognise the name you may not instantly be able to peg an art style.  In fact, I would imagine for a number of you that may be be a name you simply do not recognise at all.

Don't feel bad about that. As I say, Trimpe was 75. And while he has done some special comics projects for the likes of BPRD and Savage dragon in recent years his peak of output was across the late 60s, through the 70s and into the 1980s.

But the role which Herb Trimpe played, principally as an artist for Marvel Comics, really should not be understated. There are very few of the 1970s bigger named properties he did not draw at marvel, at one point or another. Most notably he was the artist on The Incredible Hulk for 7 straight years. During that time Trimpe co-created several characters who have become mainstays of the Hulk books such as Jim Wilson, the Hulkbusters, and Doc Sampson. But if even those don't ring a bell for you, I'm sure that you will be familiar with at least one other character which Herb co-created during that run.

Herb Trimpe was the co-creator of Wolverine.

My own personal exposure to comics as a young kid in the 80s was not through direct market comic stores. We had them in the UK, but I certainly wasn't taken to them at that age. It wasn't even entirely through newsagents, though they were the main outlet for UK comics. I hadn't the pocket money for that kind of thing until several years later.

For me it was jumble sales. My parents were teachers. School jumble sales played quite a role in my early childhood, and jumble sales meant people getting rid of their old stuff in the name of school fundraising. And that included old comics and magazines. Much of my early exposure to Marvel and DC comics, The Eagle, The Dandy, The Beano, et all came through picking up discarded comics from several years earlier.

And it was through those means also that I first came in contact with the work of Herb Trimpe. Not through The Hulk, or even Wolverine. But through a certain other character which Trimpe co-created for the British market with Chris Claremont.

Because Herb Trimpe was the co-creator of Captain Britain.

And while I am under no illusion as to which of those two creations the vast majority of people are likely to hold in higher esteem, these are the very books which brought me into reading comics. 

Trimpe provided art for the first 23 issues of Captain Britain, working with both Chris Claremont and Gary Friedrich after him. And yes, true, the costume he created is not the costume which survived to the present day. At this point in the character's history Brian Braddock was more of a combination of Spider-man and Daredevil than he was the uber-powerful Superman type that he is today. But these humble beginnings will always be important to a good many people. Even today you'll still find a good number of people who will argue that they preferred Herb's look for the character, and that the departure from it is something which still saddens them to this day.

Herb Trimpe's passing this week came as a bit of shock. Though granted it has been a while since he worked on a monthly comic, he had remained very active as an artist, and remained a regular on the convention scene. Even as a recently as last weekend, at East Coast Comicon in the States, in fact. He was a guest at London super Comicon a couple of years ago, and sadly it was still just a little to close to my Treatment to risk conventions at that point in time. I wished I could have met him. 

My thoughts go out to his friends and family. . 

For those reading comics here in the UK during the 1970s and 80s Herb Trimpe was rightly synonymous with a lot what they saw of Marvel Comics. He will be remembered. He will be missed.

If ever there were a time you aught to dig out those old Incredible Hulk issues or the early days of Captain Britain, I'd say this is a good opportunity. 

I'll leave you with some of tributes I have encountered online over the past few days. Please do feel free to share any others which you might have seen yourselves in the comments section, if you wish. 

Until the next time

Mark (Sword)

"Captain Britain. In honor & memory of the passing of comic book legend Herb Trimpe. God bless you, Herb. Thank you." -Todd Nauck  (@toddnauck)

"RIP Herb Trimpe. Thank you for bringing Wolverine, Captain Britain and many others to life. A true legend." Leo Sutherland (@leosutherland)

"Herb Trimpe & David Roach Captain Britain reprint cover collection for @OfficialPanini RIP #HerbTrimpe great piece" - Jon Haward (@ARTOFJONHAWARD)

"Here's a pic of #CaptainBritain vs Hurricane I did a while back for @LSComicCon -they asked for anything #herbtrimpe" John McCrea (@mccreaman)

"Another Cap pic with Spidey vs the Fury- #AlanDavis #HerbTrimpe mash up! Thanks again, Herb, for all the memories.." John McCrea (@mccreaman)

"For Herb from Mike Perkins lovely tribute #herbtrimpe #captainBritain" - Jon Haward (@ARTOFJONHAWARD)

"72 hrs ago I was talking to this man & thanking him for years of creative inspiration #eastcoastcomicon. #herbtrimpe" - Karl Ottersberg (@karlOttersberg)

"Beautiful Trimpe's self-portrait (via @emmartian )" - Javier Rodríguez (‏@javiercaste)

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Looks like we have confirmation of Captain Britain appearing in Secret Wars.

So, yesterday I posted up a Blog post about how we didn't currently have any clear evidence that Captain Britain (at least in the form of Brian Braddock) would be making an appearance in Marvel's Secret Wars event.

Well, it seems that not long after I posted this up a variant cover by Esad Ribic, for the second issue of the central Secret War limited series, started doing the rounds online. It it shows exactly that. 

That would be Brian, wielding some sort of sword, whose blade is made of energy. 

What exactly that is, I guess we'll have to wait and see. I think it highly unlikely to be 'Excalibur'. Faiza currently has that one. But it does remind me somewhat of modern depictions of the 'Soulsword,' wielded by former New Mutant and current member of Scott Summers' 'Uncanny X-Men' team, Illyana 'Magik' Rasputin.

Probably entirely coincidental. But I guess we'll find out, in time.

The important thing, at least as I see it, is this is a confirmation the he shall be playing at least some role in what comes next. And that's certainly a positive start.

One further thing of note this weekend, which I spotted in this week's Axel-in-Charge column over at Comic Book Resources. This relates to the aftermath of Secret Wars, and how it will be effecting the X-Men.

According to Alonso, Marvel's current editor-in-chief:

The X-Men office is taking the opportunity of "Secret Wars" to build an entire new world for the characters -- to create a shared universe within the X-books that's set off by a huge event/incident/surprise. At that point, they're going to introduce a new team that feels unlike anything you've seen before. It'll be... "extraordinary."

A fair bit of commentary online seems to speculating that this very much sounds like Marvel might be planning to separate the X-Men off into a separate  'Heroes Reborn' style Universe of their own. Something separate to the rest of Marvel's publishing line, with no direct connection to the rest of their books and continuity.

They've done it before, and you could quite easily understand why they might want to. The biggest problem that Marvel have with the X-Men is that (much like the Fantastic Four) they do not own those characters' creative rights in other mediums. Twentieth Century Fox own those. They make X-Men movies and cartoons. Some better than others. Marvel Studios, and more importantly Disney, do not own those.

This goes back to Marvel's teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, back in the 90s. The same period that ultimately also resulted in the winding up and selling off of Marvel UK spurred the publisher to sell of rights to a number of characters, as they tried to keep the business afloat. I know it's a little hard to imagine now, but back then it was really that serious a situation.

Many of you may already have seen that there's a new Fantastic Four movie on the horizon. But don't expect there to be any tie-in comic books. Marvel have cancelled the Fantastic Four comic, and split up the team. Heck, The Human Torch is going to be joining a 'Uncanny Inhumans' title after Secret Wars is done.

The general belief seems to be that Marvel no longer want to make Comics for the properties they don't own in other Media. So Fantastic Four is out. The X-Men on the other hand? Well, the X-Men titles sell much, much higher units. That'd have a financial impact, which might not be quite so easy to justify. But splitting them off into their own pocket universe and continuity, I guess, the logic would be that X-Men fans would still have books to buy, while the rest of the publishing line wouldn't even need to acknowledge their ever having existed.

Now, I'd have to say that this would be a prospect which I would not exactly be happy about. Since his by-proxy absorption into the X-Men office in the late 1980s Captain Britain has been awkwardly allied with the X-Men brand. It was understandable at the time. Chris Claremont created Brian, and he wanted to bring those characters over to his very successful ongoing line of X-men comics. Excalibur was technically (though obviously thematically not) an X-Men title. Even Captain Britain & MI13 was published through the X-Office. There's history here.

In modern Marvel Captain Britain is an Avenger. He fits very naturally into a role which he has always filled, protector of both Marvel's Britain and its Multiverse. He's a true Marvel Universe property.

Twin sister Psylocke, on the other hand, may well have begun that way but became synonymous with the 90s X-Brand. Never absent from those frankly cringeworthy 'X-Men Swimsuit Specials' etc. Criminally misused. Ethnically blurred and confused. But sadly, that is where she has stayed.

If the X-Men are to be split off I honestly wouldn't want Cap to join them. Nor Meggan. Nor Pete Wisdom or any of the other British Excalibur characters. They have far more in common with mainstream Marvel than they ever did with X-Gene. They've always been a poor fit. They need to stay in mainstream Marvel. At all costs in my book.

This also leaves us with the distinct possibility that we could yet end up with one Braddock Twin in one universe, and one in another. And I personally think that this would be a huge waste. We don't get enough Braddock sibling team-ups these days, as it is.

Remember Avengers vs X-Men? One Twin on one side of the divide, as an Avenger. One on the other, as an X-man.

Surely you haven't forgotten how awesomely awkward that encounter was? When they clashed over that? Making full use of such a brilliant metaphor for the entire storyline itself?

Well, you'd be forgiven if you have. Because Marvel forgot to tell that story themselves.


Instead we had Brian sitting in a hospital bed (in full costume no less) while Betsy went off and fought with Daredevil. For... some... reason.

Such an incredible wasted opportunity, that one.

Still, nothing is concrete yet. For all I know this is purely hyperbole and press bluster. I'll be keeping an eye on it, all the same. You can bet on that. :)

Until the next time.

Mark (Sword)

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Captain Britain title will be part of Secret Wars. But not the Captain you might expect...

So, I've been keeping tabs on all things Secret Wars, as they've been developing, over the past month. Mostly because I've been living in hope of some kind of evidence that Captain Britain, or any other UK connected character, would be making an appearance amongst the maelstrom of Marvel properties being smashed together, at the this: the End of the Marvel Universe.

And hyperbole aside, it really does still look like that is genuinely what is occurring. No feint. No fakery. A full reboot is still very much on the cards.

Up until this week however, things weren't really looking up in that regard.

As most of you are probably aware now Marvel will be cancelling almost the entirety of their publishing line before Secret Wars begins (33 books in total). Some titles will be getting a "Last Days" storyline as they prepare for the end.

Which certainly, at this point, leaves Brian Braddock's status as a bit of an unknown quantity. I mean, for most of the last year he has been an Avenger, part of the new Illuminati on Hickman's New Avengers, alongside Iron Man, Reed Richards, The Beast, Doctor Strange, Namor, Black Bolt and the Black Panther, as they have tried desperately to work out a way of stopping the multiverse disintegrating. We now know much more of what has been causing that to happen, too.

Last month we also discovered what had befallen Brian, in losing his eye, and seemingly the rest of the Captain Britain Corps.

In New Avengers #30 it was revealed that this group called the 'Ivory Kings' (who are apparently tied to The Beyonders, the race responsible for the original 1980s 'Secret Wars') who have at least in part been responsible for some of what has damaged the structure of the Multiverse, were being investigated by the Captain Britain Corps.

Largely because they had started killing other Captains.

It was explained that after capturing one of them Saturnyne attempted to draw them out for a confrontation, by turning one of their own into a beacon.

It did not go well.

Now bear in mind that Captain Britain Corps are more or less legion. Sure Marvel have done a good job at wiping them out every 2-3 years over this past decade, so maybe the numbers are not quite as infinite as once they were. 

But as of right now? They're all dead. 

No matter how many Captains there were, there were far more Ivory Kings who turned up in Otherworld to take them on. It was a massacre.

The Corps, it's Captains, its structure. All dead.

All bar Brian.

Well, okay. That's not entirely true.

Spider UK has also survived it seems. If your reading the Spidey books right now, you'll know this.

But that is exactly what has happened. Brian was cast away by Saturnyne, before her own presumed demise, and has with him the secrets of the Starlight Citadel (and presumably how to recreate it, after the reboot). 

As far as he knows is the last Captain alive. 

And he lost an eye in the process.

It really sucks to Brian, right now.

A lot.

But as we know, New Avengers is getting cancelled when Secret Wars starts, alongside Jonathan Hickman's other Avengers title - 'Avengers'. 

Marvel have teased this image, which I believe will be the final cover for both books divided across their covers:

Excellent artwork from the always marvelous Jim Cheung, there.

It pictures the final lineups for both titles in the foreground, and the first lineups for each title ghosted in the background.

Yes. Lovely artwork, but a real sense of finality.

Beyond this? We just don't know what will happen. And that is also part of the fun, of course. But I know that it's been niggling a few people that we haven't seen any direct evidence of Brian in Secret Wars teaser material.

You would presume that as part of the Illuminati Brian will appear in the main Secret Wars series (also being penned by Hickman). But nothing is a given. I'll patiently wait and see.

Many of the tie-in limited series for the Secret Wars event have now been unveiled. Marvel are separating these out into two unique brands:

Battleworld and War Zones.

Please do check those two checklists out. Some of the books listed do genuinely sound like pretty good fun. Out of continuity, self-contained stories. But some interesting ideas and mash-ups going on.

They don't though, further the direct subject matter of this Blog. But it's oksy. This week, finally, something Secret Wars related did.

It's not what I expected, at all. But boy, do I think it will be a pleasant surprise for many long time followers of the blog.

Let me first say that it *isn't* the new All-New All-Different Avengers team (debuting through this year's Marvel Free Comic Book Day offering) which Marvel have been teasing for the past couple of months. They finally started to unveil the cast of that, this week and unfortunately no Marvel UK character is connected to it.

But don't get me wrong. I will be buying into this team. it's such a damned interesting lineup not to. Pretty much all of the major creative changes for older characters and some newly introduced characters of the past few years, all in one place.

The Falcon as Captain America, the mystery woman who is currently Thor, the new Ms Marvel. A revived Vision.

Even despite the mild irritation of the new Nova being on board cannot sour the transition of Miles 'Ultimate Spider-man' Morales from the Ultimate Universe to mainstream Marvel. I want to see Miles succeed. I've read the guy since his debut, I've no intention of stopping now.

It is however, admittedly, another potential avenue closed for the purposes of this blog.

So it's a good job marvel announced a Secret Wars Captain Britain series isn't it?

Introducing Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders, by 2000 AD stalwart Al Ewing, and with art from definitive Captain Britain artist (and Marvel UK legend, frankly) Alan Davis.

A two issue limited series which pretty much came out of nowhere.

And yes, that is Faiza Hussain, wielding Excalibur, in the middle of that cover.

The book is, effectively, a gestalt title which merges Al Ewing's Mighty Avengers cast with elements of Captain Britain. Faiza will be joined by She-Hulk, Kid Rescue, White Tiger and Hobie Brown, as Ewing explores two of his past projects in one.

But where is Captain Britain, I hear you ask?

That's where it gets a bit complicated. Because as with many of these Secret Wars titles this one has come about purely by universes smashing together and merging.

How many of you read Al Ewing's Age of Ultron issue of Avengers Assemble?

I know it was almost 2 years ago now, but if you didn't (and can find a copy) you absolutely should. This issue, set in London, featured Brian, Faiza and the some new students from the Braddock Academy facing the hordes of Ultron alongside Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers).

Reading this story back in 2013 I'd genuinely hoped that Marvel would let Al Ewing have a proper crack at writing a Captain Britain or Marvel UK team book. Because the tone and general vibe of this book gave me that level of confidence that he could deliver.

And given that he actually killed Brian and Carol off, fighting Ultron back, and I still had plenty time for it, that should go some way to indicating the level of praise allocated here.

It was an Age of Ultron book, though. As with most of the tie-in stories, the tale was set in one of the many timelines which were then overwritten, through multiple attempts at time travel, in trying to stop Ultron taking control of Earth. Not, however, before Brian (knowing that he was going off to die) passed the title and role of 'Captain Britain' on to Faiza Hussain, to carry on in his stead, after his passing.


It's rare for somebody to actually write Brian in a way I find convincing, too. 

So yes, for the briefest of time, Faiza *was* Captain Britain. And god knows if Excalibur chose her, no man can really question her of being worthy of that title! But, ultimately, it is considered only to have happened in what became an alternate Universe.

But this is Secret Wars. And if all those alternate universe are crashing into each other, and merging together, all bets are off.

Captain Faiza gets to be, once more.

So yes, sorry, if you were looking for Brian Braddock as Captain Britain here... your probably out of luck. The title Captain here is Faiza.

But if you enjoyed that story, and if you were a fan of Captain Britain & MI13, this book looks well worth some of your time. And with a creative team of Ewing and Davis? Come on. This book just screams to be a must-read for all fans of British Marvel.

Going forward of course?

Brian Braddock
Captain Faiza
Spider UK

If you're going to restart the Captain Britain Corps once All-New Marvel kicks off? That's not a bad place to start...

Until the next time.

Mark (Sword)

Sunday, 8 February 2015

More on Battleworld and Secret Wars

So, here we are again. Once more I'm here to talk to you about Marvel's upcoming Secret Wars and Battleworld.

Firstly, I'd like to thank for Marvel UK writer and editor John Freeman for cross-posting my original Secret Wars article over on Down the Tubes. I've fielded a few questions about this via the comments here and via email. It seems that more than a few of agree with a number of my comments - in particular on the pricing policies at Marvel over the past few years. I'm not going to cover that again (although is refreshing to see that I've not been alone on that one).

What I did want to explore however, is the recent additions to Marvel's interactive Battleworld map.

As I mentioned last time round when the Secret Wars event kicks off it appears that all of the multitude of alternate universes and timelines from the entirety of Marvel's history will be crunching together in one singular universe where elements of all of them will be forced to coexist at the same time. This 'Battleworld' does not have a lot in the way of actual continents. There's a territory around the North pole and an (as of yet) unexplained Wall separating the southern most region from one giant land mass, made up of dozens of different story-lines from the past, each standing as an independent country in its own right.

Marvel has been unveiling those Countries gradually. At my time of last posting the list was:

  • Dystopia: Future Imperfect Hulk (The Maestro version of The Hulk)
  • Domain of Apocalypse: The Age of Apocalypse (in which Charles Xavier's death in the past created a timeline where Apocalypse took over the entire of America and much of the World)
  • Technopolis: Armor Wars Iron Man (in which other supervillains gained control of Iron Man's armour tech designs and used them against him)
  • Iron Fist's K'un-Lun
  • Higher Avalon which links to a profile of Captain Britain's history (and may plausibly what has become of Otherworld/Avalon with all the Universes smashing together).
  • Spider-Island (in which the Jackal's scheme gave everybody in Manhattan spider-powers)
  • The Monarchy of M: House of M (in which Mutants became the ruling class of the planet, with Magneto as their figurehead)
  • Sentinel Territories: Days of Future Past (the future timeline in which the Sentinels all but eradicated all superhumans and placed humanity into concentration camps for what they believed to be its Own Good)
As of this past week Marvel have begun to reveal some more.

  • Egyptia: Forever Yesterday (A timesliding story in which New Warriors villain The Sphinx created an alternate timeline where Ancient Egypt rule over the world right up to the 20th Century).
  • The Regency: Which brandishes links to the now infamous One More Day storyline from Amazing Spider-man (in famous for removing/erasing the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson).
  • New Quack City: Which matches up with recently announced new series for Howard the Duck.
  • 2099: Literally what it says on the tin. A whole Country for the 1990s Marvel 2099 imprint of comics.
  • Hala Field: Which bears the following message "Hero! Pilot! Avenger! Captain Marvel, Earth's Mightiest Hero with death-defying powers and an attitude to match, is back and launching headfirst into a new role - Squadron leader of the interstellar defense team, the Carol Corp!" Intriguing.
  • The Wastelands: Wolverine: Old Man Logan (Mark Millar's tale of an aged and long since retired Wolverine as a survivor in a post-apocalypse America)
  • Perfection: Age of Ultron (In which a time travelling Wolverine and Sue Storm journeyed across time trying to stop Ultron from constantly taking over the world. A story which is very likely to be an important part of what caused the Marvel Multiverse to collapse in the first place...)
  • New Xandar: The Infinity Gauntlet. (That what the blurb links to, anyway. Xandar was of course the homeworld of the Nova Corps up until its destruction during the Annihilation storyline).

Another point which is worthy of note is that there is an area still labelled up as "Marvel 616" on the Battleworld map.

 It resides in the territory simply labelled up as "Manhattan". 

That yellow land mass within it labelled up as "Attilan" (which is the name of the home City of The Inhumans) and to its north that brown-coloured mass is labelled as "Marvel 1610" (the universal serial number for Marvel's 'Ultimate Universe').

Oh, and can you see that there's a little alcove underneath, like some kind of hollowed out chamber?

That's been labelled up as "Monster Metropolis".

Make of that what you will... :)

Of course Marvel have stated that as a result of all this some book s will be ending, and others beginning.

I think it likely that books such as the shortly to be released Spider-Gwen (about the alternate universe spider-powered Gwen Stacy, from the recent Spider-verse storyline in Amazing Spider-man) are likely to survive the new status quo. Likewise the aforementioned new Howard the Duck series.

But as for other new titles, well Marvel have announced a few tying into this event. 

For example the Battleworld anthology series will be a chance for several writers to use this new mish-mash world of properties to play out battle between characters who you would never have dreamed of even getting the opportunity to encounter each other. 

Another anthology title, Secret Wars Journal, will showcase shorter stories featuring lesser seen characters, from Misty Knight and Paladin, to the Night Nurse... and apparently, even Millie the Model. 



Peter David will be returning to the Universe which he helped sculpt in the 90s, in Secret Wars 2099.

Haden Blackman will be taking on writing Shang-chi in a new Master of Kung Fu.

But perhaps the most unexpected series unveiled so far is the new Avengers team to be written by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite K. Bennett. Because once Secret Wars begins the Avengers are no more.

But there is... A-Force?


Yes. A-Force an entirely female superteam, bringing together 'Earth's Mightiest Heroines'. A lot of very recognisable faces on that cover. Medusa, Black Widow, Storm, Rogue, She-Hulk, Dazzler. Is that Captain Universe from Hickman's Avengers, above Nico Minoru from Runaways? A Phoenix costumed Jean Grey, too.

We know very little more than that cover, right now. 

Makes me wonder if this is what was intended by that "All-New All-Different Avengers" teaser a while back?

Who knows?

I'll be keeping an eye on this event, obviously hoping to find some kind of Marvel UK ties along the way. I'll be particularly interested to find out if "King James' England" is related to Neil Gaiman's 1602.

Next time we get another batch of reveals I'll post another update.

Until the next time...