Thursday, 6 December 2007

A beginning

Okay, so what exactly is the point of the Blog? Who the hell am I? Why'd I start it up? What the hell's Darkmoor, anyway? Etc...

Well, to introduce myself, my name is Mark Roberts, and I'm from the UK. Many regular posters to forums such as Comixfan and Comic Book Resources will know me better as The Sword is Drawn - my username, pilfered from the title of the graphic novel which introduced Marvel's first British superteam, Excalibur.

A while back a few regular posters out there suggested that I aught to start up a blog (Partially to stop me from posting so much Excalibur-related piffle on said messageboards, maybe?) where I could stack my ideas. I wasn't sure, at the time. I toyed with it for a while, though, and eventually I came up with this place.

For those who don't know Darkmoor is a fictitious area of moorland in marvel's Britain. There's not a lot out there - a Research Centre where Brian Braddock once worked and a castle which Dark Angel used for a while - but its real significance in terms of Marvel UK is that it was the setting for the first British produced Marvel material - 1976's Captain Britain Weekly #1. It was the place where Brian Braddock first stepped into the stone circle, and was asked to make his choice of two artefacts - the Sword or the Amulet - and became Captain Britain.

But that's a rant for another day...

The thing is, I wasn't even born when Marvel UK began publishing its own stuff, in '76. I was three years off that. But in some strange fashion I can't truly get it out of my head. I read Marvel's UK titles as a kid - Transformers, Thundercats, Death's Head and as many US reprints of X-Men as I could find. But US comics were harder to get your hands on in the UK, back in the 80s. Despite now being 28 (and probably by rights I should know better by now) I find myself still caring for the characters from the UK corner of Marvel's universe - strangely territorial over them. The daft thing is that many of them weren't even that great. Some were just plain better as concepts than the material they appeared in. But the bottom line is that Marvel UK was ours. Made here in blighty, and therefore that made it something to be proud of.
Sure, the imprint closed down in the early-90s, but despite a ten year gap I still find myself thinking about what stories could or should have happened in the years since then. What happened to the characters and the places? Why didn't we see them again? Is Death's Head still lost in space, having schizophrenic conversations with his other personalities? Does Motormouth still have a potty-mouth? Did Dark Guard ever end?

Who can say? Maybe we'll find out someday. Maybe not.

It has always disappointed me that the comic book industry in the UK has kind of died off since Marvel UK folded. Sure, we still have 2000 AD but pretty much everything else which lines the newsagent's shelves is a US reprint. And yet, when you think of some of the biggest names in the American comic book industry? Mark Millar, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Chris Claremont, Alan Davis, Mike Carey, Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch...

Yeah, they're all British.

So what went wrong?

When I ask what on US based messageboards I usually get the same dry answer - 'Because nobody gives a %^&* about the UK based stories'.

Maybe some people actually believe that, but when I think back over the last year or so Marvel alone have put out a number UK based stories. From Christos Gage's Union Jack series, to New Excalibur, to Paul Cornell's Wisdom series? Heck, even Ed Brubaker's Captain America (And lets be fair you don't get a much more American character than Cap) spent an arc in London last year, in the storyline 21st Century Blitz.

2008 will bring us a new ClanDestine series from Alan Davis and a new incarnation of Excalibur (Back to the original name, without the 'New' tag) from Paul Cornell.

If nobody gives a %^&* then how come there's so much out there. It's like a mini-renaissance for British characters in Marvel, right now. And I'm loving it.

And so that's what this blog is going to be all about. A bit of nostalgia for the past, and seeing where the characters of the past fit into modern Marvel. It's a place to help me keep track, and hopefully you'll get something out of it, too.

So please, Enjoy! And let me know what you think.

Mark (The Sword is Drawn).

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