High Five! Comics

How is Brian Braddock Not A Bigger Deal?

Posted on: November 9, 2009

omnibus coverI mean, maybe I’ve just been more exposed to British culture than most American kids, thanks to growing up with a British stepfather (Captain Britain was born in Essex, by the way. What UP, parents who read our blog?) but how is Captain Britain not more popular in the States, or even in the UK?

Fun Fact #1: The designation of the main Marvel Universe as “Earth 616?” Yeah. That was thanks to David Thorpe’s early eighties revamp of Captain Britain.

Fun Fact #2: You know who Psylocke is, right? Of course you do! But were you aware that Captain Britain is her brother?

(Ok, the fankids probably knew #2, but High Five!’s more casual readers probably didn’t.)

betsyandbrianBesides that fact that Brian Braddock is a whole hell of a lot more important to the Marvel U than modern continuity would have you believe, the David Thorpe/Alan Moore/Jamie Delano + Alan Davis stories in the early eighties were remarkably ahead of their time. In the first issue of the revamp, Braddock and his sidekick, Jackdaw the elf, are sent by Merlin (yes, that Merlin) to an alternate Earth (238, for anyone keeping track.) Britain of Earth 238 is run by the borderline fascist British National Party and the entire populace is ridiculously violent and hateful. Unbeknownst to the largely ignorant citizens, the alien Lady Saturnyne is hiding out, attempting to “evolve” this dimension by exposing the population to an evolutionary elixir. Apparently, Earth 238 is so backward that it’s retarding the evolution of the entire multiverse.

Scuttlebutt is that some of the higher-ups at Marvel had a problem with the “omniverse” storyline in Captain Britain, a concept they deemed a little too DC (which might have something to do with why I like it so much.) But ultimately, both Thorpe & Moore’s storytelling abilities, coupled with Alan Davis’ top-notch art, propel this run to the top of the early eighties comics scrap heap. Many a comics enthusiast can elaborate at length about the renaissance of the medium in the eighties, usually citing Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and Sandman as prime examples of the era’s superhero revamps. But Captain Britain deserves a place on that list, not because the work itself is on par with what Moore, Morrison, and Gaiman later accomplished in what many would call their seminal works, but because Captain Britain’s reinvention and his adventures in the wake of it were an early, pioneering step in the direction that super hero comics would take in the later eighties.

Captain Britain‘s writers were exclusively British themselves – so instead of a national hero written by Americans (which, my god, can you imagine what we might have done to him?), the British comic nerds had a hero who was uniquely, and accurately, British. I mean, this is a guy who can fly, create force fields and generally kick some serious ass – but because his writers themselves were Brits, it was easy to believe that Braddock would stop mid-fight for a cuppa. Which he could get away with because, you know, his villains generally had to take tea breaks too. (In fact, his biggest villain, Mad Jim Jaspers, traveled around in a giant flying tea kettle.) The very idea might seem completely insane to Americans, but to the British (who, by the way, do NOT fuck around when it comes to tea) it is entirely natural. The remarkable use of dialect in the series is also thanks to the British writers, a dropped ‘h’ here, an overemphasized ‘h’ there, dialect in Captain Britain is a pretty good indication of who is good or bad, poor or rich, and thanks to its British creators, it is lettered just so – even a Yank can tell the difference.

britPerhaps the bulk of the credit must go to the artist, Alan Davis, who guided the series through several different writers and was listed as “co-creator” even alongside Alan Moore.  In any event, it’s a complete mystery to me that this series isn’t a bigger deal than it is. There exist very few collections of Captain Britain. There are a few affordable trades but the best bang for your buck is the Captain Britain Omnibus which will set you back about $60, but is entirely worth it. Not only is Brian Braddock a much bigger deal than you think he is, but Moore’s run on Captain Britain was one of his earliest works. As far as I know, this is the only volume these issues are compiled in.

Brian Braddock’s got a PhD in physics, superpowers, the hottest sister in the Marvel Universe, and if not for him, Earth 616 would’ve been wiped off the map in the mid-eighties. He might be the most underrated underdog ever, not only in-universe, but in his book’s real world contributions to the medium.  Trust me on this, read Captain Britain!


2 Responses to "How is Brian Braddock Not A Bigger Deal?"

Great post. I bought the original TPB of the Alan Davis run on this series years ago and it has been a personal fave. I NEVER understood why this wasn’t requried reading for all comics fans. The storytelling was magical and horrifying all the time. Alan David has the ability to convey fantasy and tragedy in the same panel.

And, yes, I think it helps if you’ve logged hundreds of hours watching Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Fawlty Towers and more when you read this comic …

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Judge Cal, Marvel SmartAss. Marvel SmartAss said: Fun article from @highfivecomics about the brilliance of Captain Britain: http://tinyurl.com/ych2b27 […]

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