Characters Appearing: Captain Britain, Courtney Ross, Dai Thomas, Jacko Tanner, Jamie Braddock, Psylocke, Satan, Slaymaster
Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #233-247
Issue(s): Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #233, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #234, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #235, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #236, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #237, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #238, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #239, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #240, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #241, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #242, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #243, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #244, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #245, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #246, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #247
Larry Lieber replaces Bud Budiansky as the plotter, Jim Lawrence begins to get a co-plot credit in addition to script with #236. Ron Wilson remains on pencils but sometimes the art credits lump Wilson in with the inker as just "Art", which may indicate a Breakdowns/Finishes arrangement. Pablo Marcos Studio gets the full art credit for issue #240, and Pablo Marcos (no studio) gets the full art credit for #246. Ron Wilson is the artist for the rest, with the inkers rotating in and out (Mike Esposito is on #243 only, the rest are either by Pablo Marcos, with or without his studio, and Fred Kida).
I didn't think it was possible after the rushed string of lame-o villains that appeared in the issues that i covered in the last entry, but the story quality takes a step backwards with these issues. The plots are the sort of thing you'd expect from Golden Age stories: a search for the Loch Ness Monster, a werewolf/vampire story with a "twist", and then the hackneyed plot set-up where the super-hero receives a mysterious invitation along with a random assortment of other characters (a mobster, a movie star, etc.). However, things actually end on a relatively high note with the introduction of the Slaymaster, a villain that would stand above the others introduced in Captain Britain so far even if he wasn't ever brought back and used well by later creators.
The Loch Ness Monster story is a rare standalone two-parter in issues #233-234. Brian Braddock is on a class trip with a professor and some schoolmates, including Courtney Ross and Jacko Tanner.
Their innkeeper is under the thrall of an alien.
The alien wants his people to use Earth's sun as an energy source, but he's had to wait several centuries for the rest of his people to show up with the right equipment.
And the Loch Ness Monster is really the alien's spaceship.
Actually, wasn't there a Tom Baker Dr. Who story along these lines?
Anyway, Captain Britain fights the monster...
...and foils the alien's plot. But as the students leave, we see a real Loch Ness Monster.
There have been surprisingly few Loch Ness Monster stories in Marvel's modern age, but we did have Hulk #192. No one in this story notices a giant stone dinosaur statue on the lake anywhere.
Our werewolf/vampire story is next, running from issues #235-238, and the twist, revealed in the first segment, is that the werewolf actually is the vampire. Or i should really say that he's actually a Dracula, because he's not just an undead guy with fangs that turns into a werewolf. He's actually a regular looking guy (he can even go out in daylight; this scene takes place in the morning)...
...that sometimes transforms into a werewolf (Grrr! Arrghh!)...
...and sometimes into a Dracula.
Courtney Ross is of course the "living likeness" of the were-Dracula's long dead love.
Cameo by Satan (of course we can't prove it's the Satan, but the MCP does list him as a Character Appearing, and so have i).
One interesting bit is that the inherent "goodness" of Captain Britain's Star Sceptre is a boon against the horror monsters.
For weirder power development, try this:
Another odd thing is that the were-Dracula lives in a Darkmoor Castle, but there's no reference to the Darkmoor stone circle where Brian Braddock first became Captain Britain. It's quite a coincidence, but it goes unmentioned.
I usually like Ron Wilson, but the art in these issues is not very good. Very stiff.
Captain Britain defeats the Black Baron by burning up the contract that he signed with Satan.
The next story, from issues #238-242, is the one where Captain Britain has received an invitation to visit a mysterious island. It's not said where the invitation was delivered to. And along with him there's an actress, a mobster, a star athlete, and a military man. No one knows where they are going or why they were invited, but when you get one of these invitations, you just have to go, right? Your number is up, and now you're in a cheesey Golden Age plot.
It even looks Golden Age and manages to be retro-offensive in its depiction of Oriental manservants.
The story has the villain of the piece, Doctor Claw, throwing a series of increasingly ridiculous challenges at his invitees. Giant bugs...
...giant death flowers..
...a shrink ray so that they can fight a cat...
...and pygmy insect riders!
Only Captain Britain has anything useful to do. This isn't the sort of story where each character has some unique attribute to get them through one of the challenges and they have to work together to succeed. The other guys stand around and gripe, the girl screams a lot, and Captain Britain does all the work.
And the best thing is that Doctor Claw has no particular grudge against this random assortment of people. They're just the first step on his global quest to moderately annoy everyone in Britain as revenge for an accident.
Captain Britain next has to fight the "giant" "Oriental", Fong...
...and then Doctor Claw himself.
Captain Britain refrains from killing Claw...
...but has no problem leaving him to the fate of his pygmies.
I know you've probably nodded off by now, and i'm right there with you, but let's perk up a little bit for our final story featuring the Slaymaster, which runs in issues #243-247.
The story starts with Captain Britain flying through London and hearing a scream. Making the very British (i assume!?) statement "Better have a butcher's!", he flies to investigate. Watching him is the Slaymaster, who we only see from the back, thinking to himself that Captain Britain is the only man in England besides him that can fly.
Captain Britain finds that the murdered man is Lord Archer, and he was killed by an arrow. He therefore (rightly) assumes that the death must have been "another one of those headline murders that are being committed with gimmicks". A woman claiming to be Lord Archer's daughter leads Captain Britain down the hall to where she says she saw the killer run, but it turns out to be a trap.
And now we get the full reveal of the Slaymaster, although a karate chop to the head prevents Captain Britain from seeing him.
Police inspector Dai Thomas is of course ready to blame Captain Britain for the murder, so Brian is forced to flee.
The next day, we learn that Brian's sister Betsy is now a model.
His brother Jamie is working as a race car driver, where the guy who is responsible for firing the starting pistol is named Major Jock Gunn. He's killed when the gun explodes. So basically, if you were living in London around this time, you didn't want your last name to be Boulder or Axe or anything. I guess even if it was Smith you'd be liable to have an anvil fall on your head.
Since Captain Britain has nearly foiled his plans twice, Slaymaster decides to try to kill him. He flies thanks to a jet belt, and he's got atomic wristlets that give him super-strength. Plus a gun with explosive bullets.
Captain Britain gets a good punch in, and Slaymaster flees, using his jet pack to create a cloud of smoke to prevent CB from following.
The next victim is a Mr. Waxman, a comic store owner.
He's got a small wax museum (of course!) in the back room, featuring statues of Spider-Man, Hulk, and Electro-Man. Wait a minute! There's no Electro-Man! It's a trap!
I love that kid. "Now i know who you are!" "Oh yeah, how?" "Because you said your name like 6 panels ago."
The kid is actually Dai Thomas' nephew, but don't think Captain Britain is going to earn any points busting his ass saving him.
Dai Thomas makes J. Jonah Jameson look like a well-adjusted, well-rounded character.
The next victim is Lady Gila, and oh my god, are they really--?
Yep, they did.
You have to love Dai's cops. They burst in and see a dead lady and Captain Britain about to get eaten by a giant mutant lizard, and they assume Captain Britain's the killer. This is despite the fact that Slaymaster is a known villain at this point, with a wanted poster on the wall at the police station, and Dai knows that the Slaymaster had kidnapped his nephew.
Captain Britain escapes the cops but then immediately gets called down by Dai, who gives him a tip.
Even now, though, Dai wants to detain him for questioning.
As Captain Britain approaches the sewer entrance, we're hit with the mind-blowing one-two punch combo of a floating skull and a giant mechanical snake that eats Captain Britain and spits him out in front of Slaymaster.
Unfortunately, Slaymaster is no pragmatic assassin that just tries to kill Captain Britain. He rigs up a silly death trap involving a shark. But at least he looks pretty badass doing it while smoking a cigarette.
The cigarette lighter is a clue; it's inscribed with the initials K.K., which Captain Britain immediately recognizes as belonging to Konrad Kharkov. I don't think you can be killed with a Kharkov, so he must not be a victim; he's actually the guy that hired the Slaymaster. The items that he had Slaymaster steal are used as bribes to get high level officials to damage Britain.
Yeah, one of the "items" the Slaymaster stole was a woman; that happened off panel, before this story actually began.
Kharkov is not a trustworthy employer, but Slaymaster is prepared for that.
Slaymaster kills him and throws him to the sharks. Then Captain Britain shows up.
That poor woman.
Slaymaster sets the atomic engine on his rocket craft to explode and then tries to escape, but Captain Britain stops him, knocking him to the same sharks that Kharkov was fed to, and then disables the atomic rocket.
Ok, so the Slaymaster story was pretty cheesy (and i even left out the part about the giant mechanical octopus). And Slaymaster himself is pretty gimmicky. But Bullseye was pretty gimmicky in his first appearance too, and he turns into a really dangerous villain, and the Slaymaster is pretty similar. He definitely has potential; he's the only new costumed villain to appear in Captain Britain in a really long time, and with his jet belt and power wristlets he's got powers comparable to Captain Britain. And the assassin angle does make him truly dangerous. Despite the corny death traps and weird last name gimmick, he really does murder a bunch of people in this story. He's the sort of character that a new creative team could bring back to be a repeat villain (something we haven't had at all) and maybe make him a little better next time, and that's exactly what happens.
Unlike the previous batch of stories i covered in the last entry, there are at least breaks between the plots. But the creators don't use those breaks to fit in any character development, except that which happens behind the scenes, like Betsy Braddock becoming a model. We're still running from one adventure to another. And, possibly excepting the Slaymaster plot, the stories are really, really bad. It's not surprising that these are the last of Captain Britain's original run. Even if the Slaymaster story was better received, it was probably too late to save it, and so the Captain Britain feature goes on hiatus.
After these issues, Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #248-253 reprint Captain Britain's team-up with Spider-Man from Marvel Team-Up #65-66. If i understand the difference in cover dates correctly, i think this was a case of the British comic being published at roughly the same time as the American version (although in black & white and across more issues). And then that's the last we'll see of him until he resurfaces in 1979, in a very different way, in the Black Knight feature in the British Hulk comic.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: These issues could be split up into distinct arcs, but since Captain Britain doesn't appear elsewhere and i want to avoid breaking up my trade as much as possible, i'm leaving them in the same entry. Captain Britain next appears in Marvel Team-Up #65-66. There's no other dependencies here. I've therefore placed this at the end of its publication run, circa Oct 77. An argument could be made to push this later given the changes to Psylocke, but we've got a hard stop thanks to Marvel Team-Up in any event.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Captain Britain vol. 2: Siege of Camelot
"Better have a butcher's" is indeed a very British phrase: it's Cockney Rhyming Slang for "Better have a look" ("look" rhymes with "Butcher's hook". Yes, rhyming slang is odd.) Since Cap have a manor I always pictured him more as an upper-class toff rather than a cockney, so he must be using it ironically.
Slaymaster goes through all that trouble to kill people in ironic manners, but when he captures Captain Britain he goes for sharks, rather than trying to drown him in a vat of tea, or smother him with a union jack?
Posted by: Berend | February 16, 2015 5:34 PM
The Doctor Who story you're thinking of was Terror of the Zygons, originally broadcast in August/September 1975.
I agree with Berend about it being odd that Brian's using Cockney Rhyming Slang. That example is one that's widely known, but not one of the ones that's become commonly used amongst non-cockneys.
As for UK cover dates, they were usually the date you took the comic off the shelves, so a week after the actual publication date.
Posted by: Stephen | February 16, 2015 6:09 PM
Thanks for the Cockney Rhyming Slang pointer! I had never heard of that. And that was the Dr. Who episode i was thinking of; thanks.
Regarding cover dates, Marvel Team-Up #65-66 came out Oct 25 and Nov 22 (those are release dates, not cover dates). Super Spider-Man #248, which first starting printing Marvel Team-Up #65, had a Nov 9 cover date. So it seems like there was a two week lag between the American and UK releases. Is that normal? I thought there was normally a longer lag and i'm trying to see if they did something special because of the Captain Britain appearance.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 16, 2015 6:59 PM
"Captain Britain is something of an odd hero. Superheroes are a peculiarly American genre, which never really took off in British comics (Marvel UK's flagship titles were Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi; Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly/Magazine; and Transformers)".
Kind of odd that they would accept those properties yet feel reluctant about other properties. The Doctor, for example, largely falls into the "Not Wearing Tights" category.
However, Jeff Rovin did include the Doctor in his Encyclopedia covering what he termed "Adventure Heroes"; in an earlier volume he profiled Superman, the Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, the X-Men and Luke Skywalker.
Box Office Mojo includes Flash Gordon in the above category while Luke Skywalker receives no mention?
Posted by: PB210 | February 16, 2015 7:04 PM
So Courtney Ross did not know of Brian's dual identity as of MTU #65? And apparently not even after #66, going by early issues of Excalibur?
That is a bit surprising.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | February 17, 2015 11:03 AM
I believe Slaymaster was brought back(and killed); I think he was the one that blinded Betsy Braddock.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 17, 2015 11:19 AM
@PB210 Whilst the Doctor technically fits the definition of superhero, he certainly doesn't originate from that genre. The series is science fantasy with its roots in British adventure stories. And Star Wars is a space opera, again something not really belonging to the superhero genre - even if Luke Skywalker fits the technical definition of a superhero.
The point I was making was basically that, in the era of Marvel UK, the characters we think of as superheroes were never the really big sellers on my side of the Atlantic. Transformers and Star Wars were, at their height, the most popular comics in the UK - something which titles starring recognised superheroes never even came close to. That's not in any way a criticism of the genre, just differing cultural tastes and expectations. If Marvel UK had put superheroes front and centre across its titles it wouldn't have had nearly as much success, and might have folded many years earlier.
Also, there have been a handful of arguably British characters in the superhero genre, but they've almost always been either American creations or knockoffs of American creations. Captain Britain was clearly created in an attempt to do a British Captain America, and it wasn't until Alan Moore got hold of him that the character really began to work. As a genre, it's definitely American, and whilst us Brits are familiar with - and appreciate - large chunks of American culture, this is one such chunk that we've never felt the need to do ourselves.
Posted by: Stephen | February 17, 2015 6:13 PM
So, Superman does not come from another planet, the Green Lantern Corps does not feature extraterrestrials, the Kree-Skrull conflict never saw publication, nor did the Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.? Aliens visited earth so often that practically every Marvel hero encountered some in his first few appearances.
I find it amusing when people call properties such as the Green Hornet and Zorro as part of the genre yet overlook properties such as Luke Skywalker.
Posted by: PB210 | February 17, 2015 7:11 PM
Above quote from Walter Lawson partially, Stephen.
Posted by: PB210 | February 17, 2015 7:12 PM
Re rhyming slang - the 'berk' insult that characters keep using in this run is rhyming slang too - 'berk' is short for 'Berkeley Hunt' which means, well, the extremely crude anatomical four-letter word it rhymes with. (Which, I should probably add, when used as an insult in Britain, is actually used more of men than of women.)
'Berk' is slightly less offensive than the unrhymed version but it's still pretty startling to see it thrown around in a comic so casually.
This is such a great site. Thanks for all your work on it.
Posted by: AJ | January 24, 2017 7:41 PM
Wait, there was a giant mechanical octopus?
Posted by: Holt | March 9, 2018 6:00 PM
Comments are now closed.
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