For more than forty years, Brian Braddock has been saving the day, fighting evil, and being a decent guy in the Marvel Universe. Created as a conscious effort to expand their superhero pool beyond the United States (and, really, beyond just the general New York area), Chris Claremont was given he task of engineering this beautiful man of Britain, a plucky young science student born to greatness.
Over the years, Captain Britain has been drawn by some of the greats, like Herb Trimpe, Carlos Pacheco, and Alan Davis. And, written by some of the best, from Alan Moore, to Warren Ellis, Paul Cornell, and Alan Davis. The most steady hand and mind steering his boat has been Davis, who is a bonafide creative genius.
But, not all is good beer and nice roses. The often decent Scott Lobdell didn’t steer, so much as crash the good ship Britain, during his time as writer, then plotter of Excalibur, the team book that featured Captain Britain for over a decade. For the heights that Jamie Delano or Casey Jones took our hero, Rick Remender’s take in Secret Avengers is an embarrassing low.
Captain Britain has been a genius, and a dope, an elegant figure, a wrecking ball, a quiet, caring thinker, a brusque and caustic egomaniac.
These ten pages cannot encompass all of the character, and they do not represent all the takes that have been tried by talent, or even the best runs or appearances. Absent from this list is Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s dashing and earnest take in The Ultimates, as well as Alan Davis’ turn as writer and artist on Excalibur. But, by selecting clear moments from his existence
Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe, Fred Kida, Irv Watanabe, Marie Severn
Captain Britain #1
Brian Braddock, written here by his creator. Handsome, confident, suit and tie. Brian is smoking a pipe so you know he’s a scientist, in case the job in a lab before returning to university does not sell that.
This is our early Captain Britain: a genius, a forthright man, but willing to be someone’s assistant, admiring that dangerous work be done away from bystanders.
Alan Moore, Alan Davis, Jenny O’Connor, Helen Nally
The Daredevils #2, An Englishman’s Home
Still the suit and tie professional. “Master Brian,” though, by the housekeeper of is youth.
Brian, here, is haunted by his past, and we can see the dramatic difference in hairstyle, alone, between current-day and his wilder past. But, we have a pattern establishing, of Brian being more prominent in his own comics than Captain Britain as a costume or identity. Captain Britain is a job, a calling, but Brian Braddock has breakfast every day, he has to get his mail from the mailbox, brush his hair.
Alan Davis, Steve White, Steve Craddock
Mighty World of Marvel #16 , In All the Old Familiar Places
Introducing Meggan to his twin sister, Betsy. Brian’s hair is getting looser (and bigger), and he’s looking more broad-shouldered. Meggan is at her least human-looking and addicted to television. They are already a pair, if not expressly romantically linked yet. As the page progresses, everyone else present is pushed off, until it’s the two of them, together and pleased.
Jamie Delano, Alan Davis, Annie Halfacree
Captain Britain v2 #5, Double Game
The hair continues to indulge itself. And, Brian as grown solidly into the dashing, powerful superhero, though he still has his worried eyes and wears his expressions on his face.
Flying in. Throwing punches. But, as per the text narration: “For a second he almost can’t do it… can’t face himself… but then the anger takes over… and it is just fighting again.”
Chris Claremont, Alan Davis, Paul Neary
Excalibur – The Sword is Drawn
Depressed, drunk or at least severely hung over, grieving the death of his twin sister, Brian is a small mess. Meggan, now his girlfriend, is kidnapped, but he’s too into his drink to take immediate action.
Another superhero, Nightcrawler, has to throw him around and break a wall in his home (that he’s surely never going to pay for or repair), to get him properly motivated. Throwing out the good-coach insults, along the way.
Ashford, Scott Lobdell, Ken Lashley, Elliott, Brosseau, Matthys, Garrahy
Excalibur #76, Dog Years
Ignorant, stubborn, emotionless, Brian has been reduced to a big costumed brick called Britanic. As if to enhance the removal of personality, of person, his eyes are milked over pure white.
Ironically, the hair has gone even wilder, longer and uncombed now. Big, wild mane.
Warren Ellis, Casey Jones, Rob Haynes, Jason Martin, Scott Koblish
Excalibur #102, After the Bomb
A ponytail cannot hold back all of Brian’s freedom-seeking hair! Still a big, broad muscleman, Captain Britain is here, as in most of this run, in real clothes, and he’s got a personality again, chatting with his girlfriend as they fix a plane and she doesn’t propose but just tells him they should set a date for their wedding.
We spent so long getting away from Brian being smart, being educated, and Britanic would never have a romance at all. This is a cumulative take, absorbing everything we’ve seen previously, for their best elements, and shaving off the dumb or annoying.
Paul Cornell, Leonard Kirk, Jay Leisten, Joe Caramagna
Captain Britain and MI 13 – Vampire State
Short hair, soft face. Compassionate and intelligent. Brian is a widower, but he is not ready to process being a widower. He is still trying to be a good husband.
A giant cry from what will come after, as we will see, Paul Cornell writes Brian as a man who has seen things. And, Leonard Kirk puts it on his face, in his eyes. Brian isn’t a hero because Captain Britain is a superhero; Captain Britain is a superhero because Brian Braddock is a good guy.
Rick Remender, Gabriel Hardman, Bettie Breitweiser, Chris Eliopoulos
Secret Avengers #22, New Life
I believe Rick Remender is the first writer we are showcasing a page from, without a residential connection to Britain, with Claremont being an American who had lived in the UK and every other of the writers being British.
Superhero superhero book, and Captain Britain is the resident out of touch blowhard. Self-important, preachy, a bit unaware of the real world or, at least, the American. And, despite being incredibly powerful, he is (necessarily) shut up by a sticky arrow from a normative human archer.
Andy Lanning, Alan Cowsill, Richard Elson, Rachelle Rosenberg
Revolutionary War: Omega – No More Heroes
More than a standard-bearer, a flag-bearer, Captain Britain as the standard. As the bright and steady of Britain, many of the future and hope.]
Britain is, as in the page from MI 13, contrasted and balanced with Pete Wisdom, the former government assassin who would never wear a costume, especially not one that’s a flag.
Note that, at his most human, Brian Braddock is show in headshots or bust, but as a superhero, the emphasis is largely full figure, both to get his costume in, but also his physique. That showing his eyes as totally white, in mask or not, removes our attachment to him as a person, our empathy for his perspective. That, outside of the Britanic scene and the page from Secret Avengers, he also makes eye contact, directly, with everyone. He looks at people when he’s talking to them, or because they’re in the room.
That Brian, by British writers, is not Captain America, but he is the superhero, he is, even, more superhero than other superhumans in the room. He’s the good guy.
I can’t think of another superhero who is so equally treated as the smart one and the buffoon. Even Hank McCoy, the X-Man and Avenger known as Beast, is more a deliberate clown, while Captain Britain, when he’s clownish, is accidentally so. But, even then, someone will come along and remind us he is bright, educated, and caring. He is constantly putting a roof over others’ heads, fighting for others’ jobs and that they are afforded appropriate respect. His romance with Meggan, from when they first were getting to know each other, to their time as superhero teammates, their marriage, the time period he thought he was a widower, to their reunion, is one of the grand superhero romances, the great superhero love stories.
In many other books, Meggan would be the butt of jokes, the ugly boy-chaser, the dumb blonde, the dumb monster-girl. There is something in the quality of talent who have handled their romance, for the most of it, or in the characters themselves, that inspires that talent to treat them fairly and brightly as a couple. Meggan might be too good for the dumber end of Captain Britain takes, but she elevates him out of those takes, too, or out of their depth of poor-handling, because if she sees it in him, it must be there.
Captain Britain in Ten Pages
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