The Mighty World of Marvel UK

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Marvel comics have been publishing since the 1960’s and their shared universe has enjoyed countless successes both in print and on screen, but starting in the 1970’s Marvel was to find a niche 3000 miles from home with the origin of Marvel UK.

Marvel UK was originally intended as a vessel for reprints of earlier american comics already printed by Marvel, which were either anglicised or censored in some way to make them more palatable to the British market. This changed in 1976 with the introduction of Captain Britain Weekly. A new anthology style magazine featuring the exploits of the eponymous Captain Britain as the main feature and then made use of reprint material from Marvel’s american back catalogue to fill the rest.

By the end of the 1970s Marvel UK had been given the go ahead to create a whole world of new characters as well as having obtained the rights to a number of classic science fiction properties (Doctor Who, Transformers and Star Wars among them) and by the end of the 1980’s Marvel UK had made the move to printing the american format of comics that has become the industry standard (the only notable exception being 2000ad and its sister publication the Judge Dredd Megazine). But it was in this era that Marvel UK created some its best properties and that what this piece is going to look at now.

Captain Britain  

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Captain Britain was Marvel UK’s first attempt (and truthfully most successful attempt) at creating their own original content originally running for 39 issues Captain Britain proved both a hit with UK readers, but was later brought into the mainstream Marvel Canon becoming a member of Excalibur (along with various X-men) and serving as an Avenger,  as well as having his own US title in the late 2000’s.

Deaths Head/ Deaths Head II 

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Deaths Head was a robot bounty hunter from the future, he featured in the Marvel UK transformers, and made appearances in Doctor Who Weekly, and was eventually given his own title which lasted 10 issues. The Character was then revamped and became Deaths Head II (whose series last 16 issues). Deaths Head has remained a fan favourite, making cameos throughout Marvel comicdom to this date, whilst Deaths Head II was seen to be unpopular and lacking the originals charm and fanbase.

Dragons Claws

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Set in 8162 it follows The Claws a team of players in the mysterious game, along with their leader Dragon, as they try to win and stay ahead of the machinations of the  National Union of Retired Sports Experts. Lasting 10 issues this was Marvel UK’s first attempt at a US style format of comics.

Dark Angel

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Originally Hell’s Angel, but quickly changed to Hell’s Dark Angel and then simply Dark Angel following the threat of legal action from the biker gang the Hell’s Angels (who knew bikers could be so litigious?) was a 16 issue series that highlighted the life and adventures of Shevaun Haldane Hell’s Dark Angel. In the Middle Ages, a group of sorcerers were granted immortality by  Mephisto in exchange for a steady stream of sacrifices. One of these men, Ranaulph Haldane, was Shevaun’s father  When Shevaun was 21 years old, Mephisto killed her father for betraying him. Shevaun then saw the Angel of Death arrive for her father. The angel placed a fragment of the universe itself within Shevaun, and gave her a suit of body armour to control her powers. She used these powers to atone for her fathers sins, and begin repaying the debts that he owed the world.

Knights of Pendragon

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The Knights of Pendragon were formed to be agents of the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Knight is in ageless conflict with the Bane, an unnatural destructive force of warfare and winter, led by the Red Knight, the Green Knight’s adversary. The Green Knight invests power, to various groups throughout British history, to protect nature; one such group were the original Knights of the Round Table; the Knights of Pendragon are a modern-day incarnation. The Knights of Pendragon had two series (18 and 15 issues respectively) and team members of made sporadic appearances in Marvel US Titles over the last 20 years.

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The Best Pulp Sci-Fi Heroes

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Pulp Science Fiction has been a mainstay for literature, comic books, and the silver screen for almost a hundred years and has given many great adventures of daring do set throughout time and space, and sometimes even further. And whilst there is a strict formula for the delivery of a great pulp story, that often rings the same, that doesn’t make them any less fun, so here are some of the best from the last 100 years or more.

Flash Gordon

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originally created by Alex Raymond in a comic strip in 1934, Flash Gordon has been show in comics, radio serials. films and television and has even been adapted to the stage on numerous occasions, and even forms the basis of a Queen album. The stories generally tell the tale of the Earth man Flash Gordon as he is transported to the planet Mongo to lead revolution on the despotic rule of Ming the Merciless.

John Carter 

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A confederate soldier wakes up on the planet Mars, Joins a revolution against a despotic ruler and falls in love with a princess, are you starting to see a pattern here? Originally appearing in Edgar Rice Burroughs 1912 story a Princess of Mars, John Cater has appeared in novels, short stories, comic books and screen adaptations for over 105 years.

Adam Strange 

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Human Archaeologist Adam Strange is transported to the planet Rann where he falls in love with a princess and leads the revolution to put the princess in power and then in a twist is transported back to earth to pine, until it happens all over again.  (Seriously have you noticed the pattern here).

 

 

 

The Best European Superheroes

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I’ve been reading some troubling Brexit related news stories lately, and whilst it may be in vein, I am still committed to the Ideals of a united Europe. The EU has done so much for all the people who live in Britain, a minimum wage, maternity leave, so pretty good health and safety laws, and yes even some pretty good superheroes. So here is a look at some of the finest heroes from the European Union.

 

Banshee

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The emerald Isle’s very own Sean Cassidy, one of the second generation of X-men gifted with his very own sonic scream. Banshee died trying to prevent a plane crash before being resurrected in service to the twins of Apocalypse.

Crimson Fox

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IVivian and Constance D’Aramis shared the role of Crimson Fox to allow each something of a normal life, Crimson Fox originally appeared as part of Justice League Europe serving as a long time member until the death of both sisters.

Captain Britain

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Brian Braddock was a physicist working at the Darkmoor Nuclear Research Centre when the facility is attacked by the The Reaver Brian tries to find help by escaping on his motorbike. Although he crashes his bike in a nearly fatal accident, Merlyn and his daughter Roma appear and they give him the chance to be the superhero Captain Britain. He is offered a choice: the Amulet of Right or the Sword of Might. Considering himself to be no warrior, he rejects the Sword and chooses the Amulet. This choice transforms him into Captain Britain, the defender of the realm, Captain Britain has had a long career serving as founding member of the superhero team Excalibur, and serving with the Knights of Pendragon, The Avengers, the counter intelligence group MI13 and even as the leader of the ill fated Captain Britain Corps.

Empath

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Empath is a Spanish mutant appearing in Marvels X-Men titles coming from the town of Castille, Empath is recruited into the Hellions and then serves along with the X-Men until he betrayed them.

Wild Huntsman

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The reincarnated spirit of a Germanic Warrior, aided in his crusade for justice by his trusted hound, Donnerschlag, and his horse Orkan. He served as a member of the Global Guardians

The Best of DC’s Elseworlds

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Elseworlds is an imprint of DC comics, the basic premise of which is to take familiar characters from their comic roster and put them in altered surroundings, time periods, or imagine them with an altered backstory. The imprint came about in 1989 with the publication of Gotham by Gaslight, which re-imagined Batman in the Victorian Era and pitted him against none other than Jack The Ripper. Over the years DC has published 100’s of these so called imaginary tales, and here is a look at some of my favourite ones.

Batman: Dark Knight Dynasty

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The story follows a feud between the Wayne family and the immortal Vandal Savage, a feud which starts in the 13th century and ends in the 24th Century. The story is split into three parts, Dark Past which features a knight named Joshua Wainwright during the Crusades, Dark Present which features Bruce Wayne in the 20th century as Batman, and Dark Future , which features Brenna Wayne as Batwoman.

Superman: Red Son

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In Red Son, Superman’s rocket ship lands on a Ukrainian collective farm rather than in Kansas. Instead of fighting for “… truth, justice, and the American Way”, Superman is described in Soviet radio broadcasts “… as the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.”

Superman & Batman: Generations 1,2 &3

In which Superman and Batman age in real time from their first appearances in the 1930’s all the way through to the 30th century, the 3 series explores the dynamics of the two main characters, as well as their impact on their legacies.

Kingdom Come

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This story is set in a future that deals with a growing conflict between the visibly out-of-touch “traditional” superheroes, and a growing population of largely amoral and dangerously irresponsible new vigilantes, in many cases the offspring of the traditional heroes. Between these two groups is Batman and his assembled team, who attempt to contain the escalating disaster, foil the machinations of Lex Luthor, and prevent a world-ending superhuman war.

JSA The Liberty Files/ Unholy Three

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The Liberty File Set in Egypt, 1942, the Bat (a.k.a. Batman) has been ordered to work with two new partners, the Clock (a.k.a. Hourman) and the Owl (a.k.a. Doctor Mid-Nite), as a group codenamed the Unholy Three. Their mission is to find Jack the Grin (a.k.a. the Joker), a smuggler who has stolen information about an unidentified German secret weapon.

And in its sequel, The Unholy Three  set In 1948, with the war over, the Bat is now fighting criminals in Gotham City. He had briefly worked with the Clock and Mister Terrific, but Sloane blamed him for his fiancee’s death and said he couldn’t work with him. The Clock also retired to his civilian identity of Rex Tyler and returned to running his company. The Bat and the Clock are re-activated as government agents when two former KGB agents, the Parasite and Steelwolf, are working for an unknown employer. They are killing superheroes and seeking a plan called the Trigger. The Bat and the Clock are introduced to Clark Kent (a.k.a. Superman) a new agent who, despite his inexperience, is placed in charge of the group.

Comic Review: Son Of Superman

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Crossing off another of the 30 comic books that I want to have read by the time I turn 30, here is a little review of the Son Of Superman. The story takes place outside of the regular DC Comics Continuity and sees the development of Superman’s Son and how having powers affects his life after Superman has been absent for 15 years and then returns to find his old friends in the Justice League completely corrupt under the influence of Lex Luthor and The US Government.

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It was a fun little story, but it wasn’t anything special, although there are some elements here that appear in the 2006 film Superman Returns. The Art was OK, again nothing special, but overall it was enjoyable, just nothing to shout about either.

Batman Model

I’ve been mucking about with some more ideas for wedding centrepieces here is part of a batman themed one that I have been working on.

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As you can see, the GCPD headquarters is only partially finished, as I have to add a great deal of graffiti and some other bits, but it should be done in good time for the wedding.

Comic Review: Sandman Preludes and Nocturnes

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The Sandman series is one of those keystones of the comic industry that I have been meaning to read since not long after I starting reading comics when I was 13, its only taken me 15 years to get around to crossing the first volume off my list, (it actually was on my list of 30 comics to read before I’m Thirty).

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Reading the Sandman was actually spurred on a bit by watching Foxes Lucifer (the comic it was based on is actually a spin off/ sequel of the Sandman) I was curious about the characters, the world and the background.

This volume focuses on Morpheus who is the legendary Sandman, Dream of the Endless, ruler of the Dreamworld. It looks at the consequences of the Sandman’s imprisonment away from the wider universe and how he picks up his life after that imprisonment ends. The story is set in the DC universe seeing cameo appearances from characters such as Wesley Dodds (the golden age Sandman of the JSA), Mister Miracle and the Martian Manhunter of the Justice League International, the Demon Etrigan and the Hellblazer John Constantine, and this was something that surprised me as I had assumed, I now see somewhat erroneously, that comics published under DC Comics Vertigo line were of a separate continuity (similar to the Wildstorm Universe), but it was nice to see a few familiar faces mainly because the familiar is somewhat comforting, especially as I was expecting something completely new and disjointed from what I had read before.

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Neil Gaiman’s writing is something that I’ve often found somewhat hit or miss, I’ve liked things like Stardust and Good Omens, but haven’t been to fond of things such as the Eternals or Neverwhere, and have been on the fence about things such as The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch. But this first instalment of the Sandman is rich and deep, even the minor throwaway characters are well rounded and thought provoking. Its definitely a grown up piece of work with many layers to it, it may even require a re read just to pick up on all the subtle references that Gaiman makes throughout the work.

The artwork provided by Sam Kieth and  Mike Dringenberg is definitely worthy of an adult aimed comic, its visually rich and the colours really stand out, even the black (and there is a lot) somehow manages to still pop out from the page and catch the eye

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Since reading this volume I’ve actually gone out and purchased the rest of the series, the prequel and several spin offs, all because I enjoyed it that much and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the post man to bring me more to devour. And when I’m through with them, you can bet your arse that I’m going to writing some more killer comic reviews on the subject.