Old Dotch's Marvel UK Blog

The blog for those who remember fondly the weekly comics by Marvel UK in the 1970s and 80s. I'll be looking at various interesting issues from the run and discussing what made Marvel UK comics so great. Please feel free to contribute any feedback and let me know if there are any issues or characters that you would like to see featured.


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Captain Britain Summer Special 1980

A few months after Captain Britain’s weekly comic was cancelled, he co-starred with The Black Knight in a long running story in Hulk Comic. Shortly after this, Captain Britain Summer Special 1980 was published. An interesting issue for several reasons, firstly, the Captain Britain story it contained was a heavily condensed version of a five part story that originally appeared in Captain Britain weekly issues #28-32. Cut from 35 pages to 23, it makes a great case study on how Marvel UK would set about editing such a story. Secondly, this issue contains two text articles putting the recent Captain Britain and Black Knight stories' continuity into perspective. Thirdly, there is a reprint of a vintage Black Knight story from 1955. Fourthly, we have a nice Doctor Strange story guest starring the Black Knight with some lovely art by Gene Colan. Lastly, the back page showcases the famous Captain Britain/ Captain America Jack Kirby pin-up. Lets take a closer look.

The cover picture is a montage of previously used artwork, the main picture taken from Pablo Marcos’s excellent cover for Captain Britain #36 (In fact there is absolutely no new artwork anywhere in this entire issue. How great it must have been to be asked to produce a Summer Special comic without using any artists). The frontispiece is basically the splash page from Captain Britain #30 With the removal of some text and word balloons. Nice enough art by John Buscema!

Note the advice to the readers of Captain Britain Summer Special that we should ”Smoke Player’s", not to mention drink "Skol". It really was a different era wasn’t it? Towards the beginning of the CB story, the editors cleverly reduced the page count by simply missing out entire pages. If the story seems a little disjointed when you read it, that’s because it is. To be fair, the second half is edited with a little more thought, with panels being re-organised and sub-plots deleted. For example, they missed out on my favourite ever Captain Britain moment, a quite unbelievable sequence in which Brian Braddock’s brother, Jamie, comes to Brian’s door and Brian, in the guise of his alter ego Captain Britain, punches Jamie so hard in the face he knocks him unconscious, then proceeds to tie him to a chair. Ah, the casual violence of 1970’s comics. Here are some of the condensed pages from CB Summer Special and the original pages from CB weekly for comparison, original page from CB weekly #31, page 4 on left, the edited version on right.

If it seems that the story ended abruptly, that’s because the ending was altered drastically with the addition of stock artwork of CB returning to Brian Braddock’s identity. In the original comics, the story continued into the next issue which started with Captain Britain strapped to a gurney and experiencing the end of the tale in flashback. Here are the two last pages side by side for easy comparison, the abrupt ending from the Summer Special on left, and the original page 8 from CB weekly #32.

Just to prove I wasn't making it up, here's the missing sequence from CB weekly #31 in which our hero bravely beats his brother unconscious and ties him to a chair for having the temerity to come round and offer his help. What a load of shite I hear you cry and who can argue?

The Black Knight story, while frankly a little dull, does invoke the style of the golden age of comics. It’s difficult to see how this story would have appealed much to the modern comic reader in 1980. Interestingly, credited to Stan Lee!

Here's the great text piece detailing the development of the Black Knight/Captain Britain Hulk weekly epic. It was a feature of dez Skinn's Marvel revolution that text articles started appearing in the UK Marvel comics. I always loved these, back then, remember we didnt have the internet and it was hard to come by this stuff otherwise.

Check out a couple of pages of gene Colan's great art from the Doctor Strange story (re-titled here as a Black knight story). I love the dynamic panel layout and sense of action in these pages.

There is another great text article in this issue, "Of Mortals and Magi". This crowbars the Black Knight series from Hulk Comic into established Marvel continuity. Great stuff, and for me, worth the cover price alone.

The absolutely stunning Kack Kirby pin-up on the back page requires no further comment from me.

All in all, a good Summer Special, the relatively crap story in the lead feature notwithstanding.

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