In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, discover the surprising reason why Captain Britain got a new costume in Excalibur in the late 1980s
Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and seventy-eighth installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends.This time around, all of the legends will involve British superheroes. Click here for the first legend of this installment.
Alan Davis designed a new costume for Captain Britain in Excalibur because no one knew how to color the other one
In 1976, Marvel introduced Captain Britain in the pages of the British comic book series, Captain Britain #1 (which consisted of a new story starring Captain Britain by Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe and Fred Kida, as well as reprints of other Marvel comic book series, including Jim Steranko's acclaimed Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.). The comic was produced in the United States under an American editor and then shipped to England to be published there...
WHO DESIGNED CAPTAIN BRITAIN'S COSTUME AND WHY WAS IT CHANGED?
The designer of Captain Britain's costume is somewhat lost to history. At the time, John Romita was designing most of the costumes for new Marvel comic book characters, so it is MOST likely that it is his design, but no one seems to be sure. Trimpe noted to Nigel Lowery in TwoMorrows' Back Issue #29 that it wasn't him, but he didn't know who (he assumed it was Romita).
In any event, the costume worked the Union flag in with the Lion Rampant symbol on the chest. The issue with a Lion Rampant symbol is that while it certainly had a history with England, it's a much bigger Scottish symbol (it is not non-existent in England, of course), to the point where Alan Davis joked to Eric Nolen-Weathington in TwoMorrows' Modern Masters: Alan Davis that the symbol was mostly used to denote the freshness of eggs at the time, so people used to joke that Captain Britain was "a good egg."
In any event, Marvel UK editor Paul Neary then hired Alan Davis to re-design Captain Britain's costume as part of a brand-new Captain Britain feature in the pages of the otherwise all-reprint series, Marvel Super-Heroes #377...
Davis was VERY early into his comic book career at the time (so early that there is a funny story about his first Captain Britain story that I'll deal with in the very next legend), so it is amazing just how much he hit this costume out of the park. It takes the same basic concept of Captain America (you know, wrap the guy in the flag of his country) but does so in a bold and new style. It's an absolutely FANTASTIC costume, and I think that it is no coincidence that while Captain Britain has gone through a number of different costumes over the years, this Davis costume design from over 40 years ago is still the one that artists will eventually return to in their designs (it's rare for a costume change made five years into a character's life becomes THIS iconic. Another good example of that would be Greg Capullo's Quasar re-design but, well, that's a totally different tangent, so let's move on).
Davis remained as the artist on Captain Britain's feature as he went through a few different writers, until eventually Davis himself was the writer on the character at the end of his last Marvel UK series in the mid-1980s. Davis then became a popular penciler in the United States, but Chris Claremont (who had created Captain Britain back in the day) convinced Davis to return to Marvel's England for a new series, Excalibur, launching with a one-shot that drew the characters together (basically three former members of the X-Men and Captain Britain and his girlfriend, Meggan)...
and then an ongoing series (Davis' old Marvel UK editor, Neary, was his inker on the book)...
Note that Captain Britain's costume remained the same. That would not last, and the reason why is pretty amusing.
WHY DID CAPTAIN BRITAIN GET A NEW COSTUME IN EXCALIBUR?
You see, the problem with the costume was that there are so many little details in the costume that make it really difficult for the colorists on the series. Look at how hard it was to keep it all on Davis's costume model in the early issues of Excalibur...
As you can see, they're BASICALLY there...
but there are just subtle details that constantly get missed (and these are the restored versions of these comics, I don't know if the original issues were even MORE off book. I doubt it, but it's possible)...
It reminds me of my "Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design," which is basically that you have to keep in mind that your costume design will be drawn by all sorts of artists with all sorts of different styles, and if your design is too complicated or ornate, that stuff will typically go missing, and that's pretty much the case for Captain Britain.
So Davis, in Excalibur #13, decided to just have Captain Britain's costume get torn and thus he takes on the costume of a Captain Britain from a different dimension and, as you can see, it is VERY simplified, design-wise...
It's still a very striking costume, and it maintains most of the main elements from the original costume, so it still works very well. It's still a very nice thing for Davis to do for his collaborators.
Thanks to Nigel Lowery, Eric Nolen-Weathington and, of course, the man himself, Alan Davis, for the great information!
In the latest Movie Legends Revealed - Did Rin Tin Tin receive the most votes for Beat Actor at the very first Academy Awards?
PART THREE SOON!
Check back soon for part 3 of this installment's legends!
Feel free to send suggestions for future comic legends to me at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com