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The reinvention of Captain Britain

Nic Rigby
BBC News

image copyrightMarvel
image captionIn 1977 Captain Britain and Captain America joined forces to tackle neo-Nazis

When rumours of a planned TV series featuring the cult comic book superhero Captain Britain were recently confirmed, fans of the Lycra-clad righter of wrongs were thrilled. But how should a character whose first battles were in the pages of Marvel's comics in the 1970s be rebooted for a 21st Century audience?

After a motorcycle accident as he fled an armed raid at the Darkmoor nuclear research facility in northern England, the mild-mannered scientist Brian Braddock was revived by the mystical Merlyn and imbued with superhuman powers. Captain Britain was born.

The Captain's earliest adventures in a decade of punk rock, wide lapels and the Three Day Week were very much a product of those turbulent times.

Perhaps his most celebrated feat was to rescue the prime minister of the day, James Callaghan, who had been kidnapped by the Red Skull gang.

Captain Britain, created by Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe, first appeared in Marvel's comics in 1976, as a European response to Captain America. (Comic book legend Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, would take charge of the title in the early 1980s and give the character a grittier edge.)

Rumours of the Captain's 21st Century reinvention for the small screen emerged via a tweeted sketch of his new look and were soon confirmed by US-based television producer Chris Lark.

image copyrightCiara McAvoy/Twitter
image captionScottish artist Ciara McAvoy has provided a visualisation of a new Captain Britain for the producers

Prolific US author Matt Forbeck, who is behind the Marvel Encyclopedia among many other works, sees the successful reboot of Captain America as providing a template for the new Captain Britain.

"He went from being a cheesy superhero type to a much more nuanced character, more suited for the modern age," said Forbeck.

"I loved him [Captain Britain] in the 1980s, he was such a colourful character, and it would be fun to see him redefined for the new millennium."

image copyrightMarvel

Captain Britain

  • The alter-ego of Brian Braddock, who was born to an upper-class family in Maldon, Essex, and lived in Braddock Hall
  • Braddock was educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh (as was Tony Blair)
  • As is often the case with superheroes - Peter Parker, Bruce Banner and Clark Kent - Brian Braddock has a pleasingly alliterative name
  • The Captain is 6ft 6in (2m) tall and weighs 18st 6lb (117kg)
  • While wearing his costume, he has superhuman strength and can lift about 90 tons in weight
  • Has blond hair and one blue eye - his left eye is missing
  • Endowed with a genius-level intellect, he is a brilliant physicist and engineer
  • Like many British people, the Captain has a prodigious appetite for alcohol

Chris Claremont, who co-created Captain Britain for Marvel on the instruction of Stan Lee almost 40 years ago, said the character was an interesting prospect for TV as he always "tries to represent the ideal of Britain and its island heritage, like Robin Hood, but he must never lose sight of his humanity".

"He wants to do the right thing."

He sees the Captain as "not just defending Britain but defending the world from pan-dimensional surprises", in a way similar to the example of the latest reboot of Doctor Who, which has played around with time and parallel universes.

"You can go in any direction with that," added Claremont. "If they do it well, it could be a lot of fun."

image copyrightMarvel

Claremont, who also created a host of X-Men characters, said if he had been considering actors to play the Captain in the 1970s or 1980s he might have looked at someone like Harrison Ford, but now he thinks Tom Hiddleston - tipped to be the next James Bond - "would be someone who could bring something subtle to the part".

He said Hiddleston could offer a physicality to the part yet pull off the human side of the role.

image copyrightMarvel
image captionCaptain Britain was created by Chris Claremont (pictured) and Herb Trimpe in 1976

"I was looking at Britain from the perspective of someone growing up in the 50s," Claremont added. "Now it is 2016 and Britain has seen extraordinary changes.

"Who is to say Captain Britain would have to be white? We could have Idris Elba as Captain Britain."

Television producers Chris Lark and Eleni Larchanidou said it was too early to predict who might land the role.

"We have a small list of possible actors, but we are in the very early stages. We are working on a script and working on a budget, and looking to put the idea to Marvel early in 2017," said Lark.

He added that with the recent success of superhero-based TV series such as Daredevil and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there is an appetite for more of the same.

image copyrightMarvel
image captionComic book creator of Watchmen Alan Moore wrote Captain Britain stories in the 1980s

Lark is a long-standing Captain Britain enthusiast and has a genuine passion for the character he is trying to help redefine for television.

"I was first a fan of a fan of the X-Men comics and I read Excalibur magazine that all my friends were reading and it featured Captain Britain," he said. "And I wanted to find out more and more about Captain Britain and bought his solo series of comics.

"He was not just a traditional hero like Captain America who runs around with his shield, he's much more interesting.

"I think he is a fascinating character that would be a really good focus for a series," Lark added.

"He was a scientist that had these magical powers that he could not explain as a scientist.

"Like a lot of Marvel heroes, he is not all sunshine and happiness."

Related Topics

  • Maldon
  • Marvel Comics
  • Graphic novels

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