Created in 1976 for Marvel UK, Captain Britain (an identity most famously held by Brian Braddock) has become a fixture in the United Kingdom of the main Marvel Universe. Originally an equivalent of Captain America, Captain Britain (a label at various times worn by Braddock, his sister Elizabeth, and teacher Kelsey Leigh Kirkland) has become a larger symbol for the United Kingdom and its mythology in Marvel Comics. Despite the character’s in universe importance (including his Alan Moore introduced membership in the Captain Britain Corps, a multiversal team of British heroes embodying the spirit of various alternate Britains), none of the iterations of Captain Britain have enjoyed mainstream success.
Most of the versions of Captain Britain are empowered by characters inspired by Arthurian mythos Merlyn and his daughter Roma. Originally approaching Brian Braddock when he was fleeing a super villain attack on the nuclear power plant where he worked, Merlyn and Roma offer the characters a choice between the Amulet of Right and the Sword of Might Braddock choosing the Amulet, Years later, when Braddock approached Kelsey Leigh Kirkland to act as his successor after the latter sustained a fatal injury during a superbattle in Great Britain, Kirkland chose the Sword, letting her develop as a grimmer alternative to the Silver Bronze Age influenced Braddock era Captain Britain (Elizabeth Braddock, more famous as the XMen character Psylocke, used her psychic powers as substitutes for the magical empowerment of the other characters). This empowerment, and the patriotic costume developed under Alan Moore, has allowed writers to use the character to comment on the nature of British society whether Chris Claremont in the 1970s presenting Brian Braddock, an impoverished English aristocrat, as a stand in for all Britons, or Paul Cornell’s vision of a more inclusive Captain Britain in the pages of 2008-2009’s Captain Britain and M13.
The Brian Braddock Captain Britain debuted in 1976 in the pages of Captain Britain, a weekly comic published by Marvel UK. (Elizabeth Braddock would briefly assume the role a decade later, while
Kelsey Kirkland debuted in 2004 in the pages of Avengers). After the original Captain Britain comic closed a year after it began publication, the character appeared first in Marvel Team Up in 1978 (teaming up with Spiderman, like many new Marvel characters), then moved to the pages of various Marvel UK anthology comics like Hulk (1979-1980), M arvel Superheroes (1981-1982), The Daredevils (1983), and the famous Alan Moore era The Mighty World of Marvel (1983-1985). The character’s most famous appearance for American audiences was in the pages of Chris Claremont 1987-1998 XMen spin off Excalibur as leader of the titular team, which drew heavily on the multiversal mythology established by Alan Moore. The character last headlined a book under the pen of Paul Cornell from 2008-2009 in Captain Britain and M13.
Created by Americans for a British audience, reimagined by British authors in the 1980s and 2000s, Captain Britain remains obscure even in the popular culture of the character’s homeland. With no prospects for an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and only cameos in Marvel Animation, the character’s prospects for mainstream success remain thin. But with Panini Comics’ recent revival of the Marvel UK line, as well as the character’s inclusion in ongoing comics arcs such as Jonathan Hickman’s Time Runs Out,Captain Britain’s adventures in comic books will continue for the foreseeable future.
— Dr. Michael A. Davis