The Return of the Marvel UK Heroes: An interview with Alan Cowsill

Revolutionary War Issue 4 - Variant Cover by Liam Sharp (Colour by Ryan Brown).

Revolutionary War Issue 4 – Variant Cover by Liam Sharp (Colour by Ryan Brown).

Unless you’ve been living under a stone, you’ll be aware we’ve been giving a lot of coverage to Marvel’s Revolutionary War series, featuring the return of the Marvel UK heroes first created at the instigation of the company’s Editorial Director, Paul Neary, back in 1992 here on downthetubes.net. I’ll freely admit this perhaps unusual dalliance with superheroes is down to my former role in their creation as editor of some of the original books – and that many of the creators involved back then are still friends today.

The second issue of the eight issue series, Dark Angel, written by Kieron Gillen, is on sale now in all good comic shops, and sales are brisk in the UK as longtime Marvel UK fans soak up the return of at least some of the company’s final push to create a whole range of British superheroes and villains almost 25 years ago, before it was absorbed by Panini UK.

Alan Cowsill. Photo: Gary Gilbert

Alan Cowsill. Photo: Gary Gilbert

Andy Lanning

Andy Lanning

The Revolutionary War storyline is the brainchild of British comic creators Alan Cowsill and Andy Lanning, who came up with the overall story arc that not only brings back Marvel UK’s most fondly-remembered characters but also provided a never-before-seen finale to their battles in the first issue, Revolutionary War: Alpha.

Alan, who was an editor at Marvel UK, has a long history in British comics, first as a comics dealer but as the co-creator of Stormwatcher for Acme/Eclipse (drawn by Andrew Currie), Kilkane for Deadline Magazine and was an editor at Games Workshop before joining Marvel UK (later Panini UK). In recent years he’s edited Cartoon Network Magazine before joining Eaglemoss Publishing, where he developed the Horrible Histories Collection; and edited the Spirit of Hope charity anthology for the Comic Book Alliance.

His stunning-looking graphic novel simply titled World War One, drawn by Lalit Kumar Sharma, will be released by Indian publishers Campfire next month.

We caught up with Alan to ask him about the project and find out if, just maybe, this won’t be the last will see of a revived Death’s Head II, Dark Angel, Motormouth et al…

Revolutionary War Part 1: Alphadownthetubes: How did the idea for Revolutionary War come about?

Alan Cowsill: The original idea was Andy’s. He realised it was twenty years or so since the Marvel UK era and thought there were some stories left to tell. He knew I had a lot of love for those characters from my time as editor on Overkill (following on from some talented Marvel editor by the name of John Freeman, I believe…) and from writing the unpublished Roid Rage and Death Duty series from back then. We got together and started throwing ideas about and almost instantly the characters popped back to life… I think there was a lot of unfinished business there!

If I’m honest, I think they were all great characters but some didn’t really live up to the premise first time around, while others just got loss in the massive publishing glut of the mdi-1990’s.

downthetubes: Once you’d got the go ahead, were you advised on what characters should lead the series of did you already have the core characters from the original “Marvel UK Genesis” in mind – Death’s Head, Dark Angel, Motormouth, Warheads, Knights of Pendragon?

Black Axe only makes a cameo in Revolutionary War, in the Battle of London shown in Revolutionary War: Alpha.

Black Axe only makes a cameo in Revolutionary War, in the Battle of London shown in Revolutionary War: Alpha.

Alan Cowsill: The nice thing about the project is we could do whatever we wanted. We selected the characters we wanted to feature and use to explore the story arc.

There were a lot of characters I’d like to have brought out of retirement, such as Black Axe, Wild Thing and Death Wreck – but they just didn’t fit the story and we didn’t just want to shoehorn them in for the hell of it…

downthetubes: The Super Soldiers book is perhaps less well known than some of the other MUK titles. What was the reason for including them?

Alan Cowsill: That’s on me. I was originally up for writing Super Soldiers but didn’t make the cut back in the day. But Roid Rage, a series I was due to write back then (and illustrated by Andrew Currie and Bryan Hitch) was a Super Soldiers spin off, so I had a lot of love for the series.

I think, originally, it was a series that found it’s voice a little too late. Rob Williams has done a spectacular job of making them be relevant though.

Only the writer of this piece and co-writer Brian Williamson really remember Shadow Riders, but we're darned if they'll be forgotten!

Only the writer of this piece and co-writer Brian Williamson really remember Shadow Riders, but we’re darned if they’ll be forgotten!

downthetubes: can we expect to see cameos from a lot of Marvel UK characters? Killpower? The Gene Dogs? Gun Runner? Shadow Riders? Killpower? Tuck?

Alan Cowsill: There are a lot of cameos – and there’s one no-one will guess! I can almost guarantee it. There are a few more that should make old school fans squee.

The story was the prime thing though so any cameos are rally extras for tje log term reader. There’s the odd spread, like the Battle of London Bridge scene in Revolutionary War: Alpha, that’s kind of like a Marvel UK Where’s Wally…

As for Tuck…  well, it’ll be interesting to see what people think of Tuck…

Revolutionary War Issue 4 - Varinat Cover by Liam Sharp (Inks)

Liam Sharp’s inks for the variant cover to Revolutionary War #4

downthetubes: The three years that Marvel UK was operating to publish US books alongside its regular UK titles were white hot and fondly remembered by many involved. A lot of creators who worked on the titles have gone on to become big names in the industry. What made the projects so special?

Alan Cowsill: I think it was the attitude. British writers are a cynical bunch of bastards and that’s reflected in all the Marvel UK characters (and pretty much every other British hero post Action). I think that attitude makes them stand out form their American counterparts.

downthetubes: You’ve got a lot of the original artists involved in the project. Did anyone escape your clutches on this project that you really would have liked to be on board?

Alan Cowsill: Lots. Some even work for the Distinguished Competition. Liam was one of the main ones we anted though. A Death’s Head II comic without at least a Liam cover would have felt wrong. And his variant cover is rather ace. (Mind you, Mark Brooks covers are fab too).

downthetubes: Many of the books in this series are sub-headed #1 – does that mean there’s a chance some might go on to get a regular run if sales are string enough? How soon would Marvel be able to plan that?

Alan Cowsill: I should think it all depends on sales and response.

Some, such as Dark Angel, are already crossing over. I recently had the pleasure of reading Keiron Gillen’s Iron Man script that introduces her to the series [in the “Rings of the Mandarin” arc, the upcoming Luke Ross-illustrated saga starting in March – part of Marvel’s ongoing “All-New Marvel NOW!” campaign] and I think long time fans of the character will be very happy.

The others – at least those that survive the series! – will hopefully do the same.

All work and no play makes Marvel UK dull... Pictured are David Leach, Alan Cowsill, Bryan Hitch, Liam Sharp, Liam Sharp, Stuart Bartlett, Bambos Georgiou and Christina McCormack, in their costumes for the Lord Mayor's Show in 1993.

All work and no play makes Marvel UK dull… Pictured are editors David Leach, Alan Cowsill, artists Bryan Hitch, Liam Sharp, editors Stuart Bartlett, Bambos Georgiou and production guru Christina McCormack, in their costumes for the Lord Mayor’s Show in 1993. No, we’re not telling you who’s who.

downthetubes: You were heavily involved in the Marvel UK “Genesis” project in 1992 and 1993. What’s your favourite memory (or memories of the time?)

Death's Head II artist Liam Sharp in the Marvel UK 'Bullpen' - the Arundel House basement, circa 1994. Photo: Tim Quinn.

Death’s Head II artist Liam Sharp in the Marvel UK ‘Bullpen’ – the Arundel House basement, circa 1994. Photo: Tim Quinn.

Alan Cowsill: For me it’s the creators I met. As much fun as editorial was, I used to sneak down to the Bullpen as often as possible and check the artists were getting on with things. It was great to see people as talented as Liam, Bryan, Doug Braithwaite, Andrew Currie and Andy Lanning at work… although there was also usually the odd marketing person hiding under coats on the sofa nursing a hangover…

We also had a mean football team at the time. Andy Lanning, Glenn Dakin and Doug Braithwaite were pretty good footballers back then. Panini UK’s present boss Alan O’Keefe was a pretty good midfield masetro too. We even managed to pull off a draw with Barclays Bank once…. partly thanks to my own last minute goal line clearance (though my memory might be making that last bit up).

Punisher versus Death;'s Head: art by Bryan Hitch

Punisher versus Death;’s Head: art by Bryan Hitch. A Marvel UK project that never saw the light of day. More Missing in Action projects listed here

downthetubes: When the company was absorbed by Panini, did you feel there were a lot of missed opportunities when things went awry? Any projects you had waiting to go that didn’t get to see the light of day?

Alan Cowsill: I was one of the few editors to survive that move from London to Tunbridge Wells and it was a bit like Star Trek: Voyager, where we woke up to find ourselves at the farside of the universe after years of being in central London. There were some good projects scrapped.

Perhaps the one that would have been most interesting was David Leach’s Hyper, a 100 page magazine anthology in the mould of Deadline and Warrior.

downthetubes: Is there an MUK character you’d really like to have another crack at, if this mini series is a success and reignites interest in things Mys-TECH and British Stateside?

Alan Cowsill: Lots really! Both Warheads and Death’s Head(s) still have stories to be told – as do a lot of the others. Guess time will tell…

downthetubes: Alan, thank you very much for your time and best of luck with the series.

Revolutionary War: Dark Angel #1 is on sale now in all good comic shops and digital outlets

Check out our checklist of the Revolutionary War series for upcoming on sale dates

Read our Marvel UK’s “Genesis ’92″: Looking Back and What Might Have Been

Alan Cowsill’s Official web site

Andy Lanning on Twitter

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: Comic Creator Interviews, Comic Creator Spotlight, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, Featured News, US Comics

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5 replies

  1. Excellent interview. So glad that we’re seeing these characters again, loved the two issues so far….Hel…the Alpha issue featured Lance Hunter! Now thats scratching my Marvel UK obscure itch right there!

    • Lance Hunter first appeared in Captain Britain Weekly #19 (cover dated 16th February 1977) and was created by Gary Friedrich. Hunter is a Royal Navy Commander who became Director of S.T.R.I.K.E. before later gaining the rank of Commodore and becoming Joint Intelligence Committee Chair. Looks like Alan and Andy are having fun plundering Marvel UK chronology! For what it’s worth, I plundered Captain Britain Weekly when I wrote “Gene Dogs” for Marvel UK, drawn by Dave Taylor – reviving The Hurricane, the first human supervillain Captain Britain faced, from Captain Britain Weekly #4 (3rd November 1976). (I don’t count the guy he has to fight in #2 as a supervillain).

      • I wonder if Alan is planning to publish a guide to the cameos in Revolutionary War anywhere?

      • I really hope so, there’s probably some I’m missed in the first two….I only just found Black Axe on that two page spread from the Alpha one-shot. Loved the use of Hurricane in Gene Dogs John, some of those original villians from the Captain Britain Weekly were….odd…..Lord Hawk? And old bloke with a remote controlled hawk….that Brian made him….

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