Captain Britain, 40 Years On – What Next For Marvel’s Very British Superhero?

Secret Wars #2 2015 - Esad Ribic Variant Cover

October see the 40th anniversary of the ‘birth’ of Captain Britain in Captain Britain Weekly, but what’s next for the Marvel hero?

Last month, Marvel UK and Captain Britain fan Mark Roberts published a feature recounting news about a potential Captain Britain TV project on his It Came From Darkmoor blog. He’s kindly given us permission to re-run his article…

One of the central problems of running a blog such as It Came From Darkmoor (which since its inception has been a Marvel UK “News Site”) is that in order for it to function as originally intended there also has to be some actual news to report. To be brutally honest, this past six months, that is something which has really not been quite as readily forthcoming as I would have hoped.

I look back to March last year, and Captain Britain was on Esad Ribic’s variant front cover of the upcoming (at that time) Secret Wars #2, wielding that ridiculously massive sword. I recall the hope I had at that time that Brian (or Jamie for that matter) Braddock might finally be getting the opportunity to play a proper, tangible, role in a Marvel crossover event. That a significant front of centre positioning on that #2 cover would therefore lead to playing a further role in that storyline.

As we now know, that was not to be.

I think back to San Diego Comic Con in July, and noting with enthusiasm that Death’s Head was visible on a slide of other characters slated to be given books in “All-New All-Different” Marvel.

Death's Head at Sand Diego Comic Con 2015

Hercules, The Black Knight, Starbrand, Nightmask, Red Wolf… There were some relatively obscure names up there. But now, having seen several of those titles not only having launched, but in some cases now also been cancelled (The Black Knight cancelled all too soon), there is no sign of Old Horn-head alongside them.

That’s all gone very quiet, unfortunately.

Well, now it’s 2016. This coming October marks the 40th Anniversary of the first issue of Captain Britain.

Captain Britain Weekly Issue 8. Art by Herb Trimpe

The cover of Captain Britain Weekly Issue 8. Art by Herb Trimpe

That’s kind of a landmark birthday, I’m sure you’d agree. 40 years since Chris Claremont and the late Herb Trimpe introduced readers to Brian Braddock and his own corner of Marvel’s Universe, in Captain Britain Weekly. Among those of us who have followed the character (through thick and in increasingly thin) I think a fair few of us were hoping that this might well be the time for Marvel to celebrate that landmark.

Maybe a new series? He’d been getting a bit of push on New Avengers before Secret Wars hit. It didn’t seem implausible. Maybe with a recognised creative team – to give it a bit of profile?

Heck, Bleeding Cool were even speculating that last year, in relation to Miracleman and Fables artist Mark Buckingham talking about having a long held desire to work on the character.

Now wouldn’t that be something?

With all these things placed together, was it really unreasonable to hope that something might come of that in ‘All-New All-Different’ Marvel?

Well, sadly that too seems not to be on the cards.

Comic Book Resources has a regular chinwag with Marvel EiC Axel Alonso named ‘Axel-In-Charge’, for which readers are asked to pose questions for the man himself through a dedicated questions thread on their forum. Quite a few people raised the question of Cap’s 40th birthday, and plans for the character on that that thread in the Autumn. Something which for several weeks did seem to fall on deaf ears. Nevertheless, it did kept cropping up.

However, when CBR finally did raise the question (and CBR sadly neglected to mention the 40th anniversary) the reply was as follows:

CBR: Any chance of Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze and Captain Britain showing in the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe?

Axel Alonso: There are no current plans for Captain Britain, and sketchy plans for Johnny Blaze. Unless. Wait. Sounds like a buddy book…

Certainly not what long time fans of the character were wanting to hear.

Possibly even less wanted however was the news that with the final issue of the Secret Wars event, and the realignment of Marvel’s multiverse after that event, perhaps Captain Britain’s most significant contribution to Marvel Comics as a whole – the naming of its universe – has now been erased.

While in the new continuity the universe itself is to most intents and purposes the same as it was before (with a few additions – Miles Morales, Old Man Logan, etc) it is now to be known as the “Prime Earth” and “Earth 616” is no more.

Yes, it’s not the end of the world (well, figuratively speaking anyway) but most definitely not the greatest of starts to Captain Britain’s 40th Anniversary Year.

Sigh.

Still, I don’t want to get too bogged down with negativity here. That doesn’t really help anybody. I’m always on the lookout for any more positive Marvel UK news, and early last month I came across the following tweet from Scottish based poster artist Ciara McAvoy:

Caira McAvoy has done work for a number of movie studios and production companies. She paints in oils, with incredible detail. The Benedict Cumberbatch Doctor Strange picture pinned on her feed is a strong example of that. But at the time, I dismissed it as a private project, likely for her own amusement. There are many people across the landscape of the internet who have done mock up movie artwork for their chosen Captain Britain subject. People fancasting what a TV series or Movie could look like. As far as I knew, this was another example.

Then a couple of weeks ago, this happened:

Upcoming what now?

A Captain Britain TV series? That certainly seemed unlikely.

But was it implausible? I mean this was a professional poster artist here. No such TV project had been announced, and you would expect that if Marvel were working on such a project then anybody involved with it would be under the terms of a pretty hefty non-disclosure agreement.

But, still…

Suddenly that started to sound a lot more promising. People started questioning McAvoy.

And at that point tongues started wagging.

NDA or no, this was apparently paid work. Could it actually be that this was a credible leak from a genuine series in development?

Fan sites and bloggers started reporting it, including IGN.

Things were suddenly picking up.

Since Marvel started dabbling with TV projects I think that quite a few of us have probably fancasted a series in our heads. Both Captain Britain and the MI13 setup are quite plausible concepts for a TV series. Alternate universes, magic, swords and sorcery, the supernatural – these are things which British science fiction does so well. Pair that with a lead character whose powers are connected to the collective conscious of the whole Country (in a very tangible way) and you could have a show which not only explores the usual superhero tropes but what it actually means to be ‘British’ in the modern world, also.

When Captain Britain dies the whole country feels it in their very soul. When they’re behind him he has near godlike strength, but if that mantle fell, if that public confidence waned, all of that could just as easily fall away.

Who wouldn’t want to see storylines such as the Jaspers Warp adapted for television? Or finally seeing a British version of Betsy Braddock? Heck, we assume that 20th Century Fox own the rights to Pete Wisdom (through Excalibur being an X-Office title) but could Agents of SHIELD‘s Lance Hunter (a Captain Britain supporting cast member of old, remember) be a suitable replacement?

Well, hold those thoughts.

Just don’t get too excited yet.

The following day Caira McAvoy revealed just who it was that she was working with. One producer named Chris Lark, of Cool Mint Productions, and a co-producer named Eleni Larchanidou.

And this is where the story starts to seem a lot less plausible.

A little research into Christopher Lark, and Cool Mint Productions, pretty much only yields a single, quite sparsely populated, company website.

The company describes itself as “small but talented US Independent (a.k.a. “Indie”) Film & TV Production Company with the big goal to see its big film & TV visions through to a larger (as in worldwide) viewing audience.”

Small, sadly, is not an exaggeration. I can find no listing for either Lark (at least this Chris Lark) or a company of that name on IMDB. Their website lists no previous paid work. A student film project named The Journey is listed. But that’s all. No past industry experience seems to be forthcoming for either.

Which is never a good sign.

Eleni Larchanidou, on the other hand, does have one completed credit on IMDB, as Executive Producer on an indie horror movie called Wonder Valley. Although it is rather unclear as to when/if that movie actually came out. Both 2013 and 2015 are given as dates for the movie, nobody has reviewed it and there is no plot summary added.

That said, she does have a more expansive bio on the business site LinkedIn, noting her work sourcing finance, with projects on her plate that include “a high concept Sci-Fi franchise”, Mortal Guard, and a film set in the British music industry, Creative Differences, written by Christopher Lark, which has its own Facebook page here.

For those of us excited by the idea of a Captain Britain series, this lack of track record is, perhaps, not a good sign.

I can’t say with any authority that I know exactly how it is that Marvel Studios do business, but I think that it’s relatively safe to say that on past form they have always aimed to work with companies and individuals who have well-proven track records. A body of work which can be used to prove their ability.

That does not seem to exist here. Yet, any way.

While it’s not unusual for Marvel to work with a third party Production Company on its TV productions, it’s usually because the company is connected to a high profile individual who has a direct connection to the work. Joss Whedon‘s Mutant Enemy, for example, on Agents of SHIELD. Or Melissa Rosenberg‘s Tall Girls Productions on Jessica Jones.

But in each case Marvel Television and ABC Studios (both part of Disney’s umbrella of creative companies) has been the principle company behind each show. They choose the Property from their list of IPs and then they choose who to work with in developing it.

That’s the key detail. Marvel and Disney choose.

And I find it relatively unlikely that they would be willing to take on a producer and company without proven experience of working on and producing TV drama.

A Highlight Reel? For a series which doesn’t yet exist?

And that’s the point that the penny drops.

This isn’t a series. There is no planned development. This was artwork for a prospective Pitch.

Don’t get me wrong here. Ciara McAvoy has been paid to do artwork for this, but I wouldn’t be getting too many hopes up. This is a couple of producers, hoping to get an audience with Marvel to pitch a project.

Will Marvel Studios be likely to grant an audience for such a pitch, from a company without a track record? I cannot say for certainty. But I would imagine it not to be terribly likely for that to occur.

Phrases such as “to take to Marvel for 2017 with hopes of them helping us with the series” are kind of the giveaway to me. Marvel wouldn’t be helping these guys make a show. Cool Mint Productions don’t own Captain Britain. They couldn’t make this series on their own, because Marvel own that IP. Captain Britain is their product. Not the other way around.

And while I don’t know either as individuals, I would also speculate that two random independent film makers from New Mexico would possibly not be the most natural of candidates to understand how best to develop and tell the story of British based series, about a set of British characters.

No. Sorry. That’s the point where my suspension of disbelief in the rumour finally snapped. I wish them luck, but I’m out.

The only way a Captain Britain TV series is ever likely to actually happen is if Marvel decide to look into it themselves. I think it’s really that simple.

However, the one positive thing to come out of all of this is that even though the rumour that the series was being developed had been thoroughly debunked, people continued to talk about the possibility of a series.

It started to get some mainstream press coverage.

Metro covers the possible Captain Britain series

Metro covers the possible Captain Britain series

The MetroCould Marvel be giving their first British superhero a TV show? – “Move over Captain America, Captain Britain aka Brian Braddock might be getting his own TV series.”

The TimesCaptain Britain back from the 1970s for TV adventure – “The superhero, whose adventures in the 1970s included rescuing Jim Callaghan, the prime minister, from the villainous Red Skull, has been chosen for a revival after the huge success of other Marvel characters.”

The MirrorEssex-born Captain Britain could be getting his own TV series – who will play the 1970s superhero? – An article which fixates on the one basic detail they’ve bothered to research (his being born in Essex) and turns out this hideous suggestion – “Basically, the show could be a cross between The Avengers and The Only Way Is Essex, with the main character wearing a Union Jack leotard instead of a mankini.”

I despair a little. But At least it’s coverage.

Even the BBC jumped on it with Essex Marvel superhero Captain Britain ‘could be made into TV series’ and Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston was asked to do an interview for The World Tonight on Radio 4!

(Although as a side note, it is a shame that the Beeb opted to use the one Captain Britain character profile Marvel ever put out which incorrectly identifies Brian Braddock as a mutant. Don’t go giving 20th Century Fox ideas on staking claims of ownership. They don’t need encouraging.)

It was all a little bit surreal…

But while I sincerely doubt that the pitch which started this rumour will come to anything, you would have to hope that perhaps the resulting mini media circus which it has stirred up has not gone unnoticed by at least somebody within Marvel. The response to the rumour (even amongst those seeking to poke a little bit of fun) has been one of well meaning positivity.

Wouldn’t it be great if, in this 40th Year of Captain Britain,  the Powers That Be took a moment to think about how they might be able to use the character of Brian Braddock to pitch into a whole other audience. Maybe this could be the year for some good news, yet?

And now I throw this open to you. If such a series were ever to see the light of day, what would you like to see? And who would you want to see involved? Which stories? What kind of approach?

Drop a comment here or directly on my It Came From Darkmoor blog

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