Sunday, 26 April 2015

From the Archive: It Came From Darkmoor's Marvel UK A to Z : A is for...

As promised earlier in the year this is the first in a series republishing earlier entries from the It Came From Darkmoor archives.

The following article was first posted in June 2009. There have been a few minor updates which needed to be included since its first posting, a little necessary reformatting and a couple of hyperlinks added, but otherwise it appears here much as it did back then. I shall be reposting one of the A-Z pieces each month until we catch up to a point where I can continue this series anew. I hope you enjoy it.

Welcome to the first of It Came from Darkmoor's Marvel UK A to Z columns. The intention of this column is to spotlight a few of the more obscure characters from Marvel UK's annals - the kind who are probably less likely to come up in conversation or whose overall contribution to Marvel UK has not yet been acknowledged by this Blog.

We begin, as is frankly logical, with the letter 'A', and in my alphabetical world...

'A' is for APESLAYER.

Let's go back to 1975, a year before Captain Britain became the first truly acknowledged UK originated Marvel material. This was the 70s and Planet of the Apes was huge, having turned into a global fan phenomenon which had inevitably sparked a licensing deal in the USA between Marvel and 20th Century Fox for a Planet of the Apes comic. It was a Black and White comic, which was later reprinted in colour, and ran to 29 issues between 1974 and 1977, adapting the movies and also adding new material.

At roughly the same time Planet of the Apes weekly began reprinting these stories in the UK (It should be pointed out that the preferred format for Comics in the UK has always been weekly, or fortnightly. In the 70s especially the expectation for weekly content was a given. So don't you go telling ME DC were doing something new and groundbreaking with 52! :) ). But of course reprinting material weekly, when it was being originated monthly, threw out an eventual but inevitable problem.

There wasn't enough US material being published quick enough to meet UK demand.

And so it was that in March 1975, with #23, a new story set in the the Planet of the Apes universe began, featuring a new human character called APESLAYER.

The Plot and Concept of this new story is attributed to Marvel Legend Roy Thomas, with pencils attributed to Neal Adams and in later issues to Howard Chaykin. The script attributed to Gerry Conway. All well-recognised and respected creators for Marvel, I'm sure you'd agree.

Which might be reason to wonder quite as to how or why they came to be writing such an off-shoot story for a licensed comic from Marvel UK.

Apeslayer was very much part of a world where the Apes ruled, where he had been brought up a human slave, forced to fight in arenas for the amusement of the simian rulers of Earth, only to later free himself and make it his mission to wage war on his oppressors...

Pause there a moment. Does any of this sound a little familiar? 

A little like another Roy Thomas concept from the 70s, maybe? 

In fact, doesn't  Apeslayer himself bear a certain physical similarity to Roy Thomas' Killraven - "Warrior of the Worlds" from Amazing Adventures?

Well, there might be a reason for that. 

Because he kind of... IS Killraven. 

In a truly bizarre turn of events, in order to fill in the gaps while waiting for new American material, the fledgling UK arm of Marvel comics literally decided to turn Killraven into Apeslayer. To re-purpose existing Killraven material as new stories to use as part of their Planet of the Apes series. 

And the changes between the two were pretty much purely cosmetic - changing the length of Apeslayer's hair, removing Killraven's headband and armlets, changing Martians for Apes. 

It's still Neal Adams' art. Just... altered. To fit the new purpose. 

A few name changes, to mask the swap, and that was it. 


A few years ago, back when Paul Cornell's Wisdom series re-introduced comics readers to Jonathan and Maureen Raven, some posters over a comic book resources were unaware of the connection to Killraven. I posted up the following images as reference.

Compare those now to the two equivalent Apeslayer pages from Planet of the Apes.

Jonathan 'Killraven' Raven becomes Jonathan 'Apeslayer' Dozer. Maureen Raven becomes Maureen Dozer.

Truly bizarre. And the length of Apeslayer's hair does not actually match between Covers and the stories themselves. Or indeed the spelling of his name. All very strange. The same story, with the barest of changes made. 

Notice that some supporting cast members do not even get their name changed, they remain the same - Anne Carver remains Anne Carver. 

How the decision was made to pass off the altered strip as part of the Planet of the Apes publication is certainly a curious one. To my knowledge Killraven had not been reprinted in the UK at that time, so it's not implausible the editors thought that nobody would notice the similarities. But it certainly raised a few eyebrows among UK readers a few years back, when Marvel printed an Essential Killraven volume - to find themselves greeted by a rather curious feeling of deja vu.

I've often wondered how Thomas, Adams et all felt about their work having been re-purposed in this fashion. Whether they knew about it, or whether they've been told about it in the years since. It seems such an unethical thing to have done, but I suppose Killraven was Work for Hire comics work. If Marvel US were happy with it happening I doubt they'd have had much in the way comeback on it.

Ethics aside - What are the chances of an Apeslayer revival? 

Not... very likely. :)

He'll be covered as a property under the Planet of the Apes license. As of 2014 that comics license was in the hands of BOOM! Studios. By rights, I suppose, they could use the character. They haven't. And in all honesty, I doubt that they will. BOOM! are focusing primarily on books relating to the 2011 reboot of the Apes franchise, which began with the rather brilliant Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

While it is not implausible that we might see the mighty Jonathan Dozer turn up in this rebooted continuity? I'm not going to hold my breath on that. :)

For those wanting to read more of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes title they are actually available online, in pdf format, through Hunter's Planet of the Apes Archive - which you may find worth a visit.

'A' could also have stood for: 

The Anti-Being: Chaos Bringing enemy of Dark Angel and Death's Head II, and one giant mass of negative energy.

Afrikaa: Mohannda-based Black Axe and Black Panther ally, powered by the Heart of Africa.

Abslom Daak - Dalek Slayer: Doctor Who character, who's purpose in life should be rather clear from his title.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

In memory of Herb Trimpe.

It was with great sadness this past Tuesday that I learned of the passing of comics artist Herb Trimpe, at the age of 75. Sad, because though I never met him, Herb's art did have a very definite impact on my formative years as a comic reader.

I'm sure to some of you, especially for those who have come in to comics in the past 10-15 years, Herb Trimpe's name is probably not instantly recognisable. For those of you who do recognise the name you may not instantly be able to peg an art style.  In fact, I would imagine for a number of you that may be be a name you simply do not recognise at all.

Don't feel bad about that. As I say, Trimpe was 75. And while he has done some special comics projects for the likes of BPRD and Savage dragon in recent years his peak of output was across the late 60s, through the 70s and into the 1980s.

But the role which Herb Trimpe played, principally as an artist for Marvel Comics, really should not be understated. There are very few of the 1970s bigger named properties he did not draw at marvel, at one point or another. Most notably he was the artist on The Incredible Hulk for 7 straight years. During that time Trimpe co-created several characters who have become mainstays of the Hulk books such as Jim Wilson, the Hulkbusters, and Doc Sampson. But if even those don't ring a bell for you, I'm sure that you will be familiar with at least one other character which Herb co-created during that run.

Herb Trimpe was the co-creator of Wolverine.

My own personal exposure to comics as a young kid in the 80s was not through direct market comic stores. We had them in the UK, but I certainly wasn't taken to them at that age. It wasn't even entirely through newsagents, though they were the main outlet for UK comics. I hadn't the pocket money for that kind of thing until several years later.

For me it was jumble sales. My parents were teachers. School jumble sales played quite a role in my early childhood, and jumble sales meant people getting rid of their old stuff in the name of school fundraising. And that included old comics and magazines. Much of my early exposure to Marvel and DC comics, The Eagle, The Dandy, The Beano, et all came through picking up discarded comics from several years earlier.

And it was through those means also that I first came in contact with the work of Herb Trimpe. Not through The Hulk, or even Wolverine. But through a certain other character which Trimpe co-created for the British market with Chris Claremont.

Because Herb Trimpe was the co-creator of Captain Britain.

And while I am under no illusion as to which of those two creations the vast majority of people are likely to hold in higher esteem, these are the very books which brought me into reading comics. 

Trimpe provided art for the first 23 issues of Captain Britain, working with both Chris Claremont and Gary Friedrich after him. And yes, true, the costume he created is not the costume which survived to the present day. At this point in the character's history Brian Braddock was more of a combination of Spider-man and Daredevil than he was the uber-powerful Superman type that he is today. But these humble beginnings will always be important to a good many people. Even today you'll still find a good number of people who will argue that they preferred Herb's look for the character, and that the departure from it is something which still saddens them to this day.

Herb Trimpe's passing this week came as a bit of shock. Though granted it has been a while since he worked on a monthly comic, he had remained very active as an artist, and remained a regular on the convention scene. Even as a recently as last weekend, at East Coast Comicon in the States, in fact. He was a guest at London super Comicon a couple of years ago, and sadly it was still just a little to close to my Treatment to risk conventions at that point in time. I wished I could have met him. 

My thoughts go out to his friends and family. . 

For those reading comics here in the UK during the 1970s and 80s Herb Trimpe was rightly synonymous with a lot what they saw of Marvel Comics. He will be remembered. He will be missed.

If ever there were a time you aught to dig out those old Incredible Hulk issues or the early days of Captain Britain, I'd say this is a good opportunity. 

I'll leave you with some of tributes I have encountered online over the past few days. Please do feel free to share any others which you might have seen yourselves in the comments section, if you wish. 

Until the next time

Mark (Sword)

"Captain Britain. In honor & memory of the passing of comic book legend Herb Trimpe. God bless you, Herb. Thank you." -Todd Nauck  (@toddnauck)

"RIP Herb Trimpe. Thank you for bringing Wolverine, Captain Britain and many others to life. A true legend." Leo Sutherland (@leosutherland)

"Herb Trimpe & David Roach Captain Britain reprint cover collection for @OfficialPanini RIP #HerbTrimpe great piece" - Jon Haward (@ARTOFJONHAWARD)

"Here's a pic of #CaptainBritain vs Hurricane I did a while back for @LSComicCon -they asked for anything #herbtrimpe" John McCrea (@mccreaman)

"Another Cap pic with Spidey vs the Fury- #AlanDavis #HerbTrimpe mash up! Thanks again, Herb, for all the memories.." John McCrea (@mccreaman)

"For Herb from Mike Perkins lovely tribute #herbtrimpe #captainBritain" - Jon Haward (@ARTOFJONHAWARD)

"72 hrs ago I was talking to this man & thanking him for years of creative inspiration #eastcoastcomicon. #herbtrimpe" - Karl Ottersberg (@karlOttersberg)

"Beautiful Trimpe's self-portrait (via @emmartian )" - Javier Rodríguez (‏@javiercaste)

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Looks like we have confirmation of Captain Britain appearing in Secret Wars.

So, yesterday I posted up a Blog post about how we didn't currently have any clear evidence that Captain Britain (at least in the form of Brian Braddock) would be making an appearance in Marvel's Secret Wars event.

Well, it seems that not long after I posted this up a variant cover by Esad Ribic, for the second issue of the central Secret War limited series, started doing the rounds online. It it shows exactly that. 

That would be Brian, wielding some sort of sword, whose blade is made of energy. 

What exactly that is, I guess we'll have to wait and see. I think it highly unlikely to be 'Excalibur'. Faiza currently has that one. But it does remind me somewhat of modern depictions of the 'Soulsword,' wielded by former New Mutant and current member of Scott Summers' 'Uncanny X-Men' team, Illyana 'Magik' Rasputin.

Probably entirely coincidental. But I guess we'll find out, in time.

The important thing, at least as I see it, is this is a confirmation the he shall be playing at least some role in what comes next. And that's certainly a positive start.

One further thing of note this weekend, which I spotted in this week's Axel-in-Charge column over at Comic Book Resources. This relates to the aftermath of Secret Wars, and how it will be effecting the X-Men.

According to Alonso, Marvel's current editor-in-chief:

The X-Men office is taking the opportunity of "Secret Wars" to build an entire new world for the characters -- to create a shared universe within the X-books that's set off by a huge event/incident/surprise. At that point, they're going to introduce a new team that feels unlike anything you've seen before. It'll be... "extraordinary."

A fair bit of commentary online seems to speculating that this very much sounds like Marvel might be planning to separate the X-Men off into a separate  'Heroes Reborn' style Universe of their own. Something separate to the rest of Marvel's publishing line, with no direct connection to the rest of their books and continuity.

They've done it before, and you could quite easily understand why they might want to. The biggest problem that Marvel have with the X-Men is that (much like the Fantastic Four) they do not own those characters' creative rights in other mediums. Twentieth Century Fox own those. They make X-Men movies and cartoons. Some better than others. Marvel Studios, and more importantly Disney, do not own those.

This goes back to Marvel's teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, back in the 90s. The same period that ultimately also resulted in the winding up and selling off of Marvel UK spurred the publisher to sell of rights to a number of characters, as they tried to keep the business afloat. I know it's a little hard to imagine now, but back then it was really that serious a situation.

Many of you may already have seen that there's a new Fantastic Four movie on the horizon. But don't expect there to be any tie-in comic books. Marvel have cancelled the Fantastic Four comic, and split up the team. Heck, The Human Torch is going to be joining a 'Uncanny Inhumans' title after Secret Wars is done.

The general belief seems to be that Marvel no longer want to make Comics for the properties they don't own in other Media. So Fantastic Four is out. The X-Men on the other hand? Well, the X-Men titles sell much, much higher units. That'd have a financial impact, which might not be quite so easy to justify. But splitting them off into their own pocket universe and continuity, I guess, the logic would be that X-Men fans would still have books to buy, while the rest of the publishing line wouldn't even need to acknowledge their ever having existed.

Now, I'd have to say that this would be a prospect which I would not exactly be happy about. Since his by-proxy absorption into the X-Men office in the late 1980s Captain Britain has been awkwardly allied with the X-Men brand. It was understandable at the time. Chris Claremont created Brian, and he wanted to bring those characters over to his very successful ongoing line of X-men comics. Excalibur was technically (though obviously thematically not) an X-Men title. Even Captain Britain & MI13 was published through the X-Office. There's history here.

In modern Marvel Captain Britain is an Avenger. He fits very naturally into a role which he has always filled, protector of both Marvel's Britain and its Multiverse. He's a true Marvel Universe property.

Twin sister Psylocke, on the other hand, may well have begun that way but became synonymous with the 90s X-Brand. Never absent from those frankly cringeworthy 'X-Men Swimsuit Specials' etc. Criminally misused. Ethnically blurred and confused. But sadly, that is where she has stayed.

If the X-Men are to be split off I honestly wouldn't want Cap to join them. Nor Meggan. Nor Pete Wisdom or any of the other British Excalibur characters. They have far more in common with mainstream Marvel than they ever did with X-Gene. They've always been a poor fit. They need to stay in mainstream Marvel. At all costs in my book.

This also leaves us with the distinct possibility that we could yet end up with one Braddock Twin in one universe, and one in another. And I personally think that this would be a huge waste. We don't get enough Braddock sibling team-ups these days, as it is.

Remember Avengers vs X-Men? One Twin on one side of the divide, as an Avenger. One on the other, as an X-man.

Surely you haven't forgotten how awesomely awkward that encounter was? When they clashed over that? Making full use of such a brilliant metaphor for the entire storyline itself?

Well, you'd be forgiven if you have. Because Marvel forgot to tell that story themselves.


Instead we had Brian sitting in a hospital bed (in full costume no less) while Betsy went off and fought with Daredevil. For... some... reason.

Such an incredible wasted opportunity, that one.

Still, nothing is concrete yet. For all I know this is purely hyperbole and press bluster. I'll be keeping an eye on it, all the same. You can bet on that. :)

Until the next time.

Mark (Sword)

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Captain Britain title will be part of Secret Wars. But not the Captain you might expect...

So, I've been keeping tabs on all things Secret Wars, as they've been developing, over the past month. Mostly because I've been living in hope of some kind of evidence that Captain Britain, or any other UK connected character, would be making an appearance amongst the maelstrom of Marvel properties being smashed together, at the this: the End of the Marvel Universe.

And hyperbole aside, it really does still look like that is genuinely what is occurring. No feint. No fakery. A full reboot is still very much on the cards.

Up until this week however, things weren't really looking up in that regard.

As most of you are probably aware now Marvel will be cancelling almost the entirety of their publishing line before Secret Wars begins (33 books in total). Some titles will be getting a "Last Days" storyline as they prepare for the end.

Which certainly, at this point, leaves Brian Braddock's status as a bit of an unknown quantity. I mean, for most of the last year he has been an Avenger, part of the new Illuminati on Hickman's New Avengers, alongside Iron Man, Reed Richards, The Beast, Doctor Strange, Namor, Black Bolt and the Black Panther, as they have tried desperately to work out a way of stopping the multiverse disintegrating. We now know much more of what has been causing that to happen, too.

Last month we also discovered what had befallen Brian, in losing his eye, and seemingly the rest of the Captain Britain Corps.

In New Avengers #30 it was revealed that this group called the 'Ivory Kings' (who are apparently tied to The Beyonders, the race responsible for the original 1980s 'Secret Wars') who have at least in part been responsible for some of what has damaged the structure of the Multiverse, were being investigated by the Captain Britain Corps.

Largely because they had started killing other Captains.

It was explained that after capturing one of them Saturnyne attempted to draw them out for a confrontation, by turning one of their own into a beacon.

It did not go well.

Now bear in mind that Captain Britain Corps are more or less legion. Sure Marvel have done a good job at wiping them out every 2-3 years over this past decade, so maybe the numbers are not quite as infinite as once they were. 

But as of right now? They're all dead. 

No matter how many Captains there were, there were far more Ivory Kings who turned up in Otherworld to take them on. It was a massacre.

The Corps, it's Captains, its structure. All dead.

All bar Brian.

Well, okay. That's not entirely true.

Spider UK has also survived it seems. If your reading the Spidey books right now, you'll know this.

But that is exactly what has happened. Brian was cast away by Saturnyne, before her own presumed demise, and has with him the secrets of the Starlight Citadel (and presumably how to recreate it, after the reboot). 

As far as he knows is the last Captain alive. 

And he lost an eye in the process.

It really sucks to Brian, right now.

A lot.

But as we know, New Avengers is getting cancelled when Secret Wars starts, alongside Jonathan Hickman's other Avengers title - 'Avengers'. 

Marvel have teased this image, which I believe will be the final cover for both books divided across their covers:

Excellent artwork from the always marvelous Jim Cheung, there.

It pictures the final lineups for both titles in the foreground, and the first lineups for each title ghosted in the background.

Yes. Lovely artwork, but a real sense of finality.

Beyond this? We just don't know what will happen. And that is also part of the fun, of course. But I know that it's been niggling a few people that we haven't seen any direct evidence of Brian in Secret Wars teaser material.

You would presume that as part of the Illuminati Brian will appear in the main Secret Wars series (also being penned by Hickman). But nothing is a given. I'll patiently wait and see.

Many of the tie-in limited series for the Secret Wars event have now been unveiled. Marvel are separating these out into two unique brands:

Battleworld and War Zones.

Please do check those two checklists out. Some of the books listed do genuinely sound like pretty good fun. Out of continuity, self-contained stories. But some interesting ideas and mash-ups going on.

They don't though, further the direct subject matter of this Blog. But it's oksy. This week, finally, something Secret Wars related did.

It's not what I expected, at all. But boy, do I think it will be a pleasant surprise for many long time followers of the blog.

Let me first say that it *isn't* the new All-New All-Different Avengers team (debuting through this year's Marvel Free Comic Book Day offering) which Marvel have been teasing for the past couple of months. They finally started to unveil the cast of that, this week and unfortunately no Marvel UK character is connected to it.

But don't get me wrong. I will be buying into this team. it's such a damned interesting lineup not to. Pretty much all of the major creative changes for older characters and some newly introduced characters of the past few years, all in one place.

The Falcon as Captain America, the mystery woman who is currently Thor, the new Ms Marvel. A revived Vision.

Even despite the mild irritation of the new Nova being on board cannot sour the transition of Miles 'Ultimate Spider-man' Morales from the Ultimate Universe to mainstream Marvel. I want to see Miles succeed. I've read the guy since his debut, I've no intention of stopping now.

It is however, admittedly, another potential avenue closed for the purposes of this blog.

So it's a good job marvel announced a Secret Wars Captain Britain series isn't it?

Introducing Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders, by 2000 AD stalwart Al Ewing, and with art from definitive Captain Britain artist (and Marvel UK legend, frankly) Alan Davis.

A two issue limited series which pretty much came out of nowhere.

And yes, that is Faiza Hussain, wielding Excalibur, in the middle of that cover.

The book is, effectively, a gestalt title which merges Al Ewing's Mighty Avengers cast with elements of Captain Britain. Faiza will be joined by She-Hulk, Kid Rescue, White Tiger and Hobie Brown, as Ewing explores two of his past projects in one.

But where is Captain Britain, I hear you ask?

That's where it gets a bit complicated. Because as with many of these Secret Wars titles this one has come about purely by universes smashing together and merging.

How many of you read Al Ewing's Age of Ultron issue of Avengers Assemble?

I know it was almost 2 years ago now, but if you didn't (and can find a copy) you absolutely should. This issue, set in London, featured Brian, Faiza and the some new students from the Braddock Academy facing the hordes of Ultron alongside Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers).

Reading this story back in 2013 I'd genuinely hoped that Marvel would let Al Ewing have a proper crack at writing a Captain Britain or Marvel UK team book. Because the tone and general vibe of this book gave me that level of confidence that he could deliver.

And given that he actually killed Brian and Carol off, fighting Ultron back, and I still had plenty time for it, that should go some way to indicating the level of praise allocated here.

It was an Age of Ultron book, though. As with most of the tie-in stories, the tale was set in one of the many timelines which were then overwritten, through multiple attempts at time travel, in trying to stop Ultron taking control of Earth. Not, however, before Brian (knowing that he was going off to die) passed the title and role of 'Captain Britain' on to Faiza Hussain, to carry on in his stead, after his passing.


It's rare for somebody to actually write Brian in a way I find convincing, too. 

So yes, for the briefest of time, Faiza *was* Captain Britain. And god knows if Excalibur chose her, no man can really question her of being worthy of that title! But, ultimately, it is considered only to have happened in what became an alternate Universe.

But this is Secret Wars. And if all those alternate universe are crashing into each other, and merging together, all bets are off.

Captain Faiza gets to be, once more.

So yes, sorry, if you were looking for Brian Braddock as Captain Britain here... your probably out of luck. The title Captain here is Faiza.

But if you enjoyed that story, and if you were a fan of Captain Britain & MI13, this book looks well worth some of your time. And with a creative team of Ewing and Davis? Come on. This book just screams to be a must-read for all fans of British Marvel.

Going forward of course?

Brian Braddock
Captain Faiza
Spider UK

If you're going to restart the Captain Britain Corps once All-New Marvel kicks off? That's not a bad place to start...

Until the next time.

Mark (Sword)

Sunday, 8 February 2015

More on Battleworld and Secret Wars

So, here we are again. Once more I'm here to talk to you about Marvel's upcoming Secret Wars and Battleworld.

Firstly, I'd like to thank for Marvel UK writer and editor John Freeman for cross-posting my original Secret Wars article over on Down the Tubes. I've fielded a few questions about this via the comments here and via email. It seems that more than a few of agree with a number of my comments - in particular on the pricing policies at Marvel over the past few years. I'm not going to cover that again (although is refreshing to see that I've not been alone on that one).

What I did want to explore however, is the recent additions to Marvel's interactive Battleworld map.

As I mentioned last time round when the Secret Wars event kicks off it appears that all of the multitude of alternate universes and timelines from the entirety of Marvel's history will be crunching together in one singular universe where elements of all of them will be forced to coexist at the same time. This 'Battleworld' does not have a lot in the way of actual continents. There's a territory around the North pole and an (as of yet) unexplained Wall separating the southern most region from one giant land mass, made up of dozens of different story-lines from the past, each standing as an independent country in its own right.

Marvel has been unveiling those Countries gradually. At my time of last posting the list was:

  • Dystopia: Future Imperfect Hulk (The Maestro version of The Hulk)
  • Domain of Apocalypse: The Age of Apocalypse (in which Charles Xavier's death in the past created a timeline where Apocalypse took over the entire of America and much of the World)
  • Technopolis: Armor Wars Iron Man (in which other supervillains gained control of Iron Man's armour tech designs and used them against him)
  • Iron Fist's K'un-Lun
  • Higher Avalon which links to a profile of Captain Britain's history (and may plausibly what has become of Otherworld/Avalon with all the Universes smashing together).
  • Spider-Island (in which the Jackal's scheme gave everybody in Manhattan spider-powers)
  • The Monarchy of M: House of M (in which Mutants became the ruling class of the planet, with Magneto as their figurehead)
  • Sentinel Territories: Days of Future Past (the future timeline in which the Sentinels all but eradicated all superhumans and placed humanity into concentration camps for what they believed to be its Own Good)
As of this past week Marvel have begun to reveal some more.

  • Egyptia: Forever Yesterday (A timesliding story in which New Warriors villain The Sphinx created an alternate timeline where Ancient Egypt rule over the world right up to the 20th Century).
  • The Regency: Which brandishes links to the now infamous One More Day storyline from Amazing Spider-man (in famous for removing/erasing the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson).
  • New Quack City: Which matches up with recently announced new series for Howard the Duck.
  • 2099: Literally what it says on the tin. A whole Country for the 1990s Marvel 2099 imprint of comics.
  • Hala Field: Which bears the following message "Hero! Pilot! Avenger! Captain Marvel, Earth's Mightiest Hero with death-defying powers and an attitude to match, is back and launching headfirst into a new role - Squadron leader of the interstellar defense team, the Carol Corp!" Intriguing.
  • The Wastelands: Wolverine: Old Man Logan (Mark Millar's tale of an aged and long since retired Wolverine as a survivor in a post-apocalypse America)
  • Perfection: Age of Ultron (In which a time travelling Wolverine and Sue Storm journeyed across time trying to stop Ultron from constantly taking over the world. A story which is very likely to be an important part of what caused the Marvel Multiverse to collapse in the first place...)
  • New Xandar: The Infinity Gauntlet. (That what the blurb links to, anyway. Xandar was of course the homeworld of the Nova Corps up until its destruction during the Annihilation storyline).

Another point which is worthy of note is that there is an area still labelled up as "Marvel 616" on the Battleworld map.

 It resides in the territory simply labelled up as "Manhattan". 

That yellow land mass within it labelled up as "Attilan" (which is the name of the home City of The Inhumans) and to its north that brown-coloured mass is labelled as "Marvel 1610" (the universal serial number for Marvel's 'Ultimate Universe').

Oh, and can you see that there's a little alcove underneath, like some kind of hollowed out chamber?

That's been labelled up as "Monster Metropolis".

Make of that what you will... :)

Of course Marvel have stated that as a result of all this some book s will be ending, and others beginning.

I think it likely that books such as the shortly to be released Spider-Gwen (about the alternate universe spider-powered Gwen Stacy, from the recent Spider-verse storyline in Amazing Spider-man) are likely to survive the new status quo. Likewise the aforementioned new Howard the Duck series.

But as for other new titles, well Marvel have announced a few tying into this event. 

For example the Battleworld anthology series will be a chance for several writers to use this new mish-mash world of properties to play out battle between characters who you would never have dreamed of even getting the opportunity to encounter each other. 

Another anthology title, Secret Wars Journal, will showcase shorter stories featuring lesser seen characters, from Misty Knight and Paladin, to the Night Nurse... and apparently, even Millie the Model. 



Peter David will be returning to the Universe which he helped sculpt in the 90s, in Secret Wars 2099.

Haden Blackman will be taking on writing Shang-chi in a new Master of Kung Fu.

But perhaps the most unexpected series unveiled so far is the new Avengers team to be written by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite K. Bennett. Because once Secret Wars begins the Avengers are no more.

But there is... A-Force?


Yes. A-Force an entirely female superteam, bringing together 'Earth's Mightiest Heroines'. A lot of very recognisable faces on that cover. Medusa, Black Widow, Storm, Rogue, She-Hulk, Dazzler. Is that Captain Universe from Hickman's Avengers, above Nico Minoru from Runaways? A Phoenix costumed Jean Grey, too.

We know very little more than that cover, right now. 

Makes me wonder if this is what was intended by that "All-New All-Different Avengers" teaser a while back?

Who knows?

I'll be keeping an eye on this event, obviously hoping to find some kind of Marvel UK ties along the way. I'll be particularly interested to find out if "King James' England" is related to Neil Gaiman's 1602.

Next time we get another batch of reveals I'll post another update.

Until the next time...


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Secret Wars, Battleworld and It Came From Darkmoor...

So this might surprise a few of you.


Back blogging again. 

While I've certainly still remained active on social media I fully hold my hands up to having let the lights at It Came From Darkmoor... dim out a little over the past year. It was never an intentional thing, but 2014 became a bit of an odd year for me. It was the first year since late 2011 that my health was good, that I was back to returning to my full duties at Work, and finally I got the chance to spend some actual time with friends and family doing the normal everyday things with them which chemotherapy patients don't get to do. So I made the absolute most of that. It was great.

As a result though I did start to fall behind with the general comings and goings of the Marvel universe. It's not that they didn't interest me. Far from it. But time and (for the first time) money started to create a heck of a backlog of reading material on my night stand. To the point that it now doesn't all fit on my nightstand. Or the table in the spare room. Or a few other places.

Mrs Sword is a very understanding woman.

Back in the early 2000s, when I first got back into reading comics, it was an easy time for completionists. At that lower price point it was perfectly possible to pick up a good cross-section of the Marvel Universe on a monthly basis without incurring too much debt or the wrath of a loved one. Monthly books were just that, and there hadn't been any full universe crossover event for a few years. Back then I was able to both purchase and spend considerable time scrambling through that cross-section of titles, searching and hoping for vague connections to the Marvel UK characters and concepts of my youth. And I found some. They became the roots of this blog.

In the past few years that has changed.

2014 was a watershed moment for me. It was the first year that I realised that with so many of Marvel's titles now priced up to $3.99, and with almost every major 'Monthly' title being published twice per month, there was just no way that I could carry on reading what I had been.

To put it another way, to read the equivalent of what I was in the early 2000s today, would now require a monthly stake of £120-140 a month. I love comics. But that's a point beyond what I'm willing to pay for comics.

So I have now quite judiciously cut back my monthly purchases to what is at this point a very small number of core titles. It was not an easy choice, but one I haven't really had much of a choice but to make. The downside of course is that when your buying less books, and you're already very behind on current events, running a blog which (at least in part) is designed to provide news on all things Marvel UK is a bit difficult.

I'm aware of things Marvel UK related going on, of course. I know that Captain Britain is an Avenger once more (and part of the universe's behind-the-scenes braintrust - The Illuminati - no less). I know that he appears to have lost an eye, and grown a beard, in the process. 

Oh, and the Captain Britain Corps are all dead. Again. 

The details of this, unfortunately, are lost on me until I read the issues. 

I know that The Black Knight is now part of some European Superteam initiative. That Spitfire and Union Jack are back on an Invaders title. That there's an alternate universe Spider-man out there who is actually a Braddock, and goes by the name of 'Spider-UK'.

But the combination of time and expense has thus far barred me from reading those appearances.

C'est la vie.

Anyway, at the start of this week I made a decision. I sat down and decided that it was about time that I began to play catch up. There was a lot of continuity for me to get through, a ridiculously high stack of issues which needed to be off my nightstand, and so I figured that there really was no time like the present to begin.

And then on Tuesday Marvel somewhat dropped a bombshell.

For real. No fakery involved. It's actually ending. 

And not just the Universe. Not just Marvel 616. The entire Marvel Mulitiverse is ending, with the advent of this summer's big Event 'Secret Wars'.

Now I'm a guy (not that I actually recall having made the conscious decision to) who has pretty much made it a crusade to remind people that Marvel UK existed and that its stories happened in continuity. So when the publisher confirms that they intend to end the Marvel Universe it's only natural for that information to concern me a little.

Because if the universe ends, so does its continuity.

And if the continuity ends then in whatever continuity replaces it things are going to change. While certain characters may still exist in whatever follows Secret Wars the history of this new universe could be very different. The stories, characters and former connections of Marvel UK to the greater whole may not even make it into this universe. A universe which Marvel are calling "All-New Marvel".

That's my concern.

This has all been a long time coming though. Ever since the start of the Marvel NOW initiative we've had hints that this could be coming. 

In the pages of The Avengers we discovered that the super-powered individuals of the 1980s New Universe line at Marvel were (from a story point of view) also supposed to have been created in Marvel's 616 universe. That they are actually supposed to be some part of every universe's natural defense system. 

Only in the 616 universe that did not happen. 

Because the 616 universe was broken.

It seems that all those time travel misadventures, characters coming and going, staying and leaving has had an accumulative effect. Cable and Rachel Summers for example. Days of Future past or the Age of Apocalypse maybe. In  trying to avert the Age of Ultron, with those multiple changes made to the timeline. Remember how in All-new X-Men The Beast brought the original 5 X-Men to the present? Trying to teach Scott Summers a lesson, but only to find that he could not send them back? It's broken. The very fibres of the universe are coming apart.

In the pages of New Avengers Marvel's 'Illuminati' have been trying to prevent the 616 universe from being destroyed as other universes collide with it. They've managed so far, but it looks like that's not going to stop. Because as Tom Brevoort stated last week:

"Once we hit Secret Wars #1, there is no Marvel Universe, Ultimate Universe, or any other. It's all Battleworld,"

Every universe will be crashing together and amalgamating themselves into only one. And they're calling it 'Battleworld'.

If you go over to Marvel's own website you will now find an interactive Battleworld map (which disappointingly does not seem to work on iOS devices, but will work on windows PCs).

It's well worth a look at, actually.

Each territory on the map relates to a property or storyline from some part of Marvel's history. Kinda like Marvel's greatest hits, somehow existing in the same World, all at the same time.

A lot of them have yet to be revealed (they have date stamps on them of when they will) but the confirmed properties so far include:

  • Future Imperfect Hulk (The Maestro version of The Hulk)
  • The Age of Apocalypse (in which Charles Xavier's death in the past created a timeline where Apocalypse took over the entire of America and much of the World)
  • Armor Wars Iron Man (in which other supervillains gained control of Iron Man's armour tech designs and used them against him)
  • Iron Fist's K'un-Lun
  • Spider-Island (in which the Jackal's scheme gave everybody in Manhattan spider-powers)
  • House of M (in which Mutants became the ruling class of the planet, with Magneto as their figurehead)
  • Days of Future Past (the future timeline in which the Sentinels all but eradicated all superhumans and placed humanity into concentration camps for what they believed to be its Own Good)

Oh, and one more:

Now, I have no idea what 'Higher Avalon' is intended to be. Possibly it's what has happened to Otherworld with all of the Universes colliding. That would be my best guess. Much like the Iron Fist entry on the map all this really does is direct the reader to a list of suggested past stories featuring the character, but it does (at least to my mind) highlight the intention that the character is going to be used in the course Secret Wars. And if they're going to fix this multiversal crush having the last surviving Captain Britain - a former Multiversal Guardian to boot - could come in rather handy.

As I say I have certain misgivings over 'All-New Marvel'. The ultimate goal here would be a consolidation of properties and publishing lines into a more coherent and easier to approach universe of comics characters. Something which would be less impenetrable to new readers, and perhaps easier to sell in other mediums.

And that is a noble goal. Genuinely.

However, they do need to be careful about how they actually do it.

Having read DC's universe reboot as the 'New 52' there are plenty lessons to be learnt. Parts of their new continuity really was a bit of a hot mess of contradictions and confusions. Some stories and creative runs of more recent times (mostly those crafted by Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison) very much still happened exactly as they'd been told. Other stories (even going years back) were dramatically altered or erased entirely. Which could have been fine, but not every writer seemed to have gotten the same memo. Contradictions naturally ensued.

As long as All-New Marvel is approached intelligently it could be great. And obviously I live in great hope that not too much of Marvel UK gets wiped away in the process.

Though I'm sure we could fudge Death's Head surviving if we needed to. Heck, the Transformers and Doctor Who universes aren't part of the Marvel multiverse. He survived visiting those. ;)

As far as It Came From Darkmoor is concerned? Consider this my return from exile. With one caveat.

In the past I posted updates on this site several times a week, as and when new stories broke, etc. I wouldn't be expecting that to be the case this year. If something HUGE turns up I'll try to cover it, but otherwise I'm aiming to have something new for you a couple of times a month. And hopefully something worthwhile.

Long term readers will remember my Marvel UK A to Z series, which began a few years back only to be derailed when I lost my planning notes in our house move. Those never showed up again, but I've had several people recently asking about that feature. I think it's the one feature from the past 5 years of this blog that people seem to ask me about the most, and so I have decided to republish and continue this feature in the coming months, until its completion. It's a great way to showcase some of the lesser known properties and characters of Marvel UK. Regardless of what the future holds.

As always you can keep up to date with my more regular prattlings and updates on Twitter and once a month you can cringe at the sound of my voice on the Comiconference section of the Weekly Geek Speak podcast.

Until the next time (and I promise not to take quite so long)

Mark 'The Sword' Roberts

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A few Marvel UK Tidbits from Yesteryear

Hello everyone.

Many apologies for my recent disappearances from the interwebs. I heard talk of search parties. It's okay. I am alive a well. :)

Long term followers of this Blog will know that it's been a difficult few years for me. 2011 and 2012 were both years of stepping back and being treated, 2013 proved to be the year of recovery and that has led to 2014 - the year of getting back on track. Over the past few years I've had to put a lot of things on the back burner, I've had to take a less proactive role in a lot of areas of my life. With this having changed somewhat in the past couple of months, as you can see, regular updates to this blog have suffered. Do not worry. It's not been abandoned.

I feel greatly frustrated that it has impacted on my coverage of the final issues of Revolutionary War, because the Motormouth, Warheads and the final Omega issue were something very special indeed. The new status quo set up for several characters over those issues are things which I dearly hope get carried over into future projects.

Oh! And while it's coming a little late for the warning, Dark Angel fans? If you've not been picking up Kieron Gillen's Iron Man series, then you most certainly should be. Shevaun Haldane has now joined that title's supporting cast, starting with the Issue #23.NOW - as the curious Marvel Now numbering has named it. A good new platform for the character.

Revolutionary War has served to remind both readers and creators as to just what a buzz of creativity the early 90s were at Marvel UK. Over on the Make Mine Marvel UK Facebook group recently, one half of Revolutionary War's writing combo - Alan Cowsill - posted up a couple of images from what would have been Roid Rage #1. Roid Rage and Red Mist 20-20 were both advertised in Marvel UK titles in the latter days of the imprint. Two page painted adverts if I recall correctly. Sadly it never made it into print before the sell-off, but it was definitely intended to be a big story. If I understand correctly, from what I've managed to pick up over the years, the Super Soldiers title was going to play a large part in that and I believe there was even a set of painted artwork destined to be promotional trading cards for the event.

Beyond that? Well, we've not really known very much.

I hope Alan doesn't mind me posting these up, here. I've tweaked the contrast a little for clarity, but the artwork comes from Andrew Currie on pencils and Bryan Hitch on inks.

Interestingly, from that second image, Cowsill posted that "Rw trivia, it's also the first time Agent Keller appeared...he didn't last long though...". So he was always a planned character, even all those years ago...

Marvel UK artwork from this period is of course somewhat hard to come by. A lot of it, tragically, ended up being trashed when the Marvel UK offices closed. It has been lost forever. However, in the same category of unpublished artwork John Freeman also recently posted up these couple of images from an unpublished Warheads story.

The artwork comes courtesy of 2000 AD's SMS (Smuzz). Freeman notes that "Just to note, we're now thinking that these two 'pages' are amalgams of incomplete art from the strip, now everyone has had sight of the script. Neither 'page' matches the script exactly. I've been pushing Smuzz's excellent work for years and at some point he sent me these two pages as samplers". 

A third and final page of artwork was later added, with a name for the story as "Target Practice".

"There are amendments on the script that asked that the alien on this final page be Vorin, the leader of the Shadow Riders," says Freeman, "I suspect that, as I have never seen this page before today, this would have been a matter of me asking for the change when I'd seen the art!"

It would have been great to have SMS doing art for Marvel UK. He's probably best known for his work on 2000 AD's ABC Warriors. I definitely think he'd have been a good fit for the tone of the series.

But perhaps the most interesting thing to have come from this stroll back through Marvel UK documents is that John Freeman has shared up some internal notes from 1993, on future plans for Overkill magazine. 

US readers - For those of you unaware Overkill magazine was a UK market anthology series which printed choice sections of what was printed in the US market books (along with the odd bit of exclusive material) in a fashion not entirely dissimilar to, say, that of 2000 AD. 

"(The document)outlines some of the unpublished comic strips planned for Overkill," says Freeman, "and my thoughts on the future of some of the company’s title such as Motormouth and Warheads, in January 1993, when I was in the process of leaving the company to take up life as a freelancer. The company was absorbed by Panini UK in 1995 and is no longer in business.

The hand-written notes re...fer to “Paul” – Paul Neary, Marvel UK’s Editorial Director; and editors Tim Quinn, Jacqui Papp and Bambos Georgiou."

And there are a number of interesting details within. Such as this, for example. Highlighted below:

How interesting is that? A US market book fronted by DH II, to collect the strips which the US market missed.

Now I can recall in the Marvel UK 'Bodycount' freebie from around that time that there was definitely some painted dinosaur artwork from a future project showcased there. I wonder if that was from the same piece?

But one of the most interesting parts of the document refers to two creators who would certainly play a role in shaping British characters for mainstream US Marvel at a later point.

Warren Ellis would later take the reins of Excalibur at Marvel and go on to create the character of Pete Wisdom - who is now among the most prominent British characters out there and active in Marvel Comics. Paul Cornell of course would also go on to write Pete Wisdom, as in integral part of his Captain Britain & MI13 series. Small world.

I'd have loved to have seen this. The MYS-TECH board were always intriguing characters, to me. There were so many possibilities in expanding their history and individual character. An organisation capable of rivaling The Hellfire Club with their clandestine operations around the world (and for a much larger chunk of history, at that).

For those who are interested in reading more, John has shared the document up here:

I'd also recommend looking over the ongoing list which John has been keeping of all Marvel UK projects, past and new, over at his own site. It really is a comprehensive list, both of published titles and the many projects with never saw the light of day.

Well, that's it for now folks. Hope that's proven to be of interest to you.

Until we meet again... (and hopefully it won't take as long next time)

Mark (Sword)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Out this Week - Revolutionary War: Motormouth and Avengers Undercover

Well, here we are into the third month of Revolutionary War already. This week sees the turn of Harley Davis, know better to many as 'Motormouth'. This time out the writer and artist pairing of Glenn Dakin and Ronan Cliquet will be taking on the reins, with Mark Brooks on the lead cover, and a variant cover by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire:

There is 3 page preview up at Comic Book Resources, for the curious, and this is probably one of the books I've been most curious about. As we saw in the Alpha issue Harley's former partner-in-crime Killpower was separated from the other UK heroes some time ago, lost into an alternate dimension at the Battle of London Bridge. Furthermore, as was mentioned in the solicits, apparently Harley is a... mum now??

• When Mys-Tech returns and threatens the safety of Great Britain, MI:13 need to try to convince MOTORMOUTH to come out of retirement.
• Harley Davis’ days of being a hero are over, though.  Now, her day job is being the mother of  her two children. Until an explosive Mys-Tech attack calls her out of retirement!
• Be there as Motormouth gets her mojo back!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99 

Two kids. I wonder who the father is. 

The story also picks up directly from where the Alpha issue left off for SHIELD Agent Keller and Col Tigon Liger of The Warheads. Both of whom are trying to locate Harley - who has always had a knack for not being found when she doesn't want to be...

I just love the darker tone this preview seems to have compared next to some of the other recent Revolutionary War issues. It's clear that Harley is in a pretty bleak place, right now. In her original Marvel UK stories she was always the mouthy teenager who the world could never bring down. Always cheerful. Frequently very funny. I suppose in some kind of messed up way Motormouth was the nearest Marvel UK had to a Kitty Pryde figure in the imprint years. And while they are quite different characters, seeing the ever positive Harley Davis broken by the real world has a similar powerful effect to it as the X-Men trend of putting Kitty in peril. People sympathise with her. She's an easy character for the reader to connect with.

This is exactly the kind of contrast I'd been hoping we'd see in Revolutionary War - how the intervening years have effected our forgotten heroes. I really look forward to it.

In connection with Motormouth, this week's issue has also reminded former Marvel UK editor John Freeman of his time editing the character. He's been talking about it over at Down The Tubes. You should check that out.

This week see the launch of another new series at Marvel, with ties to the British side of universe. For all of you who read and enjoyed Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker's Avengers Arena series, you'll want to pick up the continuation of that story. The name has changed, but the creative team and the surviving cast (including former students from 'Braddock Academy') are all still here in the new series Avengers Undercover.

What's the premise this time?

Well, here's the solicit blurb:

Damaged by their experience in Murder World, five conflicted young superhumans go rogue and infiltrate the Masters of Evil, planning to bring the Avengers’ rivals down from within. But the longer the teens spend undercover, the more they descend into darkness, and as they start to build relationships with these multi-layered criminals, the line between good and evil blurs. What will happen first…joining the Masters for real, or getting exposed and killed? If you thought Murder World was dangerous, just wait until “Most Promising New Talent” Harvey award-winner Dennis Hopeless and acclaimed artist Kev Walker surround you with Evil!

Avengers Arena has been one of the rare gems of Marvel's recent history, which while some might only see tenuously connected to Marvel's Britain I've certainly enjoyed a lot.  The first run is a hard act to follow, but it's great to see the Hopeless/Walker pairing got to continue into a second run. They do great work together.

Both Revolutionary War: Motormouth and Avengers Undercover are out tomorrow - Wednesday 12th March.