MCU fans were thrilled at the sight of Peggy Carter in the first episode of What If…? on Disney+, clad in the flag of the United Kingdom, and kicking Nazi butt. However, despite appearances, Peggy was never referred to as Captain Britain, despite the name of her sacred timeline counterpart, Captain America. And one has to wonder why, as Captain Britain is a long-standing character in Marvel Comics, and it would just make sense to call her by that name.
The likely reason is that in the pages of the comics, there have been two very different heroes named Captain Britain. And they have distinctly different origins and powers than those of Peggy Carter or Steve Rogers. Yes, the 2018 comic Exiles showed Captain Carter wearing a uniform identical to Steve Rogers and wielding a shield. But she was Captain America here, not Captain Britain.
It stands to reason that the MCU has plans for the true Captain Britain from the comics, and doesn’t want too much brand confusion. The reluctance to call Peggy by that name suggests the actual Captain Britain might be around the corner in the MCU. With Black Knight appearing in Eternals, it seems the MCU is opening its doors to their heroes based on British lore. With Captain Britain almost an inevitability in the MCU, here’s what you need to know about the UK’s greatest superhero.
The Comic Book History of England’s Champion
Captain Britain has been a part of the Marvel Universe since 1976. But he first appeared, appropriately enough, only in Marvel UK comics. His first appearance was in Captain Britain Weekly #1. This was a weekly series exclusively produced for the British market. Since the States had Captain America, Marvel likely figured it was time to give the newly popular Marvel UK line its very own hero and mascot. Captain Britain was the first Marvel UK comic that was original content, and not just reprints of American comics.
No one is sure who actually created Captain Britain, although some believe that John Romita Sr. designed the initial costume. What we do know is who wrote the earliest Captain Britain stories. And it was none other than Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont. (This will matter a lot more later.) Another early writer was Alan Moore. And one of his throwaway contributions to the series would have a profound impact on the entire Marvel Universe. But we’ll get to that.
An Arthurian Origin Story
Captain Britain was Brian Braddock, the bookish son of an old aristocratic British family from Essex. While attending university, Brian was working at a nuclear research facility. When terrorists attack the lab, Brian rushes off on his motorcycle to get help. But he’s injured badly in an accident, and nearly dies. It’s then that the wizard Merlyn appears, and offers Brian the chance to become the United Kingdom’s mystical champion.
Merlyn, along with his daughter Roma, offers Brian two choices to channel this power — the Amulet of Right or the Sword of Might. Not seeing himself as the “knight” type, Brian chooses the amulet. It grants him super strength, speed, endurance, and the ability to fly. This already makes Captain Britain decidedly different from Captain America, whose powers came from super science. Captain Britain’s power set was decidedly mystical in nature.
Captain Britain would fight villains like Slaymaster and Red Skull. And much of the family drama would surround his older sibling Jamie, and his twin sister Betsy. His initial series only lasted 39 issues. Brian would then appear for the first time in an American comic in 1978’s Marvel Team-Up #65. There, he became an exchange student at New York’s Empire State University. And his roommate was none other than Peter Parker. So of course, a Spidey-Cap team-up was called for. This story introduced Brian Braddock to American audiences, and boosted his profile in Marvel Comics overall.
Cap Gets Some Snazzy New Threads
In the early days, Captain Britain sported a very different costume. The costume was almost solid red, and didn’t feature the British flag on the chest. Instead, it featured a golden lion. A reference to the British Royal Family perhaps? In any event, that costume didn’t last very many years. And it didn’t really sell the character as “the British Captain America” the way Marvel probably wanted.
So when Captain Britain became one of many features in Marvel Super-Heroes, artist Alan Davis gave him a new costume, one with the British flag displayed on the chest. This costume incorporated the Amulet of Right into itself. It was also a beacon of sorts, allowing him to channel the powers of the British Isles no matter where he was in the world. Or even if he was in another dimension.
This era of Captain Britain stories played into the idea of extra-dimensional adventures, mostly in the realm called “ Otherworld.” A writer named David Thorpe expanded the mythos, and later, a young Alan Moore wrote many of these stories once taking over the titles. They introduced the concept of the Captain Britain Corps, revealing every Earth in the Multiverse has its own Captain Britain. And the “main” Marvel Earth’s was Earth-616. This designation, used by Marvel to this very day, came straight from Captain Britain comics.
Flying Across the Pond
Captain Britain would get a big boost in popularity in the late ’80s, thanks to its association with the X-Men franchise. Writer Chris Claremont, who wrote Brian’s earliest adventures, was now the head honcho of the most popular franchise in comics. He took Brian’s sister Betsy Braddock, and gave her a mutant upgrade as the telepathic Psylocke. Then, in 1987, he created a British spin-off of the X-Men with Excalibur. Artist Alan Davis joined him, and they put Captain Britain as the leader of a team that consisted of popular mutants. By becoming an X-Men character in American comics, a whole new generation of readers became Captain Britain fans.
Since then, Captain Britain has been a member of MI-13, and even an Avenger. He’s updated his costume, and even changed his name to “Britannic.” (Thankfully, that didn’t stick). He even married his longtime girlfriend and Excalibur teammate Meggan. In the recent Dawn of X reimagining of the X-Men franchise, Brian’s sister Betsy has taken on the role of Captain Britain. And as for Brian, after 45 years, he chose the Sword of Might over the Amulet of Right. And in doing so, has become Captain Avalon. The idea being that Avalon is the realm that channels the collective subconscious of the British Isles. His future in Marvel Comics is secured. And his future in the MCU? That’s only a matter of time.