As surprising as it may seem, the British referendum on the European Union has even had an impact on superheroes! With the cost of imported comics about to increase in the UK, this might be the right time for Marvel to re-establish a brand that ran from 1972, and introduced some classic characters - Marvel UK!
What Was Marvel UK?
The Marvel UK imprint started off as nothing more than a smart way to avoid shipping costs. The first Marvel UK comics were simply reprints of US editions; it was a smart move, as - unlike, say, adapting a comic for the Chinese market - the UK mostly shares a common language with the US.
By 1976, though, Marvel UK was beginning to change. Legendary comic book writer Chris Claremont created the character of Captain Britain, and from there Marvel began to publish a whole slate of original characters and concepts. Many, such as Captain Britain's telepathic sister Psylocke, made their leap over into the US comics.
Sadly, the 1990s were the doom of Marvel UK. When the comics bubble burst in the mid-'90s, Marvel almost went bankrupt. They sold the right to publish UK editions to Panini; to this day, Panini's sole focus is on reprinting US editions.
What Characters Did Marvel UK Create?
Perhaps the most well-known Marvel UK character is Psylocke, sister of Captain Britain, a telepathic mutant who soon made her way over to the US comics. Psylocke even made her mark felt in this year's X-Men: Apocalypse!
Another key character is Brian Braddock, Captain Britain himself. A champion of the Multiverse, Captain Britain is one of the multidimensional Captain Britain Corps, working for the Celestial Guardian Roma. He became a mainstay in Marvel's Excalibur title (an X-Men group based in the UK), and periodically becomes important again, playing a minor role in Jonathan Hickman's New Avengers run. Other members of the Captain Britain Corps have been used liberally as background characters in Marvel US, such as Spider-Man UK, who was a major player in the "Spider-Verse" event. In March this year, there were even rumors that Marvel was working on a Captain Britain TV series!
Lance Hunter is a third famous Marvel UK creation. In the comics, Hunter worked for the UK's S.H.I.E.L.D.-equivalent S.T.R.I.K.E., and became Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee. The character was heavily adapted for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where he's played by Nick Blood.
Even after Marvel UK had ended, the impact of Marvel's UK presence continued to be demonstrated over in the pages of Excalibur. An X-Men title based in the UK, prominent team members included:
- Nightcrawler, the German teleporter who often served as the leader
- Captain Britain himself
- Megan, Captain Britain's shapeshifting girlfriend
- Kitty Pryde, one of the most popular X-Men who possesses the power to turn intangible
- Rachel Grey, time-travelling daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey (it's complicated), who was host to the Phoenix Force
The series is a firm fan-favorite, and is relaunched every now and again.
Is The Time Right for Marvel UK's Return?
Just over a month ago, the British public voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. It's too soon to truly evaluate the impact of this decision, but one immediate impact has been that the pound has lost a lot of its value. The freefall seems to have stopped, but only after the pound has lost 10% of its value against the dollar - and many economists believe that change is permanent. This means imports are expensive again, and it has a real impact on comic book sales. Diamond Distributors, who ship comics to the UK, are pushing up their prices by about 25%.
Meanwhile, Marvel has begun diversifying out to other countries, with new characters and concepts for Asian markets. Some of these are even making their way over into US comics; the classic example is the White Fox, a Korean superhero introduced in Korean web-comic Avengers: Electric Rain, who was brought over into US comics in the recently-concluded Contest of Champions. Marvel is positioning the character to become increasingly important in the Marvel Universe, setting a precedent for local comics to introduce ideas that become mainstream to the Marvel Universe.
The fact remains that a lot of top-rate comic book writers and artists are based in the UK; the so-called 'British Invasion' may have ended, but we still have a lot of talent. In recent years, Marvel has lost a lot of their top-tier talent - even Jonathan Hickman moved on after "Secret Wars" - and some of their up-and-coming writers and artists are UK-based. The most prominent example is Al Ewing, currently writer of New Avengers, and easily one of the strongest of Marvel's current writers, while Mark Millar openly advocated Brexit during the British referendum on membership of the European Union.
All of these factors come together nicely to raise a single possibility: why not bring back Marvel UK? Why can't Marvel do in the UK what they're doing in Korea, and publish British comics, starring British characters, helping to decentralize the Marvel Universe and add global diversity? This approach would help Marvel to recognize and develop local talent, and - just as with White Fox - Marvel could then absorb the most successful ideas into the mainstream Marvel Universe. It would allow British retailers to avoid the increasing cost of US imports, while giving us something far more original than Panini's reprints.
To me, it makes sense. Marvel UK has a proud history - writers such as Alan Moore and Chris Claremont were involved in the original imprint - and it's be delighted to see the return of Marvel UK. Come on, Marvel, make it so!
Do YOU think it would be a good idea to bring back Marvel UK?