There is a long tradition of British superheroes going back to the 1930s. Many of these long forgotten superheroes were created by largely forgotten creators, and published by small, and now largely forgotten publishers. Much of my research over the last several years has been concerned with investigating these characters, comics, creators and publishers. The main research output from this project was my book, The British Superhero (2017), published by the University Press of Mississippi, but I have also attempted to shine a light on this dimly lit corner of British comics history through various articles and presentations at conferences, conventions, and other events. Part of the work has taken the form of practice research - working with several very talented comics artists to create stories about British superheroes. One of the main strategies has been the creation of a fictional British superhero, Alpha, and a supporting cast that includes Alpha Girl and the villainous Doc Oculus!
The first half of this comic takes the form of a visual essay, with art by Gary Welsh. It presents a handful of British superheroes (there are so many more!). The aim is to give a sense of the types of British superheroes that have emerged over the years. It does not pretend to be comprehensive, but is intended to be indicative. There are also references to comics that have engaged with this history, from Alan Moore and Alan Davis’s Captain Britain and Moore and O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, to Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s Zenith, and Jack Staff by Paul Grist. More recently Rebellion have been reprinting classic British superheroes in their Treasury of British Comics series, and offering contemporary reinterpretations through their mini series, The Vigilant.
The second half of the comic features Alpha, this time in a story set in 1960s Dundee, and involves another largely forgotten aspect of pop culture (groan), Pola Cola, a fizzy drink produced in Dundee by Robertson’s Fruit Products Ltd. This story was drawn by Nick Johnson. The comic concludes with two public information style advertisements, responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, but influenced by health campaigns seen in British comics in the 1980s, such as the campaign against young people smoking, which saw Superman battling Nick O’Teen!
I hope you enjoy the comic and perhaps learn something about the wonderful world of British superheroes! If you would like to learn more please consult the research project’s section on the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies website: scottishcomicstudies.com/british-superheroes