An Overview of the History of British Comics

Within each decade I've further split characters in heroes (those who have powers, or secret identities, or costume, who fight crime and/or injustice), villains (those with powers, or... etc who commit crimes and injustice) and people with powers (as many of the UK comics included people who had some sort of superpowers, but who just used them in day-to-day life, perhaps fighting criminals if they happened to encounter them, but generally not looking for trouble). Each of these definitions is sometimes a bit arbitrary, with there being many who fall into a grey area between them.

The British "Pulp" Era Britain had both costumed and superpowered characters who turned up in the early days of the comics, which at that time were largely text stories with a handful of illustrations (a well-known example being the Sherlock Holmes stories in the Strand).  While at first more commonly the home of consulting detectives like Holmes, Sexton Blake or Nelson Lee, shortly after the Great War more ... unusual... individuals began to crop up.

Forties The War Years and their aftermath. With US titles unavailable and the demand for superheroes like Batman and Superman, homegrown heroes become a must.

Fifties: which introduced us to Robot Archie and Marvelman amongst others. It is the era of Dan Dare and the Eagle.

Sixties: The superhero action strip takes off, with characters like the Spider and Janus Stark.

Seventies: The influence of Marvel is clearly felt, with the debuts of the Amazing Three, the Leopard from Lime Street. The Americans recognise the market to be tapped, and introduce the first UK-specific Marvel hero, Captain Britain. And near the end of the decade a new comic is introduced that will change the face of British comics - 2000 A.D.

Eighties: With Captain Britain the Americans had tried to move on the British market. Now British writers take over the Americas, with Hellblazer, Watchmen, and Sandman all from DC, as well as independent titles like the Adventures of Luther Arkwright. And Alan Moore also revives icons Captain Britain and Marvelman (a.k.a. Miracleman, one of the stars of the short lived Warrior comic). In 2000 A.D. a young Grant Morrison brings us Zenith, and in one story plays with many of the older heroes of a bygone era.

Nineties: Marvel's U.K. imprint launches a short lived range of titles, but IPC and DC Thomson end most of their action and adventure output, with only 2000 A.D. surviving.

Twenty-first century heroes: With most of the old British titles having gone to the wall, the new millennium  might appear somewhat bleak. But there is new stuff out there in the form of a number of small press titles. There is also one significant addition to the mix in the form of Jack Staff, which has swiftly gained international attention.

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