Union Jack

The traditional Union Jack costumeReal Name: Joseph "Joe" Chapman

Identity/Class: Mystically enhanced human

Occupation: Full-time superhero; formerly art student

Affiliations: The Knights of Pendragon, the Invaders (21st century version)

Enemies: The Bane; Baron Blood (John Falsworth); Baron Blood (Kenneth Crichton); the Baroness; Master Man; Warrior Woman

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: Great Britain

First Appearance: (as Joe) Captain America I #253 (Marvel Comics, January 1981);
(as Union Jack) Captain America I #254 (Marvel Comics, February 1981)

Powers/Abilities: Union Jack was a good fighter and fairly athletic, even before being empowered by the Pendragon force. Subsequent to this mystical enhancement, he has gained superhuman strength, speed, and endurance. He usually carries a gun of some variety (changing it as appropriate to the mission) and a silver dagger (for his supernatural foes), and his costume is bulletproof.

History: (Captain America I #253, bts) Joe Chapman was the son of a Liverpudlian dock worker. Showing a flair for art, Joe went to University to study that subject, where he met Kenneth Crichton, a student from a radically different background. Kenneth was the son of Lord and Lady Crichton, and the grandson of Montgomery, Lord Falsworth. In spite of coming from different worlds, the two men became close friends. Joe was eventually entrusted with the Falsworth family secret: both Kenneth's late uncle Brian and his grandfather Montgomery had worn the heroic mantle of Union Jack during the World Wars, while his mother had been the heroine Spitfire; the black sheep of the family, his great-uncle, Montgomery's brother, had been the vampiric German agent, Baron Blood.

Joey as he originally looked when he first donned the costume(Captain America I #253, 254) Joe accompanied Kenneth on a visit to his family's ancestral home, Falsworth Manor, for the holidays. As well as meeting Kenneth's mother and grandfather, he was also introduced to another visiting family friend: Steve Rogers, Captain America, who had fought alongside the family during World War II. Rogers was there because his old friend Montgomery had called him, concerned that Baron Blood had returned. Captain America's investigation these suspicions, and that Blood was targeting his family. Soon after this, the vampire entered Falsworth Manor, intending to turn his aged, wheel-chair bound brother into one of the undead, thus condemning him to an eternity as a crippled old man. Baron Blood found his brother sitting in his wheel-chair, wearing his old Union Jack costume. However, as Blood moved in for the kill, Union Jack launched himself out of the chair and attacked. Gradually gaining the upper hand, Blood deduced that Kenneth had taken up the mantle. The intervention of Captain America ended the fight, and Blood was decapitated. As the other members of the household arrived, Union Jack removed his mask to reveal Joe; it had been decided that Kenneth, whose health had always been poor, would not have been strong enough to survive the fight, so his friend had taken his place. Recognising how he had earned it, the Falsworth's decided to allow Joe to continue to on as the newest Union Jack.

John Byrne's revised Union Jack costume from Namor #12(Contest of Champions I #3) Some time later, when the alien Grandmaster took on Death in a contest using Earth's superhuman champions, Union Jack was one of the reluctant participants.

(Namor I #12) Joe (in a redesigned costume), by now a close friend of Kenneth's mother Jacqueline, helped out her old ally Namor against two revived Nazi superhumans, Master Man and Warrior Woman.

Jack's first revised (and naff) costume as one of the Knights(Knights of Pendragon I#7,8, 10-18, Knights of Pendragon II#1-15) When the Green Knight empowered a group of people using the ancient Pendragon force, Union Jack became one of the Knights of Pendragon, gaining superhuman strength and endurance into the bargain. He fought alongside the team for a lengthy period, battling the evil Bane, who in one instance resurrected Baron Blood. This rematch ended with Blood once again dead, this time impaled on a gigantic cross. Joe went through a couple of costumes during this period, firstly trying out a suit of high-tech armour (similar to what was being worn by the rest of the Knights at the time), then, as his strength level increased and the Pendragon force began to grant each Knight more specific powers suited to their personalities, adopting a bulky (and frankly quite ugly) affair. Many of the team eventually left their home dimension to fight evil in another reality, with Union Jack staying behind to continue the fight alone.

(Excalibur I #125) Union Jack was one of many heroes who attended the wedding of Captain Britain and Meggan in Otherworld.

(Union Jack #1-3) Joe returned to his original costume, and continued adventuring. However the legacy of Baron Blood had not finished with either him or the Falsworth's yet. The Baroness, an undead protege of the Nazi agent targeted Kenneth, first making him increasingly ill, and then eventually turning him into a vampire, the new Baron Blood. Though Joe managed to eliminate most of the Baroness' coven of nosferatu, he was unable to prevent her getting hold of the Holy Grail long enough to make herself immune to most of the things that were normally fatal to vampires (such as sunlight). Kenneth realised the errors of his ways at the last minute, and as the sun rose he died in his friend's arms.

(Avengers III#82-84, Invaders III #0- on) Realising how precious their time was, and how there were no guarantees in life, Joe and a rejuvenated Jacqueline began a romantic relationship. Both were requested by the U.K. government to become members of a new team of Invaders which was being recruited by the Thin Man. Although somewhat concerned both by the nature of their missions and the attitude of some of their team-mates (such as the gung-ho U.S.Agent), the two agreed.

Jack's second outfit as part of the Knights.Comments: Mike Murphy sent me an interesting note. "The Marvel UK staff members who altered UJ's costume for the duration of his Knights of Pendragon appearances admittedly did so because they had an adverse reaction to the original costume 'looking too much like a SAS uniform.' " Since the original version was worn by a man working during World War I as a covert government operative, a resemblance to a Special Forces uniform actually makes sense.

Nick Brownlow amends the above with the following statement "Obviously, Union Jack's costume doesn't look even remotely like an SAS uniform; the creative team on KoP actually changed the costume because they felt it was looked uncomfortably like the sort of thing a BNP member might wear, a decision they discussed in the letters column of that series."

While I'm sure Nick's got the right of it (if he has taken the information from the KoP letter's pages), my own opinions on the matter are:

  1. He was wearing a costume covered with the Union Flag - which doesn't belong to the BNP, or any other group - it belongs to all the British people. So if that was the reason the KoP creative team changed the costume, then as far as I'm concerned, it was a stupid reason to do so. Plus the two attempts to replace it went from bad to worse (have a look at the images and see for yourself).

  2. The original Union Jack costume, if you removed the actual flag motif, does look like the kind of thing special forces sometimes wear - black outfit with balaclava mask (though not the skintight leotard bit, admittedly).

Thanks also to Nick for a couple of corrections.

CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with

Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.

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