Wulf the Briton
Real Name: Wulf
Identity/Class: Normal human
Affiliations: Cadmon, Greatorix,
Enemies: General Ganeus Julius Agricola, Emperor Nero
Known Relatives: None
Base of Operations: Ancient Briton, formerly Rome, the Mediterranean
First Appearance: Express Weekly (Beaverbrook, October 1956)
Powers/Abilities: Skilled swordsman.
History: A young Celt warrior captured and taken to Rome, Wulf the Briton undertook a series of trials to win his freedom, then returned home to Briton to oppose the Roman invaders! Around 60 A.D., Wulf the Briton was the British slave of the Roman Lucellus. After brashly jumping into the Colosseum's arena to fight and defeat a gladiator who had overpowered one of Wulf's friends before that gladiator could kill his downed foe, Wulf defied the Emperor Nero by refusing to finish his own opponent, instead turning his back on Nero. Punished for this, Wulf led a group of gladiators in rising up, and was given the chance to win freedom for himself and his men, including Spaniard Cadmon and the Gaul Greatorix, if they could survive seven trials. After doing so, they took a galleon to Egypt, adventuring amidst the pyramids, before returning to Britain to fight the Roman invaders led by General Ganeus Julius Agricola.
Comments: Wulf the Briton began Beaverbrook's Express Weekly in October 1956 as one of the stars of the strip Freedom is the Prize, about a group of slave gladiators in Rome who rise up to win their freedom, written by Jenny Butterworth and drawn by Ruggero Giovannini. Jenny's husband, Mike Butterworth, is sometimes cited as the series' original writer (cf. Paul Gravett's 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die); it may be he co-wrote some of it, but it seems more likely a misattribution due to Jenny being credited as J.M. Butterworth (cf. Book Palace Books' Ron Embleton's Wulf the Briton: The Complete Adventures & Dennis Gifford's Encyclopedia of Comic Characters).
At the start of 1957 the popular strip was promoted to Express Weekly's front cover and retitled after the character who had become the strip's star, Wulf the Briton. However, within two months Giovannini and other Spanish artists working for Express Weekly abruptly departed due to a dispute with their British agent. Alan Pollack took over the series' art, but proved a poor match, and Wulf looked in danger of being cancelled until Ron Embleton, who had previously drawn the strip in Express Weekly Annual 1958, took over producing the art for the series in Express Weekly #140, May 25th 1957. Embleton picked up the tale as Wulf and his former gladiators sailed to Roman-occupied Egypt, and soon took over the scripting too, chronicling Wulf's subsequent return to Britain. Embleton not only now wrote, drew and lettered the strip, but he made a remarkable effort researching the era to keep things as accurate as he possibly could, and worked on the series until 1960, during which time the strip moved from being a one-page cover story to the comic's two page centre spread.
Some of the series was subsequently reprinted in Marvel UK's Forces in Combat, the only non-Marvel and only colour strip in the title.
CLARIFICATIONS: Not to be confused with
Bala the Briton, another Briton forced to fight for foreign powers who eventually undertook a quest to return home
Wulf Sternhammer, Viking Strontium Dog
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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