The British Are Coming (Back): Andy Lanning on Marvel’s ‘Revolutionary War’ [SDCC 2013]
In the early '90s Marvel launched a UK imprint under editor Paul Neary; books featuring sci-fi-tinged heroes and anti-heroes like Motormouth, Dark Angel and the Knights of Pendragon. The line was short-lived because of the publisher's financial woes at the time, but many of the characters are still fondly remembered.
Now they're making a comeback. As announced at yesterday's Cup O'Joe panel at San Diego Comic-Con, writers Andy Lanning and Alan Cowsill are launching a new series, Revolutionary War, which reintroduces the characters from Marvel UK. We talked to Lanning to find out what to expect.
ComicsAlliance: For readers who have never encountered these characters before, what do they need to know?
Andy Lanning: If Alan and I do our job, then nothing, as all they need to know will be in the story. Buuuut, just to be on the safe side, here’s the Twitter version of Marvel UK 101:
The Marvel UK Universe centered around the evil machinations of a shadowy organization called Mys-Tech, which was formed of seven "techno-wizards" who, in 1987, sold their souls to Mephisto in exchange for immortality. In exchange, the board must supply a steady stream of souls to the demon or else forfeit their own.
Over the centuries, the board became incredibly wealthy and powerful, operating in the guise of respectable multi-national businesses. But, in a secret HQ beneath one of their front organizations, the Museum of Antiquities in Canary Wharf, London, they amassed a vast trove of arcane magical technologies that they use to increase their power and keep the supply of souls flowing to Mephisto.
Many of the stories and characters in the MUK were linked to Mys-Tech’s efforts of finding a way to escape their compact with Mephisto and becoming immortal in their own right.
Net result: much fighting, lots of bizarre and off-beat heroes, many of which were robotic with shoulder pads and big guns!
CA: Do you think there's anything quintessentially British that sets these characters apart?
AL: There was a definite edge to them and a sly, edgy humor. The heroes were designed to be attractive to the UK market as well as the US and were therefore overtly ‘sci-fi’ in feel, this was a deliberate effort to catch the eye of UK comic readers who grew up on a diet of UK titles like 2000AD and Starlord and characters like Judge Dredd, Strontinum Dog, Warlock and Rogue Trooper.
This blending of traditional US superheroes and UK sci-fi anti-heroes made the MUK characters very distinctive. And, did I mention, there were a lot of robots with big guns?!
CA: It's been more than twenty years since the launch of these Marvel UK characters, and we've not seen much of them since the line folded. Why bring them back now?
AL: Well, [editor] Steve [Wacker] was only five-years-old when these books came out so this seemed an ideal opportunity to introduce him and a whole new generation of youngsters to the fun and eccentric characters that were created by Marvel UK during its brief glory days from 1990-93. Twenty years seemed like a cool anniversary to revisit the UK and dust off these forgotten heroes and catch up with them -- a lot has happened in the interim.
CA: Have these characters been active heroes since we last saw them, or do we re-encounter them in changed circumstances?
AL: Twenty years in the real world is not necessarily twenty years in the Marvel Universe, but a significant time has passed since we saw many of the heroes we’ll be catching up with, so circumstances have shifted significantly for many of them.
CA: What brings these characters back into action? Who's revolting in this Revolutionary War?
AL: One of the big changes we’ll see is the fact that since the last issue of a Marvel UK title was published waaaay back in 1993 the Marvel UK heroes have defeated their perennial foes, Mys-Tech. We’ll learn their ultimate fate and that will play a part in events that unfold that lead to the old heroes being sought out and coming back into action.
The Revolutionary War of the title refers to the mysterious machinations that are being played out in the shadows that the heroes have to uncover and stop.
CA: Which characters are you most excited to write?
AL: My own favorites are the Warheads and Death’s Head II. But, along with my writing partner on the series, Alan Cowsill (who was a former Marvel UK editor and is a font of all things MUK), we are having a blast catching up with all the old MUK characters because they represent a really exciting time for us as young writers and artists.
Marvel UK was at the epicenter of a creative explosion at that time, and Paul Neary, who was the ringmaster of the whole circus, gave a lot of new talent their first break in comics: people who are established comic greats like Liam Sharp, Gary Frank, Carlos Pacheco, Salvador Larroca, Pascal Ferry, Bryan Hitch and many others.
CA: When the dust has settled, do you hope to see these characters more fully integrated into the Marvel Universe?
AL: We will be grateful to give the old MUK heroes another chance to shine after all these years; if that leads to them getting a second lease of life, then all the better, because, in revisiting them after so long, we've discovered they are pretty cool and have a lot of untapped potential which we hope readers will want to see more of! There’s always room for more robots.
And big guns!
Revolutionary War arrives in stores in January 2014.