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The British Superhero

The British Superhero

By Chris Murray
Paperback : 9781496820266, 320 pages, 40 b&w illustrations, December 2018
Hardcover : 9781496807373, 318 pages, 40 b&w illustrations, March 2017

Tracking the surprising rise of the British superhero


Chris Murray reveals the largely unknown and rather surprising history of the British superhero. It is often thought that Britain did not have its own superheroes, yet Murray demonstrates that there were a great many in Britain and that they were often used as a way to comment on the relationship between Britain and America. Sometimes they emulated the style of American comics, but they also frequently became sites of resistance to perceived American political and cultural hegemony, drawing upon satire and parody as a means of critique.

Murray illustrates that the superhero genre is a blend of several influences, and that in British comics these influences were quite different from those in America, resulting in some contrasting approaches to the figure of the superhero. He identifies the origins of the superhero and supervillain in nineteenth-century popular culture such as the penny dreadfuls and boys' weeklies and in science fiction writing of the 1920s and 1930s. He traces the emergence of British superheroes in the 1940s, the advent of "fake" American comics, and the reformatting of reprinted material. Murray then chronicles the British Invasion of the 1980s and the pivotal roles in American superhero comics and film production held by British artists today. This book will challenge views about British superheroes and the comics creators who fashioned them.

Murray brings to light a gallery of such comics heroes as the Amazing Mr X, Powerman, Streamline, Captain Zenith, Electroman, Mr Apollo, Masterman, Captain Universe, Marvelman, Kelly's Eye, Steel Claw, the Purple Hood, Captain Britain, Supercats, Bananaman, Paradax, Jack Staff, and SuperBob. He reminds us of the significance of many such creators and artists as Len Fullerton, Jock McCail, Jack Glass, Denis Gifford, Bob Monkhouse, Dennis M. Reader, Mick Anglo, Brendan McCarthy, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Dave Gibbons, and Mark Millar.


"Murray writes in an engaging, fluid manner and from a clearly evident base of knowledge and experience. . . . The British Superhero is an easy book to recommend for those interested in gaining a somewhat different perspective on superhero comic history."

- Bill Capossere, Fantasy Literature

"Chris Murray’s The British Superhero does a superb job of chronicling the surprisingly compelling history of comics in England and defining the industry’s origins in nineteenth-century pop culture (boys’ weeklies, penny dreadfuls) and in the sci-fi/fantasy ‘protosuperheroes’ of 1930s pulp-fiction protagonists: the Scarlet Bat, the Black Whip, the Flaming Avenger, and Karga the Clutcher."

- Jarret Keene, Popular Culture Review