Rob Williams Leads The Charge for Marvel UK’s KNIGHTS OF PENDRAGON and SUPER SOLDIERS
CREDIT: Marvel Comics
It’s been twenty years since Marvel’s UK heroes have been active as a group, and fans often wonder what happened to those heroes; but comics writers have been thinking about what those villains might have been up to might be even more intriguing. The shadowy multi-national corporation MYS-TECH, once the overarching villain of the 1980s and 1990s Marvel UK line, has been busy in its time away and it’s up to the Marvel UK heroes to reunite in an effort to stop this Faustian group.
This all takes place in the 2014 event series Revolutionary War, which shows Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom leading the charge with a group of heroes including Death’s Head (Yes, both of them), the Warheads, Dark Angel, Motormouth, Knights of the Pendragon and the Super Soldiers to fight off their storied foe. Earlier Newsarama spoke with writers Andy Lanning and Alan Cowsillwho are the overall writers of the event series, and now we turn to UK writer Rob Williams (Cla$$war, Ghost Rider) to talk about the two one-shot he’s writing for the effort, January’s Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon with artist Brent Anderson and February’s Revolutionary War: Super Soldiers with artist Simon Coleby.
The Knights of Pendragon are a storied team in UK comics lore, borne out of the King Arthur tales and environmental ideals being one of the most forward-thinking superhero books of the time. The Super Soldiers were products of the British equivalent of the United States’ Super Soldier program, and were a special forces team bathed in the style of early 1990s superhero comics. Williams spoke with us about both teams, and how their stories fit into the larger narrative of Revolutionary War.
Newsarama: Rob, what can you tell us about your involvement with Revolutionary War and how you joined the project?
Rob Williams: I’ve worked with editor Steve Wacker at Marvel a few times now. He initially asked me if I wanted to write the Revolutionary War: Super Soldiers oneshot, then asked if I wanted to do the Knights of Pendragon too. I grew up loving Captain Britain and a lot of the Marvel UK-based characters, and did a Union Jack story for Steve a while back, which was fun. I was excited to be part of it.
Nrama: A lot to talk about, so let’s start with the Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon one-shot. What’s it about?
Williams: Well Knights… in its original incarnation, was this kind of Vertigo-ish non-capes eco-themed book. Then later it morphed into a more spandex superteam kind of deal. I thought we should take it back to its roots. The cast is largely the originals – Dai Thomas, Kate McClellan, Gawain the Knight, Albion, Union Jack. We’ve added Pete Wisdom too, which fits. I’ve written Wisdom before and he’s great fun to write. The underlying storyline with all these books is that MYS-TECH, the old Marvel UK bad guys, are back, and lots of underground bases are being unearthed. This brings the Knights back together, and Pete and Union Jack head for Avalon, the mystical realm, to try and recruit Albion. But Avalon is a magical mirror of Britain, and austerity cuts have had an effect. Meanwhile, Dai and Kate are breaking into a fracking mining operation, where something evil that goes to the heart of the perception of Britain is waking up. There’s lots of battles, an ending no-one will predict, I think, and a fair amount of overt subtext about the image of Britain and what Britain really is today. I had a blast writing it.
Nrama: I fondly remember Knights of Pendragon, but the team seemed to be very different from its first and second volumes. How would you describe your team in this?
Williams: Yeah, re-reading them, I thought the initial volume was far more successful. There was something unique about that. The second volume they were another costumed super team that just happened to be British. I thought we’d be best served going back to the original. And eco-themes are big news these days. The fact that the bad guys in our Knights issue are fronted by an energy company is pretty prescient.
Nrama: You mention MYS-TECH being back, and it seems they’re shaping up to be the big bad of Revolutionary War. What’s your take on them in this?
Williams: I don’t want to give away too much here, as MYS-TECH’s involvement (and doesn’t it seem more evil when you upper caps it?) is really the spine of the story, running through Andy Lanning, Alan Cowsill and Richard Elson’s Revolutionary War: Alpha and Revolutionary War: Omega issues and all our one shots. But there was a lot of underground MYS-TECH bases left around Britain when they were defeated during the original Marvel UK days. Only some of them were discovered. And there’s some nasty things inside. And maybe leaving them there was all part of a larger plan…
Nrama: In addition to previous Knights of the Pendragon members, you mentioned that Excalibur alum Pete Wisdom has joined the group. Can you tell us about his involvement?
Williams: Wisdom’s kind of our tether between the books. He’s working for MI:13, as established in Paul Cornell’s fun book Captain Britain & MI:13 from a few years back. That kind makes him Britain’s Nick Fury, albeit a very sarcastic version who snarks a lot. When MYS-TECH reappear, and the scale of the threat becomes known, Wisdom is charged with recruiting the old Marvel UK heroes. Even though he seems to hate a lot of them.
Nrama: Now onto your next book for Revolutionary War, Super Soldiers. For people that didn’t read the original eight issue series from 1993, how would you describe the team?
Williams: They really were what it says on the tin. Britain’s own team of enhanced soldiers. They took the same drug that Nuke, from Daredevil: Born Again, took, albeit a more controlled version. This allows them to kind of ‘warp out’ when the drug hits their system in battle. Visually, they were part of that Cable/Rob Liefield era, with big shoulder pads and guns so heavy they could rip your arms out of their sockets when you tried to lift them. ‘The Hernia Age’!
Nrama: Who’s in the team these days?
Williams: Colonel Hauer, Gog, Dalton, Guvnor. All were part of the original team. But time’s not been kind to them.
Nrama: So what are they like these days then?
Williams: The Super Soldiers, in the years since we last met them, have done what any crack, black-ops military team would do, and written a ‘tell-all’ novel that’s being turned into a movie. And they’ve managed to convince the makers to cast them in supporting roles. Hauer is acting as ‘Military advisor’ on the production, and hating every minute of this. The fact that no one’s seen or heard from them in 20 years pretty much sums up their feelings of having seen better days. They’re a group without purpose. There used to be straightforward wars of right and wrong, not they’re privately owned by a corporation and they don’t have a fight. The key line for me was “Super Soldiers? There’s nothing super about us.” “No, but we’re soldiers. So we fight.” It’s the story of people who’ve lost purpose but, when MYS-TECH attack in overwhelming numbers, they have to try and protect innocents. I was channeling movies like Zulu and The Wild Geese writing it. That British soldiers idea of fighting against crazy odds, trying to hold the line. Trying to find something noble.
Nrama: So how does these two one-shots fit within the larger Revolutionary War event?
Williams: We’re all parts of the jigsaw, but it’s Andy Lanning and Alan Cowsill’s story overall. They provided the core series framework, then it was up to us to pitch the individual stories to fit inside that.
Nrama: Your comics debut was in 2002, well after Marvel UK folded – but I imagine you might’ve read them when you were younger. Can you tell us about your connection to the Marvel UK titles?
Williams: I’ll be honest, I never read the Marvel UK books at the time. I think they came out when I was at college and I kind of took a few years off from comics while I concentrated on serious pastimes like pubs, plays and chasing the opposite sex. But I’ve read a lot of these characters over the years and have a strong soft spot for some of them. After writing these issues I’ve discovered just how good these characters can be.