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Great British Comic-Book Characters: Marshal Law

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Borag Thungg fellow fans of fantastic fiction, and welcome to another eccentrically enthralling episode of Great British Comic-Book Characters our occasional series that aims to acquaint you with some of our very favourite fictional figures originating from this tiny island known as the United Kingdom.

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The British comic book scene has been active as long as its more famous American counterpart, and as long and varied as its history has been… very few costumed characters of the traditional spandex clad Superhero have emerged from this sceptred isle. That’s not to say that no characters of heroic nature have emanated from the UK, just that they tend not to follow in the footsteps of their more audacious USA brethren. Though long time allies and compeers, our differences couldn’t be more palpable, especially in the wonderful world that is comic books.

And, oh boy, Marshal Law is the epitome of this disparity, a fascistic, radically authoritarian creation that actually falls in line with a rather large amount of stylistically created fictional persona that have emanated from this country over several decades of both comic-books and general fiction (film, television, novels). Politically charged and anti-authoritarian issues have always had the biggest influences in the UK’s most popular comic book characters, from the obviously  quasi-fascist vision of future law enforcement that is Judge Dredd, through recalcitrant characters such as Zenith, V, and Nemesis the Warlock, British comic creators have always revelled in counterculture paradigms.

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Marshal Law is a government sanctioned “Hero Hunter” a super-powered member of the San Futuro police Department, San Futuro is a sprawling metropolis from the near future that rose from the ashes of San Francisco following a devastating earthquake. Marshal revels in his position as a Cape killer, with his raison d’etre revolving around taking down rogue Superheroes, Marshal derives an unhealthy amount of gratification and joy from this task, utilising an almost unlimited arsenal of ridiculously over the top weaponry/ heavy ordnance (and good ol’ fashion fisticuffs) he is uncompromising in both his use of violence and lack of emotional wealth… a true sociopath.

Marshal’s secret identity is Joe Gilmore, an ex super-soldier, who is overwhelmed with a malign sense of self loathing due to his manifest super powers. In this alternate future Genetic engineering has swept San Futuro and the USA at large, with most of America’s armed forces utilising the science to create the ultimate Ubermensch.

Though, the act of saddling the military populace with overt powers also led to an increase in detrimental psychological effects on the subjects, psychosis is prevalent amongst the majority of the soldiers, also the inability to control or understand their wildly chaotic powers. Upon leaving military servitude, these super powered individuals would often take up the cape and cowl to become Superheroes and yet their gradually diminishing mental capabilities and lack of remorse or any sense of compassion led them down a darker path more akin to the classic SuperVillain as opposed to the heroic archetype, which essentially leads to Marshal Law’s emergence as a hero hunter, whose own advanced abilities and detestation of genetic super-beings lead him down a violent, pitiable path of reckless redemption for his own self loathing due to his inherited mutation.

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Marshal Law was first unleashed onto unsuspecting Brit comic-book fans by Epic Comics in October 1987, a six issue mini-series created by 2000AD stalwarts Kev O’ Neill and the legendary Pat Mills. The resulting series led on to a fantastic one shot  “Marshal Law Takes Manhattan” in which he proceeded to eliminate perfectly parodied variants of Marvel characters. It’s these satirical parody’s of mainstream American Superheroes that has been a marvellous mainstay of his adventures throughout the years, DC characters such as Batman and Superman have also felt the sting of Marshal’s wrath with some absolutely fantastic and (especially in the case of Batman’s variant) outlandishly bizarre versions of the beloved heroes.

Marshal Law is an extreme satire of Superhero/Anti-hero tropes, mixed with outlandish humour, feverishly idiosyncratic art by the fantastic Kev O’Neill and the legendary Pat Mills at his politico anti-establishment finest. As long as you’re not easily offended, and can tolerate seeing your favourite Superhero get shot, stabbed, decapitated, electrocuted crushed, smushed, blown up, immolated and generally wiped the floor with by its titular star – Marshal Law… then this comes highly recommended!

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