Excalibur (1st series) #53

Issue Date: 
August 1992
Story Title: 
The Litter

Scott Lobdell (writer), James Fry (penciler), Chris Ivy (inker), Michael Heisler (letterer), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Terry Kavanagh (editor), Tom deFalco (editor-in-chief)

Excalibur created by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis

Brief Description: 

During spring-cleaning in Braddock Manor, Meggan comes across an old photo album of Brian’s and he tells her the story to go along with it from the time early in his career when he was staying in the United States. At the time, he was taking lessons in super-heroing by Spider-Man and staying at Peter Parker’s flat, though unlike Spider-Man he was unaware of the other’s double identity. Brian had a hard time dealing with the stress of super-heroing life which manifested in a tendency to drink, being sloppy and not taking responsibility. Things come to a head when, after Spider-Man refuses to train him due to his drunken state, he runs into a group of snobby exchange students who are staling from the university labs. When Cap attacks them, they prove to have superpowers, as they can transform into doglike beings. During the battle, Cap hits a member of the group badly. Instead of calling the ambulance as Spider-Man asks him, he runs away. When he returns to the Parker apartment, Peter has packed his things and throws him out, effectively telling him to face his problems. Brian tells Meggan he started doing so by paying for the girl’s hospital bills once he returned to London.

Full Summary: 

A giggling Meggan flies through the halls of Braddock Manor, holding onto a photo album. Her boyfriend Captain Britain warns her to give it up before he is forced to hurt her. He chases her outside while she chides him on overreacting. Brian catches her foot and laughing they fall down.

A little later, Brian remarks that this is the first evening they’ve spent alone since Excalibur moved in. And how do they use their free time? Cleaning house. It’s a lot like loving him, she replies. If she tells him “someone’s got to do it,” he’ll push her out of this tree, he warns her.

Curious, Meggan looks at the pictures while Brian complains that was stuffed in the attic for a reason. One picture shows Brian and Betsy on their first day at preschool. He tears the album away and a picture flies out. It shows a twentyish Brian along with a brown-haired young man and a redheaded woman. Who’s his friend? Meggan asks. His name is Peter Parker comes the reply. His roommate when he studied in the States. In many ways, the man responsible for the hero he is today.

She thought that was Merlyn? Meggan asks. True, the wizard gave him a second chance at life, after saving him when his motorbike crashed. Merlyn appointed him defender of the realm, explaining he was the latest in a long line of soldiers in the interdimensional Captain Britain Corps.

Shortly thereafter, his studies in nuclear physics brought him to the United States. He scarcely had a chance to unpack before the superhero known as Spider-Man was helping Brian free Courtney Ross from the crazed assassin called Arcade. All of which was only the beginning…

Brian’s story:

… of his adventures in the United States.

Spider-Man happily takes out a few AIM agents. One and two and two, he chants. They are great! When they eventually get out of prison, they are all invited to co-star in his new exercise video. He’s thinking of calling it “a friendly neighborhood workout.”

Kill him!one of them shouts at the others. Nobody said anything about a speaking part, Spidey chides him.

Say good-bye, Bugman! one of them shouts and fires at him. Spidey dodges the shot and corrects him. The name is Spider-Man. Bug-Man s a lot taller. And wears a cape.

He finishes them off and addresses Captain Britain, who was watching the skirmish. He hopes he followed all that. From the darkness, Captain Britain emerges. Most of it, he admits. He is puzzled by this “exercise video” Spidey referred to. Isn’t he afraid such a high profile endeavour would jeopardize his secret identity? And isn’t it unlikely the intended consumer would be able to accomplish his super-powered techniques? Spidey sighs. That’s just snappy patter, he reminds Cap, meant to confuse your adversary and catch him off-guard.

Spidey ties them up and Cap flies them up. Why doesn’t he simply take them to the local authorities? He asks. Partly because the New York Police aren’t his biggest fans, comes the reply. And partly because he has a reputation to uphold.

Cap fastens the net to a lantern mast. He realizes he can be a bit dense, he tells Spider-Man, but he appreciates these nightly lessons in superhero etiquette. He is still relatively new… he breaks off, noticing that Spider-Man is gone again. His way of saying tonight’s class is dismissed. As he changes to Brian Braddock, he wonders how Spider-Man reconciles his role as costumed crime-fighter with that of normal citizen.


Meggan interrupts. She thought this story was going to be about Peter Parker? He was getting to that, Brian replies.

Brian’s story:

While he made his way to the apartment where he was staying Parker was there waiting. (Or so Brian thought. Actually, Spider-Man got there ahead of him and changed to his Parker identity). Having spent the night studying, no doubt. As Peter didn’t have the problem of a dual identity (in Brian’s opinion), it was difficult for him to grasp the need Brian had to kick back and relax at every opportunity. Translation: Brian left the apartment a pigsty.

Brian enters and catches Peter’s angry look. Glad to see he didn’t wake him, Brian states enthusiastically. What is he still doing up at this hour? Picking up after the ungrateful, slovenly houseguest he’s been forced to take in, so he stands half a chance of meeting this month’s rent, comes the bitter reply. There’s that dry American wit of his he’s so often at a loss to appreciate, Brian remarks. He sinks down into a comfy chair and pours himself a whiskey. He apologizes about the mess. If Peter knew how hectic his life has been since coming to America…

He understands more than Brian thinks, Peter replies. But it’s beside the point. When he leaves the pad, he could spend all night giving blankets to the homeless, but that doesn’t give him the right to come back here and dump his problems on Peter. Brian agrees and takes out his checkbook. How much would it cost to have a maid come over and clean? Name a prize. It’s not about money, Peter replies in a huff. Ahh, forget it! Brian wouldn’t understand anyway. He storms out.

The next afternoon after classes in the Coffee Bean with Peter and Mary Jane things are a bit tense. Brian asks for Brandy and is told by the owner this is the Coffee Bean. They don’t have brandy.

MJ asks Brian whether it isn’t a little early in the day for imbibing. Peter agrees, but then their attention is diverted by a group of European students at the next table, acting up and making fun of the American university system. What does Empire State University have to teach them geniuses?

Peter states they are rude but they are probably uncomfortable living in another country. Homesick even. Be that as it may… Brian gets up and addresses one of them, a tall blond man, Jan. He asks him to curb his rather ethnocentric tendencies. It is the height of rudeness to speak ill of one’s host country.

He’s English, isn’t he? Jan asks and gets up to stand opposite the far smaller Brian. What does it matter? Brian asks. Is he willing to suffer a few broken bones defending the honour of the United States? Jan threatens. He doesn’t believe that will be a problem, Brian replies. Yer darn tootin’ it won’t, the owner snaps. He throws the Europeans out and tells Brian, if he weren’t a friend of Parker…

Peter tells Brian he’ll drop Mary Jane off. Fine, Brian agrees. He’ll see him later. “Later” means after several hours of wasting time in one establishment after the other (drinking beer), anxiously awaiting his nightly session with the webbed wonder.

They meet at the Empire State Building and Spidey states Cap’s late. He felt one of them should be, Cap quips. Spidey admits that he might be the least qualified person in the world to give personal advice to anyone, but since they are both on top of Manhattan in their longjohns, ready to spend the night fighting crime, in this case he might be uniquely suited to say, if there’s anything Cap might like to talk about…? Much appreciated, comes the reply, but Spider-Man wouldn’t understand.

Cap wanted to talk but how was he to supposed to complain about the complication of costumed adventuring to the hero who made it look easy? He felt like an idiot, it was only proper that he behaved like one. So he coldly replies he isn’t in the mood for a lecture. So if they could get on with this evening’s tutorial?

Spidey refuses and suggests that Cap go home and sleep off his “mood.” He’d rather not, Cap states and flies off. Spidey sulks, first willing to let him go off, but is then reminded of the hard lesson he learned from the death of his uncle Ben. This all seems so familiar because he too had trouble adjusting to his superpowers at first, his role as a hero. The difference being, his inexperience cost him Uncle Ben, the greatest man he’s ever known. He sighs and follows Cap.

A few blocks away Cap finds a few criminals trying to steal machinery from the university‘s bio-techlabs. In his inebriated state, he doesn’t even recognize them as the exchange students from the Coffee Bean. He suggests when they are done appropriating those ill-gained goods, could they lend him a hand? He’s casting an opera he’s written. He’d like to see who can wail the loudest. If that was a feeble attempt at humour, the leader replies, he‘ll notice they’re not howling with laughter. Yet.

His features begin to change, his eyes turn red and in moments they all transform into doglike beings. Now, one of them demands, Mr. Funny hero, what does he have to say for himself? Can he offer any assist with those crates? Cap mumbles. Too late to make nice, the tall one replies. He has already incurred the wrath of Dane. Aye, and of Terrier as well, a smaller one adds. Poodle, Pitbull and Basenji are also upset, the woman states. In short, he now faces the Litter!

The Litter? They are joking, too? Cap asks. Not at all, one of them assures him as he attacks. They are the brightest, most original thinkers in all of Europe. Dedicated to creating a better race through genetic engineering. Cap slaps him a way, shouting they are using dogs as a model for a better human breed? And why not? Poodle asks as more attack. Canines are trustworthy and loyal. They travel in packs and are used to inclement weather. They close in and begin to tear into him.

I’m sorry, was it my night to walk the dog? Spidey asks as he tears one of them away with his webs. How embarrassing.

But actually, Captain Britain feels embarrassed by the entire ordeal, therefore trying to prove himself. He hits Basenji too hard. She slams into a wall and transforms into her human form, lying very still. The others stop fighting and turn human as well. Spider-Man takes a closer look, deciding she needs medical attention. He orders Captain Britain to get her an ambulance. Instead though, he flees.

He wanders the city for hours, wondering how a proper gentleman like himself wound up severely hurting another human being. Even accidentally. Finally he walks up to the Parker apartment, where Peter already waits for him, with Brian’s packed bags.

He’s leaving, he tells him. He doesn’t know Brian very well. If he did, he might use the right words to get him understand he has a problem. The drinking. The mess he leaves for other people to clean up after him. The fact he doesn’t hold himself accountable for his actions. Those are symptoms of a bigger… problem. One he can’t buy his way out of or blame on someone else. Until Brian admits that to himself and decides to work though his problems, there is nothing else Peter or anyone else can do to help him. Brian leaves.


It was the last time he saw Peter Parker, but his words have stayed with him for many years. He was the first person in Brian’s life to force him to realize he had a responsibility to himself and those around him to be a better person. Although he couldn’t know it, the great power Brian had, gave him an even greater responsibility.

It began as soon as he landed at Heathrow. His lawyers saw to it that all the young woman’s hospital bills, therapy for a badly sprained back were paid in full with Braddock money. While that was still only a monetary solution, it was a first step. He knew what he was doing… and why he was doing it. Does he know what she is doing and why she s doing it? Meggan asks and kisses him.

Characters Involved: 

framing story:

Captain Britain, Meggan, (all Excalibur)

Captain Britain’s story:

Captain Britain


Mary Jane Watson

Basenji, Dane, Pitbull, Poodle, Terrier (all Litter)

Story Notes: 

Captain Britain travelled to the USA in Marvel Team-Up (1st series) #65-66.

Actually Merlyn never told Brian about the Corps but deliberately kept him separate from it.

The story is based on a huge continuity mistake, namely that Cap actually returns from the States to London to set things right. In fact though, he is attacked on the plane (or so he thinks), jumps from it, is washed up in Cornwall and spends the next years as an amnesiac hermit, before found by the Black Knight which immediately leads to adventures in other dimensions (See the Captain Britain spotlight). The short version, he wouldn’t have had a chance to pay the girl’s bills for years!

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