Yesterday, in Part I of SUPER SPY WEEKEND, CBR News and "Captain Britain and MI:13" writer Paul Cornell looked at looked at England's archetype for the extraordinary man, Captain Britain. Now, in Part II, Cornell joins us once again for a profile of John the Skrull, an alien shape shifter who could be anyone, but is strangely most comfortable as a deceased rock n' roll star.
John debuted in Paul Cornell's MAX miniseries "Wisdom" (now available in trade paperback), in which he worked along side MI-13 team leader Pete Wisdom as part of a squad of government agents tasked with eliminating alien and supernatural threats. Years earlier, John the Skrull left his home world as part of "Operation British Invasion," which saw him assume the role of John Lennon in the Skrull Beatles, a group tasked with replacing the Fab Four and using their unmatched influence to reshape the world. But years later, with the Skrull Beatles broken up and their invasion plans scrapped, John still wears the human form he first adopted all those decades ago.
"At various times, the Skrull Beatles made a living as entertainers, together or apart, or freeloaded around the world, pretending to be the real thing, while they could," Paul Cornell told CBR News. "John wears the form now as a convenience, because he likes it, and as a badge, a statement. His own personality is like the real John's, but maybe a bit less extrovert, maybe he's hiding a little in this role. It's a comfort, too. A familiarity. When we see John in his real form, which we never have, it'll be a moment of tremendous vulnerability, maybe even of sheer despair.
"He's not the person he's been impersonating, and indeed, in issue #1, he's moved to say something his characterization of John probably wouldn't, but he's been playing him such a long time that the role's inhabited him," Cornell continued. "He's therefore pointed, confrontational with any kind of authority, kind to innocent bystanders, too cynical for his own good, witty and deliberately awkward. He's also, after his fellow Skrulls come after him, furious at his own people and lost in his adopted world. He's going to be our voice of hard truths, our ranting prophet."
John's anger stems from the fact the fanatical Skrulls' designs on Earth have forced him to choose a side and thusly alienate him from his home and his people. "He walked out on the Skrull civilization when he decided to go off mission and stay on Earth for the fun of it," Cornell explained. "But he never thought he was gone forever, there was probably a town or a street on the Skrull homeworld he thought he'd get back to one day, maybe after a change of government. But now the zealots have come after the exiles, and he's forced to fight for his adopted world. It's not a big choice: his adopted persona indicates he wouldn't have been mates with these guys back home."
Nevertheless, John's choice to fight his own people is still a difficult one. "It's very hard on him, he hates it, but he'd also say there was once a Skrull civilization that wasn't like how the Skrull invaders portray it," Cornell remarked. "As he says in issue #1: 'Hasn't it ever occurred to you lot that, the way we are, we're meant to *fit in*?' He knows he picked the right side."
John's shape shifting abilities will be an asset to MI-13 operations, but he has other qualities that will make him a valuable member of the new team. "He's most useful as a sane, sensible, domestic voice with the experience to back up what he says," Cornell stated. "He's always thinking of the little guy, which is a notch different to where Pete and Cap are."
In Cornell's "Wisdom," John of course worked closely with Pete Wisdom as part of his team of operatives. As such, when "Captain Britain and MI:13" begins, it's Pete who John is closest to. "John is fond of Pete, respects the way he does things and understands him better than a lot of the others do," Cornell explained. "John was originally a soldier, after all. Pete'll get snarky comments from John, but never actual rebellion. After all, of all Pete's intelligence unit, John was the one who was most there by choice, because it was interesting."
John's relationship with Captain Britain and his other teammates will be similarly faceted. "John takes the piss out of Cap when he can because he's a big archetype and John likes to knock the edges off those," Cornell said. "But he's been British long enough to have a real respect for Cap, and will support him when it matters. All these guys may be associates and comrades in arms at the start, but they're going to end up as great friends."
SUPER SPY WEEKEND continues later today when Paul Cornell returns to profile the next MI-13 agent, Spitfire!