Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock, better known to X-Men fans as Psylocke, will play a major role in 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men: Apocalypse.” Debuting in 1976, the character had a complex and convoluted comic book career prior to joining the X-Men. Of course, once she joined up things didn’t get any less complicated. From her early precognitive powers to her signature psychic katana, Psylocke has changed roles, powers and even swapped bodies. Through it all, she’s been an enduring part of Marvel’s X-Men titles over the last forty years.
Ahead of her role as one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” CBR exhaustively chronicles Psylock’s journey to stardom and tries to make sense of some of the more confusing parts of her story.
Betsy Braddock debuted in the “Captain Britain” #8, the twin sister of the eponymous character, AKA Brian Braddock, in a story by Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe and Fred Kida. Betsy was already an accomplished pilot in her first appearance, and considering Claremont’s mother was a pilot it’s no surprise a number of different women in his comics have turned out to be charter pilots (including Madelyne Pryor a few years later in “Uncanny X-Men”). In that same first appearance, Betsy is mentally attacked by the dreaded Dr. Synne, who has a feud with Brian and Betsy’s older brother, Jamie. Betsy is manipulated into almost killing Brian and Jamie by Synne in “Captain Britain” #10. Brian and Jamie take her to a clinic for people with “diseases of the mind,” but it turns out that the clinic is secretly run by Synne himself! Luckily for Betsy, Claremont left the title with that issue and incoming writer Gary Friedrich drops the plot quickly, as Betsy recovers abruptly (much to Dr. Synne’s consternation).
We next see Betsy in 1977’s “Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain” #243 (by Jim Lawrence, Larry Lieber, Ron Wilson and Mike Esposito), where she is now inexplicably a fashion model! In that same issue, readers met a new Captain Britain villain, the assassin known as Slaymaster who would eventually play a major role in Psylocke’s life.
Captain Britain kept appearing here and there in various Marvel UK publications. Dave Thorpe and Alan Davis gave Captain Britain a brand-new start in a Captain Britain feature in the weekly “Marvel Superheroes” in 1981, where Davis designed a brand-new costume for Brian. Alan Moore soon replaced Thorpe on the series and he and Davis brought the Captain Britain feature over to the monthly title, “Daredevils.” In “Daredevils” #3, Moore and Davis brought Betsy back in a big way when she meets up with Brian for the first time in a number of years and has drastically changed. Her hair is now dyed purple!
While she is still working as a fashion model, it’s actually a cover for Betsy’s new job as part of S.T.R.I.K.E., Britain’s answer to S.H.I.E.L.D. She works in the Psi-Ops division, making this the first time readers learned Betsy is a telepath and a precognitive. She came to Brian for help because members of her division are being hunted down and killed by Slaymaster. Brian ultimately saves Betsy from Slaymaster and Betsy remained a supporting character throughout Moore and Davis’ famous run on the Captain Britain feature in “Daredevils” and later in “Mighty World of Marvel.”
Betsy continued as a supporting cast member in the relaunched “Captain Britain” ongoing series by Jamie Delano and Alan Davis. In “Captain Britain” #5, a double of Captain Britain attacks Betsy and Brian at Braddock Manor. The double is seemingly defeated, but in reality it was the real Captain Britain who was taken away. The double attacked Betsy, leading her to eventually kill him. Betsy then accepted the protection of the Resources Control Executive (RCX), the organization that took over from the now-defunct S.T.R.I.K.E., and the group took up residence at Braddock Manor. Brian did not like this and cut out for a while. When he returned in “Captain Britain” #12, he discovered that the RCX had made Betsy the new Captain Britain in his place! The Captain Britain suit gave Betsy power on top of her telepathy, but it turned out not to be enough to stop Slaymaster when he showed up in “Captain Britain” #13 (written and drawn by Alan Davis) as the villain blinded Betsy. Brian manages to save her and seemingly kill Slaymaster. The next issue was the final one of the “Captain Britain” ongoing series, and readers got to check in with Betsy to see that she was adjusting well to being blind, using her telepathic powers to see. She also specifically rejected an offer from RCX to give her cybernetic replacement eyes.
Meanwhile, Chris Claremont had been working on Alan Davis, trying to convince him to come over and draw X-Men comics. While still doing “Captain Britain,” Davis had already begun working on the American side of things for DC Comics on “Batman and the Outsiders” in 1984 and followed “Outsiders” writer Mike W. Barr to “Detective Comics” in 1986. Davis, though, was having issues with DC, so he agreed to work out a deal with Marvel through Claremont where he would bring Captain Britain over to the American Marvel offices. This would eventually become the X-Men spinoff, “Excalibur.” While he was waiting for “Excalibur” to get ready to begin, however, he found other work at Marvel, drawing two issues of “Uncanny X-Men” and both the 1987 “Uncanny X-Men Annual,” as well as the 1986 “New Mutants Annual.” His first assignment for Marvel with Claremont was “New Mutants Annual “#2. And guess who came along for the ride with Alan Davis? Betsy Braddock herself!
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