Marvel’s What If…? kicked off with something many Marvel fans have being waiting years to see: Peggy Carter kicking butt and taking names. Imbued with the super soldier serum, “Captain Carter” is every inch the superhero that Steve Rogers was in the formal MCU timeline.
But hang on, Steve’s superhero name was Captain America, not Captain Rogers. Shouldn’t Peggy’s superhero name be Captain Britain? After all, there has been a Captain Britain in Marvel comics since 1976.
The Captain Britain of Marvel comics has a very, very different history than Captain America. “Captain Britain” is a title of magical origin, passed between members of the Braddock family, and awarded by that fantastical figure of pop cultural lore, Merlyn. Traditionally the various Captains Britain are given a fairy tale-esque choice between the Amulet of Right and the Sword of Might, with those who choose the sword usually rejected for their inclinations towards violence. It’s a far cry from a serum-enhanced World War II super-soldier.
The character of Captain Britain — whether it’s Brian Braddock, his twin sister Betsy, or someone else — owes a lot of their longevity to being associated with the X-Men. Captain Britain wasn’t created as a mutant character, but when some X-Men writers wanted to create an X-Men spinoff book set in England, they roped the good Captain into the team because of their affection for the character.
Which raises the question: Is Peggy “Captain Carter” because Marvel Studios doesn’t want to hint at the possibility of X-Men before they’re properly introduced?
When Polygon sat down with What If…? creator and head writer A.C. Bradley, we had to ask: Why Captain Carter? Why not Captain Britain? Bradley seemed to have anticipated the question.
“She doesn’t hide her face,” she replied, “why does she have to go by a nom de plume?”