How many British characters can you name in the comic industry? As a native of the land of fish and chips I’ve always felt Marvel are the ones who have offered the greatest diversity with the Excalibur series. It came as a surprise to myself when I realized my favourite English character is in the pages of a very different kind of comic.
Ian Nottingham appears in Top Cow’s Witchblade series. Starting from Witchblade 1, Nottingham remained a frequent enemy and ally for scantily clad cop Sara Pezzini. Their relationship is a tangled web of love and hate. Writers have gone back and forth over his origin. One origin claims he was an MI5 captain in the British Air Service and underwent behavior modification to go on an undercover mission. The conditioning caused him to forget his past and work as a bodyguard for Kenneth Irons, one of the series’ antagonists.
Another origin displayed Nottingham as always having criminal tendencies, or Irons being the man who raised him from an orphan to cold-blooded killer. It’s this lack of consistency that adds to the character’s mystique. Irons genetically modified him to have superhuman strength, reflexes and speed. His body and soul are capable of absorbing large amounts of energy via the tattoo like ruins on his arm. To date he is the only male to successfully wield the Witchblade, although this was temporary. Over the years Ian has walked a line between selfish and selfless. His infatuation with Pezzini has led him to protect her as much as use her for his own ends. His duality and selfish goals make him unpredictable.
As the series progressed Nottingham was used less and less. He lost some of the conflicting qualities that made you wonder which side he was playing. He even became a fully fledged villain after Sara chose to arrest him.This is the crux of him being underused. Rather than turn him into a black-and-white pastiche of his former self, it would have been interesting to see an evolution. Ian could have found some kind of redemption and then struggle with his reformed attitude. The story of a man who has a good heart but is battling with his thirst for adventure and danger. Thankfully, Nottingham didn’t lose his edge during the Artifacts event that changed the landscape of the Top Cow universe.
With the universe rebooted, I’m hoping for a return to form. Ian will have a second chance for redemption. At the very least he and Sara can go back to their dance of sexual tension and good-natured barbs.
What are your thoughts on nationally diverse characters? Do you think there are enough of them in today’s comic book industry?