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Comic Book / Knight and Squire

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Jarvis Poker: I suppose he'll [Shrike] fit in somewhere. Among the funny and the serious, the horrific and the whimsical, all pushed together...
Knight: Are you talking about the pub or Britain?
Jarvis Poker: Both.

Knight and Squire is a six-issue 2010 DC Comics miniseries by Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton, featuring Cyril Sheldrake, the Earl of Wordenshire and the superhero known as the Knight, and his sidekick Beryl Hutchinson, the Squire. They are the British Batman and Robin.

The characters have a long history, the original Knight and Squire appeared in Batman #62 in 1950, in a story entitled "The Batman of England!" In this story, the Knight was Percy Sheldrake, Cyril's father, and Cyril was his Squire. The characters were later featured as members of the Batmen of All Nations, along with the Guacho of South America, the Ranger of Australia, the Legionaire of Italy and the Musketeer of France.

Grant Morrison then reintroduced Cyril in JLA (1997), having taken his father's mantle (Percy having been killed by his archenemy Spring-Heeled Jack) and become a member of the Ultramarines, an international no-nonsense superteam. This story also introduced Beryl as the new Squire, a highly intelligent young working class woman who contrasted with the aristocratic Sheldrakes. The duo would later appear in Batman (Grant Morrison), initially in a story which portrayed all the Batmen of Many Nations as damaged in some way, essentially becoming cautionary tales of what Batman could become if he stopped being Batman. Cyril, however, was the one who'd stuck closest to the ideal.

That was the status quo when Cornell and Broxton decided to use the characters as a lens to create a whole DC Comics version of the United Kingdom, largely out of whole cloth. Over the course of the miniseries, they fight a sidekick gone bad, a cult of Morris dancers, the Bad Kings of England, the Knight's own costume and The Joker, while maintaining a Stiff Upper Lip and the British sense of humour. They also meet many, many other British heroes (and villains) at the Time in a Bottle pub, all of whom were original to the miniseries.

Meanwhile, Morrison made them part of Batman Incorporated, during which Cyril was killed and Beryl succeeded him. This appears to still be canon in the DC Rebirth universe, in which Beryl briefly appears in Doomsday Clock as the leader of the UK's official superteam, Knights Inc. Which, sadly, does not appear to include any of the Cornell-created characters.

The Percy Sheldrake Knight makes a silent cameo in the Cold Opening of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Powerless", in which the Batmen of All Nations fight the Jokers of All Nations.

Knight and Squire contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Cyril became this following his father's death, until Beryl got him back on his feet.
  • Anyone Can Die: Dennis Ennis/Shrike, a major character and Squire's love interest, is the first person the Joker kills when he hijacks Jarvis's last hurrah.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Jarvis Poker uses a lot of Double Entendres, comments on the attractiveness of Shrike, and jokes about a man getting him with his trousers round his ankles when visiting the doctor, but it's never clear if this is just part of his persona or not. In the last issue, Faceoff comments that Jarvis felt coming out was "too obvious".
  • Badass Normal: Cyril doesn't have any powers, as befits a Batman counterpart. It's not clear whether Beryl's communication abilities qualify as a superpower or not; she says it's just a survival skill she picked up when switching through different schools.
  • Bland-Name Product: Red Gull energy drink, Hexo seasoning, PH Sauce, The Daily Nail, The CBB, and the Dreadnaught comic amongst others.
  • British Stuffiness: The Knight's Stiff Upper Lip sometimes shades into this.
  • Brutal Honesty: Beryl's superpower allows her to understand situations and know the right thing to say. When she first met Cyril when he was lying in a gutter, she bluntly asked what his dad would think of him and told him to stand up.
  • Captain Geographic: While not all of them are Captain Patriotic, all the characters are extremely British in one way or another.
  • Camp: This is one of the Joker's complaints about the UK hero and villain scene; the whole thing is far too self-aware and playing into its own ridiculousness. This is why he chooses to be extremely matter-of-fact about his British crime spree, claiming he's injecting some gritty realism.
  • Camp Straight: Double Entendre, who talk entirely in Round the Horne quotes, but are specifically stated to not be gay.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Jarvis Poker is heavily based on the appearance and comic persona of Kenneth Williams.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Creepy Child: Implied with background character the Only Child.
  • Cultural Cringe: Cornwall Boy is convinced that the British hero scene, and his mentor Captain Cornwall in particular, aren't taken seriously by the "real" heroes in America. Which is why he conspires with Faceoff to switch off the truce magic and kill all the villains.
  • Dating Catwoman: Beryl and Dennis start seeing each other while he still thinks of himself as a villain.
  • Drop the Hammer: As the Bad Kings each prepare to take a section of the UK, Edward I, the Hammer of the Scots, is shown heading for Scotland with an actual energy hammer.
  • Eagleland: Very mixed flavour: Hank Hackenbacker, the Knight's butler, is America the Beautiful, a square-jawed guy whose biggest failing is that he thinks Cyril should be open about his emotions when the "proper" thing to do is bottle them up. The Joker is 'Murica the Boorish, absolutely contemptuous of Britain and everything about it.
  • Electric Black Guy: 'Fro, who wears a version of Black Lightning's costume and, as his name suggests, the same hairstyle Jefferson had in the seventies.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Britain's villain community, from its harmless bad guys to its rogues to the real deals, are all in agreement they don't want or need Joker's brand of evil mucking things up for them. As Death Dinosaur puts it, they don't need some Yank trying to do their job for them.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: This is ultimately Jarvis Poker's realisation about his inspiration; being a murderous lunatic essentially prevents you from actually being funny.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Jarvis Poker's underwear has a heart pattern. For added ridiculousness, they aren't boxers, they're long johns.
  • Hard Gay: Faceoff, a Punisher-like character who is offended by Shrike using "gay" as a slur.
  • Harmless Villain: Jarvis Poker, the British Joker, was inspired by the Clown Prince of Crime's sense of style, but finds actually committing crimes rather gauche, and isn't very good at it when he tries. Many other Time in a Bottle regulars seem to be likewise, with Squire dividing them into the ones who see the whole thing as a game, and the ones who are actual villains.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Shrike initally sees himself as a villain, but ultimately chooses the side of the heroes.
  • Historical Domain Crossover: The Bad Kings, clones of Richard III, John, William II, Charles I and Edward I, each with an army of criminals and a desire to reclaim part of Britain.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Beryl has linguistic powers, can follow Batman's explanation of advanced quantum theory, and maintains Cyril's media presence for him.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: The Knight's uniform is obviously intended to invoke this.
  • Legacy Character: Three successive Knights and four successive Squires (if you count the 1980s retcon of Percy's brief turn as Squire to the Shining Knight during the Golden Age). There are other legacies introduced in the series, including three generations of Rush Hour (a Sikh man with a white beard, a Sikh man with a dark beard, and a young Sikh woman).
  • Mood Whiplash: The cliffhanger of #5 is when things stop being funny. (Well, they don't entirely stop being funny, because this is Britain and you have to keep your sense of humour, but they definitely become more serious.)
  • Motorcycle Jousting: Since their original appearance in the 1950s, the Knight and the Squire have had lances they use from the back of their motorcycle steeds. In the mini-series, the Knight and Richard III wind up jousting on London Bridge.
  • Mugged for Disguise: The trope image is Knight and Squire infiltrating the Morris Men.
  • My Horse Is a Motorbike: A constant since the fifties is that Knight and Squire ride motorbikes with stylised horse's heads. In the series, Knight's bike Anastasia can follow a scent. The clone of Richard III acquires something similar, leading to Knight and King jousting on London Bridge.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Morris Men, at least under Morris Major's influence, are sexist, homophobic and racist. The Knight wonders if they'll actually be wearing swastikas.
  • Nice Guy: Jarvis Poker is everything the Joker is not, a delightful old man only interested in pulling off "crimes" centered around style and humor.
  • Open Secret: At the very least, Beryl's next door neighbour and the local newsagent are aware that she's Squire, but try not to mention it. It's possible this applies to the entire town of Great Worden.
  • Rhyming Names: Jarvis Poker, the British Joker.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Morris Major was inspired by a newspaper article about the far right attempting to infiltrate the folk scene.
  • Scenery Censor: Birthday Girl is a naked superheroine who always has something blocking her (the fact her powers apparently involve balloons and streamers helps). The one exception is when she makes a video call to the Knight … and his computer adds a Censor Bar.
  • Shout-Out: So many:
    • Beryl is named after Beryl the Peril from The Topper. Shrike's real name of Dennis Ennis is likewise a reference to Dennis the Menace (UK).
    • The Milkman (and his archenemy Two-Ton Ted from Teddington) are references to Benny Hill's "Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West".
    • The Black and White Minstrels are named after The Black and White Minstrel Show.
    • Knight calls Squire by saying "We're needed" in the style of Steed calling Mrs Peel.
    • Anastasia is named after Dan Dare's spaceship.
    • Morris Major is a pun on the Morris Minor car, and possibly the comedy music group Morris Minor and the Majors. His rose-tinted view of how England used to be is meant to suggest another Major, although Cornell acknowledges the fascist undertones aren't.
    • Big Mummy is a reference to the wrestler Big Daddy.
    • The Cidermen are an obvious riff on the Cybermen. Their West Country accents are based on Pigbin Josh from "The Claws of Axos".
    • The Joker says the whole country is Monty Python's Flying Circus.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Mostly played straight, but also pastiched somewhat, with Knight at one point ironically commenting "So, once again, repression saves the day".
  • Truce Zone: The Time in a Bottle pub, where Merlin's magic prevents any violence, and which is therefore frequented by both heroes and villains.
  • Visual Pun: As the Bad Kings each prepare to take a section of the UK, Edward I, the Hammer of the Scots, is shown heading for Scotland with an actual energy hammer.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Captain Cornwall and Cornwall Boy sport the St Piran's Flag on their costumes.