Captain Marvel: Primer Plus Predictions
Perhaps, like me, a lot of you were pretty excited by the Captain Marvel trailer. She punches out an old lady on the bus! Finally, a hero who represents my interests!
But perhaps, unlike me, you didn’t squander your youth with comics. Maybe you wasted your time, I dunno, building relationships, skills, or connecting with family. I’m not going to judge your terrible decision-making. Instead, I’m going to give you popcorn-munchers a quick primer on Captain Marvel.
The Many Faces of Marvel
The Captain Marvel you see on the screen isn’t the first to wear the mantle. She’s not even the first woman (she clocks in at #3!).
A quick rundown of the character’s history:
Captain Marvel (Fawcett)
This is a character we know as Shazam, but his actual name was and is Captain Marvel.
Shazam (we’ll call him that for the sake of clarity) was originally published by Fawcett Comics under the name Captain Marvel. Fawcett was sued by DC, who claimed Shazam was a Superman ripoff. The two publishing titans eventually settled out of court, and as part of the settlement, Fawcett was no longer allowed to use the name Captain Marvel or the Captain Marvel family of characters. But this agreement applied to Fawcett and DC, so when Marvel used the name Captain Marvel, there was really nobody to stop them. By the time the Silver Age of comics came around a decade later, DC had purchased the Shazam characters (comics is a pretty incestuous world), and Shazam was back.
He was/is still technically called Captain Marvel, but his books were published under the title Shazam to avoid further legal troubles. So, yes, Marvel and DC both have a Captain Marvel in print, both are releasing Captain Marvel movies this year, yet nobody has an Admiral DC. Go figure.
The first Marvel Comics Captain Marvel was a Kree (alien race, hate the Skrulls, that’s all you need to know) guy named Mar-Vell. Which was pretty convenient when it came to giving him a superhero name that sounded good on Earth.
This iteration started in the late 60’s, and Mar-Vell died in the 80’s in what has since become a fairly classic story. Mar-Vell contracts inoperable cancer due to a gas (Compound 13) he’d been exposed to previously. Friends and foes alike come to his bedside, including ambassadors from the Skrull empire who honor him as their greatest foe (this is 80’s comics nonsense at its best!).
Mar-Vell experiences what may or may not be a vision, a final battle with his nemesis, Thanos, who forces Mar-Vell to “earn” his death before shepherding Mar-Vell to the other side.
The story was groundbreaking in that it showed a powerful hero felled not by Gauntlets (Infinity or otherwise), not by death rays, not by Spider Slayers, not by gigantic adamantium stilts, not by—well, you get the picture.
Rambeau was launched in the early 80’s. She was working harbor patrol when she was exposed to some kind of weird energy, and she manifested energy powers. The media called her “Captain Marvel,” and the name stuck for awhile.
Rambeau is still active, now superhero-ing under the name Spectrum. Most interesting, the original artist was planning to model Rambeau on Pam Grier, but he was stopped and told to use a fashion model’s face instead because some muckety-muck thought Pam Grier wasn’t good looking enough. The real world is a crazy-ass place.
Here’s where we get into some REAL wacky stuff.
Elysius, the former lover of the deceased Mar-Vell, decides to have a son. Elysius impregnates herself with some of Mar-Vell’s genetic material. I guess if your lover is a superhero, it might be a good idea to have some of their genetic material. You know, in case they get blown up or you want to have an adventure when someone steals their genes to make a mindless killing machine.
Elysius doesn’t want her son hunted down by Mar-Vell’s enemies, so she takes him to a far-off world and raises him as her son along with a man named...Starfox. No, not the one who flies around in jets with a toad and a falcon and a bunny. This Starfox is Thanos’ brother and pretty much looks like a regular dude.
Anyway, Genis-Vell goes crazy because of his “cosmic awareness” and is poised to destroy all of existence, but then Baron Zemo (evil jerk), of all people, defeats him and separates the pieces of him in another dimension.
We had to talk about Genis-Vell to talk about Phyla-Vell.
Phyla is Genis’ sister. Genis altered reality at some point, and zippity-do, Phyla was created.
By the way, “zippity-do” is what I’m using in place of an overly-complicated, unnecessary explanation.
Phyla is significant as she is the second female Captain Marvel, although she holds the title only briefly after taking it by force from her brother. Her costume also clearly inspired the current Captain Marvel's. Additionally, she has a relationship with another woman, Moondragon.
She's currently dead-ish in the way that most comics characters are dead for a while, sort of.
If you thought the other names were hard to say, take a crack at this one.
Khn’nr is secretly a Skrull who takes the place of the original Mar-Vell. The Skrulls cook up some cockamamie story about Mar-Vell being resurrected by finding a wrinkle in spacetime at the time of his death, a tale that would seem pretty far-fetched if we weren’t in comic book world where there’s a superpowered trucker named "U.S. 1."
Khn’nr was implanted with fake memories so he’d operate as a sleeper agent on Earth, but “zippity-do”, it all goes sideways, and he ends up fighting the good fight until he’s killed.
Noh-Varr is Kree, the only survivor of a spaceship crash. He takes on several superhero roles, and according to Wikipedia his favorite song is "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes. If you can't tell, I don't have a lot to say about this dude.
Noh-Varr comes across Khn’nr as he’s dying. Khn’nr tells Noh-Varr to continue his legacy of kicking Skrull ass, which Noh-Varr does for awhile under the name Captain Marvel.
And Finally, Carol Danvers
Danvers first appeared in the 60’s (Marvel Super-Heroes #13, if you’re interested in looking for an item that’s about to shoot up in value). Early on she wasn’t a big player, but she was a USAF Security Chief, and she was romantically linked with Mar-Vell.
Danvers gets caught in the explosion of a Kree (the same alien race as Mar-Vell) device, which gives her superpowers. See, this is how it works in comics. You know that saying about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? That’s never been truer than in comics. That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger than anyone who’s ever lived.
After a short time, Danvers begins operating under the moniker Ms. Marvel. A brief note on that, I suppose the gendering of the character is not very with the current times, but in the 70’s the “Ms.” was a powerful thing. It let the world know that she was unattached and independent.
At some point, Rogue from the X-Men absorbs Danvers’ powers, which is what makes Rogue so super strong and whatnot. Danvers gets her powers back, but she’s pretty pissed off at Rogue for a good while.
Carol was then...this is very complicated. Some asshole from another dimension falls in love with Carol, impregnates her with a fast-growing version of himself that she gives birth to. The baby ages into an adult, who Carol then “falls in love” with.
It turns out this dude used a machine to brainwash Carol into loving him, basically a technological version of a date rape drug.
This storyline is, *cough* controversial, and I think it’s worth mentioning that many in the comics world, including Ms. Marvel writer Chris Claremont, had BIG issues with the inclusion of the story.
Claremont, when he got the chance, wrote a pretty heated in-comics confrontation between Danvers and her Avengers pals where Carol calls them out:
After this she derived new, bigger powers from a connection to a “white hole” and took on the persona of Binary.
In the 90’s, Danvers wasn’t doing so hot. While working under yet another persona, Warbird, she started hitting the bottle, and during a crossover event called “Live Kree or Die” she made a couple of (really, seriously) bad calls that involved her pursuing enemies rather than saving innocent lives. This all resulted in her being stripped of her Avengers status. She fought her way back on the team, however, and has held multiple leadership roles since.
After a few decades of superhero-ing, a handful of monikers and powersets, Danvers ditches the Ms. Marvel title (which is picked up by Kamala Khan, the current Ms. Marvel) along with her thigh-high boots, and she becomes Captain Marvel.
2012’s Captain Marvel is the character that we’ll see on the screen. She’s powerful, confidant, and capable. This iteration of Captain Marvel was a principal character in Civil War II, wherein two factions of superheroes were battling it out over whether or not it was right to use a character with the power of precognition to pre-arrest criminals. For the record, Carol was pro-precog as she felt that it was reasonable to keep people safe at any cost.
In a nutshell, Carol’s been around for a long time, as has Captain Marvel. They’ve merged, resulting in some damn good storylines. Danvers has become Marvel’s premiere female character.
What Can Danvers Do?
She’s strong, she’s durable, she can fly really super fast. She can absorb energy and then re-project it. She does not require any kind of armor or suit to fly at high speeds or to survive in space.
Don’t hate me, but think basically Superman minus the goofy shit like freeze breath.
As Binary she had a connection to a “white hole” which fueled her powers, and she’s still able to access that energy at certain times, i.e. when the story needs her to.
She’s also well-suited to relate to the “normies” like me and you. In the updated version of her backstory, Carol’s father sent her brother to college instead of her. She enlisted in the USAF, and while on a mission over Afghanistan she was shot down, captured, and tortured. She killed most of her captors and escaped, and subsequently started training as a spy. So she’s no stranger to the “hero” part of “superhero.”
She also wrote a bestselling tell-all book about her time as a head of security with NASA. So list “writing chops” in there too.
What to Read
A few key touchstones:
Here’s where you get the history, plus some pretty good Chris Claremont stuff. If you’re a fan of 70’s and 80’s comics, this is for you. Of note, Carol is the editor-in-chief of a women’s magazine, and her boss is none other than J. Jonah Jameson.
I’d proffer this one to fans of older comics. I know a lot of readers are completionists and want to start at the beginning, but if you don’t have a special place in your heart for the cheese factor of old books, this one is skippable. In other words, read it if you like old books, but if what you want is Captain Marvel, take a pass.
Readers will note that this isn’t the first set of Carol Danvers Captain Marvel books. But it’s a sort of soft relaunch that came about a year after the initial issues. This is probably close to the Captain Marvel we’ll see on screen. And these are just better than the run from the previous year.
I’m guessing this is the primary basis for the movie as it generally cleaned up and modernized Carol’s continuity. It’s also a more Carol-centric book than a lot of the others, going back to her roots. If you want to read what I’m suspecting will most likely be Captain Marvel: The Movie: The Comic, this is a good bet.
Based on Danvers socking an old lady on the bus in the trailer, definitely seems like we’re getting Skrulls in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean, c’mon, did any of us really think they were just going to have a movie about Captain Marvel cracking old ladies in the face? Old ladies who ride the bus? If you’re looking for that type of movie, I’d recommend Super, which mostly involved Rainn Wilson cracking people in the face with a wrench.
I’m going to theorize that the rivalry between Mar-Vell and Thanos will be transferred to Carol Danvers and Thanos in some way.
I suspect we’re going to mostly eliminate the past Captain(s) Marvel in the world of the movies because, frankly, those are some muddied waters. Sorry to make you read about all those other folks, but hey, I can only take credit for writing it. The bad decision to read it was YOURS.
Are predictions and wishes that different?
I hope Carol’s cat, Chewie, will be in the movie. Chewie isn’t really a cat, by the way. Just a murderous alien that looks a lot like a cat. It’s hard to tell the difference between a murderous alien and a cat. At least until it lays eggs...
I think there will be some flavors of Green Lantern and Nova Corps. Space-cops, basically. It’s a Marvel Cinematic Universe, after all. We could use a little more of the universe outside of Earth.
I’m hopeful that the movie will be light on origin. I think superhero movies are starting to get it, and we don’t need 50 minutes of origin. Explosion, awakened dormant powers, got it. This might be accomplished in Deadpool style with the character starting fully-formed and then learning backstory in bits and pieces.
I do think we’ll get a CGI slugfest at the end, unfortunately. Superhero movies are still falling into that trap, having our hero fight a horde of faceless baddies that aren’t really real, so it’s cool to punch them into dust. It makes for good visuals, but it’s kinda done at this point.
Monica Rambeau will appear (she's in the trailer), but as a fighter pilot friend of Carol’s as opposed to a superhero. I DO also predict that we’ll have a moment for Rambeau where fighter jets fight alongside superheroes, which will show us we can ALL be super. Read that last sentence with as much or as little exasperation as you feel fits.
Because the movie is set in the 90's, I'm predicting this is a frontrunner in the 90's Nostalgia craze that will exhaust all of us within the next 18 months.
One Last Thing
The movie IS going to have a lot of pressure on it as the first Marvel release with a female lead.
Okay, well it's the first one connected to the world of the movies with a female lead.
Alright, fine. The first Marvel feature film with a female lead.
Alright, geez. Point made. But forget all that for a second. Captain Marvel is going to be under heavy scrutiny.
A small subset of the world will hate it for existing, and they will make a lot of noise. I don’t know how people manage to raise a lot of hate for something they haven’t seen when there are PLENTY of things that legitimately deserve disdain, like the fact that we’ve had microwaves for decades and they still don’t work as well as they should.
Another small subset will make noise because the movie does not represent their precise flavor of feminism. Like the folks who were supposedly having a “raging debate” over Wonder Woman’s armpit hair.
The last thing I want to say, I’m giving you express permission to completely ignore both of these subsets of people. There’s just no need to pay attention to hot takes. Instead, if you’re interested, go see it, and talk about it with people you know and like. If you’re not interested, that’s cool. You’re allowed to be indifferent about a big-budget movie. Either way, I encourage all of you to spend time engaging with the 99% of people who are not on extreme ends when it comes to this one.
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