Make Mine Captain Marvel!

This is it folks…my 200th post on MY COMIC RELIEF!!!  Just as I did with my piece on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for my 100th post celebration, I wanted this one to be extra special.  And I could think of no better subject than Captain Marvel.  Carol Danvers was one of those characters who exploded into popularity during my seventeen year hiatus in comic reading.  She’s also one of the characters I was most excited to meet when I returned!  I don’t think it’s at all hyperbolic to say Captain Marvel represents the future of Marvel Comics.  Reinvented by Kelly Sue DeConnick, shepherded through the Second Superhero Civil War by Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, and now under the brilliant stewardship of Margaret Stohl, Carol Danvers has become Marvel’s true North.  Providentially named, I believe Captain Marvel represents the best of what Marvel Comics was, is, and can be.

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Over the summer, when David and I left the theatre after his first screening of Wonder Woman, he was obviously blown away by the film.  As we discussed it, he mentioned Marvel’s lack of any character like her.  I began to list some of Marvel’s strongest female characters but he clarified, “No, not like that.  Marvel doesn’t have any female character as iconic as Wonder Woman is for DC.”  I wanted to protest…..but he was right.  Even the casual pop culture observer can identify DC’s Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  Marvel’s never really had a flagship female character like Wonder Woman.  But ever since Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel #1 hit the stands in 2012, Carol Danvers has been taking up that mantle and moving to the center of the Marvel Universe (with legions of loyal and passionate Carol Corps fans behind her!). While she may not have been there from the beginning, she’s here now and she’s all the more important for it.

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Carol Danvers wasn’t created during my time away from comics.  Rather she began as a side character in Mar-Vell’s title (the original Captain Marvel) in the 70’s before inheriting his powers and her own costume.  Brian Michael Bendis would make Carol the center of his Avengers team and place her in the Marvel Universe spotlight with his 2004 run on The New Avengers.  Her growing popularity lead to a new solo series, Ms. Marvel, which ran for fifty issues from 2006-2010.  Then, with Kelly Sue DeConnick at the helm, Carol Danvers would get a new costume and take the title of Captain Marvel for herself.  Like Miles Morales, I knew Carol Danvers was a character I needed to meet.  I had heard all about her in my time away from comic reading.  I’d seen Captain Marvel was one of NPR’s Best Books of 2013 (one of only twelve comics to make the list).  I knew she was important.  I knew she was fun.  I knew she was exciting.  And I had to get to know her for myself!  The Christmas of 2015, when Kalie restarted my love affair with superhero comics by giving me collections of Deadpool and Ms. Marvel, would also see a few Captain Marvel trades come my way.  As anyone who’s ever read her would expect, I loved the character I found in those pages!

It’s easy to see Captain Marvel’s appeal.  As a character, she’s strong.  She can fly.  She can absorb energy and emit high intensity energy blasts.  She’s damn near invulnerable and has a pretty high gear healing factor to handle anything that doesn’t bounce off of her.  She could go toe-to-toe with Superman on his best day.  But she’s also funny, not quippy like Spider-Man or inappropriate/self-aware like Deadpool, but bantery.  Her adventures are classic superhero stuff.  She’s flying around the galaxy fighting all manner of super villains, aliens, robots, and monsters.

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

But she’s deeply human too.  Carol takes on way more than she can manage.  That’s just who she is.  She’s scared of letting anyone down and – superhuman abilities or not – she pushes herself past her limit.  While her physical strength may have no easy upper limit, there is certainly a limit to what anyone can carry emotionally.  She won’t back down from any fight but she also doesn’t know how to say “no” to anyone either…even when she really needs to.  She’s a military woman, having reached the rank of Colonel in the United States Air Force.  She’s a recovering alcoholic.  She loves Star Wars so much she named her cat (well…her alien Flerken that looks like a cat) Chewie.  She’s bold, impulsive, and certainly not one for “feelings talk” :).  She carries responsibility for everything on her shoulders and she feels she needs to right every wrong, stop every evil, and protect everyone all the time because (as she sees it) with her powers she can so it’s her job to do so.  That’s not healthy…but there’s something all of us can find to relate to in her character.

In Captain Marvel I found a comic that feels so fresh while providing all I’d expect to find in the most classic superhero stories.  Now I can’t imagine my monthly comic exploits without her adventures!  Given when and how I came to the title, it’s been Margaret Stohl’s present run that is the most definitive for me.  It’s her Carol Danvers that feels like my Captain Marvel and it’s her run that I’ve read and re-read the most.  In part, it’s her incredible writing and intimate characterizations.  Carol and all the members of Alpha Flight feel like real, living and breathing, three dimensional characters.  But it also has to do with my being able to begin the title with Margaret Stohl.

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Carol and Wendy Kawasaki onboard the Alpha Flight Space Station / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Obviously I enjoyed Kelly Sue DeConnick’s iconic run and I have great respect for the vibrancy of her vision for Carol Danvers as she became Captain Marvel.  How could I not??  It’s so acclaimed for a reason.  And I loved how Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters put her in space alongside Alpha Flight!  Alpha Flight has always been an underused team and putting them with Carol on a space station orbiting the Earth and protecting the planet from all manner of alien threats was a recipe for fun.  But Margaret Stohl came to Captain Marvel at a moment when I was able to pick up the comic and go on that journey with her.  I think that forms a special bond for fans in the comic genre.  David Michelinie’s vision of Spider-Man will always be tightly tied to how I see the web-slinger because he wrote so many of The Amazing Spider-Man comics I read as a kid.  I feel the creator at the helm when you fall in love with a comic character a) deserves much of the credit for that love and b) will always shape the core of how you see that character.

I feel lucky that I came to embraced Captain Marvel now, during Margaret Stohl’s run, and it’s her vision of Carol Danvers that I’ve let into my heart.  As I stayed away from all things connected to Civil War II, I only sampled the beginning of Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters’s run so it’s in Margaret Stohl’s stories that I’ve honestly gotten to know the members of Alpha Flight – Lieutenant Abigail Brand, Lieutenant Wendy Kawasaki, Eugene Judd (Puck), Walter Langkowski (Sasquatch), Hopper, and the Alpha Cadets A’di, Dante Cruz, and Glory – in all their wonderful, loving, and dysfunctional splendor.  Her writing has brought these characters to life for me as caring and complex individuals – all beautifully broken in their own ways – coming together to form something magical and something strong.

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Puck, Sasquatch, Captain Marvel, and Abigail Brand / Photo Credit – Marvel Comcis

The opening arc of The Mighty Captain Marvel had a shape-shifting bounty hunter, mysterious alien vessels, and a reality-threatening super weapon all set against the backdrop of an alien refugee crisis.  It also introduced the orphaned Kree child Bean into Carol’s world.  The combination of an authentic emotional weight alongside fast-paced, plot-twisting superheroics had me wholly invested.  Then there was the Secret Empire storyline!  It was so perfectly executed it could have been read (and fully enjoyed!) without ever having picked up the main title.  Now that is a tricky (and appreciated) comic achievement!

On top of all that, the comic is just fun.  With Captain Marvel I get the cosmic, space adventure side of the Marvel Universe I’ve been longing for since I’ve returned to comic collecting.  I’ve tried reading Guardians Of The Galaxy because I adore those films… but could never get into the comic because James Gunn’s vision is too tightly stamped in my mind.  They just didn’t feel right for me.  But with Carol Danvers I get all the space adventuring I want with a character who loves and quotes Star Wars as much as I do.  It’s space ships!  And aliens!  And cosmic battles among the stars!  Having Alpha Flight along for the ride makes it all the better too.  I’ve always felt they were an underused team.

So in that way Captain Marvel is a character who represents the best of what Marvel Comics was and is.  She is exactly what people want from a classic superhero.  She’s got an incredible power set.  She has fantastic adventures and deadly adversaries.  And she battles evil across Earth and through the cosmos.  It’s just good superheroing!  I do love comics with strong social justice messages, pointing to something larger and wrestling with challenging issues.  But there’s also a place (and a need!) for fun and exciting superhero narratives.  That’s what kids fall in love with and what adults often seek to escape.  However, the brilliant thing about Captain Marvel is she offers her readers both.  In her narratives she’s as classic a superhero as you could want.  In her very existence as a character she represents so much more.  In so doing, Carol Danvers represents the best of what Marvel Comics can be.

As I said above (thanks to David’s spot on, post-Wonder Woman observation), Marvel has lacked a clear female flagship character for years.  Obviously that’s a problem.  In the past, Marvel’s been faaar too white/male oriented in both their characters and their creative talent.  But thankfully that’s been changing and Captain Marvel has been a major part of this shift.  It’s appropriate then that she has come to stand center stage in the Marvel Universe and is poised to do so in the Marvel Cinematic Universe too, when Brie Larson brings her to life in Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s 2019 Captain Marvel film.

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

When Kelly Sue DeConnick brought Captain Marvel #1 to the world, it was Marvel’s first solo book starring a female character since X-23 had been cancelledCaptain Marvel‘s incredible success in the hands of exceptionally talented creators coupled with Marvel’s intentional move to diversify has opened the doors to more brilliant comics starring female characters.  Many of the comics which came in Captain Marvel‘s wake now stand as some of Marvel’s most entertaining and most innovative titles.  There’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, The Invincible Iron Man, Spider-Gwen, Mockingbird, Gwenpool, Black Widow, She-Hulk (and then Hulk), Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat, and The Mighty Thor just to name a few.  For that alone we can’t overstate Captain Marvel’s importance.

Despite how the may’ve been marketed in the past, comics and superheroes have never been just “a boy’s thing.”  This is a truth that’s becoming increasingly more evident as female comic readership has been on the rise, in both brick and mortar stores as well as online retailers like Comixology, since 2014.  As I’ve said before, everyone deserves the chance to see themselves reflected in the heroes around them.  Gender, racial, and sexual diversity is important in our comic books!  As a white male, I’ve always had the luxury of seeing myself reflected back to me in all the heroes I grew up loving.  Everyone deserves that experience.  The idea that I, as a white male, can’t appreciate or won’t read stories staring characters of a different gender, race, or sexual orientation than me is ridiculous at best and potentially dangerous at worst, as is the argument that we needn’t worry about creating more titles staring diverse characters.

But Captain Marvel is also incredibly important because she has rocketed to stardom while consistently under the care of female authors.  Kelly Sue DeConnick wrote Captain Marvel from 2012-2015.  Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters handled the title from January through November of 2016 while Margaret Stohl has been handling The Mighty Captain Marvel since December of 2016 (hopefully it’s the beginning of what will be a very long run!).  Now she’s at the helm as Legacy numbering (and titling) has brought us back to Captain Marvel #125.  Just as we need more characters of gender, racial, and sexual diversity (as there is so much more to our world than just white men) so too do we need more creators of gender, racial, and sexual diversity.  The design of the character/costume alone can show the importance in having a female voice involved in creating/presenting female characters.  Note the glaringly obvious differences below.  From the little to the big, the same sorts of differences can be found in the nature of the narrative as well.

Now obviously I’m not trying to make the claim that only a woman can write a female character or anything like that.  Ryan North’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is my favorite comic book after all.  Nor am I trying to say the race (or sexual orientation for that matter) of a character must match their writer/artist.  I enjoy Brian Michael Bendis’ Spider-Man with Miles Morales more than any of the titles featuring Peter Parker at the moment and I cannot wait for Ta-Nehisi Coates to take over Captain America after Mark Waid finishes his run.  But I am saying it’s vitally important to expect and support diversity in the creative talent in the comic books we read.  Diversity on the creative side naturally adds something to the narratives of these characters that couldn’t be there if only white men were scripting the stories.  Captain Marvel proves an excellent case study for all of this.  Captain Marvel is a strong female character who’s been allowed to grow into one of Marvel’s powerhouses, shaped by women who understand and present her in a fashion a male author could never accomplish.  Marvel needs to see this as the blueprint for their future.  Yes, it was Brian Michael Bendis who put Carol Danvers into the spotlight with The New Avengers in 2004 but it’s been Kelly Sue DeConnick, Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, and Margaret Stohl who have made her one of Marvel Comics’ most popular and important heroes.

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Mar-Vell and Carol Danvers fight side by side in the Generations: The Bravest one-shot by Margaret Stohl. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Carol Danvers also exemplifies the importance (and success potential) of Legacy Characters.  In fact, she’s a Legacy Character who has far outlived her namesake.  No one can argue with the fact that Carol Danvers’s popularity, relevance, and cultural reach has significantly surpassed that of Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel.  If not for regularly referencing him in her title, I’m sure there would be many modern comic fans who’d’ve never heard of Mar-Vell and I doubt there are many who passionately miss him.  All this is to say that, if done well, there’s nothing inherently flawed about the Legacy Character concept.  It even has the potential to increase the legacy of the original character, as is the case with Carol Danvers assuming the mantle of Captain Marvel.

In Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel #1 Steve Rogers is the one who encourages Carol Danvers to become Captain Marvel.  As she protests he tells her, “But my point remains.  Captain Marvel wasn’t his name.  It was his mantel.  Now, it’s his legacy.  And he wanted you to have it…Bottom line is this:  You have led the Avengers.  You have saved the world.  Quit being an adjunct.  Take the mantle.”  In taking that mantle, an icon was born and we – as a culture and as a comic fandom – are all the better for it.  In Captain Marvel I find everything that made me fall in love with comic books as a kid along with the emotional depth and resonance I look for in a narrative as an adult.  As a hugely popular comic book starring a strong, layered, richly developed female character that’s been written by women since 2012, Captain Marvel is also brilliant beacon leading us to the future.

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Lead us onward to the future Captain Marvel!  We need you!  And keep Making Mine Marvel! / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

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19 thoughts on “Make Mine Captain Marvel!

  1. Nice post!!

    Carol has been one of those characters that has changed A LOT since the 70’s. Military, love interest of Mar-Vell, getting superpowers, losing superpowers due to Rogue’s touch, publishing a magazine for women, then going to space as Binary and becomig a space pirate, losing superpowers again an adopting the name Warbird, becoming an alcoholic, being kicked from the Avengers due to that, recovering powers and adopting the Ms. Marvel alias again, then Captain Marvel… Avenger, A-Force, Ultimate… And that is what is coming to mind right now.

    She has always been fun to read, although her comics are not usually on my Top 10. But I’m grateful that thanks to her more female superheroes are being published in their own comics.

    It’s a good call that you haven’t read Civil War II. It gives a very poor impression of Carol, in my opinion. Actually, I haven’t forgiven her, yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally forgot that Rogue got her strength/flight/invulnerability powers from Carol!!! As a kid I knew Rogue got her powers from Ms. Marvel but never really knew who that hero was. Now I have that context! Huh, I’d totally forgotten that. Wow.

      She really has had A LOT of incarnations too. That could be a fun post in and of itself, looking back at her history from the 70’s until today. Although I’d have to do some research if I wrote it. I don’t have quite the Avengers knowledge you do. As always, I am wildly impressed by your Avengers knowledge! I love it!

      Is it weird that your comment about Civil War II kind of makes me want to read her part of it? If the story has that much emotional punch that you’re still feeling it…part of me is extra intrigued. Don’t worry, I’m still a bit hesitant to do it. But I am impressed at the story itself that the weight of her actions is still with you.

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  2. The new Kelly Sue DeConnick run of Captain Marvel was actually the first superhero comics I ever read (only knew cartoons before that). I just love what they’ve done with her recently (though I’ve also heard bad things about Civil War II), and I agree that she could really be a flagship female character for Marvel. I wish they didn’t keep pushing back her movie, and I really hope they get it right 🙂 It’s nice that she’s been in the hands of female creators recently, too.
    And congrats on 200 posts 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And wow – Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run is an incredible first step into superhero comics! I often think of Carol’s relationship with Kit (when I read the part where Kit makes the Captain Marvel how-to book for Carol I get teary-eyed every time!) and the whole tension/self-sacrifice with the brain lesion. There’s so many incredible moments in DeConnick’s stories but those are two of the parts that always move me the most.

      I’m hoping they get her movie right too. I can’t believe we’re waiting until 2019. Given how prolific the MCU has been, there’s no way DC should have beat Marvel to the first female-led superhero film. But hopefully it will be worth the wait. I could see (once we begin to lose the original Avengers from the MCU) Carol and T-Challa becoming the leaders of the Avengers, just as Cap and Tony are now.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats on your blogging milestone!! 200 times you have shared your authentic passion on a myriad of important topics!

    I look forward to a Captain Marvel movie- I hope it is as excellent as WW was. And what ever you do, do NOT read Civil War II. Keep your pure version of Carol and don’t let it be muddied by the character assassination of CWII.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thanks Nancy! I was really excited when I realized I was heading towards 200 :). What did I do before I was in this wonderful blogging community??

      Thanks for the advice on Civil War II too. I’m admittedly intrigued…but the majority consensus seems to be to keep my distance. I do worry that it could tarnish my image of Carol, given how much I love her.

      And YES for the movie! They’ve kept pushing it back in the name of getting it right and I SO hope they do. Can you imagine if it was as inspiring and exciting as Wonder Woman?? That would be brilliant!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My experience with Captain Marvel has been ashamedly limited and has unfortunately suffered from Civil War II. Personally, I don’t think she was written very fairly, her portrayal as something close to a villain really tarnishing her reputation. Reading your post gave me an opportunity to reflect and review where I stand on the whole predictive justice malarkey.

    Your post has been nothing short of enlightening. I only really joined the Marvel Universe back in 2015 where I was following Daredevil, The Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers Arena, an interesting ensemble to say the least. Even now I find myself playing catch up and your incredible positivity has made me think that I need to take a look at a character who has played a key role in the life of one of my favourites, Kamala Khan.

    Congratulations on 200 posts! Can’t wait to see where the next 200 take us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m excited to see where they go too :).

      You know I share your passion for Kamala Khan. She’s one of my absolute favorites too! In fact, I had read my first ‘Ms. Marvel’ trade before I read my first ‘Captain Marvel’ one so I definitely think my growing closer to Carol has given me a new appreciate for why Kamala loves (loved? who knows with the whole CWII thing…) and admires her like she does.

      I’m always felt that’s one of the most beautiful things about comic reading as a hobby. We have decades of material on hundreds of characters and we all come to it in different ways, at different times, through different avenues. I love the conversations that rise from that as well as the potential to share our passions with each other! I was reading some ‘Doctor Strange’ not too long ago and I fully credit that to you :). It’s so great to love comics because there is SO MUCH out there, no one can ever read it all or at the same time. So we get to share those various geek outs and discoveries with each other!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t really discussed Kamala Khan a great deal as of late but she has been through a pretty tough time as you will be well aware. The breakdown of her relationship with Carol was a little heart-breaking even though I was still relatively new to both of their characters. Of all the things I wouldn’t mind being reinstated under Marvel Legacy their relationship is definitely up there (I can picture the awkwardness dissolving into a really heartfelt hug super vividly right now… Sigh…).

        I couldn’t agree more about comic reading. Though I don’t do it nearly as much as I did, there is something incredibly entertaining about reading back issues from yester years, even if they are a little cheesy at times.

        I’m planning another visit to my local comic book shop soon and I intend to pick up Captain Marvel #125 having read your post. I could do with broadening my pull list as it is somewhat dominated by white males and you’ve made one heck of a case for the Captain.

        On a final note, mostly out of curiosity, how did you find the Doctor Strange stuff you read?

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  5. Congrats on 200! Michael, great stuff and I am sure the movie version of Captain Marvel will Marvel us. Thanks for the I depth details and hope you can balance school and writing. I am thete, too, brother.

    Thanks,

    Gary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Gary. I appreciate the solidarity. I think I’m getting a little better at it and I feel that’s a good goal. As long as we’re getting a bit better as we progress it’s alright :). As to the movie, I am pretty excited with Brie Larson’s casting. She’s an incredible actress and I think she has the potential to bring the needed life and layers to Carol’s story!

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      1. More and more I am seeing real depth of character in many of these movies. What I pray that accompanies this an open door for hearts for the Lord to work.
        I will be honest with you, I feel a real burden to start my own publishing/ creative production company. I have no way to start, but I am meeting more creative people in my life. Please pray for me because I want to make sure it is something the Lord is putting together and not just my crazy idea.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you Gary! I can always use more prayers that I’m presenting the message of the Kingdom of God to my students in a way where they can really grasp it, so God’s vision is present to them.

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