Character Spotlight: Captain Marvel

respecIf there was one word to describe Captain Marvel AKA Colonel Carol “Cheeseburger” Danvers it would be, inspirational.

Captain Marvel is a character who never stops striving to be “The Best Of The Best”, no matter how hard life gets and whatever obstacles get in her way. Her personal motto “Higher, Further, Faster, More” are words we can all live by.

Despite being an everywoman, she’s seen it all, done it all and mastered it all. Se’s been a pilot, a security chief for NASA, a CIA operative, a journalist, an agent of SHIELD, an author… the list goes on.

Early Years

Carol was amazing before she even got superpowers! Always held back by a patriarchal society, she has fought against it from an early age, incensed as a child by her father’s insistence that she could never be an astronaut because of her gender. When money was tight ,knowing that  he could only send one of his children to college he chose his son over Carol (despite her superior grades). The moment she turned 18, she joined US Air Force, much to the chagrin of her father who was hurt that she would joined the military after her brother had died in service.  This drove Carol’s father to an alcoholism that would tear his family apart.

After working her way through the aforementioned positions, she became Security Chief at Cape Canaveral where she uncovered the identity of extraterrestrial Captain Mar-Vell (a Kree alien who had sworn to protect human life) working very closely in protecting NASA from nefarious ne’er do wells.

During this time she was caught between Mar-Vell and a Kree weapon known as The Psyche-Magnitron which, for all intents and purposes, was a wishing machine. Carol wished to have the strength to save herself like her hero Mar-Vell.

The Machine granted her wish, granting her powers similar to Mar-Vell’s and she became Ms.Marvel.

Ms. Marvel and the pavement of good intentions

At this point in history The Women’s Liberation Movement had begun pick up steam and Marvel Comics (who have always addressed the political issues of the time in their books) chose Carol as the best character to represent this change for obvious reasons.

That said, it probably wasn’t the most progressive of books, featuring such well-meaning missteps as trying to make her feminine intuition into a super power (sigh) with Carol’s Seventh Sense. Although the message was there, it tended to be delivered in a rather ham-fisted way.

Believe it or not, in early issues Carol didn’t even know she was Ms. Marvel, making her a supporting character in her own book! In this series she became the editor of ‘Women’s Magazine’ which was owned by The Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson. She found herself constantly at odds JJJ who would dismiss her editorials as generic puff pieces. Championing for equal pay for women, she was never afraid of Jameson’s famously hot temper she stood her ground time and again.

Some argued this narrative was a little too similar to that of her male colleague, Spider-Man. Soon things improved, however, under the stewardship of Chris Claremont who was by then well known for his positive depictions of female characters such as Misty Knight, Storm, Jeanne DeWolff and Jean Grey.

One step forwards, two steps back

Unfortunately, just as things looked set to improve, Avengers #200 rolled out a bizarrely offensive story featuring a villain who forcibly impregnates Carol with himself via mind control as a twisted means of worming his way to Earth from another dimension.  This still regarded as at best ill-conceived and at worst outright offensive.  In fact, Carol Strickland wrote a very famous article entitled The Rape Of Ms. Marvel which rightfully lambasted the story.

Chris Claremont was furious at they way Ms Marvel had been treated in Avengers #200 after he had made her into such a rich and interesting character. He decided to bring her back with a vengeance in possibly one of the best Marvel Comic stories ever written.

In Avengers Annual #10 shortly after her return from figurative and literal limbo, Carol was attacked by Rogue, her arch-nemesis, who permanently absorbed her powers, memories and psyche. Her memories were eventually restored but not her emotional connection to them (except for her most recent memories). After her rescue by her good friend Spider-Woman, she later confronts The Avengers about their inaction in a bitter heartfelt outburst. This is arguably The Avengers’ darkest hour and would go on to affect Carol’s relationship with Scarlet Witch and the rest of the team for many years.

Carol went on to spend some time recuperating with the X-Men, which even led to her capturing Mystique (who had previously murdered Carol’s psychologist boyfriend). She and the X-Men were soon abducted by the Xenomorph-like Brood who experimented on Carol’s unique physiology. In so doing, they unleashed a latent power that she had never demonstrated before and she became the fiery cosmic entity known as Binary. After she used her powers to obliterate this evil race of aliens, Carol had gone from star gazing to star blazing!

Not long after she discovered that The X-Men had taken in her enemy, Rogue. She felt betrayed by both the X-Men and The Avengers and with no emotional connection to her former life, she joined up with The Starjammers and took to the stars once again to live her dream of being an astronaut.

Rise and fall and rise again

Carol fell into relative obscurity again during the early ’90s until Kurt Busiek and George Perez rebooted The Avengers where she became a prominent member of the team once again (now under alias of Warbird). However, all of her personal tragedies (including losing her Binary abilities) eventually caught up with her and led to her falling into a deep depression. Tragically, she turned to alcohol just like her father.

This led to her dismissal from the team after endangering several missions. Following a long road to recovery with Iron Man as her unofficial sponsor she eventually became a high ranking official in Homeland Security.  Unfortunately this quickly caused her to lapse into comic book guest star status again.

That all changed with the epochal “House Of M” an event where her friend Scarlet Witch altered reality into a personal paradise. Consumed with guilt over past mistakes with Carol, Wanda made Carol’s subconscious desire to be the world’s greatest hero known as Captain Marvel a reality (a sign of things to come).

After reality returned to normal she endeavoured to make this true on her Earth. In Brian Reed’s excellent series she finally became a true cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. She (finally) became the leader of The Mighty Avengers and Iron Man’s right hand woman from Civil War onwards.

At one point she even single-handedly defended the whole of New York against the main contingent of the Skrull Invasion. The series ended, but she retained a huge presence in the Marvel Universe. Two years later, however, she finally found her home.

Captain Marvel and The Carol Corps

In recent years the comic book industry has had to become much more diverse in response to the growing number of fans from all walks of life. Women have always been an integral part of the general audience, but few titles were written specifically for them.

That is until Gail Simone came along and astounded the male fans and comic book writers and artists alike with her incredible runs on the likes of Wonder Woman and Birds Of Prey which really opened the door for female comic book writers and artists , enabling the male dominated market to take her seriously.

Women weren’t the only group to be subject to these backward social norms of the times. I mean, it took over 20 years for anyone of colour to write Luke Cage! Marvel have really pushed this initiative in recent years with titles aimed very specifically at the female market. There’s even an X-Men team comprised entirely of their female characters. That’s to say nothing of other titles like She-Hulk, Hellcat and Squirrel Girl which have all won critical acclaim and huge success. But the title that led the way was Captain Marvel.

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick this series revolutionises the character for our modern time while still being true to what has come before.

DeConnick manages to take Captain Marvel and turn it into a top tier, bestselling book. It has a compelling story, inspired character development and an incredibly diverse supporting cast of women that you can’t help but adore and admire.

I couldn’t recommend this enough, go out and find it!

The unprecedented success of this book has galvanised Carol’s fans (who were always very outspoken throughout her history) into an organised fan base of military precision known as The Carol Corps; a fan base so powerful that they forced themselves into the very comic itself and there are now even Carol Corps conventions!!

Never has one fan group had such a resounding effect on the industry which only highlights how a powerful fiction can change people’s lives and a whole multi-million dollar industry. Every member of Carol Corps is watering at the mouth to see her debut in her upcoming MCU film Captain Marvel (check out my wishlist for the film here).

After all these years Carol is where she should be, shoulder to shoulder with the big boys. She has finally fulfilled the feminist ideal that she was created to represent.

I consider myself a feminist and in Carol I see all the great women in my life represented; my Mother, my Grandmothers, my Sister, my friends and my colleagues. I see every single woman I have ever known, who has taught me strength, respect and kindness. These women have taught me how to a better man. I’m a better person for having known all of them. This is their hero, one who reaches for stars and keeps going…

So I’m signing up to The Carol Corps… who’s with me?

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