Movies & TV / Columns

411 Comics Showcase: Carol Danvers

August 5, 2016 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

After a lot of speculation, Marvel Studios finally announced that Brie Larson will be portraying Carol Danvers, presumably debuting in the next Avengers movie in 2018 before starring in Captain Marvel in 2019. This is a selection I’m very happy with; Brie Larson’s Oscar-winning performance in Room was absolutely incredible, as she nearly single-handedly carried a movie that was emotionally affecting and filled with white-knuckle tension. Despite the big win, that relatively small movie probably isn’t going to make her a huge Hollywood star; getting a chance to play a role in one of the biggest franchise in the business is a huge opportunity for her and I wish her all the best.

While I’m very happy for Miss Larson, I’m also just glad that we finally have Carol Danvers cast. Yes, the movie has been speculated on and announced for a while, but it just feels more real with someone cast in the role. While not necessarily an icon the likes of Spider-Man or Captain America, I do feel that Carol is in the same category as characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy, someone who most people don’t know a whole lot about but can still succeed with Marvel’s marketing machine and a quality product. I’m invested in the success or failure of Captain Marvel both as a fan of the character, and as a proponent of women getting more chances in big budget action films.

I can’t think of many longtime superheroes that have really come into their own quite like Carol; she’s gone from being one of many Avengers to a real standout character ever since her re-branding as Captain Marvel in 2012. She’s been a steady presence in Avengers comics for most of the last decade, perhaps an attempt by Marvel to give the largely male team a female powerhouse on the level of Wonder Woman. Considering most of Marvel’s best female characters are part of the X-Men, this is a good idea and Carol’s as good a candidate as any. Carol possesses a grab bag of powers; super strength, flight, and the ability to absorb and release energy, all of which make her a heavy hitter. She’s also a natural leader, and has easily slipped into the role for the team when she needs to.

After a brief appearance in the 1960’s Captain Marvel comic, Carol debuted in costume in Ms. Marvel #1 in 1977, gaining her powers from an explosion of a Kree device that melded her DNA with Mar-Vell, a Kree warrior that was Marvel’s version of Captain Marvel. If you’re more familiar with this Captain Marvel from DC, Marvel created Mar-Vell during the period after Fawcett stopped publishing comics starring Billy Batson and before DC bought the rights to him. This is why any comics featuring the character (and eventually Billy Batson altogether) was rebranded as “Shazam” instead.

Originally designed by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, Ms. Marvel was quickly taken over by legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont. Unsurprisingly, Claremont’s politics found their way into this book as well, and Carol was deliberately designed to be a feminist comic book, with Carol fighting for equal pay in her civilian identity. Even the name, “Ms.” Marvel was designed to appeal to the feminist movement of the time. But Claremont’s writing has always been about more than progressive politics; he’s well known for developing strong characters and fun stories, and Ms. Marvel certain had a few of them. Notably, her series featured the debut of Mystique, the shape-shifting mutant who is one of Marvel’s best villains.

Carol quickly found herself guest starring in other comics as well as joining teams like The Defenders and the Avengers. Not everything was great though; a controversial mind-control rape story in Avengers #200 is one of the most infamously bad comics of all time, and definitely is the low point of Carol’s publishing history. So bad that Claremont undid the story in short issue and had Carol call out the Avengers (and basically the writers) for letting her be abducted by her own rapist. I don’t want to go into the full details because they make my head spin, but if you want details of that fiasco, they are easy to find.

Carol also hit a low point during a battle with Mystique’s Brotherhood of Mutants, specifically her adopted daughter Rogue. Rogue’s mutation enables her to suck the life force, memories and powers of anyone she comes into direct skin-contact with, and in the case of Carol, she absorbed them in a seemingly permanent fashion. Rogue got her strength, durability and flight, but also had her absorbed into her psyche, causing her to leave Mystique behind and join the X-Men. This was really my introduction to Carol, as I was obsessed with the X-Men as a kid (and still am to a lesser extent). This incident has made a really fun dynamic between Carol and Rogue over the years, and seeing them paired together as either a team or opponents is always exciting for me.

The 1980’s and 1990’s were a rollercoaster ride for Danvers, as she joined different teams and went through different identities, and occasionally stopped making appearances altogether. She spent time as Binary, an alien force with the powers of a star, but lost these powers and turned to alcoholism. This actually lead to another of my favorite dynamics; Carol’s friendship with Tony Stark. Iron Man’s history with alcohol is well advertised, and I like that he and Carol have something in common. Also, it’s just cool for Tony to have at least one female who is a respected friend and not a romantic interest.

This connection made it natural for Carol to be a major supporter of Tony during Marvel’s Civil War storyline, which gave her more publicity than she’d ever had. The 2000’s really served as a breakout decade for Carol, establishing her as the premier female Avenger. This long, winding road to success is one of the reasons I’ve been drawn to Carol; it’s a tough journey from C-List heroine who was most noteworthy for a rape story to a legitimate breakout star. Ms. Marvel is proof that any character can flourish if given the right opportunity.

2012 was a major change for Carol, as she went from being Ms. Marvel to “Captain Marvel”, taking the name from the fallen Mar-Vell. Since then, she’s primarily been written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who has succeeded in finding a strong voice for the character. Embracing the Air Force pilot background, DeConnick has helped establish Carol’s personality as the sort of brash and fiery ace pilot one might see in Top Gun. I often compare her to Hal Jordan, Malcolm Reynolds and Han Solo, though she’s also got more inherent kindness and compassion than those three. The series was a breakout for Marvel Comics this year, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Marvel Studios opted to introduce the character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain Marvel instead of Ms. Marvel.

Nowadays I consistently consider Carol in my ten favorite Marvel heroes, and I look forward to seeing her realized on the big screen. Hopefully, there will be a lot more fans by the time the end credits role, and I hope it helps establish Brie Larson as a top star in the process.

Check out my other column with Michael Ornelas!
This week Michael introduced to Prometheus, one of the more divisive movies of recent years. Michael loves it, but did I?

A couple other things before I sign off here: I did buy and watch Batman: The Killing Joke, feeling I should give it a chance to impress me on its own merit. The Batgirl-Batman relationship didn’t bother me near as much as I feared, but I felt the movie as whole failed to live up to its source material.

Also, to any Star Trek fans out there; please make an effort to see Star Trek Beyond. It’s considerably better and closer to the original series, and deserves to making more money than it is.