You are underselling Captain Marvel.
It is almost impossible not to undersell Colonel Carol Danvers, for the same cultural, systemic reasons that we undersell all heroes, especially all superheroes, who are not white American men. Falcon, in the Marvel movies, is as heroic and forthright and good as Captain America, and even lacks several of America’s flaws, but will he get credited as one of the best men in that universe? Nope. And, a woman? Be honest about how we, as a general audience, and often as individuals, look at women in these movies, in these comics, even. How we assess women, categorize them, talk about them.
Superhero, pilot, magazine editor, head of NASA security, blogger, Avenger, space ambassador… Created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan in 1968, Carol Danvers has been amazing for longer than I have been alive. She has her flaws. Her struggles. She has been overwhelmed by her power, she’s been dismissed because of her gender, suffered brain injury, is a recovering alcoholic. She has achieved astonishing feats, including preserving our sun when it was threatened with extinguishment. She has been punched out. She has been passed over. Raped. She has won more battles than she has lost, and those she has lost are of the metaphysically insurmountable sort, like when your friend dies or the inevitability of time. Over the course of my life, reading about Carol off and on for most of that life, she has been a consistent figure of admiration and heroism.
I have been more shocked than I should be, repeatedly, by comics-savvy individuals complaining she’s suddenly super-powered, that she is suddenly being pushed as a leader, that her hair is too short, that she’s suddenly being made a feminist. What I have come to recognize, is that for the most part, these complainers have not read her in a lot of comics, even if they have owned or held those comics in their hands. They looked at her. They looked at her tight black and red costume or looked at her cartooned bust. And, nothing else got through.
Colonel Danvers was, in-world, always a big deal. From Colan to Chris Claremont, Larry Hama to Kelly Sue DeConnick, Brian Reed, George Perez, Kurt Busiek, Emma Rios, Kelly Thompson, the artists and writers working on her comics have generally treated her as a powerhouse, a brilliant and more than capable woman. The moment she had super powers, they were fairly substantial powers, but before she had powers, and outside of of them, she still had her Air Force rank, her history with space flight and space exploration. She has written best-selling nonfiction and fiction books. With her powers, she has single-handedly prevented the Earth from being murdered. The whole Earth.
The following ten pages come from ten different comics, published across the span of her existence as a character. They are not solely major victories or famous scenes, but a range of moments from the life of Carol Danvers.
Ms Marvel #1
Conway, Buscema, Sinnott, Costanza, Severin
“Gimme thirty thousand while I disrespect your desk, and stuff your diets,” is not precisely what Carol is saying. But, it is what Carol is saying.
The character predates this issue by some years, but in her first outing as protagonist, in her own title as Ms Marvel, she establishes her sense of self-worth, her capability as a leader, and her willingness to not be pushed around, while serving, proudly, in what very much are service roles. Security, superheroing, and how Carol approaches an editorship, are about watching after.
Ms Marvel #9
Claremont, Pollard, Sinnott, Granger, Cohen, Costanza
Doing the math, Carol put her first book out less than a year into her writing career. Carol Danvers doesn’t do half-measures.
Carol, also, continues to have the best just try it face in superhero comics. 1970’s Carol Danvers was pure hard, without ever being a jerk. That top, especially for the era, while promoting the magazine for which she works, is an incredible statement, and it just looks good. Carol, while not making an effort to be fashionable, does understand that clothes demonstrate something, and dresses for effect. And, still sits on tabletops like a boss.
Gruenwald, Tyler, Williams, Chiang, Becton
The end of Carol’s time as Binary, her superhero, space pirate, alien diplomat title when she used to glow red and be on fire.
Binary is channeling energy from a white hole to prevent Earth’s sun from being extinguished, a feat extraordinary enough that the appointed guardian of the universe, Quasar, assumes she is an “omnipotent” called in by his mentor.
Sidenote: The science of this actually makes more sense now than it did at the time.
Busiek, Zircher, Koblish, Smith, Starkings
Under writer Kurt Busiek, Carol was revealed to be an alcoholic, and before seeking help, she had messed up on a mission and left the Avengers, a team she has off and on served with. Here, we see the aftermath of her return, during which she blew up big-time Avengers baddie Kang’s giant starship/time machine and delivering a major blow to his forces.
As Warbird, Carol helped save the world more than once, and this is a culmination of a years’ long arc towards accepting herself, accepting that she has an addiction, and accepting that she is as bad ass and marvelous a hero as others can see, but she, in striving to always be better, failed to acknowledge.
Before the Fantastic Four: Ben Grimm and Logan #3
Hama, Andrews, Wong, Somers, Gongora
A jump back in time, to when Carol was active military. And, finally, Carol Danvers piloting a damn plane! To save the lives of the men who will one day be called the Thing and Wolverine, no less, and save America as we know it, by ramming the skis of a dinky seaplane into advanced combat-ready military aircraft.
Captain Marvel #6
DeConnick, Rios, Lopez, Bellaire, Caramagna
Carol Danvers outside the timestream, doing the big superhero weirdness. Post-Before the Four, we see her piloting much more frequently, and I love it.
Carol has, also, moved further from a series of sash-equipped swimsuits to a look that reflects the old Kree nazi-turned-good-guy Captain Marvel, whom she worked with and eventually took the name of, decades (real time) after his death from cancer, but also presents as militaristic uniform.
Captain Marvel #15
DeConnick, Lopez, Loughridge, Caramagna
Carol and friends attempt to release the ashes of a fallen comrade, except there are no ashes, she was just getting them out there.
Carol Danvers, unlike many superheroes, rarely wants to stand alone or stand above. Carol, since her earliest appearances, has been all about raising us all up. We can go back to her appearances with the original, Kree Captain Marvel, or her first encounters with J Jonah Jameson, both of whom are individualists who ranked, but ranked because they stood on their own and frequently talked down to everyone else, our hero, Carol, stands with. She has no problem working with others, or working in situations where she is not the authority, but she has no time for self-appointed authority.
Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps
DeConnick, Thompson, Braga, Pantalena, Loughridge, Caramagna
More togetherness, as we see Carol’s fanclub, the Carol Corps, actualized into a fictional squadron flying beside her and at her lead. Flying up into a newly discovered sky beyond the sky, outer space (this is an alternate reality/pocket dimension thing), to become the first astronauts from their land.
“I’ll come back for you if I can.”
“Let’s see what we can see, Ladies.”
Generations: Captain Marvel & Ms Marvel
Wilson, Villanelli, Herring, Caramagna
Deathbird is one of Carol’s oldest, and still one of her best villains. The woman individualist imperialist who looks down on everyone and just goes out of her way for excuses to hurt people.
This is another story that takes place in the past, this one during Carol’s first Ms Marvel series, courtesy of a time-traveling youth who has taken that superhero name in the modern day, allowing us to reflect back on how awesome she has always been, but also to further examples of Carol as someone who fosters young talent, supports others, and brooks no guff.
Captain Marvel #1
Thompson, Carnero, Bonvillain, Cowles
One page walk through of many of the bright angles of the genius the warbird, the tiger, Col. Carol Danvers. While her roles as an administrator, as a writer, writer, and editor are downplayed, either not present or submerged in other, more combat-related designations, this is a great summation of how Carol should be viewed at an intimate distance. Her list of jobs and accomplishments, on Earth and out in space, in this reality and others, is today, is yesterday, and surely will be tomorrow and the tomorrow after tomorrow, astounding.
If Monica, the former Captain Marvel, currently called Spectrum, is Marvel Comics’ Superman – unbelievably powerful, caring, heroic, direct, truth justice and the American way, with a sly wit and a wink – Carol, modern day Captain Marvel, is Marvel’s Wonder Woman. She is a peacemaker and a warrior, a friend and an icon, competitive but humble leader, and consummate superhero. And, again, she got a book out in less than a year, so she’s better, there, than Clark Kent.
A number of whiny folks are online right now, railing against the movie version of Captain Marvel being powerful and honored and boss. Dudes! Dudes, I know this whine is not truly about Captain Marvel, about Carol or even about superheroes, but you are over forty years late with this. Carol Danvers ran security for military bases, saved Wolverine and Nick Fury’s bacon, ran circles around alien empires, was literally a boss feminist, talked down J. Jonah Jameson in a way Peter Parker and even Captain America have never pulled off, saved our world and saved our universe. Show some respect.
Captain Marvel in Ten Pages
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