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Edited by Robert Beach
As we enter our 8th year of Marvel-dominated blockbusters and news cycles, the tide is slowly turning into the house of the Avengers built. This particular ball got rolling a few years ago after Avengers became a bonafide hit and definitively closed out phase 1. It turned out phase 2 was just going to be more of the same with some space characters thrown in.
The big trend of the moment has become a majorly increased demand to see greater representation and diversity from Marvel studios seemingly unstoppable hit-making machine. This particular campaign has only gotten more intense over the past three years. Stuff like Jessica Jones proved a major hit while Marvel’s Dr. Strange and Iron Fist incurred ire over their whitewashing and cultural appropriation.
This year, Marvel seems poised to turn things around with Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther emerging as the breakout character of Captain America: Civil War, and Luke Cage poised to be the next big Netflix hit. Now, in the wake of San Diego Comic Con, Marvel takes their next big leap forward with the announcement that their first lead woman superhero, Captain Marvel, will be played by Brie Larson.
If you’ve never heard of Brie Larson before, you’re not alone. She’s a steady actor for the past decade and a half, but she ends up one of those actresses that most mainstream audiences don't see as a star until the awards roll in. She usually fits into supporting parts or as in intelligent work that rarely resonates with the audience at large.
For instance, her biggest moment in the film culture spotlight of the 2010s came last year when she starred in Room, a movie most of the audience for this blog probably confuse with Tom Wiseau’s opus The Room. Honestly, if you are more of a comic geek and the like, you probably only know Brie Larson from her role in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World where she played Scott’s evil rock star ex.
So yeah, Brie Larson is probably a great choice and long overdue for this exposure (as is pretty common with the Marvel casting department). There’s not much to say about her. Conversely, there’s a ton to say about the history of her character Carol Danvers, so let’s dive right in.
After Superman debuted, every comic publisher in the world produced their version of the character archetype, and the most popular was a guy owned by Fawcett Comics called Captain Marvel. You probably know him as Shazam, which is the magic word he uses to transform from young Billy Batson into Captain Marvel, Earth’s mightiest mortal. Eventually, DC Comics sued Fawcett Comics, claiming Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman. DC won and Fawcett Comics agreed never to publish Captain Marvel anymore.
About a decade later, Marvel Comics was enjoying massive success with its unique brand of superheroes when they noticed that the Captain Marvel name has passed out of trademark. Eager to scoop it up for brand recognition, they produced their character named Captain Marvel, an alien soldier possessed by cosmic bracelets that make him super.
Now both DC and Marvel Comics have characters named Captain Marvel, but only Marvel is allowed to publish comic books under the title "Captain Marvel." To maintain that right, they have to be continuously publishing a Captain Marvel comic or else DC can snag the trademark back. From the mid-'60s till today, Marvel has contrived and contorted itself to produce a ton of heroes named Captain Marvel, but we’re only talking about one in particular.
In 1977, Marvel produced a lot of comic books starring female versions of established male heroes. After a deal made by Marvel and CBS to air Hulk and Spider-Man shows, Marvel wanted to make those two even more marketable by giving them counter-parts to be marketed to women. The idea spread to others as well like Captain Marvel.
One such instance came when hit authors Gerry Conway and Chris Clairemont revamped a forgotten supporting character from the 1960s Captain Marvel comic named Carol Danvers into the superhero Ms. Marvel. Sadly, Ms. Marvel’s comic didn’t last long, but she did end up as a major supporting character for the Avengers, popping up throughout their adventures through to the end of the ‘70s; that was when things went horribly wrong for her in Avengers #200.
Avengers #200 was framed as a super-sized special issue of the comic, but it ended up anything but special. The issue intended to celebrate Ms. Marvel, yet the creators decided Ms. Marvel should have a baby. It's a lame idea made lamer if you learn the awful details. Not only is Ms. Marvel having a baby, but the baby is the earthly incarnation of a hyper-advanced future dude.
It turns out said future dude used his technology to abduct Ms. Marvel, brainwash her, and then raped her (yes, seriously) to impregnate her with the seed of himself. That way he could be born into our reality. It’s all incredibly icky made worse when the alien dude is born into reality, and Ms. Marvel instantly reverts to a brainwashed state of loving him. Incidentally, none of the Avengers realize any of this is wrong. If anything, they find it charming.
In any event, Ms. Marvel pretty much dropped off the face of the Earth at this point with the in-universe explanation being she went to go live with the monster who raped and brainwashed her. Eventually, her co-creator Chris Claremont (who was now a big deal at Marvel after inventing the X-Men as you know them) rescued her from this by having her come back and pretty much just tell the Avengers off for being such monsters.
Incidentally, during Ms. Marvel’s return, she had all her powers drained by the mutant Rogue, which is why Rogue throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s could fly and had super strength (this came up in the ‘90s X-Men show.) After telling off the Avengers, Carol joined up the X-Men, first as a supporting character and then as a cosmic-powered hero named Binary. Later, she eventually regained her original powers and took up the new name Warbird.
As Warbird, Carol just bummed around for the first part of the 2000s with her only major plotline coming from the development that she was an alcoholic. However, Carol’s career got a shot in the arm when Brian Michael Bendis, co-creator of the Marvel Ultimate Universe and a major fan of Carol Danvers, became the new head writer of the Marvel Universe.
Bendis’ debuted his tenure as head Marvel guy with a series of universe-reshaping events. The biggest event was called House of M, in which reality was briefly warped and reshaped. During that series, the universe was remade to grant every hero in the universe their deepest wish, and for Carol Danvers, it turned out her greatest wish was to be the world’s premiere superhero under the name Captain Marvel.
Inspired by an alternate reality with a team of fans turned Marvel authors at the helm, Carol Danvers spent the back end of the 2000s going from side note and curiosity to Marvel’s premiere woman superhero. The closest thing the Marvel universe had to Superman. She even recently adopted a new costume that emphasizes the primary colors we’ve come to demand of our world-saving superheroes. Nowadays, Carol spends her time leading the Avengers, teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and being an all-around badass.
I doubt ALL of that will make its way into her movie. In fact, I’d hazard to guess the only part of Carol Danvers’ history that we’ll see represented in the film is that her powers are vaguely linked to the Kree (the blue alien race Ronan was part of from Guardians of the Galaxy). If the first trailers for Captain Marvel hint at her gaining space flame powers or have her develop a tense relationship with Scarlet Witch, at least now you’ll know why.
Captain Marvel is scheduled for release March 8th, 2019
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