Captain Marvel at 50
This month is Women's History Month and it is also the 50th anniversary of one of Marvel's most powerful characters - Carol Danvers, also known as Captain Marvel. First appearing March 1968 in Marvel Super-Heroes #13, Carol Danvers has become a feminist icon who is an inspiration to many.
While she is not the first female Marvel hero, she has become not only a symbol but leader akin to Captain America.
When she first appeared, she was written as a love interest even though she was an officer in the United States Air Force which was mostly male dominanted at the time. She fell in love with the original Captain Marvel of the alien Kree race and through whom she gained her powers.
In the late 70s, she was reintroduced as Ms. Marvel dressed in a skimpier costume inspired by Captain Marvel. She was part of a wave of moves at Marvel to reflect the time. But, her being a feminist was written the way that men thought feminists would be. And that was to constantly remind readers that she was a woman. While well intentioned, she was mostly a caricature of the Women's Liberation Movement.
In the 80s, in the now infamous issue of Avengers #200, her story took a very sad turn. In a bizarre tale, Carol was kidnapped by a villain and taken to another dimension where she was basically raped and had her memory wiped. After discovering what happened, she inexplicably decided to return with her kidnapper to his dimension. It was very much a low point in the writing for Carol Danvers.
Later, she returned as the cosmic powered Binary and later she became known as Warbird. She only then made a few appearances throughout the 90s.
In the 2000s, she resurfaced as Ms. Marvel, taking Tony Stark's pro-Superhuman Registration Act in Civil War. She also takes a key role in the Avengers. It is here that she begins to become Marvel's biggest female character.
But it isn't until 2012 when she finally takes on the mantle of Captain Marvel. In a very popular run by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick that Carol Danvers really becomes fleshed out as a feminist icon. Shedding her swimsuit style uniform, Captain Marvel now wore a full body suit befitting a leader who can fly in outer space.
This move to change her outfit seemed to cause a great deal of unneeded controversy. Several people complained that this move was "placating a vocal minority" according to writer Erik Larsen. Let's forget about the fact that women are not the minority.
But it wasn't her outfit change that makes Captain Marvel a feminist icon. It's that she isn't written to be a feminist, but a human being. She is strong and powerful, but also flawed and has a sense of humor.
Also, Carol has friends. Women friends. And not in a Real Housewives way. She has meaningful friendships with women such as Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman), Monica Rambeau (The first woman to take the codename Capitan Marvel and now known as Spectrum), and Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk). She also served as an inspiration to Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel.
She is much more relatable and women (really people in general) responded to this. It even sparked the creation of the Carol Corp which exists not only in the comics, but in real life as well.
Now, the future looks bright for Carol Danvers. This summer, Captain Marvel will be "refreshed" by writer Margaret Stohl, who has written The Mighty Captain Marvel, in The Life of Captain Marvel #1. And, Captain Marvel is finally headed to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will be played by Academy Award winning Brie Larson. To be released in 2019, the cast is beginning to shape up with Jude Law playing the Kree Captain Marvel and Gemma Chan playing the villainous Kree geneticist Minn-Erva. I know I will be there opening night! Will you?