When super hero movies hit theaters they usually follow a story that resembles their comic book origins. Superman gets sent away from his planet and lands in Kansas. Batman’s parents are killed in an alley. Spiderman is a nerd who is irresistible to radioactive spiders. For the most part Hollywood usually tries to keep origin stories faithful to the page. Even the space god Thor earned a screenplay that kept pretty close to his comic book introduction. So how faithfully does the Captain Marvel movie stick to the comics?
The character of Captain Marvel has an interesting backstory. The name has been adopted by many characters in Marvel Comics before being used for Carol Danvers, the alter ego of the 2019 film’s Captain Marvel. From space man to earth girl, the character of Captain Marvel has undergone a lot of changes. Because there’s so much, the film looks like it’s going to skim over quite a lot of Carol Danvers’s history. So let’s take a look at some of the character’s history in the comic. We’ll see what Brie Larson as Captain Marvel is leaving out.
The Beginning of Captain Marvel
Fawcett Comics is not around anymore. That’s partially because they existed during a comic book bubble in the 1940’s. Also DC Comics sued them into oblivion over Captain Marvel for his alleged similarities to Superman. This version is now known as Shazam, who will also be making his first big-screen appearance later this year. Once Fawcett’s trademark over the character name lapsed, Marvel Comics took ownership under the condition that they produced a title with that name at least once every two years.
The Mar-Vell Years
In 1967 Stan Lee and Gene Colan introduced the world to Marvel’s first version of Captain Marvel in the pages of Marvel Superheroes #12. This version was named Mar-Vell. He was a Kree warrior who possessed super strength and energy projection abilities. The next issue of Marvel Superheroes introduced readers to Mar-Vell’s lover, and eventual successor, the legendary air force pilot Carol Danvers.
Mar-Vell originally showed up in a green and white colored suit, which, notoriously, the illustrators at Marvel hated. Then, in 1969, due to comparisons with Green Lantern, they changed his color scheme to the iconic red and black suit. In Captain Marvel #18 Carol was injured during a battle between Mar-Vell and his mortal enemy, the Kree commander Yon-Rogg. Carol survived the explosion. She found that she now possessed powers due to her DNA fusing with that of Captain Marvel. It took until 1977 for the character to earn her rank as superhero, when she received her first solo title, Ms. Marvel.
Introducing Ms. Marvel
When Gerry Conway and John Buscema introduced us to the newly minted crime fighter, she had adopted the color scheme of her former lover. It would take a few issues before she donned her first outfit: a black, skin-tight body suit with a golden lightning bolt across her chest, and a red sash around her waist. By this point, Mar-Vell’s solo book was cancelled due to low sales. Marvel pivoted the idea for the character and Ms. Marvel was born. Ms. Marvel’s first story arc found her fighting for feminist ideals, such as equal pay for women (what a revolutionary idea!).
These early issues of Ms. Marvel were famous for their PSA-like morality. It wasn’t until famed Marvel writer Chris Claremont took over that Carol found herself on more space-based adventures. Under Claremont’s direction Ms. Marvel found herself crossing into other major Marvel titles like The Avengers, giving her the staying power to appear in comics even after her solo title was cancelled in 1979.
This cancellation may have been for the best, because the 80’s were right around the corner, and comics were about to take a weird turn.
The 80’s was a period of American excess, and that excess was definitely felt in the world of comics. In the 200th issue of the Avengers, Carol Danvers took a left turn that went against everything that had gone into the character beforehand. In this issue Ms. Marvel finds herself very suddenly several months pregnant, with no semblance of an explanation. It is revealed through the course of this story arc that she was forcefully impregnated by a time-travelling alien, Marcus Immortus, who wanted a future version of himself who could survive on earth.
To make matters worse, the future version of Immortus, who Ms. Marvel gave birth to, attempts to woo the once independent Carol. She eventually gives in to the romantic advances and, with the support of her teammates on the Avengers, runs off to be in love with the man who raped her, and came from her…
Chris Claremont came to the character’s rescue shortly after, with a retcon for the decades. Avengers Annual #10 sees the newly introduced character Rogue steal the powers of Carol Danvers. In this issue it is revealed that Immortus still had Ms. Marvel under mind control when the Avengers wished her good luck, and she now held her time as a captive against her former teammates.
Claremont was now in the beginning years of his legendary run on the Uncanny X-Men, and he brought Carol along with him. She was introduced as their human ally, and then eventually a newly powered hero called Binary. The abilities she had here (given to her by the alien species, The Brood) seem to be reflected in the upcoming film, with her powering up and glowing.
After a few stints with other major teams like Excalibur, Carol Danvers re-enlisted among the ranks of the Avengers, this time going by the name Warbird. She again lost her powers, and fell to the common 80’s story trope of alcoholism.
The character fell out of favor in the 90’s, when every comic of the era was about guns and ultra-violence. Carol Danvers proved that she wasn’t down for the count, however, and returned to prominence in one of the most universe-altering storylines Marvel comics has ever produced.
House of M was a turning point for Marvel comics. It was a line-wide event that saw the Scarlett Witch create an alternate reality in which Magneto rules the Earth. In the story we find Carol Danvers as the most beloved superhero, and most famous celebrity. After the events of this story line, Carol is one of the only characters who can remember what happened in this now lost time in history.
In 2006 Brian Reed brought us a new title using the Ms. Marvel name, with Carol Danvers front and center. The mid 2000’s dealt a lot with superheroes as celebrities, and Carol was no different. From 2006 to 2010 she juggled life’s challenges along with being a celebrity crime fighter. In this time she also fought her own Skrull doppelganger in the Secret Invasion story line, from which the movie takes a few cues.
By then, she had been a member of the Avengers for quite a long time, and the former Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell, had been dead for 30 years. It seemed that Carol had earned herself a promotion.
The Modern Era
2012 saw the relaunch of the Captain Marvel title with Carol Danvers stepping up to claim the mantle. The name had been passed along through everyone from Mar-Vell’s son to a Skrull imposter of Mar-Vell himself. Few could argue that Carol was the most deserving of the role, and superstar writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Dexter Soy brought her in with a bang. Coming out the gates with a new uniform that combined the look of her air force flight suit and the colors of her predecessors, this new version of the character was celebrated for the way that she paid tribute to her past.
With her new found status as an A-list member of the Avengers, Carol found herself to be an inspiration to a new Ms. Marvel, Pakistani-American teenage superhero Kamala Khan.
After a series of adventures throughout the last several years, including another memory loss situation, a whirlwind romance with War Machine James Rhodes, leading the space-based government agency S.W.O.R.D., and fighting Tony Stark in Civil War II, Carol’s position as one of the most important characters in Marvel Comics was solidified.
The Film and Beyond
The Life of Captain Marvel was a relaunch of the series in 2018. In apparent preparation for the film’s release, the comic tweaked Carol Danvers’s origin story to make more sense and set up her story for an easy film adaptation. Because of this comic-film collaboration, fans of the newest comic will be pleased to see that the film stays true to Captain Marvel’s contemporary story and universe.
It seems that Captain Marvel and Carol Danvers are here to stay, with the character already cast in her titular film and Avengers: Endgame. She looks like she will be taking the Marvel cinematic universe in new directions following a culmination of 11 years of superhero movies. With nearly half a billion dollars in ticket sales for its first weekend, it finally feels that Carol will be a mainstream hero, taking her place among the ranks of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. And we’d like to say that it’s about time.