Flying blind is never a good way to approach turbulence. This Friday, March 8th, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest film will launch, its titular heroine played by Academy Award-winner Brie Larson. Before reverting back to 1995 to learn the origins of the mysterious “Captain Marvel,” it’s imperative that we acquaint ourselves with the woman behind this dignified title: Carol Danvers. Who is she exactly? Does she belong to the human race? Was she born on Earth? How is she related to the rumored alien species featured in the film, referred to as the Kree? More importantly, are her powers enough to so much as rattle Thanos’ Infinity Stone gauntlet?
While Carol Danvers and her marvelous moniker are new to mainstream movie fandom, there’s a nearly fifty-year history to be unpacked that sheds light on the mightiest Avenger you’ve never known. In preparation of “Captain Marvel,” here is a brief guide to maximizing your knowledge of the secret weapon who could tip the scale back in the galaxy’s favor.
First Appearances: Carol Danvers & Mar-Vell
Created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, Carol Danvers is actually the seventh character to don the title of “Captain Marvel,” although this destiny was primed decades earlier. In 1967, the comic issue “Marvel Super-Heroes #12” introduces an alien captain named Mar-Vell, who belongs to an advanced species known as the Kree. With a moral compass in direct opposition of his superiors, Mar-Vell winds up aiding Earth in their war against alien invaders.
After his death, Mar-Vell’s mantle passes on to several new heroes, eventually claimed by United States Air Force officer Carol Danvers in 2012’s “Avenging Spider-Man #9.” However, Danvers’ military beginnings are first depicted in 1968’s “Marvel Super-Heroes #13.” In that integral story, Danvers is head of security for an off-site military base. She then has a fateful encounter with Mar-Vell, who poses as the base’s medical doctor. After an Kree explosive device goes off, Mar-Vell somehow transfers his energy manipulation abilities to an injured Danvers. The security chief makes a miraculous recovery but quickly discovers her humanity has been given a hybrid upgrade. Forty-four years would pass before Danvers finally carried the legendary title she’s most recognized for.
Phase Two: Ms. Marvel
The “Ms. Marvel” comic series that continues Danvers’ saga was inspired by the feminist movement of the 1970s, in which women were reclaiming their identities by severing links to men. Carol Danvers may wield Mar-Vell’s genetic powers, but she is very much an autonomous superhero, hence the “Ms.” The first issue of the female-empowering comic series was unveiled in 1977, characterizing Carol Danvers as a champion of women’s rights in addition to keeping Earth safe. Regrettably, a controversial storyline alluding to Danvers being raped and subsequently impregnated by an alternate dimension kidnapper named Marcus momentarily victimizes her for exploitative shock value. Thankfully, the writers salvaged Danvers’ reputation by releasing her from the prison of male villain objectification. After a fallout with her Avengers colleagues, Danvers transitions to fighting alongside an even more prickly lot: the X-Men.
Third Wave: X-Men Adventures and the Birth of Binary
Danvers is deprived of memory and superpower when Rogue accidentally absorbs her essence in 1982’s “Avengers Annual #10.” Rogue’s Ms. Marvel consumption is also featured in the X-Men animated series episode, “A Rogue’s Tale.” Rather than abandon her patriotic duties, Danvers pairs up with Professor X and his academy students, assisting them with their own skirmishes. In “The Uncanny X-Men #164,” Danvers accompanies the mutants to a mission in outer space. Once there, she is attacked by an insectoid alien race known as the Brood, endowing her with the gift of conjuring cosmic energy. The Ms. Marvel persona is eradicated completely after she’s expelled from Rogue’s mental hold by Magneto. Over time, Carol Danvers’ powers begin to subside, and she eventually turns to alcohol to quell her internal anguish of being a sliver of the superhuman she once was.
Fourth Flight: Becoming Warbird and Rejoining the Avengers
Her hardened military upbringing that prioritizes loyalty above all else forces Danvers to ward off her inner demons. By doing so, she is able to reconcile with her formerly estranged Avengers team. During her comeback stint – chronicled in 1998’s “The Avengers #4” issue – Danvers adopts a new moniker, “Warbird,” to commemorate her return to active duty. While the group restructures its membership and shifts leaders, Danvers merits an impressive attendance record, nearly eclipsing the popularity of some perennial favorites.
Fifth Elemental Change: Promoted to Captain and Enraging the Skrull
The 2008 comic book crossover series known as “Secret Invasion” pits Danvers against a shapeshifting alien menace known as the Skrull, the very same enemy re-imagined in Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s upcoming movie. Soon thereafter in the aforementioned “Avenging Spider-Man” comic series, Danvers emerges in the famed red jumpsuit, finally embracing the legacy of the the man who imbued his powers onto her so many years ago. Defending Earth doesn’t preclude Captain Marvel from her path of rediscovering her origins, as multitasking phenom headlines comic series of her own. The Her former Ms. Marvel mantle is subsequently transferred to Danvers’ protege, Kamala Khan, the first Muslim superhero to have a published comic series. Most recently, Marvel has published a graphic novel collection known as “The Life of Captain Marvel” to bring viewers up to speed on the stellar soldier’s background.