The Wednesday (Oh, OK. Friday) Waffle: Issue Twenty Three - Just (Captain) Marvelous!

March 7, 2019

So. You might have noticed, there's a new Marvel movie in town. At time of writing we haven't seen it, but here's why we're excited about Captain Marvel, and why we're bored of internet trolls.

 I mean, first of all - are you actually kidding me?! It's a Marvel movie - of course we're excited! Besides - look at the poster, Samuel L. Jackson with hair! 

 

Also, of course we're excited - Captain Marvel is an awesome character, and Carol Danvers has a long and rich history which deserves to be explored and celebrated on screen.

 

Carol has cropped up in the Waffle before, of course, in the second part of "Costume Party" back in September last year - where she was highlighted because in her Ms Marvel days, she had one of the worst costumes ever do disgrace the comics page. Of course, nowadays she has one of the coolest, the awesome blue, red and gold outfit designed by Jamie McKelvie for her launch as Captain Marvel in 2012, so in a very real sense she represents some of the progress that female characters in comics have made since her debut in the seventies.

I mean, just look at this - it's striking, it's practical and it looks beyond cool - I'm particularly fond of the buttons on her collar which mimic the pips a US Air Force would wear on their uniform (although she's actually a retired Air Force Colonel, so calling herself Captain Marvel is a bit of a demotion), while the zip down front (aside from making it one of the few costumes that look like they'd be reasonably east to put on and take off) echoes her USAF flight suit. It might be one of the best designed costumes in the Marvel Universe.

 

However, it will surprise nobody, in these sad times when everyone on the internet has to be angry about something - especially if a woman is doing it - that there has been a good deal of negativity about Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, her comics and her movie online, with the trolling of a well-known review aggregating site becoming so bad they turned off the ability of users to mark the film as something they were or were not interested in seeing, and the movie's star Brie Larson being criticised for not smiling enough in the trailer. (Larson's response - in which she photoshopped smiles onto the movie posters of the likes of Captain America, Doctor Strange and Iron Man - was hilarious.)

 

One online commenter in a Marvel Comics fan group argued that Danvers had "never been more than a C list character" and as such "didn't deserve and cannot carry" her own movie.

 

So. Is that right? Who is Carol DanversDoes she warrant a movie all to herself?

 

Well, first of all, let's nail this "C-Lister" thing right at the start. I'm not privvy to Marvel's worldwide sales figures, so I can only speak from experience, but at Desties Captain Marvel consistently out-sells Iron Man, Captain America, The Guardians of the GalaxyWonder Woman and  Thor. So far as I remember they all had movies that were pretty good...

 

In fact, she might be the first MCU hero to not be a c-lister when their first movie came out. Because let's be honest, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was - of necessity - built out of thier b and c list catalogue, it had to be, because they'd sold the rights to their most popular characters so the likes of Spider-Man, The X-Men and The Fantastic Four were off-limits.

 

As a result, they started the ball rolling with Iron Man, a character with no particular following - I remember the reactions of many of my comics loving friends back in 2008 being along the lines of "They're making an Iron Man movie? Why?!" Of course, the joke was very much on us, because Iron Man was fantastic and Marvel were brilliant at building on that success.

 

And because those movies have been so successful, we now think of The Avengers as a really cool super-team, and not the bunch of squares in a mansion that will never be as cool as The X-Men. (This change of image is probably also helped by the fact that some of the later X-Men films have been comparatively unimpressive...) Tony Stark is now something more than Bruce Wayne in flying armour, the Guardians of the Galaxy have been completely re-invented to be everyone's favourite action-comedy Sci-Fi team and so on.

 

So yes - if anything, Danvers is better placed to launch her own movie than pretty much anyone in the MCU has ever been, and she is definitely A list.

 

But who is she? What are her powers? Where did she come from?

 

Well, she's half Kree, and Half Human (human on her Father's side), her Kree blood being the original source of her powers. What her actual powers are is sort of an open question, since they've been lost and changed and strengthened and diminished many times over the years. 

 

Created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Gene Colon she first appeared nearly fifty years ago in Marvel Super-heroes #13 (March 1968) as a USAF officer and colleague of Mar-Vell, Kree hero and Marvel's original Captain Marvel.* She didn't turn up with superpowers until nearly a decade later though, in Ms Marvel #1, published January 1977. At this point series writer Gerry Conway had her exposed to some kind of force that effectively merged her genetic make-up with Mar-Vels, making her a Kree/Human hybrid, but by accident, not by birth.

 

For those who like to complain about politics being dragged into modern comics and comic book movies and "Political Correctness" being "forced" on readers it's worth pointing out that callin a character by the pronoun "Ms" in the late seventies sort of automatically marked them out as a feminist - a position that was pretty progressive - perhaps self conciously so - for the time. This was compounded by the way the comics show Danvers campaigning hard in her civillian identity on issues like equal pay for equal work - an issue which still crops up today and which was at the cutting edge of the women's rights movement in the late seventies.**

 

As  Ms Marvel she continued to appear throughout the eighties and nineties, sometimes solo, sometimes as an Avenger, although some of the costumes she wore and some of the stories she featured in are problematic looking back - there's a particularly rapey sotry arc from the early eighties Avengers run which involved her being kidnapped, brainwahed and giving birth to her captor's child which, after a bit of an uproar and negative comments from no less a writer than Chris Claremont, was retconned out of continuity and need not be dwent on further here - we'll consider instead the fact that she was shown to have had a solid Air Force career, and to have worked with N.A.S.A. (alongside, to be fair, a battle with alcoholism - fun fact, Tony Stark is Carol Danvers' A.A. sponsor...)

 

Finally, in 2012, she took on the mantle of her former Kree comrade Mar-Vell, who by this time had made the ultimate sacrifice and managed to become one of the very few Marvel heroes to die and stay dead, and became Captain Marvel. Her backstory was altered to include Kree heritage, most notable in 2018's mini-series The Life of Captain Marvel, and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

For fifty years Marvel has used Carol Danvers to make points about feminism, to be a role model for young women, to show young women that they can and should stand up for their equality and their rights, that they can be fighter pilots, military officers, N.A.S.A. employees, successful journalists and, yes, super-heroes.

 

So when I see people on the internet calling Brie Larson a "feminazi" because she calls the movie "feminist", and they whine that "their" characters are being taken away from them, well, I don't buy it.

 

The only thing we need to worry about with this movie is "is it any good" - and since as I type this I'm about to head out for the midnight screening, I'll let you know... 

 

 

 

 

 

*We all know that the original original Captain Marvel is now known to the world as Shazam because DC somehow forgot to trademark the name...

 

**Such things may not seem radical now, but it was anything but mainstream in the seventies, which were, essntially the effing dark ages.

 

 

 

 

 

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