Although to many people the title of Captain Marvel is synonymous with the character of Carol Danvers, she is only the latest in a long line of heroes who've taken up the mantle. Yet, Marvel Comics seem determined to brush this fact under the rug — just in time for Carol's entrance into the #MCU.
Captain Marvel may have been pushed back from 2018 to 2019, but the first female-lead movie in the MCU is still eagerly anticipated — and it seems likely that we'll see Carol soar onto our screens a darn sight earlier, after multiple hints that she'll debut in #InfinityWar.
With that in mind, it's unsurprising that Marvel Comics have just launched a re-branded Captain Marvel comic — this time called The Mighty Captain Marvel, the new series moves on from Carol's previous solo adventures with Alpha Flight in space and is set on Earth, as Carol deals with the aftermath of the contentious Civil War II. This is all par for the course, as comic companies constantly relaunch character-driven series. But what's interesting about The Mighty Captain Marvel is that it changes Carol's origin to line up with her MCU entrance — and it's not necessarily for the better.
Removing A Core Character
If there's one thing you can be sure of with #comicbook origin stories, it's that they'll always change. Carol was originally introduced in 1968 as an Air Force officer who was the love interest of the first #CaptainMarvel: The Kree warrior Mar-Vell, who was hugely instrumental in how Carol eventually got her powers almost ten years later.
In the first version of the story, Carol and Mar-Vell were caught in the explosion of an alien device known as the Psyche-Magnetron, which combined the characters' DNA thus imbuing Carol with a Kree's fantastic abilities.
Carol became the hero Ms. Marvel, and didn't actually take up the Captain Marvel mantle until 2012 — three decades after the original Captain Marvel had died. In the meantime, a few other characters used the Captain Marvel title, including Carol's close friend Monica Rambeau.
So there are really two origins here: How Carol got her powers, and how she became Captain Marvel decades later. Understandably, the most recent comic — The Mighty Captain Marvel — simplifies this story to make it more accessible to new readers. But in doing so, the writers may have removed a crucial aspect of Carol's story.
This new origin is very vague, and seems to have taken Mar-Vell out of the equation entirely, putting all the emphasis on the Psyche-Magnetron and swiftly erasing a chunk of Carol's past.
It seems highly likely that this new origin has been introduced so that it can be used in the 2019 movie. In fact, Captain Marvel writer Nicole Perlman has already talked about altering Carol's origins in a similar way:
"If you were just going to do a straight adaptation of the comics, her origin story is very similar to Green Lantern. And obviously, that’s not what we want to do. There’s a lot of reinvention that needs to happen."
Now that The Mighty Captain Marvel has been released, we may know exactly what kind of reinvention Perlman was talking about — but removing Mar-Vell from the story is probably the worst thing they could have done.
Robbing Carol Of Her Purpose
The argument behind the change seems to be that Carol's first origin was tied to her role as the female equivalent of the male Captain Marvel. But that's not what she became. Carol is fascinating because she hasn't just outshone the original Captain Marvel — to many people, especially younger readers, Mar-Vell has sunk into obscurity, making Carol the only Captain Marvel of note.
This is perhaps the only time that a female love interest has taken up the male hero's mantle so successfully that people forgot the male original even existed. But that doesn't mean the writers should just erase Mar-Vell from Carol's story completely.
How many times have female love interests been killed off (or, to use the industry term, fridged) so that the male hero could have a tragic purpose? Too many, is the answer, and even the MCU has featured a few of these stories, most recently in Ant-Man, in which the original Wasp was fridged so effectively that her daughter wasn't even allowed to take up the heroic mantle until the post-credits sequence.
In this way, Mar-Vell's death is actually really interesting, as it provides Carol with a purpose — to uphold his legacy while trying to step out from his shadow. Of course, the decades long journey Carol took from being Ms. Marvel to becoming Captain Marvel is far too complicated to replicate on the screen. Yet, there is a solution.
In the MCU, Mar-Vell doesn't have to have been the first Captain Marvel. He could have just been Carol's love interest, whom she discovered was a Kree warrior with fantastic powers. Shortening their story in the movie could be the best way to represent it. By having Mar-Vell die in the Psyche-Magnetron explosion, this would neatly combine how Carol got her powers with how she became Captain Marvel, while explaining the involvement of Mar-Vell's Kree DNA — and giving Carol the tragic origin that is so often used to give male heroes emotional depth.
Without this, Carol's origin story becomes just another freak-accident tale, which by this point has been so overdone that it carries little weight. Forget comparisons with Green Lantern, it would be better to avoid those with the Fantastic Four's space-based accident origin — because after multiple failed adaptations of the their origin story, that's the last thing we want.
So here's hoping that the MCU Carol Danvers goes with the version of the story that the 2012 comic used (but perhaps with fewer time travel paradoxes), with the Psyche-Magnetron granting Carol's wish to become powerful enough to save her friend, and her lover Mar-Vell — and in the process, turning into one of the greatest heroes Earth has ever known.