Why is it that it has taken Marvel nearly 45 years to do something good, something awesome with the character of Carol Danvers? Starting just before the Avengers: Disassembled storyline back in 2004/2005, writers at Marvel started giving the character the kind of respect that she deserves, but not enough to really make her stand out on her own – at least not yet. No, that finally came during the after the Disassembled storyline and just before the Dark Reign storyline in 2007 that her character was finally being developed into something more than what she had been for the previous 40 years of her existence. And now, 45 years later, has the character finally surpassed just being Ms. Marvel, finally surpassed being just a creation of fate thanks to the late Mar-Vell: now, Carol Danvers has taken her rightful place as the Captain Marvel of the Marvel Universe and she is finally seen as the powerhouse character that she is – able to stand toe-to-toe with characters like the Hulk, Iron Man and other super powerful characters in the Marvel Universe. Finally she is getting the respect she deserves after being treated as a secondary character with not so humble beginnings.
Debuting in March of 1968 in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 as United States Air Force officer Carol Danvers, she is command of security at a highly secretive military base when she meets Dr. Walter Lawson, the human guise of the Kree hero Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell). Shortly thereafter, she is caught in an explosion of a Kree weapon known as the Psyche-Magnetron and her human DNA is intermingled with that of Mar-Vell, modifying her body to that of a human-Kree hybrid capable of the same kind of energy manipulation and strengths that Mar-Vell possessed. She wouldn’t be seen again until 1977 when her self-titled Ms. Marvel series debuted. She would assist popular characters like Spider-Man and Iron Man as well as being a member of the ragtag hero group The Defenders. While she displayed some impressive powers she was never written as more than a backup or secondary character. Even after helping The Avengers defeat a resurfaced Ultron, she went back into character obscurity only appearing sporadically in both the Avengers and Defenders titles. In fact, the most memorable event that happened to the character in the first ten years since her debut was that the mutant character Mystique debuted in Ms. Marvel #16 in June 1978. What followed in the 1980s, however, proved pretty debilitating to the Carol Danvers character.
During one of the most vile examples of rape I have personally read, in Avengers #200 in 1980, Ms. Marvel is forced to suffer at the hands of Immortus’ son, Marcus, as he kidnaps, brainwashes and impregnates her in an alternate timeline, returns her to Earth to give birth to a Marcus that rapidly ages to maturity only to do the same thing again, this time keeping her in the alternate dimension – all with little opposition from any of the Avengers. She is essentially raped twice in the same story for no other reason than shock value. Thankfully, the intervention of Avengers writer Chris Claremont, who had voiced opposition to the Marcus storyline, undid the entire story in the pages of Avengers Annual #10 in 1981.
During the story in that issue, Ms. Marvel returns to Earth after Marcus dies of old age, never having impregnated her, but is soon seen facing off against the mutant Rogue, who debuted in that very issue, and who manages to steal Carol Danvers’ memories and powers thanks to her mutant gifts. She is left depowered and left a husk until Professor X later returns her memories to her in a later story. She would then work with The X-Men for several issues as Claremont finally started to add some depth to her character development. Also, during an adventure with the X-Men against the alien menace known as the Brood, she would acquire even more powers and become Binary in 1982, one of the best character developments to happen to her since her debut. As Binary, her powers were amplified beyond what she had originally possessed and she would have many meaningful appearances as an ally of the X-Men and their splinter groups The New Mutants and Excalibur. She would also have numerous adventures as a solo character in various other titles.
However, during the 1992 storyline Operation: Galactic Storm, she would lose most of her Binary powers and once again started using the name Ms. Marvel. She would have sporadic appearances for much of the decade, even changing her name to Warbird. During her time as Warbird, she suffered from bouts with alcoholism as she tries to cope with the loss of her Binary powers and her previous loss of memory at the hands of Rogue, with whom she had a delicate and strained relationship during her time as an X-Men ally. However, during the events of the Live Kree or Die storyline, she is confronted by Captain America about her lack of control and eventually her alcoholism endangers many innocent lives the Avengers are trying to protect. As a result of this, she is removed from active duty as an Avenger. Though a flaw at first, her alcoholism proved a strong character development tool and was used and revisited in later appearances in the titles of Iron Man and Wolverine.
As the new millennium began, the Carol Danvers character again went on to assist the Avengers and Wolverine from time to time, but nothing significant was done. Not until after the Avengers: Disassembled story where, during the House of M storyline of 2005, she was first identified as Captain Marvel in an alternate world created by the Scarlet Witch. While she had been identified as Captain Marvel in other alternate stories out of mainstream timeline and an issue of What If?, the House of M story foreshadowed the future popularity and significance of the character in the Marvel U. After the events of the House of M, she would again star in her own self-titled Ms. Marvel series in 2006 and became a major player in the superhero community. Her popularity would also begin to rise among fans with improvements to the way the character was written and depicted in comics during this time. She also played a prominent role during the Marvel Civil War story of 2006/2007 and would rejoin the Avengers as a member of the Iron Man’s team in the pages of The Mighty Avengers in 2007.
Carol Danvers would also feature prominently in both the Secret Invasion (2008/2009) and Dark Reign (2009) stories, most notably seemingly killed during a battle with the villainess Moonstone who had assumed the role of Ms. Marvel under the leadership of Norman Osborn for his Dark Avengers team. Eventually returning from the dead, she would reassume the role of Ms. Marvel and be a key player during the Siege storyline in 2010. Helping to take down the Sentry, the Hood, Count Nefaria and Madame Masque as a result of the Siege storyline, she would again join the Avengers team in the pages of The New Avengers Vol. 2 during the Heroic Age. She would again feature as a major character during The Avengers vs. X-Men story as she and the Secret Avengers team attempted to stop the Phoenix Force in space and prevent it from reaching Earth. During this time, she has an encounter with a resurrected Mar-Vell who tells her that she has long since passed living in his shadows and should accept the next phase of her life.
Which brings me to 2012 and the debut of Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel in the pages of Captain Marvel #1 as part of the Marvel NOW! continuity. Having the character face the lineage and responsibilities of Captain Marvel, she is set to prove herself worthy of that name to the entire Marvel Universe and, most importantly, herself. She also receives a costume change that reflects the new status of the character and not simply some modified power swimsuit. (Not that I am complaining about her previous costumes, but this new one is a bit more respectful than the previous ones.) So after nearly 45 years her debut has the character finally ascended past being a secondary character and castoff, Carol Danvers has taken her rightful place within the Marvel superhero community as one of the top tier characters with a power level nearly beyond comparison. She is also finally written to accept the role of Captain Marvel, a role she should have been inducted in many years beforehand, and given the respects the title brings with it.
As a longtime fan of the character, having been introduced to the character during her Binary days and then actively learning her history thereafter, I often wondered when something major would become of the character. She had, for the most part, always been a major power in the Marvel U. but was never written with much importance. And after reading the treatment she received during the early 1980s, I was disgusted with how the character had been disrespected. For years I waited for someone at Marvel to do something important with her. I thought that during the 1990s something significant would happen to bring that about, but it would take another decade for that to happen. Still, with newfound fans of the character after finally being written the way I always felt she should have been, I hope to continue to see the Carol Danvers character succeed the way she is now. Whether as Captain Marvel, which I hope is what the new normal for the character, or as Ms. Marvel once again, I hope that the people in charge at Marvel finally realize what a special character they have in Carol Danvers.
It may have taken this long for it to happen, but I am sure as hell happy that it did.