Thursday, March 15, 2012

Could this be the most important (mainstream) comic of 2012?

Okay, so I know I said in my last entry that I’d cover the new Captain Marvel series this weekend, but I lied…I wanna talk about it now. So I am.

We know, for a fact, that Marvel Comics is gearing up a new Captain Marvel series, that’s not up for argument. So far though, the only hint we’ve gotten as to what this series will be about is a rumor from the comic site Bleeding Cool saying it will be written by up and coming author Kelly Sue Deconnick, and star the current Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers, in the title role (you can see the story here: )

Now, let’s ignore for the moment that I’m a huge Carol Danvers fan and that this rumor has me excited simply because I would love to see her get another solo-book. I want to focus on why the possibility of a Danvers helmed Captain Marvel series would be one of the most important steps forward for a major publisher’s female characters that could be taken.

Carol Danvers first appeared in the late 60’s (March 1968 to be exact) as a supporting character/love interest/foil for their recently introduced Captain Marvel. She was the chief of security at a NASA base where the alien Captain’s alter-ego worked undercover while doing reconnaissance for his interstellar race. And for almost a decade, Danvers was just that: a female supporting character whose motivations were influenced solely by a male protagonist. Then, in January of 1977, Carol found herself cast as Ms. Marvel in the pages of MS. MARVEL #1. Marvel touted this new series as the introduction of a heroine fit for the age of Women’s Liberation, making sure readers knew it was MIZZ Marvel, not Miss Marvel or Mrs. Marvel. Carol Danvers was a self-made woman…despite the fact that her powers were solely derived from an alien ray that transferred Captain Marvels powers to her…and that her costume was modeled after Captain Marvels uniform…oh, and I could be wrong, but I guess that belly window was supposed to be the cuper-hero equivalent to bra-burning? I don’t know…maybe…

MS. MARVEL, the comic, lasted 23 issues before ending in April of 1979, and the character met perhaps one of the worst fates to ever befall a super-hero when in AVENGERS #200, she was date-raped, impregnated, and then gave birth to her rapist, all before deciding that she was in love with her son who was in fact the same man who raped her, and then went off to live happily ever after with him (no, seriously…that’s exactly what happened. It’s like the super-hero version of most of the GOP introduced reproduction legislation this year…). Then there was a bunch of stuff with Rogue from the X-men and yadda yadda yadda…Carol Danvers, as Ms. Marvel, was off the board from late 1980 until 2005 when she showed up and kind of off-the-cuff announced “oh, yeah, I’m Ms. Marvel again…”

And…whatever…long story short, she got a second solo series that lasted for 50 issues, had 2 ‘specials’, and an annual. All said and done, Carol Danvers, as Ms. Marvel, has enjoyed one of the longest, continuous publishing schedules of any female Marvel hero (Spider-Girl has 100 continuous issues, with She-Hulk coming in at 60). But none of that explains away my actual point, which is why this new Captain Marvel series is truly an important step for the publisher…for that, we go back to the reason for her creation.

Regardless of the reason spoon-fed to readers for the creation of Ms. Marvel (she’s Women’s Liberation in a cape!!!), looking back on it, it was pretty much done as part of a mad copyright grab by the publisher that saw the creation of Spider-Woman and She-Hulk. Get as many different versions of your main characters under your umbrella as possible, it seemed like, before someone else comes along and steals the idea away. And while Carol may have grown into a fully realized character in her own right, she still gets the stigma of being a female knock-off of a male hero.

BUT…if these rumors are true, and the new CAPTAIN MARVEL series, launching this year from Marvel features Carol, not as MS. Marvel, but as CAPTAIN Marvel…it gives her a unique opportunity to do what most , if not all, female knock-off heroes are denied.

Like it or not, BatGIRL can never step-up to become BatMAN. Spider-Woman is denied that as well. While it would be possible for X-23 to someday become Wolverine, or She-Hulk to become simply THE Hulk…they’re still going to be seen as “the female Wolverine” or the female Hulk” by most comic readers. But, whereas “the Hulk” and “Wolverine” are names of heroes, “Captain Marvel” is a title, a mantle to be taken up and worn proudly (and yes, it doesn’t hurt that there has already been a female Captain Marvel, but she had ZERO ties to the original hero).

Honestly, I thought, and predicted, that the final issue of the latest Ms. Marvel series would end with Carol taking the name of Captain Marvel for herself, and was rather let down when that didn’t happen. She’s certainly earned it, many times over. She’s proven herself to be a true hero, a strong human being, and a staunch friend. And unlike so many characters – male and female, she hasn’t proven her strengths my posing and posturing and having a flawless character. Carol Danvers may have been created to be background dressing and then turned into a de-facto copyright protector, but what she’s been turned into over decades of ups and downs is about as three-dimensional as a comic book character can be.

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