Monday, April 5, 2021

Oh Captain! Not My Captain!

Marvel or DC? It’s the age old question that has long been debated back and forth between comic book readers. For over 80 years, both DC and Marvel have introduced iconic superheroes to the world and are deserving of their places in the pop cultural landscape. While there are a lot of overlapping ideas and concepts that exist in both comic universes, I do think that there are some elements that DC does better than Marvel and vice-versa.

While I grew up on Super Friends and Super Powers cartoons, as an adult, I gravitated more to the Marvel universe (long before the whole MCU was a thing). Still despite my general preference of all things Marvel, I have to concede that DC has something that Marvel cannot match, and that is their iconic superheroine, Wonder Woman.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of really great and powerful female characters in Marvel, but most of them are identified more as members of Marvel’s premier teams.The X-Men have Jean Grey and Storm and The Avengers feature The Black Widow and Scarlet Witch. And nothing against any of these women, but in terms of iconic recognition, I wouldn’t put them on the same level as Marvel’s premier heroes like Spider Man, Captain America, Iron Man or Thor.

On the other side though, Wonder Woman stands as part of DC’s BIG THREE alongside Superman and Batman. For years, Marvel just really had no answer to Diana Prince in my opinion. And it was only until recent times that they decided to try and do something about this.

Despite being introduced way back in the 1960’s, for the greater part of her existence, I wouldn’t really consider Carol Danvers as a prominent character in the Marvel universe. Now I may be wrong about this, but the impression that I got was that she was introduced as a supporting character to the then Kree superhero Mar-Vell, better known as Captain Marvel. It wasn’t until a few years later when she received her own superhero identity which in itself was a female version of Mar-Vell, appropriately called Miss Marvel.

Now when I started seriously reading comics in the late 80’s, Mar-Vell was long dead and Carol Danvers was basically “benched” in a comatose state when her powers and memories were absorbed by the mutant Rogue (during her less heroic days). In fact, back then there was another “Captain Marvel” doing all the super hero-ing, Monica Rambeau. Growing up, it was Monica who was Captain Marvel for me. And she was one of my favorite Avengers. She was even the leader of the East Coast Avengers at one point.

Eventually though, Carol Danvers slowly worked her way back into the Marvel Universe, first as the cosmic hero Binary and then later as Warbird. Soon enough though she got back the Miss Marvel moniker as Monica Rambeau took a backseat and later re-emerged a short time later under the new hero, Photon.

By this time Carol Danvers had her full memories and powers back and had become a consistent member of the Avengers. She also sported a sleek black costume that further distanced herself from the original Captain Marvel design. Although a lot of people would consider this look rather sexist and dated, this is my favorite look for Carol as it was unique to her and her alone.

By 2012 though, there was a more conscious push to bring Carol into a more prominent role in Marvel as their answer to Wonder Woman. They ditched her black costume and gave her a more conservative look which while still kinda unique, called back to the original Captain Marvel colors. She also took back the name of Captain Marvel.

Now while I get their intentions, at this point I really felt that Marvel was trying a little too hard at making her bigger than she needed to be, and while I was initially a fan, she started turning into a more unlikable my opinion of course. This was even more apparent when she finally made her live action debut with her own solo movie in 2019.

The movie itself wasn’t terrible, but I wouldn’t rank it as one of the MCU’s best. My main problem with the movie was that it felt more set on pushing forward a misguided anti masculine agenda rather than tell a good story. But that wasn’t the only problem I had with the movie. They also set out to make Captain Marvel into THE most powerful hero in the Marvel Universe. I’m sorry but there is nothing compelling or interesting about an overpowered superhero who can single handedly blow up armadas of alien invaders. This in my opinion also kinda cheapened all the more established heroes such as Thor, Hulk and Ironman. It just didn’t seem very organic and more force fed. And it didn’t help that she was played by actress Brie Larson. Putting aside all her socio politics aside, I just wasn’t a fan of her portrayal of Carol Danvers, which in my opinion was just bland and boring.

Anyway at the end of the day though, if you enjoyed the movie and like the MCU character then you win, it just wasn’t for me.

Ultimately, I know that there is a general lack of classic Avenger women, which is why I do think that Carol Danvers is important. And she should be a part of every Avengers display in my opinion.

For the longest time I had the more modern Captain Marvel version in my lineup. Although I preferred her previous black Miss Marvel look, I had missed my chance of getting her when she was originally released as part of a 3 pack with a less desirable version of Captain America and the Radioactive Man. These days that figure is one of the most expensive Marvel Legends in the secondary market.

But as my dislike of the modern Captain Marvel grew, the desire to replace her on the shelf with my preferred Miss Marvel got stronger. Since I couldn’t bring myself to pay secondary market prices, I initiallyI looked into getting one customized. Eventually though I lucked out big time as a good friend of mine offered to sell me his Miss Marvel at a generously discounted price :) So all’s well that ends well.

In the end, I do believe we need strong female characters in comics. And I thought that the original Carol Danvers fit that role perfectly. Admittedly it’s been years since I’ve read a Captain Marvel comic book, but I am aware of the broad strokes Marvel has done with her character, and I am not a fan. I think the main problem was that while they initially set out to make her into their answer to Wonder Woman, they got carried away and are now pushing her to be their equivalent of Batman and Superman combined as well. All this at the expense of all their more deserving and established characters. Carol was more interesting and effective as the low key powerhouse of any modern Avengers line up. But as the center of the Marvel Universe? NO thanks.

If I come off as just being some grumpy old school fan then so be it. I just hope that when the X-Men finally make their inevitable debut in the MCU, they’ll stick to the script and have Rogue do what she does best and take down this overpowered version of Captain Marvel so that we can have more compelling and interesting stories with a more vulnerable hero that we can appreciate even more.

Oh and I’d love it if they brought back her black costume, I think it can be modded to be less...offensive to other people :) Case in point, this cool concept by artist Jao Picart.