When comic publications introduce new characters that will take over the mantle of an iconic superhero, fans need time to adapt to the new change and, most importantly, learn to accept them. Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) was iconic in the 1960s because he was an alien and one of many superheroes who helped transition new stories to space. Marvel Comics had already introduced many superheroes and villains who took their battles in space, but Captain Marvel soon became one of the most popular characters that was involved in many major events of that era. However, time passes, and stories change, which means characters also change. This article will discuss when and why Captain Marvel became a woman.
When Mar-Vell was killed off in a special comic book story from 1982, ‘The Death of Captain Marvel,’ the same year, Monica Rambeau became a new bearer of the mantle. The reason behind the decision of writers to have a woman be the new Captain Marvel is because they wanted to create a female character inspired by the famous action star, the actress Pam Grier.
Monica Rambeau is one of the most iconic superheroes of Marvel Comics and an important part of many great events we enjoyed reading over the last few decades. We will discuss her history and the era she first appeared in. If you are interested, stay with us until the end.
Was the original Captain Marvel female?
When looking at the history of Marvel Comics and its most famous superheroes, you can name ten of them in a heartbeat; the same goes for the Silver Age of Comics when comic book media tried to modernize their classic characters that were created during the WWII era.
Besides the usuals like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America, and X-Men, there was one alien quite popular during the Silver Age era: Mar-Vell, also known as Captain Marvel. The dispute between DC Comics and Fawcett Comics in the 1950s over the similarities of Captain Marvel (Shazam) to Superman has run for 12 years and, to this day, is still one of the longest-running disputes over a superhero character in fictional media.
The final verdict resulted in DC winning and proclaiming that Fawcett copied their beloved and most notable superhero, Superman. During that time, Marvel had a great period, with X-Men, Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four being one of the most popular characters in comic book media.
However, when Fawcett Comics ceased all of their running comic books, including Captain Marvel’s, Marvel Comics decided to capitalize and buy rights to the name Captain Marvel and create their own superhero who would potentially become the mascot of their publishing company.
Enter the Kree Commander, Mar-Vell. With creations of the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and other comic book characters, Marvel started exploring extraterrestrials and worlds outside of the Earth realm.
Captain Marvel was already an alien, and with Adam Warlock in 1967, and Thanos, The Mad Titan creation in 1973, Marvel Comics was ready to tell epic stories and space adventures. Of course, Fantastic Four and their archnemesis Galactus and Silver Surfer had already ‘scrapped’ the surface of potential stories, but Thanos, Adam Warlock, and Captain Marvel only escalated the trend of that era.
Mar-Vell proved to be instrumental in the fight against Thanos and the Cosmic Cube saga, propelling him as one of the major characters in Marvel Comics. However, despite the end of the 1960s, and whole 1970s frequent appearances in Marvel Comics and major storylines, Captain Marvel wasn’t popular as Marvel would like. Sales were modest, and even the efforts of notable Jim Starlin couldn’t save the superhero. In 1982, the notable creator wrote the first Marvel Comics graphic novel, ‘ The Death of Captain Marvel.’
The Kree spy, who eventually became Earth’s protector, was killed off, and now was the time to have another character take over the mantle of the superhero, with the expectation that the newcomer would propel the popularity of Captain Marvel’s mantle.
Enter Monica Rambeau, the first female character to take over the mantle of Captain Marvel after Mar-Vell’s tragic death.
After being bombarded by extradimensional energy from an energy-disrupter weapon, Monica Rambeau gained the power to change her body into any form of energy. She was at one point the leader of the Avengers as Captain Marvel, and her tenure as the superhero reigned for 14 years until she gave the mantle to Mar-Vell’s son Genis-Vell, and she took over the superhero name Photon.
Besides Photon, Monica Rambeau continued her superhero duties as Pulsar and Spectrum, which is her most recent alias. Despite everything, Monica as Captain Marvel was significant, and she paved the wave for later female Captain Marvel characters like Phyla-Vell and, most notably, Carol Danvers.
We know when was the first time Captain Marvel became a woman, but why? Let’s find out.
Why Captain Marvel became a woman?
Why is Captain Marvel a woman? This question has been part of a huge discussion, especially when the ‘Captain Marvel’ film was first announced to be released in 2019. Of course, the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brought many casual fans to the source material, and they wondered why Marvel Comics decided to make Captain Marvel a woman.
Well, for the simple reason – the superhero struggled to gain the popularity of the other notable Marvel characters. When asked what prompted them to design and create another character to carry the mantle of Captain Marvel, the artist John Romita Jr. said that he initially wanted the character model to be inspired by then-famous action film actress Pam Grier.
However, one of the creative team members commented that the actress might not be as attractive as the model they had already hired, so Monica, in the words of Romita Jr. himself, thought that the character design was of a “generic black woman.” Despite all of that, Monica was quite popular and frequent in major comic book events, including her being an Avengers leader as Captain Marvel.
Nevertheless, Captain Marvel being a woman was likely the product of its time – the era where the biggest social changes occurred in 1980s America, which is considered the staple of today’s major cultural movements. Of course, the Bronze Age of Comics (1970 and 1980s) kickstarted many new characters that were layered, problematic, and could relate to the normal population.
Another female character, Carol Danvers, who was mostly a supporting and minor character in the comics, became a superheroine Ms. Marvel in 1977; she had similar powers as Captain Marvel and, consequently, probably was one of the reasons why Marvel writers wanted Captain Marvel to be a woman.
Comics were always “a mirror of our society,” and cultural and social changes ensured that more women became a part of the major comic book stories. Carol Danvers eventually changes many superhero mantles but finally leaves Ms. Marvel one to Kamala Khan and becomes the rightful successor to Captain Marvel mantle.
The mantle of Captain Marvel was carried by three men and three women, making the superhero that much iconic.
What are your thoughts on the topic? Let us know in the comments below!