Before she was Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers was Miss Marvel. We take a look at the entirety of her 1970s run in the Essential Miss Marvel, Volume 1
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Graham: Before Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers hits the big screen next year, learn about her heroic origins as we discuss the essential Miss Marvel Volume one straight ahead.
Announcer: Welcome to the Classic Comics podcast where we search for the best Comics in the universe from Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.
Graham: This year actually marks the 50th anniversary of Carol Danvers’ first appearance in Marvel Super-Heroes #13. She was introduced as the Security Chief of a secret Air Force base; however, she was mostly a supporting character in the story and the future series starring Captain Marvel, i.e, Mar-vell of the Kree. She was a rival for Mar-vell’s girlfriend and served to motivate that jealousy. Once that plot was played out, Carol Danvers pretty much disappeared from the comics until the 1970s. The Essential Ms. Marvel Volume 1 collects Ms. Marvel Issues 1 through 23 along with Marvel Super-Heroes Issues 10 and 11 from the 1990s and Avengers Annual number 10. You can also get these stories in full color if you get the Ms. Marvel Masterworks Volume 1 and Volume 2.
With the Ms Marvel series, the book actually opens with her being hired by Jameson to edit the magazine “Woman” and at the beginning of the series, Carol is not actually aware that she is changing into Ms. Marvel. I will somewhat revise what I said in the Noble review when I kind of poo-pooed the idea of having a hero with amnesia or in this case memory problems. Here it works because as readers we know what’s going on and it doesn’t take Carol too long to figure out for herself. It’s revealed that in an issue where Captain Marvel rescued her, she was exposed to rays from a Kree device known as the Psyche-Magnetron. The Kree, of course I should note, are an alien species in the Marvel Universe with blue-skinned Kree as well as pink-skinned Kree, who could, and often do pass for white people, at least in the Marvel Universe and so in times of danger Carol changes into Ms Marvel who is a Kree warrior with amazing fighting powers. Now throughout the first dozen issues Carol believes that Carol Danvers and Ms Marvel are two separate people but then she realizes in the issue 12 that that’s not the case, that as a result of this ray her mind was filled with the memories and the training of a Kree warrior and she just could not really process that so she created this second identity that she realizes that she’s not two different people. She is the same person whether she’s Ms Marvel or Carol Danvers. This kind of feels like they divided her personalities at the start of the book which would bear some semblance to what had gone on for a while in the Captain Marvel book with Captain Marvel and Rick Jones trading out existence in this universe but didn’t really have an idea how that would work. It’s worth noting that Gerry Conway wrote the first 3 issues of the book and then after that Chris Claremont of X-Men fame came aboard and so that may have been the reason for the discrepancy.
In terms of notable stories in the book I think issues 12 and 13 are interesting because not only does she have that realisation about her power but we get a little bit of insight into her past and her finding out that her dad is in trouble and trying to help out. Her dad shoos her away as Carol Danvers and when she intervenes as Ms Marvel her dad doesn’t even say thank you. He’s very condescending to her and just kind of acts like she’s just a little girl and really doesn’t want to have a relationship with her as an adult and it’s something that clearly bothers her. It’s a relationship she wants to have and just can’t and you can feel the tragedy of that and this is one of the few things I think that really clearly is shown as a wound and so it’s a good story and good insight.
It’s also revealed later on in the book that the reason she ended up going into the Air Force in the first place was that her dad only saved enough money to send one kid to college and she had a brother and of course her dad would send the brother instead of her.
Issues 17 and 18 features a really cool and intriguing story where there’s an effort to assassinate Ms Marvel to stop her from getting in the way of a larger plot to take down the Avengers. It’s a good story with intrigue going on inside SHIELD and just a lot of action and some good twist as well.
Issue 19 has Ronan the accuser of the blue-skinned Kree coming to reclaim Miss Marvel and take her back to the Kree home world to serve the needs of the Supreme, however Captain Marvel gets in the way and so this book actually becomes a Captain Marvel/Ms Marvel team up and it’s a fact that both characters have good moments but Chris Claremont remembers that this is Ms Marvel’s book first and foremost and the story reflects that and begins with a redesign of Ms Marvel’s costume.
Her original costume was a black and red number with a similar logo to Captain Marvel and with an exposed mid-drift. It’s not the best-looking costume. The shorts are really short, just a really odd look. The redesigned costume looks a lot better. It’s black with a yellow lightning bolt symbol. It’s kind of like the Black Adam from D.C., only a female version still with the high boots but I think it’s a better overall combination and look. However, issue 20 wasn’t just the launch of the new costumes, it was also a story where Carol went out to the desert to search for a friend and she finds an underground city of sentient lizards who have become sentient as a result of radiation being released and they have formed their own peaceful society that has taken a lot of humans captive in order to preserve their secrets.
Now, them starting a civilization and this just happening as a result of radiation, that’s not the most goofy part of the story. Here is the most goofy part of this story. Carol returns home to find a baby iguana in a cage that was shipped to her and it has a handwritten note in it from the lizards. The lizards wrote a note in English and went down to the post office and mailed a package. That is the silliest part of the entire book. Still despite the goofiness, I actually enjoyed the story. It put Ms Marvel through her paces and add some great action.
Issue 23 has her teaming up with Vance Astro of the Guardians of the Galaxy and help trying to help a friend who has become possessed by an evil alien space entity and Ms Marvel was actually abruptly cancelled after issue 23.
We learn how abruptly in Marvel Super-Heroes Magazine number 11 which reprinted a story that Chris Claremont had written but that hadn’t been published for Issue 24. They’ve gotten so far along on it that there’s actually an issue 24 cover that was included in there and it is a pretty good story. It’s a battle with a Sabertooth. One of those great Marvel villains generally associated with the X-Men and Wolverine and then we get Marvel Super-Heroes Magazine number 12 and this is actually meant to fill in a gap because Ms Marvel was found with her powers having been drained by a Rogue and with at least partial amnesia in Avengers Annual number 10 and so this tells the story of her last adventure as she searches for the killer of her Psychiatrist/boyfriend and it’s a really strong tale; some good twists, some of the better character work in the book. This really was written in the 1990s and it reflects it. The art doesn’t have too much of the 1990s vibe that was, you know, troublesome such as the over muscling but the story does really work well.
Avengers Annual number 10 is actually a really solid story. It involves Ms Marvel in a couple of ways. First, it’s that story where Spiderwoman finds her and takes her to the X-Men and then the Avengers are dealing with the fact that the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants is out there and in particular, Rogue, who has the ability to steal people’s powers and memories and she had permanently stole Ms Marvel’s powers and she’s also stole her memories and generally they go back but not in the case of Ms Marvel and Rogue is a definite threat. She would become a superheroine, but you don’t get much of a hint of it in this book as she’s looking forward positively to killing some of the Avengers but be that as it may, this is a fun story, a great deal of action with the Avengers versus Mystique and Rogue.
Now to be honest though this is really included in this book, I think for the reason, to fill out pages. Generally, they try to have the Essentials and the Showcase Presents books for D.C. be about 500 pages in length. With this story included, Essential Ms Marvel weighs in at 512 pages because all of her original stories were only 18 pages long including cover.
Avengers Annual number 10 deals with a sequel to a very infamous comic story in Avengers number 200 in which Carol is suddenly pregnant and quickly headed through the entire period of giving birth within days and it turns out that the child is Marcus who, coming from the dimension of limbo and wanted to get out and so and wanted Carol Danvers to love him, so he used a machine belonging to a mortice to help him achieve that and also impregnated her with him so that he could be born and could escape a limbo. Through the course of this, the Avengers were not very helpful at all as Carol says in the story, “There I was pregnant by an unknown source running through a 9-month term literally overnight, confused, terrified, shaken to the core of my being as a hero, a person, a woman. I turn to you for help and I got jokes. The Wasp thought it was great and the Beast offered to play teddy bear.” It’s certainly a fair criticism of that story. My problem with including it in this book is that this is a really long story and for most of it, Carol Danvers is out. Plus, in the Essential paperback they don’t include the Avengers number 200 issue and I can’t object. On one hand, I’ve got a problem with that because we’ve got the response to something we haven’t read on the other hand Avengers number 200 is really notorious but you should have included both stories rather than just one. I will say for the Masterworks version that the Ms. Marvel Masterworks Volume 2 does actually include the story from Avengers 200 as well as some of the scenes that led up to it in Avengers 197 on.
As a character, Carol Danvers was a very strong woman. She knew what she wanted she had rebuilt her life after some concerns about her continued work with NASA, after the problems with Captain Marvel and her failure to capture him and spun that into a career in journalism. She’s also a fearless warrior but she may be a little bit too strong for the typical Marvel hero of the era. Marvel heroes tend to be known by their flaws, their challenges, their weaknesses that they work through which made them better heroes. She does have some challenges along the way. Her relationship with her father is the main thing that stands out but that’s only referenced a couple of times. She does have some issues with believing that she has duality but that’s resolved easily enough. In many ways she almost falls into the trap of being the strong independent woman trope which replaced the damsel in distress in a lot of fictional stories where we got this character who doesn’t have a whole lot of nuance to them and you see that in these early issues of Ms Marvel. In issue one she goes into the Daily Bugle, Jameson has a vision for one magazine which the Bugle publishes being a kind of good housekeeping type magazine and she wants it to be something entirely different. She never sells Jameson on the point but he is so overwhelmed that he gives her the job and not only that he totally surrenders to her salary demands without trying to negotiate a middle ground and it’s just because J. Jonah Jameson cannot handle a strong and powerful woman. I don’t know how many women can relate to a character who goes into a magazine disagreeing with the publisher on what the magazine should actually be about and not only gets hired but gets hired at a rate far more than the publisher wants to pay.
Ms Marvel was introduced in 1977. In 1978 they introduced Spider Woman and in 1980 you’d have the premiere of She-Hulk and both of those heroines are more interesting characters than Ms Marvel. They’re both strong characters but they’re a little bit more nuanced and there’s a lot more going on for them in their lives and both have just much more fascinating stories to tell. Still that’s not to say that these are bad stories or a bad book. The first 3 issues of the book are written by comics legend Jerry Conway and then Chris Claremont takes over for the rest of the book. A variety of artist work on Ms Marvel but all of them wore fairly good and there’s not a bad issue in the entire book. The 17-page storyline really does make for some pretty fast and time stories. While there are better superhero books with female leads in this era, this one is a perfectly fine read and I’ll give it a rating of somewhat classy. If you’re a fan of Carol Danvers or you would just like to learn more about her origins before the movie this is worth checking out
Alright, that’ll do it for today. If you do have a comment email it to me firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter at classiccomicsguy and check out the website classycomicsguy.com. From Boise Idaho this is your host Adam Graham signing off.