This is the fourth in our series of Carol Appreciation posts. Also check out Megan Byrd’s review of Captain Marvel #1, Valtyr’s ode to Ultimate Carol, and Garrideb’s look at Carol and female friendship.
When I walked into my comics shop on Wednesday, the owner–goes by the name of Steve, rarely seen without his Captain America shirt–greeted me with, “Hey, Captain Marvel day!” I resisted the urge to respond with a grabbing motion and instead went to dig through his backstock. “You know,” he added, “I’ve been meaning to ask what it is that draws you to that character.”
I stammered out something along the lines of, “Well, you know, she–she has a cat named Chewbacca, and she’s a pilot and my mom’s a pilot, so–and I like that every time she’s knocked down, she gets back up. Um, also editorially.”
It’s difficult to pinpoint why we’re drawn to our favorites. Some combination of luck and timing? The characteristics her or she have collected from a dozen writers over fifty years? That one team-up with Wolverine? I didn’t pay much attention to Carol Danvers for the first decade of my sequential life, except in as much as she was a part of Rogue’s story. In fact, I didn’t pay her any attention at all until I was nineteen, off at my first year of college, suffering from depression and a whole host of related complications that looked worse on paper but were really nothing more than symptoms. I needed a hero.
What first caught my eye was that she was, unapologetically, One of Us. She talked about Star Trek. She had a cat named Chewie. She seemed like the kind of woman who’d be happy to kick back after work with a beer and a round of bar trivia while dishing about the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica. She’d read (as Chris Claremont wrote in the introduction to Carol’s first series) Asimov and Clarke. She dreamed of the stars.
She was a fly girl, too. Superheroes and flight are so intertwined it’s difficult to separate one from the other, but as a pilot Carol bridged the gap between the impossible and the merely impressive in a way I understood. I can’t remember a time in my life when the roar of engines overhead didn’t mean an immediate cessation of activities as the whole family shaded their eyes and stared upward. That’s my mother’s legacy; she attended a college that didn’t have a women’s restroom in their hangar but still managed to graduate with honors and land a job as a flight instructor. Although she later quit flying and her position as a civilian consultant to the military to raise her daughter, she’s never lost that instinct to look to the skies.
Of course, all it took was a bit of reading to notice that Ms. Marvel was more than a cumulation of interests. She doesn’t tear down other women, and in fact goes out of her way to support them; her friendships with Sal Petrie, Wanda, and Jessicas Jones and Drew are stuff to rival even the most epic of comic book bromances. She reminds me what it is to be mentored (by the likes of Tracy Burke) and a mentor (to up-and-comers like Anya Corazon). She’s an explicitly feminist character, and I’m behind that 100%–I can be a pretty damn explicit feminist myself.
Carol’s just as at home with the boys’ club, and while she flirts delightfully and outrageously, that rock-solid loyalty and ultimately platonic affection mean she’s equally comfortable teasing Marvel’s most visible names and telling them when they’re out of line. Carol is a character more defined by her friendships than by her sweeping romances; her love interests are here today and gone tomorrow, visible only as long as they serve her narrative. She’s no maiden on a pedestal, but her primary affair is with the heavens.
I’m never going to be able to judge DeConnick’s Captain Marvel objectively, and that’s okay. Passion has carried Carol far. The passion of editors like Steve Wacker has rescued Carol from a background role in a team book more than once; the passion of writers like Chris Claremont and Kelly Sue DeConnick has made her more than an adornment in another hero’s story. Their passion for their craft and subject matter manifests in Carol, and her passion speaks to us. There’s something about Ms. Marvel that keeps us wanting more, and now her fans are on the verge of a feast.
Because this is as true in our universe as in hers: No matter how many times she’s knocked off her feet, Carol Danvers will always get back up.