Captain Marvel turns 50 this year after bursting onto the Marvel scene in the 1960s. But despite being the company’s namesake, the character has never had terribly stable appearances. With an initial run nearly canceled on a few occasions, different iterations of the character have appeared throughout the decades. Ranging from genetically enhanced offspring to future versions of well-known Avengers, there have been plenty of characters to carry on the mantle of Captain Marvel.
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In the span of that time, the good Captains have had a number of looks. For this list, we take a look at 15 of those most notable, arranged chronologically. With a “Captain Marvel” film upcoming and Carol Danvers going strong as the character, this is the perfect primer into the many faces and phases of Marvel’s mightiest Avenger.
15. MAR-VELL (KREE MILITARY UNIFORM)
Following a 1953 lawsuit over their creation, Captain Marvel, and his similarities to DC’s Superman, Fawcett comics let their trademark lapse. In 1967, Marvel seized the opportunity to snap up the trademark for their own and quickly debuted a new Captain Marvel. Created by Stan Lee and sort of created by Gene Colan (though credited with the design, Colan insists he had no input), Mar-Vell was a Kree spy sent to Earth who found himself growing attached to humanity.
Debuting in “Marvel Super-Heroes” #12, Mar-Vell barely resembles the version of the character who would become so iconic over the years. He wears a then-standard issue Kree military uniform, a white bodysuit with green highlights and a green helmet with a fin on top. An emblem of a planet was worn on his chest. He carried the typical armaments of his position, a jump-belt which he modified to allow flight and a universal beam gun which he would modify to be wrist mounted, both of which were rendered unnecessary after an intergalactic being named Zo gave him powers to replace them. Artist Gene Colan reportedly hated the design, but it stuck for the first several years.
14. MAR-VELL/KHN’NR (CLASSIC DESIGN)
Marvel seemed to agree that the generic green Kree uniform didn’t work very well for a hero like Captain Marvel. Bestowed a special role by the Kree Supreme Intelligence and yet denied the option to ever progress beyond his current role, Mar-Vell was given a new uniform in 1969’s “Captain Marvel” #16. Primarily red with dark blue trim, this uniform incorporated the iconic Hala Star into the uniform for the first time. At issue’s end, the overzealous Mar-Vell found himself trapped in the negative space.
In the following issue, Mar-Vell psychically led Rick Jones (then questioning his place in the world after a falling out with a Red Skull-possessed Captain America) to a secret Kree laboratory. Here, Jones put on the Nega-Bands which, when struck together, allowed Rick and Mar-Vell to swap places, with Rick remaining in the Negative Zone while the two communicated telepathically. This arrangement would last several years, though both would be free of the Negative Zone shortly before Mar-Vell’s untimely death. Shortly before “Secret Invasion,” it seemed Mar-Vell had returned in his classic attire but was actually a brainwashed Skrull, Khn’nr, who died by story’s end.
13. MONICA RAMBEAU
A long-term Marvel mainstay, Monica Rambeau made her debut as the new Captain Marvel in 1982’s “Amazing Spider-Man” Annual #16, not long after the death of Mar-Vell. A former Harbor Patrol officer, Rambeau was struck by beams of extra-dimensional energy which gave her the ability to become intangible, fly, absorb energy and fire energy blasts. Mixing and matching pieces from a costume storage warehouse, Rambeau donned a flowing white and black number that coincidentally had a Hala starburst and became the new Captain Marvel.
Rambeau was the de facto Captain Marvel for about 15 years but ceded the identity when she met Genis-Vell out of respect for the legacy of his father, Mar-Vell. Rambeau has gone through a number of identities since then, most recently adopting the codename Spectrum and joining The Ultimates. Though she no longer wears the flamboyant superhero costumes she once did, the designs remain typically the same, presently consisting of a white body suit and long, white coat.
12. GENIS-VELL (LEGACY ERA)
Following the death of Mar-Vell, his lover Elysius used a genetic replicator on Titan to carry his child. Named Genis-Vell, the child was rapidly aged to adulthood and implanted with false memories of his childhood, led to believe his father was Eros of Titan, better known to fans as Starfox. When he became an adult, Elysius told Genis-Vell the truth about his lineage and gifted him a pair of Nega-Bands which were designed to harness the latent cosmic energy within his body.
Legacy sported a truly atrocious ’90s get-up, consisting of a two-toned, baggy, red and blue jumpsuit with a blue undershirt, head strap and a giant gold belt. He did at least maintain tradition, sporting the large Hala star over his heart. Genis-Vell initially rejected the idea of becoming the new Captain Marvel. He didn’t view himself as a hero, but had no choice but to accept his parentage and thus became known as Legacy for a time. However, in 1995’s “Captain Marvel” miniseries, he finally accepted his father’s name.
11. CAPTAIN MARVEL (AMALGAM)
Hailing from the distant past of 1996, Amalgam Comics remains a noteworthy piece of comics history. While Marvel and DC Comics have done the occasional one-off crossover throughout the years, the scale of “Marvel vs. DC,” which saw fan favorite characters duke it out in reader-voted contests, is still impressive today. In between the third and fourth issues, a line of Amalgam Comics was released, which features mashed together versions of the characters.
As a member of the JLA (Judgement League Avengers) William “Billy” Mar-Vell fought under the leadership of Super-Soldier against the JLX (Justice League X-Men). This alternate universe Captain Marvel sported a white body suit with green trim and a large green thunderbolt across his chest. A mix of both Marvel and DC’s Captain Marvel characters, shouting the magic word “Kree” caused Billy to transform, which granted him enhanced speed and strength, and flight. The Amalgam Marvel made sporadic appearances within the JLX narrative but hasn’t been seen since the last Amalgam publication in 1997.
10. GENIS-VELL (STARFIELD)
In the pages of the classic maxi-series “Avengers Forever,” a future incarnation of Rick Jones appeared merged with a future incarnation of Genis-Vell, much like Rick was merged with Mar-Vell in the ’60s and ’70s. At the conclusion of the series, the younger Rick Jones was seemingly dead, but the older Genis-Vell bound himself to Rick’s body to restore his life. Waking up in the present day, Rick found himself wearing Nega-Bands again and instinctively clicked them together.
Rather than the older Marvel, the modern era Legacy was forced to swap places with Rick, first in his then-current Legacy uniform and then forced into the uniform of his future self. The uniform is notably similar to that of his father’s, primarily a very deep shade of blue with a red torso and the Hala star boldly across his chest. As part of the gimmick of this character’s appearance, joining with Rick activated his latent Cosmic Awareness, an ability of the original Mar-Vell’s which allowed him to see any and all possible futures. Genis-Vell’s, however, was permanently on, resulting in the appearance of blue skin with a starfield across his body.
9. GENIS-VELL (KREE NAVAL UNIFORM)
With the launch of a fifth volume of “Captain Marvel,” Genis-Vell found himself going insane due to his Cosmic Awareness. As it took hold, he began to act increasingly erratic and violent and stopped caring about taking lives. Genis-Vell was eventually downed for several days, but when Rick finally managed to get through to him, he was ignored and left in the Microverse for months.
Awakening, Genis-Vell returned to the Kree and killed their commander, taking his place in the Kree army. When doing so, he adopted Kree armor, similar to what was worn by his father when he first appeared. Though the body suit was white, his cosmic awareness gave it the appearance of the black starfield with green armor pieces attached to it, and he wore a Kree helmet as well. This look only lasted about a year, as Genis-Vell would eventually regain a measure of his sanity and return to his previous uniform, albeit with a white torso instead of red.
8. PHYLA-VELL (ANNIHILATION)
Driven mad by the Cosmic Awareness, Genis-Vell announced his intent to destroy the Kree, Skrull and Shi’ar races in a week’s time. Unknown to Genis-Vell, though, was a surprise waiting for him on Titan: a previously unknown sister who had taken on the mantle of Captain Marvel. Phylla-Vell initially wore a suit similar to Genis-Vell’s original, though with silver Nega-Bands instead of gold and a more muted color palette. Genis-Vell would eventually recover his sanity, and Phyla-Vell would eventually abandon her claim to the Captain Marvel name.
Sometime later, during the Annihilation event, Phylla-Vell returned, having chosen to give up the Captain Marvel mantle, briefly wearing a redesigned costume consisting of a stylized dress with a Hala star running the length and a cloak. This outfit was only worn briefly, as, during the event, Phylla-Vell obtained the Quantum Bands and became the new Quasar. Phylla-Vell would be Quasar for some time, even becoming a regular player in the re-imagined “Guardians of the Galaxy” under the codename.
7. CAPTAIN MAHR VEHL (ULTIMATE SECRET)
Debuting in 2005’s “Ultimate Secret” #1, the Ultimate iteration of Captain Marvel’s Kree identity is fairly similar to the core universe’s. Having undergone intense surgery to pass as human, Kree Pluskommander Mahr Vehl was sent to Earth to watch humanity die at the hands of the terrifying Gah Lak Tus swarm. Mahr Vehl, however, came to love humanity and helped with the improvement of space travel technology, resulting in the Asis project.
When the project is attacked on the day of its launch, Mahr Vehl goes public for the first time. An updated take on the original ’60s Kree uniform, the new uniform sprang forward from a device camouflaged as a wristwatch. The suit has a much more armored feel, consisting of a black body suit and reinforced armor around his legs, arms, torso and head, complete with the finned helmet. The Kree insignia is now placed in a raised component and appears to be a light of sorts. Mahr Vehl would wear this uniform for a few years in the Ultimate Universe before finally dying fighting the merged Galactus/Gah Lak Tus swarm in “Hunger.”
6. RICK JONES (HUNGER)
The Rick Jones of the Ultimate Universe didn’t have quite the pedigree of his 616 counterpart, only encountering heroes fairly late in the run of the Ultimate Universe, but when he did it was a doozy. Chosen by the mysterious Watcher to guide humanity into a new future, Rick Jones woke up after the Ultimatum event with new, non-descript energy and teleportation powers. Traveling the universe at The Watcher’s behest, Rick was present when a tear in the fabric of time caused by the Age of Ultron brought Galactus into the Ultimate Universe, merging with the Gah Lak Tus swarm.
While fighting the swarm, the Kree warrior Mahr Vehl (now referred to ironically on Earth as Captain Marvel) died before he could trigger a weapon that would eradicate the swarm. Rick Jones put on Mahr Vehl’s armor, assuming the mantle of the new Captain Marvel and slightly redesigning the suit. Though the heavy armor aspect was retained, the green highlights were muted and the chest emblem became a glowing orange eye. As Marvel, Rick transported the Galactus entity away but failed to actually kill it.
5. NOH-VARR (DARK AVENGERS)
A Kree operative spliced with cockroach DNA, Noh-Varr hails from an alternate reality. Upon arriving on Earth, he declared war on the planet and soon found himself incarcerated. Several years later, during the Secret Invasion by the Skrulls, a freed Noh-Varr came upon the dying Khn’nr, disguised as Captain Marvel. Khn’nr implored him to save the planet, and an inspired Noh-Varr aided heroes against the Skrull invasion. When Norman Osborn came into power after the Secret Invasion, he released Noh-Varr from incarceration under the terms that he serve Osborn’s new Avengers as Captain Marvel.
Noh-Varr did not wear a traditional Captain Marvel uniform, instead wearing a modified version of his attire from “Marvel Boy.” He wears a green, short-sleeved jumpsuit with a white band down the middle and gold trim, as well as his gold gauntlets. Noh-Varr would remain in “Dark Avengers” for some time before discovering the team’s true nature as a band of criminals. Noh-Varr rebelled, and following the events of “Siege” would join The Avengers. Noh-Varr was last seen in his Marvel Boy identity again in 2013’s “Young Avengers.”
4. FUTURE HULKING (THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE – YOUNG AVENGERS)
“Avengers: The Children’s Crusade” was a big deal event, culminating in the resurrection of Scott Lang and the return of the Scarlet Witch to the fold of the Marvel Universe. But briefly during this jaunt, in the one-shot “Avengers: The Children’s Crusade – Young Avengers,” we learned that there was a future iteration of Hulkling that became the new Captain Marvel. He’s only seen during this issue, wearing a green and white variation of the traditional Captain Marvel uniform in a potential future timeline that sees the Young Avengers traveling the time stream with Kang the Conqueror.
Hulking has yet to show any desire to take on the Captain Marvel identity, last seen as a team member in “New Avengers” under the leadership of Sunspot. It’s easy to forget, though, that Hulkling does have a claim to the legacy, being the oldest son of Mar-Vell, as well as an heir to the Skrull throne through his mother’s lineage. At present, though, Hulkling is out of the spotlight, choosing to focus on his relationship with Wiccan in the aftermath of “Civil War II.”
3. JANET VAN DYNE (AGE OF ULTRON)
Janet Van Dyne has a reputation for changing her costumes over the years but has traditionally always been known as The Wasp in the superhero community. However, during the 2013 event “Age of Ultron,” Jan was shown in a possible future to have adopted a new identity: that of Captain Marvel. Though her powers in this timeline are never defined, she appears to retain the standard powers imbued by the Nega-Bands as well as her Wasp abilities.
As a member of Colonel America’s Defenders, Van Dyne donned a suit with the basic design of her then-current Wasp uniform, but with the red and blue color scheme of Captain Marvel and a gold trim. She was present when a past incarnation of Wolverine and Susan Storm appeared decades after the murder of Hank Pym, but appeared to die when Morgana le Fay brought down that world’s Helicarrier. Thanks to the efforts of that Wolverine to restore the timeline, though, this version of Jan no longer technically existed.
2. KAMALA KHAN (POST-TERRIGEN EXPOSURE)
Kamala Khan took the world by storm when “Ms. Marvel” debuted in 2014, and has quickly become one of Marvel’s top characters of the new generation. Already having a brief stint on The Avengers and now operating as team leader of the newly launched “Champions,” Kamala has a big future ahead of her. In the present storyline, she’s dealing with the fallout of “Civil War II,” losing her faith in her idol Captain Marvel.
It’s easy to miss, though, that Kamala was briefly, kind of, sort of Captain Marvel herself. When she first debuted, panicked over the newly manifesting terrigen exposure and her blossoming powers, Kamala instinctively made herself resemble Carol in her second Ms. Marvel outfit. The design, dating back to “Ms. Marvel” #20, is a simple black number with a yellow stroke down the chest and Carol’s trademark red sash. A few passers-by called Kamala Captain Marvel, mistaking them for Carol themselves, and Kamala largely ignored it. The design was integrated into Kamala’s standard attire, and she’s been Ms. Marvel ever since.
1. CAROL DANVERS (MODERN ERA)
First introduced as a civilian ally to the original Mar-Vell, Carol Danvers is perhaps Marvel’s mightiest Avenger. It even says so right in the title of her most recent on-going, “The Mighty Captain Marvel.” Carol went through a number of identities over the years, carrying on as the Kree/Human hybrid Ms. Marvel for several years but also appearing as the cosmically charged Binary and the heroic but lost Warbird. Carol Danvers has paid her dues in the superhero community, and her ascension to her legacy was incredibly well deserved.
Finally laying claim to the legacy of Captain Marvel in the July 2012 title of the same name, Danvers carries on Mar-Vell’s legacy with a blending of their designs: a dark blue jumpsuit with red boots, gloves and shoulders, and gold trim, complemented by the classic gold Hala star on her chest. In homage to her classic Warbird/Ms. Marvel attire, Carol still wears her long, red sash on her waist. A strong and powerful character in the Marvel Universe, Carol’s a fan-favorite for good reason and carries the Captain Marvel legacy forward with pride.
Do YOU have a favorite Captain Marvel look? Let us know in the comments!