In 1967, Stan Lee and Gene Colan gave Marvel Comics its first hero bearing the company's name when they introduced readers to Captain Marvel, aka Mar-Vell, a soldier of the alien Kree Empire. Mar-Vell came to Earth as a spy intent on helping his people conquer our planet, but the more he learned about Earth the more he came to care about it, a fact which alienated him from the Kree. After a distinguished career protecting Earth and the universe from many powerful threats, Mar-Vell perished in the mid-80s from cancer he developed after being exposed to Compound 13, a nerve gas released by the villain Nitro.
The heroic legacy of the Marvel Universe's first Captain Marvel is an exemplary one which has inspired many heroes, most notably Carol Danvers who got to know Mar-Vell when she was a member of Air Force Intelligence. When Carol later received super powers, she adopted the name Ms. Marvel as a way of honoring Captain Marvel's legacy, eventually becoming a distinguished member of the Avengers.
This July, Carol once again attempts to live up to the inspiring example of her fallen friend when she takes up his mantle as the title character of the all-new "Captain Marvel" ongoing series by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Dexter Soy. Readers of "Avenging Spider-Man" will also get a chance to see the new Captain Marvel in action as she teams up with the titular wall-crawler for a two-part adventure, also written by DeConnick and featuring art by Terry Dodson. CBR News spoke with DeConnick about both tales.
CBR News: Before her new series launches, there's another story that will help set the stage for "Captain Marvel" and give readers a glimpse of what to expect -- "Avenging Spider-Man" #9 by you and artist Terry Dodson, which is in stores July 11. What can you tell us about the plot and themes of this issue? How does Carol Danvers get involved in the action of this story?
Adi Granov's variant cover for "Captain Marvel" #1 and Terry Dodson's cover for "Avenging Spider-Man" #9
Kelly Sue DeConnick: "Avenging" #9 kicks off a little two issue story set in the skies over Boston, Carol's home town. Peter's hitching a ride with Carol in her private plane. Even though Peter's of modest means, he's accustomed to hanging out with the likes of Tony Stark, Danny Rand and the Fantastic Four. When you say "private plane," he hears, "posh," and "state of the art." So when Carol shows him something more, uh, provisional, he balks. Carol's trying to demonstrate to Peter the joys of simple mechanics; Peter's hoping not to lose his lunch. They're just over the Zakim bridge when a nameless woman in a rocket pack nearly knocks them out of the sky and the two have to set aside Carol and Peter and spring Spider-Man and Captain Marvel into action.
In terms of themes, I was thinking about the Occupy movement, about the privatization of traditionally public institutions and what exactly defines us as human. You know -- small stuff.
Is this your first time writing Spider-Man? What's it like writing an iconic character like Peter Parker?
It's my first time writing Spider-Man, but I did get to write Peter Parker in "Osborn: Evil Incarcerated" #1. Writing Spider-Man is just fun. There's no better way to phrase it.
What's your sense of the dynamic and relationship between Peter and Carol? If I recall correctly "Ms.Marvel" writer Brian Reed set up an interesting relationship between the two where they tried to go on a date at one point and it just didn't work out?
Yeah, I like where Brian was going. I think they have a flirtatious relationship, but ultimately, I'm not sure there can ever be anything more than a great friendship between them. I mean, I don't know. Who's to say, really? I wrote something in the script for "Avenging" #9 about how Peter's a grown man who carries a Jansport backpack -- there's a permanent boyishness about him that is a huge part of his charm and what we love about him, but it's precisely the thing that makes them a poor fit for anything serious -- says me, the relationship expert.
That's my gut on the subject, anyway. You never know what's going to happen when you sit down to start writing dialogue, though. Carol and Peter might ultimately disagree with my assessment. Does that make me sound like a crazy person?
Not at all. I know that when you sit down and write strong characters, they'll often have their own opinions on what's going on and whether or not they're going to go along with it.
In her "Avenging Spider-Man" appearance, Carol will be wearing her new Captain Marvel costume. Where did the idea for this new look come from? I've also noticed that in some images Carol is wearing a mask/helmet and in other images she's not. What can you tell us about the headgear portion of her new suit?
Since Carol's not in disguise, I think of it more as a uniform than a costume. They're her work clothes. Jamie McKelvie did the design and man -- if it were up to me, McKelvie would outfit the entire Marvel Universe. I love his aesthetic so very much.
The helmet is retractible -- Carol's nearly indestructible so she doesn't really need a helmet, but she's not impervious to pain. So, when she's doing something like, oh, flying face-first into space, she might bring the helmet up to make herself more comfortable. It's also got symbolic value as the design harkens back to her origin as part-Kree warrior. Emphasis on warrior -- by which I mean there's a display element. Like the Captain Marvel equivalent of warrior paint or a necklace made from the skulls of her enemies.
Carol's new costume reminds me of a flight suit, and as you mentioned the last time we spoke, flight is definitely going to be a theme of your stories in "Captain Marvel." In fact, you mentioned your initial story kicks off with the introduction of Carol's aviation hero, a woman named Helen Cobb. What can you tell us about Helen? Was she inspired by any real life historical figures? And what kind of role did she play in the established history of the Marvel Universe?
She is a new character, and you can trace bits of Helen's DNA in the real life women Jerri Cobb, Jerri Truhill Sloan, Pancho Barnes and Jackie Cochran, who are all amazing human beings. I encourage you to hit Google (or, you know, your local library) for more info. But, I feel like I need to be clear that while she may be inspired by those women, she is not those women. Helen has her own mind, let's say, and leave it at that.
Flying often means the freedom to travel anywhere, so where will Carol's initial travels take her in "Captain Marvel?" Is this is book that will just explore the Earth? Or would you like to take the series into space as well and perhaps tell a few cosmic and sci-fi tales?
I love the cosmic aspect of the character. It'll all depend on how much time we get. I have so many things I want to get to!
Whether or not you get there depends on how strongly "Captain Marvel" resonates with readers, obviously. Recently you've been very proactive in trying to make that happen by encouraging people interested in the book to pre-order it. Part of that encouragement came in the form of blog posts on your website. Have you gotten any interesting feedback about these posts? Since starting your dialogue, What have you learned about the importance and process of pre-ordering?
People have been so supportive. The fan art thing -- have you been following that? I never put any call out for that. Project Rooftop did, but not until after we already had a couple dozen pieces. That was so amazing. I've never seen anything like it. Credit goes, I guess, to Jamie McKelvie for a design that really hit home. And to Carol, maybe, for being the kind of character that people latch on to.
As far at the push to pre-order goes, I'm really, really happy with how that worked out. I'm incredibly grateful to everyone who overcame the many hurdles and inconveniences associated with the process to support the book. Now it's on us to deliver a book worthy of that support, something that inspires people to keep up those orders. So, you know -- no pressure.
Art by Terry Dodson
Have I gotten any interesting feedback? I guess the most interesting thing to me has been how many people don't know about pre-ordering or how much weight those numbers carry when it comes to the lifespan of a book.
What have I learned? Some boring stuff -- I've learned how variant covers work (sort of) and that some stores won't allow you to subscribe to a single title -- things like that.
I got word recently that our order numbers were "stronger than expected." Now, I was too nervous to ask what the numbers were or what was actually expected (as long as we outperform "Osborn," I'm going to consider it an upward trajectory and therefore a win), and there's no way to know for sure in what part our "campaign" was responsible, but I was still heartened by the idea that the needle can be moved.
I know we could still blow it -- and I totally accept both that possibility and the responsibility for it if it happens -- but knowing that expectations were not necessarily prophesies, that the needle could in fact move -- I needed to hear that.
Finally, Carol Danvers has become a fairly iconic character, and as the star of her own book is in position to become the premiere female character of the Marvel Universe. Or do you think she already is?
It's a common enough question, but I can't help but bristle any time we're setting women against one another for "Top Broad" status.
That's understandable -- characters should be judged on their own merits instead of their place in an a created hierarchy.
Right. Spider-Man is the center of the Marvel Universe. After that, there's room for everybody to occupy their own space. As long as Carol is the protagonist in her own book, I'll be happy.