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It’s Not a Question of “Captain Marvel” Vs. “Black Widow”

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
It’s Not a Question of “Captain Marvel” Vs. “Black Widow”

Yesterday made me sick.

How’s that for an intro? I mean, yes, by the end of Tuesday, October 28, 2014 I was physically exhausted, overly sweaty, totally headache-y and slightly feverish. So yes, it literally made me sick, but it made me sick from joy. I got the joy sickness, y’all, and I got it from announcements for movies that won’t come for another four and a half years from now. That’s the world we live in now, where having a movie studio promise they’re going to make a movie elicits nearly as big of a response from me as actually seeing the movie does.

Marvel Studios Announces “Captain Marvel,” “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War”

To make things all about myself (a columnist’s primary goal, right?), yesterday felt like a victory. After years of writing about why characters like Captain Marvel and Black Widow deserve movies and why representation matters to me, Marvel Studios finally presented a slate of films that features leads that are not white men. “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” are happening and I am still just a little bit in shock about it. I screamed, I teared up, I wrote incoherent tweets filled with caps lock gibberish, I made myself sick with excitement all because Marvel Studios finally took a few steps towards big screen inclusivity. The people of color and women are no longer relegated to supporting roles; they get to fly as high as Iron Man and inspire like Captain America.

I am excited about the “Black Panther” news, and I’m very happy with the casting of Chadwick Boseman, but the “Captain Marvel” news got to me. Me and Carol go way back, all the way to January 8, 1994 when the “Rogue’s Tale” episode of Fox’s “X-Men” cartoon first aired. I met Ms. Marvel as an antagonistic voice in Rogue’s head following the X-Man’s permanent absorption of the hero’s Kree-based super powers. Rogue has been a favorite character of mine ever since I first saw her punch a Sentinel in a shopping mall, and Ms. Marvel was a part of her back then. Fast forward ahead to my college years in the mid-’00s and you’ll witness me rooting for Carol herself, not just the aspect of her psyche trapped with my favorite southern bruiser’s brain. When Brian Reed’s “Ms. Marvel” series launched, I remember being on board instantly. I remember reading interviews with Reed where he talked about how Ms. Marvel should be an A-List hero, and that his goal for the series and Carol’s goal for herself would be the same: make Ms. Marvel a big deal.

I love underdogs. My favorite “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” moments tend to come in the season premieres when the Slayer runs across a bad guy that has no idea who she is. They beat her down, verbally and physically, and then, dramatically at the last moment, Buffy rallies and turns them into dust with a quip and a kick. I find it hard to root for characters that seem too powerful or never question their confidence; that’s definitely why I had trouble finding an in with Superman. For the first decade that I knew about her, Carol Danvers was presented as either a non-entity, a footnote in Rogue’s origin story, or an alcoholic Avenger. No, the ’90s were not kind to her, but they made her an underdog. Every time a new issue of hers came out, I cheered a little. When they made an action figure of this previously underappreciated hero, I tracked it down immediately — and I probably paid a price gouged comic book shop total for it. Worth it, though, because it’s still on display in my office ten years after I ripped it out of its blister pack. Ms. Marvel — specifically Ms. with the lightning-bolt bathing suit costume — was the little hero that could to me for so long that I could have gone one of two ways when the big “Captain Marvel” change was announced. Spoiler alert for the next paragraph: I’m glad I went the right way.

I will admit that I was a bit taken aback when I first saw the news from WonderCon in March 2012 that detailed Carol’s promotion to Captain and revealed Jamie McKelvie’s new design. That was a pretty seismic moment in modern comic history, so much so that I remember where I was when I heard the news. I was seeing “21 Jump Street” with my boyfriend at the movie theater just down the street from our old apartment and I got the news via Twitter. I loved the Dave Cockrum lightning bolt costume, you guys. It had become a go-to thing for me to doodle during meetings, along with Mohawk Storm. So I was a little bit surprised at her new look, her new hair and her new name. But I recognized something important when I saw that announcement, something that cut through all of the affection I had for that costume and that codename.

I recognized that this was Carol’s shot at becoming an A-List hero. In addition to being impractical and out of character for a decorated Air Force Colonel, that costume had baggage. That was what she was wearing when Rogue took her powers, when the Avengers kicked her off the team because of her drinking problem and when “Avengers” #200 happened. This new costume not only made her look much more in line with the strong-willed and take-charge character I always felt she was, but it meant that the character would no longer be defined by her past. Carol had been beaten down by bad continuity and bad events for decades, and that announcement marked the point where she rallied, “Buffy” style.

Higher, Further, Faster, More: Why a “Captain Marvel” Movie is Important

The community of fans, dubbed the Carol Corps, that emerged around the new Captain Marvel after the book’s announcement was surprising. The growth that happened after the book’s launch was astonishing. Their perseverance, tenacity, creativity, positivity and inclusivity inspire me every time I’m in their presence — and also anytime that I’m on Tumblr, or just, you know, thinking about how to make comics better. Carol Corps events are now a highlight of every convention I go to. Captain Marvel cosplayers always make me smile or do a tiny fist pump (convention floors are crowded). I now have Captain Marvel T-shirts that I wear with pride. The Hala star button given to me by “Captain Marvel” captain Kelly Sue DeConnick back at HeroesCon 2012 travels with me to every con I go to and lives on my lanyard. The “Captain Marvel” announcement feels like a huge victory for all of comics; in two short years, this character has gone from a perpetual B-Lister with no noticeable fanbase to the central figure for the most vocal, proactive and positive fandoms in comics right now. The movie and the lead-up to its opening is going to ensure that the Carol Corps only grows larger.

Oh, and to top it all off, “Captain Marvel” will hit theaters on July 6, 2018 — my thirty-fourth birthday. So, thanks for the awesome birthday present, Kevin Feige! Let’s start talking about what you should do for my thirty-fifth birthday…

“Black Widow.”

After my initial ugh-am-I-running-a-fever excitement at “Captain Marvel,” it hit me that there would be no Black Widow solo movie between now and 2018. The earliest one can pop up now is in the back half of 2019. It then hit me that there are going to be people — let’s call them Trollface Haters — that will try to pit the Carol Corps against Widow’s Warriors (I dunno, that’s the name I just pulled out) as if there was only one slot for a female lead and Carol snatched it away from Natasha. First of all, even if there really was a blank on a whiteboard in Marvel Studios meeting room with “(FEMALE LEAD)” under it, that doesn’t mean that attitude is right. Just as there’s room for multiple movies with white men right there in the title (“Ant-Man,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Doctor Strange,” “Thor: Ragnarok”), there should be room for multiple women and people of color in every phase of every cinematic universe. It should never be a question of Cap or Widow. The two represent vastly different types of leads who would carry drastically different movies; with her outer space origins and swagger, “Captain Marvel” will probably have more in common with the first “Iron Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” than it would ever have with “Black Widow.”

The way that I’ve seen anonymous askers on Tumblr and Twitter gremlins try to make fans choose between Captain Marvel and Black Widow reminds me of important advice Kelly Sue DeConnick gave a panel room a New York Comic Con.

“One of the things — and this is going to make me sound like I have a tinfoil hat, but it’s a fact — one of the things they will try to do is they will try to turn you against each other,” said DeConnick of the naysayers and misogynists of the world that constantly try to act as fandom gatekeepers. “That’s how they win. It’s this bullshit where they’re like, ‘Well, would Carol or Wonder Woman win?’ You guys, they’re both good guys. They wouldn’t fight, dumb ass — they would bury you.”

What We’ve Learned From Marvel Studios’ Phase 3 Announcements

“Captain Marvel” happening before “Black Widow” does not negate how incredibly important Natasha Romanoff has been to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how important she will apparently continue to be within the tentpole “Avengers” films. I mean, that “riding a bike out of a Quinjet” GIF is basically giving me life right now. Scarlett Johansson’s ass-kicker was the very first female super hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was in awe of her the instant I saw her flawlessly beat the crap out of a hallway of rent-a-cops in “Iron Man 2,” and her appearances in “Avengers” (where she outsmarted the god of lies) and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (where only bulletproof glasses allowed the Winter Soldier to survive her aim) have elevated her into a ruthlessly efficient hero, one with more vital and prominent feature film appearances than every other Avenger save Tony Stark. Natasha spin-kicked the door down for female representation in the MCU, and now Carol’s going to bust through it and head for the stratosphere. They work together.

Now I gotta spend the next four years prepping for my thirty-fourth birthday and figuring out a way to sneak a Captain Marvel cake into a midnight screening.

Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts Matt & Brett Love Comics, writes for the sketch comedy podcast Left Handed Radio, and makes videos for the Upright Citizens Brigade as a member of UCB1. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).

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