The untold truth of Captain Marvel

If you stuck around for the post-credits scene after Avengers: Infinity War, you know the MCU will never be the same after we see Brie Larson suit up for her starring role in Captain Marvel. One of Marvel's most compelling and inspiring characters, Carol Danvers is a hybrid being — partly human, and partly the alien race known as the Kree. Although it's taken her some time to make her big-screen debut, Captain Marvel's been kicking butt and taking names for several decades now — and since she's also a former Air Force pilot, the superheroics don't stop when she changes out of her costume. 

Captain Marvel is one of Marvel's most aspirational figures and has inspired a rabid fanbase. But when a character has been around for this long, there are bound to be some unexplored or unknown corners to their history, even for longtime fans. Carol Danvers is no different, and digging into the character's past leads to a treasure trove of wonderful comic book weirdness, inspiration, and fun. It's still too soon to tell which components of her story will make the cut for her first cinematic feature, but it's safe to say the filmmakers have a ton of awesome history to draw from. This is the untold truth of Captain Marvel.

Legacy of power

At this point you're unlikely to find a single superhero mantle that hasn't at some point been held by multiple people. From Batman to Thor, it's just part of the territory at this point. As such, it should come as no surprise that Carol Danvers is far from the first person to bear the mantle of Captain Marvel.

The first Captain Marvel was an alien named Mar-Vell, a member of the Kree who was initially sent to Earth to observe it as a spy for his people and took up a superhero mantle to protect the very people he'd been sent to observe. Mar-Vell also held a tense rivalry with Thanos for years before eventually succumbing to cancer and dying.

He was followed by Monica Rambeau, a New Orleans native who developed powers after exposure to extradimensional energy. She fought as an Avenger under the Captain Marvel moniker for a time and even served as the leader of the Avengers before retiring from the team, yielding the Captain Marvel name to the original Captain's son, and moving on as Photon before ultimately settling on the name Spectrum. Carol Danvers is still probably the best-known Captain Marvel, but the name comes with a rich legacy of heroes accomplishing great things.

Girl power

Captain Marvel is a boss, and she's got the popularity to prove it. Look no further than the Carol Corps, the character's real-life fan club, as evidence of this. Make no mistake, this was the goal with the character from the start.

Carol Danvers' arc was created with the explicit intent of being progressive and feminist. You need only read some of her first appearances, written by Gerry Conway, to see this. She is, from her first appearance under her early Ms. Marvel moniker in 1977, a powerful and assertive character who champions women's rights in the workplace. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, who is responsible for giving Carol the Captain Marvel name, once said, "I'm struck now by how overtly progressive it was, even by today's standards." Laying such a strong feminist foundation for the character from the start has made it possible for other creators to advance those themes as Carol grew over the years. 

Doing the splits

It's gotta be tricky managing your real-life relationships and responsibilities as a superhero. You'd basically be walking around with two separate identities inhabiting one body and the responsibilities of both would have to clash all the time. Look at Peter Parker, for instance: His life is perpetually a wreck because of the balancing act he has to play as Spider-Man. It'd be even more difficult if you were in Carol Danvers' position when she first started out as a superhero.

For a period of time, Ms. Marvel wasn't so much Carol Danvers' secret identity as it was a completely separate and independent personality. After an encounter with a Kree device called the Psyche-Magnitron that turns imagination into reality, she developed her Kree abilities — although she wasn't aware of this for some time. When her powers kicked in, Carol blacked out and Ms. Marvel took over — not as a malicious Incredible Hulk-esque presence in Carol's mind, only coming forward when the moment called for it. Nonetheless, Carol has been much better off since getting her powers under her full control thanks to some help from the inter-dimensional being Hecate and Kree warrior Ronan the Accuser. Whatever the circumstances, it's probably way more fun to be a superhero if you can remember it the next day. 

Butting heads

Speaking of Spider-Man, how about that J. Jonah Jameson? The guy has been wreaking havoc on the superhero community for decades now, albeit not in the same way as the Green Goblin. Jameson uses the power of the media to slander Spidey's good name every chance he gets. He's not overly fond of other superheroes, either — he even managed to end up on the bad side of one of them without even realizing they were a superhero.

For a brief period of time, Carol Danvers and J. Jonah Jameson were coworkers after he hired Carol as the editor of a women's interest magazine he was overseeing. The two quickly butted heads over the magazine's content — Jonah wanted a more frilly, superfluous publication about fashion and housekeeping advice, while Carol wanted to push it as a progressive platform for women — and he quickly fired her. It was a short-lived relationship, but also the quintessential Jameson/superhero interaction. He was completely unaware that he'd employed one of those pesky superpowered crimefighters he hates so much, but still managed to treat them like garbage anyway. 

A binary identity

Again, Carol Danvers isn't the first Captain Marvel, but that doesn't mean she hasn't been a superhero for quite some time. Much of her crimefighting career was pursued under the name Ms. Marvel during the periods when Mar-Vell and Monica Rambeau were using the title of Captain Marvel, but Ms. Marvel isn't the only other superhero name she's taken.

Danvers has had a number of superhero identities, in fact — the most notable of which are Binary and Warbird. Her time as Binary took place after an encounter with the X-Man Rogue left her stripped of her Kree powers. She was later subject to experimentation by the alien race the Brood, leaving her able to draw on the power of a literal star. During this period she lost her emotional ties to Earth, leaving her free to venture into outer space for new adventures. She fought alongside the Starjammers and the X-Men for a time, later becoming Warbird after using up her star powers — and losing her memory — saving the sun. During her time as Warbird, she fought as a member of the Avengers, eventually casting that mantle aside and leaving the team to work with the Department of Homeland Security. She'd take up the mantle of Ms. Marvel for a time after this before becoming Captain Marvel, but there was a good chunk of time during which she was completely free of the Marvel name.

All in the family

Superhero comics are pretty crazy. Between the sci-fi and fantasy elements and the melodrama, you're just as likely to come across a fully sentient robot as you are to come across a fully sentient robot that is also somehow the reincarnation of a character who tragically died 20 issues ago (and also falls in love with that character's ex). Sometimes this makes for everything great about superheroes; other times, it makes for comics like Avengers #200, widely considered to be one of the worst issues ever published.

The comic features Ms. Marvel pregnant under mysterious circumstances. When the entire nine-month development of her pregnancy takes course over just a few days and then the child quickly ages into a full-grown man calling himself Marcus (who immediately falls in love with Carol, his own mother), explanations are in order. Marcus reveals that he's the son of a villain called Immortus — and that he previously used his powers to exert mind control over Ms. Marvel in the pocket dimension Limbo, impregnated her, and then erased her memory of the encounter. The baby would grow into a Marcus now free from Limbo. This made Marcus his own father — and meant that Ms. Marvel had a deeply disturbing relationship with her own son (she later admitted to having had feelings for him outside of the mind control). It's one of the most heinous moments in Marvel's long past, and easily the darkest moment of Carol's story.

With a little help from her friends

Make no bones about it, Tony Stark is the most famous alcoholic in comics. His fondness of stiff drinks and boozy nights is well documented, even playing a huge part in some of his most classic stories. However, don't let yourself believe he's got the monopoly on the character type. For a time, Carol Danvers found herself in the exact same boat as Tony: using alcohol as a coping mechanism for her trauma. Things went bad quickly, and she turned to a friend far too familiar with the struggles of addiction.

During her time as Warbird, Carol struggled to control her drinking. The trauma of losing her memories and the powers she'd wielded as Binary took their toll, and she turned to the bottle as a coping mechanism. Unsurprisingly, Tony noticed what was going on, and made an effort to help her through it when nobody else could — motivated largely because he recognized her struggle and didn't want to see her make the same mistakes he'd made.

Going galactic

Carol Danvers is all too familiar with her memory being lost or erased — it's sort of a recurring event with the character. She's gone through a few mind-wipes in her day, but always manages to come back from them. In a crossover event called The Enemy Within, Carol was used by the Kree Sentries in an attack on New York when the aliens took advantage of her brain to power a device that created a Kree city in NYC. She managed to defeat them, but in the fallout, her brain was significantly damaged, wiping her mind of most of her memories. She decided to deal with it by going on a cosmic road trip of self-discovery with everyone's favorite space jerks.

That's right: in order to help rediscover herself, Carol joined up with the Guardians of the Galaxy alongside new member Venom. It was a pretty short-lived tenure that was interrupted by the whole "every single world in the Marvel multiverse is about to die" thing going on in Secret Wars, but for a time, Carol reconnected with her interstellar roots as a Kree hybrid and former intergalactic superhero by roaming through space with Star-Lord, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and the gang. She headed back to Earth to join S.H.I.E.L.D in their mission to track down Marvel's Illuminati — after getting what she needed on a personal level from her space escapades.

AKA Carol Danvers

It's hard to imagine Netflix's Jessica Jones without Trish Walker. The interplay between Krysten Ritter's Jessica and Rachel Taylor's Trish is a huge part of what makes the show so special. Trish also serves as a very necessary grounding agent to the narrative as a non-superpowered supporting lead for the show. As hard as it may be to believe, she wasn't the original choice.

The original Jessica Jones plans included none other than Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel herself, as Jessica's best friend. It would have made for a radically different show — as well as a radically different longterm plan for Marvel's film department. Carol was shifted out for Trish for a few reasons, one of which was that the show's platform shifted from ABC to Netflix, which created a new dynamic in storytelling; Marvel Netflix shows tend to focus on more grounded, street-level characters. The other? Carol's cinematic debut was announced. It's tough to position her as a sidekick on a TV show and then make her a big-screen leading lady. It worked out best for all parties, in the grand scheme of things — Carol is too bombastic and big to be a supporting lead, and Jessica Jones benefits hugely from Jessica's best friend being a non-superpowered character.

Fish tales

Any Marvel hero — with cosmic roots or otherwise — is going to have a moment or two of weirdness in their history. It's just the way things are with long-running comics stories. That being said, there's perhaps no weirder moment in the history of Carol Danvers than the time she saved a race of benevolent psychic space whales from destruction.

These space whales (for lack of a better descriptor) are called the Acanti. They're a peaceful species who drift through the universe connected by a singular mind known as the Prophet Singer, within whom rested the Acanti hive mind (known as the Soul). In the story in question, the evil alien race known as the Brood made an effort to control the Acanti through a complex scheme that ended in the Prophet Singer dying and the Soul, rather than passing on to a new bearer, remaining on Broodworld. The X-Men ventured into space to release the Soul from the planet and when the time came, it was none other than Carol Danvers (operating as Binary) who freed the Soul and the Acanti with it. There you have it: Carol Danvers saved a species of psychic space whales. Truly the mark of a hero if there's ever been one.