Marvel experts have often referred to Captain Marvel as the most powerful superhero in all of comics — and it was partly that power that kept her from being introduced earlier than she was. Brie Larson was cast as Carol Danvers to great fanfare in 2016, by which time Larson had already won an Academy Award for Room. The Captain Marvel film finally made it to screens earlier this year, setting the stage for Avengers: Endgame and performing even better than expected. So what took Marvel so long?
There was another Captain Marvel
Viewers of a certain age may remember a Captain Marvel, but it was a very different character created by an entirely different company. This was the Captain Marvel that was very similar to Superman.
This male Captain Marvel had his own TV show in the 70s who became what is now DC’s Shazam, who got his own movie this year too. Confused? It actually gets even more tangled than that.
According to Forbes, the Shazam version of Captain Marvel was created during the 1940s by Fawcett Comics. DC, who had created Superman in 1938, said, “Hey, that’s too much like our character” and sued. DC ended up purchasing the rights to that character, and the Captain Marvel name was still used in the 70s TV show that featured Billy Batson rolling around the country in a Winnebago.
Naturally, Marvel didn’t think too highly of a DC character being called Captain Marvel. So Marvel created their own Captain Marvel, who kept taking on various configurations before finally settling on the Carol Danvers/former pilot configuration we know.
Here’s the quick history: Carol Danvers was created in 1968, and she became Ms. Marvel, who first appeared in the mid-70s. She did not become known as Captain Marvel until 2012, by which time the MCU and their version of the Avengers were already underway.
Marvel was sticking to better-known characters
Screen Rant notes that Captain Marvel could have helped make the battle of New York in the first Avengers a lot easier. But that movie was the culmination of Phase One, which introduced characters who had been familiar for decades: Thor, Captain America and the Hulk, and to a lesser extent, Black Widow and Hawkeye. Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers had not made a big dent in the public consciousness yet.
As it happens, Carol Danvers had become so powerful that she developed some of the same problems that DC had dealt with through Superman: If the character is so powerful and can do everything, why should he or she do anything? Paradoxically, she was boxed in by her own powers.
That’s at least partly why Avengers: Endgame used Carol/Captain Marvel only sparingly. The filmmakers argued that with her around, it would have been too easy to defeat Thanos. And, indeed, once she does come in the scene, she gets a hold of Thanos quite quickly — not that it does the Avengers much good. Fans noted that as highly touted as Captain Marvel was, the established character of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) had almost defeated Thanos single-handedly.
What’s the future of Captain Marvel?
Despite all the hand-wringing over her character, as well as unfounded rumors that Larson did not get along with the rest of the cast, it’s very clear she’ll stick around. Her movie made more than $1 billion worldwide, and Larson supposedly signed a multi-picture deal. Larson disputed media reports that it was seven movies, but whatever the number, it’s obvious that Captain Marvel will be back.
She’ll certainly get a sequel because it’s more or less automatic if your movie makes more than $1 billion. Besides that, she’ll probably appear in another MCU movie where she’s a supporting character.
But which one? Don’t be surprised if it’s Shang-Chi, due out in February 2021, because that’s directed by Destin Daniel Crettin, who has directed Larson in Short Term 12, The Glass Castle, and the upcoming Just Mercy.
Oh, and Shazam did well enough for DC that he’ll probably be back too, but that’s a story for another article.
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