How 'Captain Marvel' Respects Its Comic Book Legacy

Carol Danvers isn't the only hero with the title referenced in the new Marvel Studios release.

Marvel Studios might be jumping straight to the current comic book incarnation of Captain Marvel when bringing the character to the screen — Carol Danvers is actually the seventh character to use that name in the Marvel’s comic book mythology — but the upcoming Captain Marvel movie makes a point of acknowledging the previous versions in major ways.

Although Carol Danvers has been around in Marvel’s comics since 1968’s Marvel Super-Heroes No. 13, she only took on the Captain Marvel name in 2012; before then, she was known variously as Ms. Marvel, Binary and Warbird, as well as simply Carol Danvers, as she suffered through various personality crises, restarts and makeovers under the hands of different creators.

Complicating matters was the fact that there were multiple other heroes using the Captain Marvel identity, most often with a familial connection to the original Marvel hero to go by the name: Mar-Vell (Captain Marvel from 1967 through 1982) had two children, both of whom adopted his heroic ID for awhile: Genis-Vell (1995 through 2006) and Phyla-Vell (who laid claim, temporarily, to the name in 2004). Additionally, other characters — including another Kree warrior and even an undercover Skull — had used the Captain Marvel name for a period, while Carol was waiting in the wings.

The decades worth of comic book backstory is (sensibly) ignored when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where Carol Danvers is the one and only Captain Marvel. That doesn’t mean that everything about the comic book legacy of the title has been left by the wayside, however.

The most obvious connection to past Captains Marvel is the backstory of the movie; while Carol’s comic book incarnation has a connection with the alien race the Kree, that was a function of her connection to the original Captain Marvel, who — up until this year’s mini-series The Life of Captain Marvel, which retconned an entirely new origin story for the character — was responsible for Carol gaining her powers in the first place. Before this year, Carol’s only Kree heritage came from Mar-Vell, and he remained the source point for any Kree-centric storyline that she would be involved in.

More directly, the Mar-Vell comic book stories are where Jude Law’s character in the movie, Yon-Rogg, comes from; he was, in his comic book incarnation, a fellow Kree warrior and, at one point, rival to Mar-Vell for the affections of a medic on the ship they served on together. The mutual dislike between the two only escalated when Mar-Vell turned against the Kree to defend humanity, reaching such a point where Yon-Rogg would attempt to kill Mar-Vell via technology that would, ultimately, give Carol Danvers the superpowers that she’d use as Captain Marvel years later. As the old tagline of the MCU put it, “it’s all connected.”

That said, multiple important characters in the Captain Marvel movie originated not in the Mar-Vell stores nor any Carol Danvers ones, but — like last year’s Black Panther — in the 1960s Fantastic Four series, in stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; that’s where the Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening) and Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) debuted, ahead of even Mar-Vell himself.

Outside of all things Kree, there’s an important link to Marvel’s second Captain Marvel to be found in the movie: Maria Rambeau, as played by Lashana Lynch, is the mother of Monica Rambeau, the hero who’d go by Captain Marvel from 1982 through 1996. It’s worth noting that Captain Marvel is set two decades before today, meaning that her daughter would be an adult by now — and that another of Monica’s comic book identities matches the callsign used by her pilot mother: Photon. Is there some groundwork being laid for a future appearance in another Marvel movie, perhaps…?

Captain Marvel opens March 8. The search for more Easter Egg references to other Marvel comic book heroes in the movie continues apace.