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[This story contains spoilers for Captain Marvel]
Captain Marvel has arrived, and it features characters that are both straight out of the comics, and characters who diverge wildly from the Marvel source material.
Those little changes are part of the beauty of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; even if you are one of the few people who remember the Skrull known as Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), that’s not going to give away all the twists and turns of this movie. And if you’re one of the die-hard fans who has a Chewie the Cat tattoo, that won’t make it any less satisfying to watch Goose cause mischief on the big screen.
In the Brie Larson film, Carol Danvers is a fighter pilot who helps her mentor (a Kree defector named Mar-Vell) test a light-speed engine. As they try to escape Kree who want the engine, Mar-Vell (Annette Bening) is gunned down and Carol shoots the engine to keep it out of the hands of the Kree. In the explosion, she ends up absorbing the engine’s power, losing her memory n the process.
The comic book Carol Danvers was originally the head of security on the USAF base that Mar-Vell’s secret identity worked at, a job that got her into the position where a scheme to attack Mar-Vell ended with her DNA getting altered to be part-Kree, giving her superpowers. She used those powers under a variety of different superhero identities, from Ms. Marvel to Binary and Warbird before eventually taking on the Captain Marvel title in 2012. Although the Air Force background was present from her comic book debut, it was far from a constant as a career; she’s also been a space pirate and magazine editor. Which one is more unlikely, it’s unclear.
Let’s take a closer look at the characters of Captain Marvel, and how they were changed from the comics, starting with the clear breakout star …
In the movie: He’s a Flerken! An alien with powerful powers that helps our heroes right when he needs them — and also stores the Teseract (AKA the Space Stone) inside himself, later barfing it up like a hairball.
In the comics: There is no Goose the Cat in the comic book Captain Marvel mythos. There is, however, a Chewie the Cat, who also happens to be a Flerken, which once again happens to be an alien that looks and acts like a cat except with additional superpowers — which, for Chewie, means the power to store objects inside its body thanks to some helpful pocket dimensions. Chewie can also lay hundreds of eggs to propagate her species, as the Guardians of the Galaxy know to their bitter experience. (Don’t worry, they’re all fine and went to good homes eventually. Probably.)
In the movie: He turns out to be a good guy who is just trying to help his family find a new home.
In the comics: Talos is genuinely an unexpected choice to pull from Marvel’s cast of comic book Skrulls, because he’s not that well known. Talos — AKA “Talos the Tamed,” a reference to the fact that he had been captured by the Kree during the Kree/Skrull War — debuted in an issue of The Incredible Hulk in the 1990s as a depressed wedding guest whose suicide attempt was interrupted by the Hulk, leading to a fight that redeemed his standing in Skull culture. He’s a relatively minor character who’s re-appeared a number of times since in all kinds of places, not least the recent Howard the Duck comic book series.
In the movie: Fury is an Agent of SHIELD, who ends up getting the idea for “The Protector Initiative” after learning there are extraterrestrial threats out there. He eventually renames it The Avenger Initiative” after looking at a picture of Carol Danvers by her jet, and seeing that her nickname was Avenger. Oh, and how’d he lose that eye? His good friend Goose.
In the comics: The Samuel L. Jackson iteration of the character is based off Fury from The Ultimates, the 2000s-era alternate universe version of the Avengers. He fought in wars dating back to World War II, where he was imprisoned and experimented on, receiving a serum that gave him super strength. He’d go on to lose his eye in the first Gulf War (no Flerkins involved), and would later head up The Ultimates — a government-sponsored team of superhumans.
In the movie: Mar-Vell (Bening) was a military scientist who developed a light-travel drive. She posed as a human, but was actually a Kree who was helping the Skrulls try to escape to a new galaxy using this drive. She dies, giving Carol her powers.
In the comics: Mar-Vell, in comic book mythology, was Marvel’s original Captain Marvel — and also male. He was a Kree warrior who turned against his people and defended Earth against the Kree for years, bringing the Avengers into the Kree/Skrull War in a fan-favorite storyline and, ultimately, died of cancer in Marvel’s first graphic novel, The Death of Captain Marvel. (He died of cancer, which sounds very grounded until you discover that he got cancer from the very comic book-y “Compound 13 Nerve Gas.”)
In the movie: The Supreme Intelligence is an A.I. that runs the Kree empire. Kree (including Captain Marvel) can commune with her. The Supreme Intelligence presents itself as the person the Kree admire most. Captain Marvel sees her mentor (Bening), but other Kree see different people.
In the comics: The comic book Supreme Intelligence is, like in the movie, an artificial intelligence created to run the Kree Empire, programmed with the intellects of the greatest minds from Kree history. Unlike in the movie, the comic book Supreme Intelligence is a giant green head with tentacles for hair that floats around in a giant tank filled with … let’s call it space liquid, to be safe, who likes to bark orders at anyone who happens to stand in front of him. He’s also got telepathic powers, because why wouldn’t he?
In the movie: Played by Jude Law, Yon-Rogg is introduced as a mentor and trainer for Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. A mid-movie revelation shows that Yon-Rogg is actually the guy who attacked Carol Danvers and her mentor, and is just an all-around unpleasant guy.
In the comics: Yon-Rogg is an important character in Carol Danvers’ comic book adventures; he’s actually the Kree commander whose jealousy towards Mar-Vell results in the accident that originally gave Carol her superpowers. That accident was believed to have killed him, but instead he survived with a new telepathic link to Carol, allowing him to gain insight into her deepest fears and weaknesses, something he used when re-emerging decades later as a more traditional supervillain. Whether as a Kree warrior or a supervillain, he was still an essentially ineffective foe.
In the movie: She is a fighter pilot and Carol Danvers’ best friend, and mother to Monica.
In the comics: The comic book Maria Rambeau shares literally one thing with her onscreen counterpart: She’s the mother to a daughter called Monica. In comic book mythology, Maria is a former seamstress and dressmaker who was not entirely supportive of her daughter’s super heroic career (Monica Rambeau was Marvel’s comic book Captain Marvel through the 1980s), but nonetheless let her daughter use her dress shop as a way of changing into her secret identity when necessary. Really, she was a bit of a worry wart, but her heart was in the right place.
In the movie: She is Maria’s daughter, considers Carol her aunt and shows a strong aptitude for heroics and engineering.
In the comics: Monica Rambeau was Marvel’s second comic book Captain Marvel, and one of the most high-profile female heroes (and heroes of color) of the company’s 1980s, an era where she not only joined the Avengers but led the team for a brief period, as well. An officer of the New Orleans harbor patrol, she gained her powers after an accident involving an experimental machine tapped into extra-dimensional energies, and as a result, she could transform herself into any form of energy imaginable. Although others have since adopted the Captain Marvel name, Monica remains active as superhero, calling herself a variety of different names throughout the years, including Spectrum, Pulsar and Photon — the latter of which is the call-sign her mother uses in the Captain Marvel movie.
For more from the comics, check out this interview with Captain Marvel comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, who is credited with revamping the character for a new era.
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