Captain Marvel: Comics History and Origin Explained

We've got everything you need to know about Carol Danvers, just in time for the Captain Marvel movie.

Brie Larson as Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel

Carol Danvers is one of Marvel’s most popular heroes and the first woman in the MCU to have a stand-alone movie, but how much do you really know about her? The character dates back to 1968 and has had quite a few incarnations and transformations over the years. But some things, like her loyalty to her friends, impulsive nature, independent spirit, and love of pop-culture references have long been at the heart of the fan favorite character. We’ve got everything you need to know about Mighty Captain Marvel, Earth’s Mightiest Avenger!

Captain Marvel Origin

She’s from Boston…by way of Hala

Carol Danvers is generally said to have born in Beverley, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, though a recent run has relocated her birth place to Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. Carol was born human (though a recent run by the same writer changed this to give her a Kree mother) and acquired powers while working at NASA. There was an accident with a Psyche-Magnetron, a high-tech wishing machine, and disguised Kree warrior Mar-Vell, her friend/sorta crush. As a result of the accident, Kree DNA was grafted onto Carol’s and she got a version of Mar-Vell’s powers.

Captain Marvel Fighting Thanos

She’s the strongest Avenger

About those powers: Captain Marvel is basically a cosmic being who can channel energy. She started out with your basic super-strength, agility, flight (by way of a suit), a bit of premonition that comes and goes depending on who’s writing, and quick healing. Carol is also resistant to poison

She later leveled up when she was experimented on, tapping into the power of a white hole, and become known as Binary. While those powers eventually dwindled, she was left a cosmic being who can absorb and control massive amounts of energy and even manipulate gravity. In a practical sense, that means she can shoot photon blasts from her hands (earning her the nickname Princess Sparklefists), is much faster than the speed of sound, and can fly on her own, even into space, which is why Tony Stark calls her Space Face.

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For the Captain Marvel movie, we can expect to see Carol’s strength in a big way. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has confirmed that Carol Danvers is the most powerful person in the MCU.

Carol Danvers and Monica Rambeau in Marvel Comics

Carol Danvers wasn’t always called Captain Marvel – nor was she the first

While Carol Danvers’s popularity skyrocketed as Captain Marvel, she hasn’t always gone by that title, nor is she the first to hold it. When she first got powers, Carol was known as Ms. Marvel. After villains The Brood experimented on her and she was able to channel the power of a white hole, Carol went by Binary. Later, when her Binary powers drained and she joined up with the Avengers, she went by War Bird. Eventually, she switched back to Ms. Marvel, and was briefly known as Captain Marvel in a parallel universe where she was a highly respected hero.

Taking on the name Captain Marvel in 2012 was actually Captain America’s idea, as a tribute to Mar-Vell and name more fitting her role as an Avenger, to go with her new costume. After Captain America told the media about the new name, Carol had to backtrack and apologize to her friend, Monica Rambeau, who was the first woman to go by Captain Marvell, and the next person to use the title after Mar-Vell himself. Monica had already moved on from the name, and mostly just gave her friend a hard time. Several others held the Captain Marvell title after Mar-Vell and before Carol, mostly Kree relatives of Mar-Vell.

Captain Marvel Costumes

She has the best costume

In addition to using Mar-Vell’s old title, Carol has a gold Hala star on her red and blue Captain Marvel costume as a tribute to her former mentor and her Kree DNA. Hala is the name of the Kree homeworld, and the gold, eight-pointed star has become synonymous with Carol for fans. But in the world of Marvel comics, the Hala star sometimes gets Carol into trouble for its Kree association, since their warrior ways haven’t always made them the most popular race in the galaxy.

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Another iconic aspect of Captain Marvel’s costume is her red helmet, complete with hair flying free in a fauxhawk. The helmet lets her breathe while flying through space. Every time Carol changed pseudonyms, she got a costume change as well, but some elements have carried over. The red sash from her Ms. Marvel days remains, and Kamala Khan (the current Ms. Marvel, who adopted the name in tribute) has a yellow lightning bolt on her costume like Carol did on her Ms. Marvel leotard. Carol is often seen with her flight jacket, from her days as an ace fighter pilot for the US Air Force.

One thing Captain Marvel notably doesn’t have, however, is a mask. Just before Carol Danvers became Captain Marvel, the world found out her identity. As Ms. Marvel she had worn a black mask, but once the cat was out of the bag that element was dropped for the Captain Marvel costume.

Carol Danvers in Marvel Comics

She’s had a ton of jobs

Carol grew up wanting to fly rockets to space. When she was in high school, her father told her he only had enough money for one kid to go to college. He was using it for Carol’s brother Joe, even though Carol had better grades, so Carol joined the Air Force to pay for college and make her dream a reality. One of the first women fighter pilots (depending on when you read her – she’s perpetually in her late 20s/early 30s) she eventually advanced to the rank of Major. Since then, she’s had so many exciting careers that she could give Barbie a run for her money.

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When she was in the accident with the Psyche-Magnetron, Carol was the head of NASA security. Later, she became a spy and the editor of Woman magazine, in an homage to Gloria Steinem and Ms. Magazine (hence Ms. Marvel.) She’s run with the X-Men, The Starjammers, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. She’s been an Avenger, an Agent of SHIELD, a member of the Ultimates and A-Force, the leader of the Banshee Squadron and the head of Alpha Flight.

Captain Marvel and Trump Parodied in Marvel Comics

Trump would totally hate her guts

Carol Danvers is a physically powerful woman who’s stubborn as hell and a military hero to boot. Her books include queer characters like Ja Kyee AKA Jackie, Tracy Burke, and Teddy Matthews. She’s fiercely independent and stubborn as hell, never allowing a relationship to tie her down or even keep her on planet Earth. As the Commander of Alpha Flight, Earth’s first line of protection against the rest of the universe, you could even say she’s already leading a woman-dominated, trans-species Space Force.

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Carol has a habit of saving refugees, taking on big bullies, and leading teams of powerful women, like the Banshee Squadron, a group of women fighter pilots, and A-Force, which includes She-Hulk, America Chavez. She negotiated for better pay when J. Jonah Jameson hired her as an editor and broke up an intergalactic arranged marriage, finding a way for everyone to choose their own paths. For a while, Carol even literally lived in the Statue of Liberty, thanks to the mayor of New York, after she saved the city. But after all this is New York, so she still had to pay rent.

Captain Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Jessica Jones

She has the best girl gang

Carol’s best friends are Spiderwoman (Jessica Drew) and Jessica Jones. Her lawyer is She-Hulk. Her mentors are Helen Cobb and Tracey Burke, two women in their sixties who were pioneers of aviation and journalism, respectively. She has amazing card games with all the #WomenofMarvel like the Jessicas, Monica Rambeau and America Chavez. She’s Kamala Khan’s inspiration as the new Ms. Marvel, adopted a Kree kid named Bean and mentored Spider-Girl/Araña and a stowaway refugee-turned-aspiring warrior from the planet Torfa named Tic. While commanding Alpha Flight she had a professional rivalry-turned camaraderie with Lt. Commander Abigail Brand, formerly of SHIELD and SWORD, and worked with scientist Wendy Kawasaki and Aurora, (Jeanne-Marie Beaubier.)

Captain Marvel Villains

Most of her villains are women, too

Carol has face off with men of course, most notably Ronan the Accuser and Yon-Rogg, the Kree responsible for the Psyche-Magnetron accident that killed Mar-Vell and gave her powers in the first place. But so many of her best antagonists have been women, like evil geniuses Doctor Minerva and Doctor Eve, Mim, and the Grapplers, two women wrestlers turned crooks. Mystique made her first appearance in a Ms. Marvel comic, and Carol took on her daughter Rogue, too.

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Carol Danvers and Tony Stark

She’s sober

Carol has certainly faced her share of trauma, including her brother Steve’s death, growing up with a sexist and abusive father and being brainwashed, raped, and impregnated by the villain Marcus. After she lost her Binary powers it all seemed to catch up with her. While she was Warbird with the Avengers, Carol’s drinking got out of control. Luckily, her friend Tony Stark knew the signs of alcoholism from his own struggles with addiction, and he reached out and helped her get the support she needed.

Captain Marvel Fighting a Villain in Comics

She’s had a lot of memory problems

When Carol first got powers, they manifested as a split personality known as Ms. Marvel. Carol had blackouts and had no idea that she and Ms. Marvel were the same person, or what she was doing during those blackouts. Later, Carol fought Rogue (back before she became a good guy and joined the X-Men) and wound up losing all her powers and memories in the brutal fight, due to Rogue’s siphon-like powers. Charles Xavier was able to return Carol’s memories but not her emotional connection to them.

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Finally, in her time as Captain Marvel, Carol had headaches that turned out to be caused by a brain lesion. Using her powers exacerbated the lesion, which was destroying the memories in her brain. To save New York City and the Avengers, Carol went against her doctor’s orders and flew all the way out to space, saving the day by losing herself and her memories in the process.