Captain Marvel: DeConnick on Carol Danvers and the comics industry

Aug. 16, 2012 | 5:20 p.m.

With Joss Whedon on board for “Avengers 2,” speculation is already buzzing about which new Avengers could be added to the roster. Vision? Wasp? Ant Man? Black Panther? They’re all worthy, but Captain Marvel — formerly Ms. Marvel — as one of the leaders of the squad should be one to think about. She currently has a revamped monthly comic book starting up, and though it’s fairly early, with only the first few issues out, fans probably want to know more about Carol Danvers’ future adventures. Hero Complex spoke to Kelly Sue DeConnick, the writer of the relaunched book and the upcoming “Assemble” title from Marvel, about the new costume, the new attitude and the current comics climate for all of this “newness.”

Hero Complex: Carol Danvers has had a transformative heroic history in Marvel, and finally, she’s taking the mantle of Captain Marvel. Besides Captain America’s prodding, what in this new chapter is fueling her to be Earth’s Mightiest Hero?

Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel’s 1st appearance. (Marvel)

Kelly Sue DeConnick: I don’t think this is new to my interpretation of Carol. I think that she’s an incredibly driven individual. The single line that I use for her off the top of my head is: Crackerjack pilot races to prove dead daddy wrong.  I think Carol’s wound comes from …. well, she comes from a family of three kids, two younger brothers. Her dad was an old-fashioned construction foreman who loved her very much.  This book was conceived as an unapologetically feminist book. It happened in the ’70s during the feminist movement and that was very much what the book was about. We’re much more skittish about that today, interestingly. Well, her dad opted not to pay for her to go to school and thought it’d be better spent on her brothers.  That’s why she enlisted — to get her education paid for. I think that hurt her, and she’s always been trying to prove to her dad that she’s worthy. But her dad’s gone now, so it’s not a thing that she’s ever going to be able to get closure on.

HC: Earth’s Mightiest Hero is a big title to hold for any individual. We’ve already seen some dismissive behavior from Absorbing Man in the first issue. Will her proving herself as a hero in a male-dominated super-landscape be an ongoing theme?

KSD: Well, no. I’m not trying to write a feminist agenda. This is part of who the character is. And I’ve heard people question the Absorbing Man thing, like ‘Since when is the Absorbing Man a misogynist?’ That wasn’t my intent.  My intent with him was that he was pushing her buttons.  It wasn’t that it was a particular thing with him. Although he is a very old-fashioned character, and I think it’s hilarious. It was trash talk in a fight.

HC: What reactions are you getting about the costume change and updated look?

KSD: You try to strike this balance where you want to make yourself available to the readers. Help people feel invested, be a part of it … but you don’t want so many cooks in the kitchen in your head that you get paralyzed. It’s a tough balance, and I’m trying to figure out how that works for me. I know people that have to shut themselves off entirely or it just becomes paralyzing. I have a curtain up, and I won’t go looking, but if stuff comes to me, I’ll have a look at it.

Captain Marvel #1 (McGuinness)

Captain Marvel #1 (McGuinness)

The costume. The Tumblr community is overwhelmingly supportive of both the costume and the hair. I have seen some people who are not crazy about the new costume. The argument that supports that is not generally one that I agree with, but they’re entitled to their opinions. The hairstyle is so nontraditional. It looks wildly different depending on the artist interpreting it. When Dexter Soy, who’s the primary artist, does it, it’s almost like a horse’s mane. It’s very long and it really looks warrioresque to me, something of a mythic warrior to it. Ed McGuinness, who did our covers, does it short and kind of punk rocky — which I also like. The first drawing I ever saw came from Joe Quesada. It was very much like Dex’s — it was less warrior, more punk.

There are some punk rock girls on Tumblr who think McGuinness’ covers are the best things they’ve ever seen in mainstream comics.  Then there are some dudes in their 40s who like big hair and big boobs and aren’t crazy about it. And I get it. If this your favorite superhero, you want to like looking at them, but we can’t please everybody. It’s sort of like the weather in Portland… if you don’t like it, just wait a while.  Someone will do something that you like. And with the costume… You know, the market will dictate that.  If people don’t like it, then she’ll be back in the lightning bolt suit. Let’s just see how it goes.

HC: Mar-Vell was a bit of a cosmic hero. Will we see Carol in a lot of off-planet adventures since she’s taking this mantle?

KSD: The first six-issue arc is a time-travel arc. After that, what I have planned is more Earth-bound, but it’ll all depend on how long we get to go. There’s all kinds of things that I would love to do with her. I love the cosmic stuff, but there’s a lot to explore with her as an Avenger. There’s no shortage of interesting things and interesting friendships in the Avengers that are Earth-based.  That’s just what I have planned for the first year. I feel incredibly presumptuous saying the first year. That’s thinking wildly optimistically in the current environment… If we get a year out of this, I’d consider it a success..

HC: With that … do you think that comics are getting enough time to gain traction nowadays?

Kelly Sue DeConnick is under there somewhere.

Kelly Sue DeConnick is under there somewhere. (Courtesy of Kelly Sue DeConnick)

KSD: The reality of the market right now is that for the numbers that these books sell, ongoing titles get canceled sometimes before they ever come out. That’s just a fact. The way that our industry is structured, it’s all based on the orders. The customer is not the reader, the customer is the store because these books are not returnable. So, they have sales figures on the books before the books ever hit the racks — and then they make projections based on that. So if you do not hit the ground running, you don’t have the time that you used to have to gain traction. Carol’s an amazing character, and her last ongoing went to 50 issues, but I think that there is only a small handful of characters for either company that have gotten the kind of numbers that allow them to continue as ongoing. So, this is not me not believing in myself, or me not believing in Carol, this is just the reality of the business. There’s no bad guy. And I would love to be wrong. I would jump out of a cake to be wrong. But Dex and I are not big names, and though Carol can and should be an A-lister, she’s kind of on the border right now. By no means is this book a no-brainer. So far we’re out of the gate running and we’ve done better than what was expected. I have said from the beginning if we get 12 issues, I will consider this a huge win.

HC: Any particular heroes or villains that Captain Marvel crosses paths with that you were or are overly excited to write about?

KSD: I don’t have it planned right now, but I would love to write Mystique. She was originally a Ms. Marvel villain, and she is one of my favorite villains in the entire Marvel Universe. I enjoyed writing her in Spider-Man quite a lot. I’m looking forward to writing Spider-Woman — they have a long-standing friendship. Monica Rambeau is coming up.

HC: Hero Complex writer Noelene Clark recently took a look at female comics creators. Most of those creators interviewed were outside of the Big Two, and didn’t deal as much with superheroic fare. How has your particular ride been dealing with a dominantly male caped society — both on the page and in the office?

Captain Marvel #2

Captain Marvel #2

KSD: There are only a small handful of women working at Marvel and DC as writers. But there’s a tremendous number of female editors. I have probably had more of a perception problem with the fact that I am married to someone who is very successful in the industry (Matt Fraction) than I have with the fact that I’m female. I understand being concerned about the perception of nepotism, but at the same time I’ve also had accusations. Newsflash: People on the Internet aren’t always nice. I have read on the Internet that I’ve only gotten work because of who I’m married to. It’s sort of a boring accusation at this point.

I kind of resent the suggestion that there would be something inherent about superheroes that wouldn’t be of interest to women. That makes me nuts. I’m a 5-foot tall women with a quick temper who always looks like a child, so power fantasies are not strange to me. I also have this theater background, and I’ve always loved superhero comics the same way I love Commedia dell’Arte. The same way I love opera. This is Greek mythology. These are huge overwrought characters that somehow speak to the lizard brain. There’s genuine catharsis available in this stuff. I don’t think working in superheroes is slumming it. I’m proud of this form. I like this. There’s nothing inherently masculine about power fantasies. There’s nothing inherently masculine about superhero comics. There’s nothing inherently masculine about mythology. About science fiction. There is no reason that a woman who is interested in this field as a reader or creator should feel that she is peculiar in any way. It makes me furious when I see that — particularly when it’s the “nerd culture” that does it! Really?! Is that what we’re going to be about?! From a business standpoint, it’s just stupid. Women control the purse strings in families very often. Young women have their own  income and love to shop and read. Why would you leave money on the table?

— Jevon Phillips


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5 Responses to Captain Marvel: DeConnick on Carol Danvers and the comics industry

  1. Albone says:

    Awesome article! Love Kelly Sue and the new Captain Marvel. !!!!!! I hope we get to see Mystique! And, does this mean that Monica and Carol are going to be throwing down?

    And I did read all of that but was that a backhanded compliment about guys like the black outfit, also liking big hair, big boobs and being in their 40's? I don't like big hair, am NOT in my 40's and like boobs as much as the next guy, but not my main fascination with Carol. :P

  2. Greg says:

    My God that costume and hair are completely hideous.

  3. happydog1960 says:

    The new Captain Marvel is outstanding on a lot of levels. Kelly Sue is the right person for this gig, as is Dexter Soy. . I will say flat out that if Joss Whedon does not put Carol Danvers in the next Avengers movie, he is missing the boat. And if you think you like what you see here, whether you're a regular comic reader or not, do yourself a favor and order it from a local comics store. Keep this going.

  4. BCreatures16 says:

    I think this is an amazing comic so far. While Dexter Soy is not a big name artist, his style is AMAZING and looks like watercolors. Kelly Sue gives a narrative voice to Carol Danvers that actually makes you care about her as a character. Plus, that awful swimsuit and the misogynistic Ms. Marvel moniker are gone :)

  5. @TimBavlnka says:

    "Will her proving herself as a hero in a male-dominated super-landscape be an ongoing theme?" Implies that the character hasn't already proven this for a decades. How long does a woman have to prove herself?

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