Many characters have gone by the moniker Captain Marvel, so your uncle Geekly will be specific and say that the stories listed here will pertain to Carol Danvers (the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s choice for Captain Marvel). In fact, I’ll throw in some stories that predate Danvers as Captain Marvel so that new readers of the character will have a good baseline.
Wow! There’s a lot of history with both Marvel’s Captain Marvel (not to be confused with DC’s Shazam!) and Carol Danvers as a character. Let’s start with a list of Carol Danvers’ history in the Marvel universe.
As USAF Major Carol Danvers: Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March 1968)
As Ms. Marvel: Ms. Marvel #1 (January 1977)
As Binary: The Uncanny X-Men #164 (December 1982)
As Warbird: The Avengers #4 (May 1998)
As Captain Marvel: Avenging Spider-Man #9 (July 2012)
The various individuals who have had the title Captain Marvel are many and eclectic. Here’s a quick run down of all of Marvel’s Captain Marvels.
1) Mar-Vell (who will be portrayed by Jude Law in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie), member of the Kree Imperial Militia (1967-1982)
2) Monica Rambeau, a police lieutenant from New Orleans (1982-1993)
3) Genis-Vell, engineered son of Mar-Vell and his lover Elysius (1993-2004)
4) Phyla-Vell, Genis-Vell’s younger sister (2004-2007)
5) Khn’nr, a Skrull sleeper agent (2007-2009)
6) Noh-Varr, Kree ensign and Captain Marvel of The Dark Avengers (2009-2010)
7) Carol Danvers (2012-Present)
As you can see, there have been plenty of people who have taken the mantel of Captain Marvel for Marvel, but let’s get back to the current one, the one who’ll be in 2019’s Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers.
There are a lot of ways I could organize this list even though it’ll only contain Carol Danvers, but I’ll start with the comics that’ll do the most to get new readers up to speed with the character for the upcoming movie. Then, I’ll add a background reading section for the completionists who want to know everything that occurred to Carol Danvers before her run as Captain Marvel.
Note: There is a new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan.
The above is a picture of Kamala as the new Ms. Marvel. She’s a great character and you should give her a read if you’re interested in Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel, but she won’t be included in these starter stories.
Ms. Marvel Vol. 1.: Best of the Best collecting Ms. Marvel #1-4 and #21-25 (written by Brian Reed/art by Frank Cho; 2006)
This Ms. Marvel reboot does a lot of things right. I like how Ms. Marvel goes out on patrol and what she does with her time when she isn’t being “assembled” for the Avengers. It also tells an important story of Danvers who, having fought the Brood during the “Brood Wars,” must balance the protection of Brood refugees while simultaneously protecting Earth. Alliances can change. Threats can change. Hatred shouldn’t govern one’s actions.
It turns out that a larger threat is over the horizon. Ms. Marvel wouldn’t have accomplished anything if she gave into her hatred and she wouldn’t have been prepared for the new threat if she went on a Brood killing spree—no matter how good it would’ve made her feel.
This story also does a good job of touching some points of Danvers’ past if one were to read her background stories.
Earth’s Mightiest Hero: Captain Marvel (written by Kelly Sue DeConnick/art by various; 2012-2015)
The movie will and should draw the most inspiration from this storyline. It’s also the one where Carol Danvers gets promoted to Captain Marvel. There are so many good story arcs in this run, so I’ll do my best to show the graphic novels in the order they should be read at the end of this write-up. Trust me. It’s a mess.
The first arc in the series does a great job of grounding the reader, even if they don’t know much about Carol Danvers’ long history. Future arcs show her transitioning into an Astronomical hero—sort of Marvel’s answer to Green Lantern. Danvers evolution as a character occurs most here, and it’s a must read for people getting ready for the movie.
Here’s that reading list I promised.
- Captain Marvel Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight
- Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Down
- Avengers: The Enemy Within
- Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster
- Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Stay Fly
- Captain Marvel Vol. 3: Alis Volat Propriis
- Captain Marvel & the Carol Corps
Essential Ms. Marvel, Vol 1 Collecting issues Ms. Marvel #1-23, Marvel Super-Heroes Magazine #10-11 (written by Various/art by Various; 1968-1982)
Carol Danvers was little more than a bit character in the original Captain Marvel comic book—that’s the one that starred Mar-Vell (the Kree warrior who went against orders and defended Earth against his own kind)—and when Mar-Vell saved Carol, the Psyche-Magnitron radiation she was hit with slowly gave her super powers.
This collection goes through this origin and a lot more as it collects the first run of Ms. Marvel, which was—for the time—a feminist and progressive name because she was “Ms.” instead of Mrs. or Girl or Woman.
New readers will also see some interesting developments with the Carol Danvers character. She’ll disappear in the 1980s, or at least fade to the periphery: she’s the one whose powers Rogue stole.
Fans of the X-Men Animated Series will learn that unlike the cartoon, Danvers didn’t fall into a coma. She retained some of her powers and few of her memories, a nasty side-effect from a clumsy, young Rogue.
Since this collection spans a good two decades, it’s very uneven. Thankfully, readers are spared the infamous “Marcus” storyline, but the story’s aftermath and Chris Claremont’s attempt to clean up the mess can leave readers wanting. Still, this is a great volume for anyone who wants to know the character’s early history.
The Brood Saga (written by Chris Claremont/art by Dave Cockrum; 1982-1983)
This story is one for the X-Men that ran during Uncanny X-Men #155-167, but an amnestic Carol Danvers gets drawn into this tale. When the Brood realize that Carol’s DNA has been infused with Kree DNA, the results are interesting.
This is the first time and best time Danvers dons her 1980s persona Binary. I’m not sure if Marvel has ever collected The Brood Saga in paperback, but this title should be available on Comixology and Marvel Unlimited.
Live Kree or Die (written by Kurt Busiek/art by various; 1998)
I always liked Danvers (who went by Warbird) in the reformed Avengers of Heroes Return. This story jettisons Danvers’ link to her Binary powers, and that forces her to hide from her teammates. She has some fantastic character moments. If I remember correctly, she struggles with alcoholism, and Tony Stark takes an odd turn as her sponsor.
Danvers/Warbird ultimately ends up quitting the Avengers. I’m not sure if some of these moments will be explored in the Marvel Film Captain Marvel, but it could explain why Nick Fury has Danvers’ number but refuses to call it until it’s necessary.
That’s my list for beginning Captain Marvel—but specifically Carol Danvers Captain Marvel—readers. I’m sure there are some omissions. Feel free to send Rogue over to my house so she can rob me of the rest of my memories, or you could leave a comment.