‘Captain Marvel’ returns in a cosmic journey to find herself

(CBR) Don’t despair, Carol Corps — “Captain Marvel” is almost back.

Following a few-months hiatus, Carol Danvers returns with a new #1 issue, out from Marvel Comics in March. The previous volume ran for 17 issues, and saw the character firmly established as Captain Marvel, abandoning the “Ms. Marvel” moniker and adjunct status. Along the way, the character developed a uniquely passionate and highly motivated fanbase, dubbed the “Carol Corps,” who have evangelized the hero’s tales to comic book fans both new and pre-existing.

The new ongoing series comes from the creative team of returning writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, who has been with the character since the start of the Carol Danvers-as-Captain Marvel era two years ago, and artist David Lopez, recently seen on “X-Men.” This time around, Captain Marvel is dealing with her recent memory loss issues — a result of her heroic actions at the end of last year’s “The Enemy Within” storyline — by going cosmic, allying with the Guardians of the Galaxy and hanging out at her new place inside the Statue of Liberty when she’s back home on Earth.

CBR News spoke with DeConnick for an in-depth chat about the future of “Captain Marvel,” and the event celebrating the character planned next month for the eve of Emerald City Comicon.

CBR News: Kelly Sue, “Captain Marvel” #1 comes out in a few weeks — how was your approach different starting this new volume, and what’s different about the book itself this time around?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: The big difference is that we are taking her cosmic. That is the talking point on this. [Laughs] As far as my approach being different, I’m writing for a different artist — David Lopez, who is delightful.

I’m trying not to put it center stage, but I think it’s an undercurrent in everything: Carol doesn’t have a personal history. At the end of issue #14 of the last series, she sacrificed her memory and her sense of identity in a heroic gesture to save her friends and her city; to be the hero that she wanted to be. I want those stakes to be real. I want that sacrifice to mean something.

You see the disconnect in the “Infinity” tie-in issues, and then in #17 you see that her friends are still there for her, but it’s awkward. She’s trying to figure out who she is and how to move forward, recreating everything for herself, and the deepest connection she has at that point is with this little girl. So she starts to relearn her personal history through the eyes of this 8-year-old girl who sees her in the best possible light — that is what she is trying to be now. That’s how she understands herself.

When we come back with the new issue, we’ll see that there’s time that has elapsed. We’ll catch up on a bit of what’s happened between when we left them reading the comic at the end of #17, and the beginning of the new #1. Carol’s decision to step up and go out on her own and see who she is in a vacuum — literally.

What’s that balance like in terms of setting? Cosmic obviously implies heavily set in outer space, but will there still be strong connections to Earth, as was a major part of the first series?

When we got the chance to do the new #1, my first impulse was “no.” I put all this time and energy into building this supporting cast, I don’t want to leave them. But the more we thought about it, the more we talked about it, the more I could see it — but I cannot come to terms with the idea of just leaving them forever. This, to me, is Carol going off into the wilderness, and she will return. And life continues without her. After the first arc is a one-shot where we see some of what we’ve missed while we’ve been with Carol in space. I’m not forgetting about them. Life is continuing at home without her, and hopefully, if my plan works, the plot threads of the first arc will meet up with what’s been going on on Earth to bring us into the second.

In issue #17, there were some pretty major things on Earth set up — including the rather tantalizing promise of Carol living in the Statue of Liberty. Will we see that?

Oh yeah! She lives in the Statue of Liberty. You see that in issue #1. Nice digs if you can get them.

Also, hints of a romance?

Yes! Hints of a romance. There is, in issue #1, not just hints of a romance. We get a kiss. There’s some full-on romance. It’s not who you think.

Obviously, the book was able to attract such a wonderful following with the previous series, but at the same time, the hope for every new #1 is to bring in new people to a title. What’s your mindset for that? Of course you’d want existing fans to be happy, but likely also want to open things up those who haven’t come on board yet.

If I expend too much effort thinking about numbers, I will curl up in a fetal position, and then I will not write anything. My goal is always to make the series accessible. I think there are jumping-on points that are better than others, but ideally anybody should be able to join at any point, and with a basic understanding of how superheroes work and human interactions, be able to follow the story without needed to understand the history of the Marvel Universe. My goal is, the more you know, the richer these stories are. “If you are familiar with this, it’ll resonate doubly.” But you shouldn’t have to in order for you to follow the plot.

We were very lucky in that we had a lot of support coming out of the gate. I didn’t think the book was going to last for very long, so I chose to do a time travel arc first. Not, as it turns out, the most commercial choice anyone could ever make. But I had these two story threads that I felt really strongly about, and I didn’t think we’d last more than six issues. I wanted to get them in, so I got them in. I don’t regret it. I think we had a strong opening arc, and I think there are things about Carol’s character that are firmly established there that are vital going forward — not her history, her character.

The book, since it ended, has had a second life. A lot of people have, it seems, discovered it in [collected editions] and on comiXology. I’m still getting emails from people who have just found it. There was a big comiXology sale on my work the other day, and I got a ton of emails from people who were like, “I was curious, and I just picked it up, and now I’m in for the next one.” Great! So hopefully, all those people that found it in its second life will join up for [the new series].

This character has an amazing, amazing fanbase. Some of the most delightful and generous and wonderful human beings I have met in comics, I have met through the Carol Corps. And they are as compelling as the book. So there’s something about them that attracts new readers as well.

Given the response the book has seen — you hear anecdotally that some of the fans who have found “Captain Marvel” are new to comics, and certainly the first volume did not shy away from Marvel history or continuity — maybe it’s easier for people to jump on board than often thought.?

It is a very welcoming community. Online, when people express an interest, they reach out and will walk others through how to come in. I think our system makes it look more difficult than it really is — all the numbering and everything is so very confusing. I mean, it’s confusing to me, and I do this for a living.

And I think there’s something about the character. Carol is someone who is infinitely flawed and driven to do better and be better, and if there’s anyone in the universe who cannot identify with that, I don’t know them. It speaks to what I want in a superhero. I can identify with the desire to fly, but not the ability to fly. I don’t get to zap people when I’m mad, but I can identify with her wanting to protect her friends, and wanting to serve, and her being humbled by the beauty of those around her. Those are things that I get. And her quick temper. I get that too.

Marvel’s Free Comic Book Day offering this year sees Captain Marvel as a part of the Guardians of the Galaxy — will that be reflected in your series?

Yes! Absolutely. She’ll be integrated into the Guardians under Brian’s watch, but the Guardians are in my second and third issue.

In issue #1, this rocket falls on New York City, and at first, Carol thinks it’s a bomb, and as she’s trying to chuck it out of the atmosphere, Rhodey is with her, and he sees a window in it. They realize it’s not a bomb, she chases it down — there is a passenger in this rocket. I have seen her referred to online as “rocket girl” from the previews; I know her name, but I will refer to her as “rocket girl” as well, because I like it. Rocket girl is an alien who has come to Earth to seek the Avengers for help. That happens to coincide with a seed that Tony Stark has planted with her, and she takes the leap. She’s going to be the one to escort this girl home, and save her planet. But when she gets there, she finds that she’s way the hell out of her depth. Carol’s got a lot of great qualities, but like I said, she’s infinitely flawed, she has a very quick temper, and she’s also a little bit arrogant. She really thinks that she can save everyone. When she sees the scope of this problem, she is necessarily humbled by it. I should stop there.

So she’s gone off to be the hero, and is immediately confronted with the reality that the world is a much more complicated place than she would like to admit. It’s a story of Carol going off to find out who she is, and having an arrogant notion of what she’s going to be able to do, and being way out of her depth, and having to find a way to step up when she doesn’t know she can win.

The memory loss aspect definitely sounds significant to the book’s status quo going forward, and doesn’t seem like something that will be remedied quickly.

It’s a difficult balance to strike, because on the one hand, writing a character who’s constantly like, “Oh, but let me remind you that I don’t have a past,” is awkward and no fun. But at the same time, we have lost the stakes associated with killing these characters, right? We kill them, and they come back, and we kill them, and we didn’t really kill them. It’s very hard, especially when they’re so powerful, to make things matter. The easiest default is to then to put the people that they love in danger. But then you get a complaint that a lot of female readers have, if any male hero has a woman in his life, she’s a goner. Because we have to be able to put them at risk. When death doesn’t matter, it becomes hard to come up with new ways to put them at risk.

When I was researching Carol, and working through my ideas for our run, I went back to a lot of history, and Carol had a memory loss. I wanted to revisit a lot of things that Carol had previously experienced. That’s kind of the thrust of the first arc, going back and tweaking things a little bit, so she gets to be more active. So that when she loses her memory, she’s not a victim — when she loses her memory, it is a heroic choice.

This puts all of her relationships at risk. This gives us some real stakes. This is something we as readers care about losing. In order to make that matter, in order to make that moment at the end of #14, Scott Hepburn drew it so beautifully, when the tear comes out of her eye in space — for that to have resonance, it has to stay. You can’t just, “Yeah, now all the memories came rushing back.” She needs to rebuild.

And that’s the other thing, too. I got asked all the time about the Marcus stuff, the “Avengers” #200 stuff, and my feeling about it was, it is asked and answered, and it only ever comes up when people ask me about it — although, of course, hilariously, I’m bringing it up now. But by having Carol’s memory wiped out, and then having her relearn her history in large part from Kit — we’re not retconning it, it still happened, but effectively, as far as Carol knows, it didn’t. That is crazy, super-inside baseball, and anybody just joining our series doesn’t need to know that, and please God, I hope they don’t, but that’s some of the thinking that was behind some of this.

She’s not going to be constantly reminding you every page that she doesn’t have a personal history. She has to be a functional human being. If the “Infinity” tie-ins hadn’t come when they needed to, we would have seen her in the hospital, and we would have seen her having that moment where she didn’t recognize people, and relearning who people were. As it was, the timing just didn’t work out for it, but there’s a few places where she mentions having been drilled with textbooks. She’s met all of these people. She may not know it emotionally, but intellectually, she knows Jessica is her best friend. She hasn’t lost her intellect, she’s lost her emotional connection.

And presumably the time jump helps move some of that along, too?

The time jump is a bit of a help. And she’s created some new memories. You will be surprised at some things that have happened, and some relationships that have changed in the time between #17 and the new #1.

In this series, you’re collaborating with David Lopez, after working with a variety of artists in the first “Captain Marvel” series who were very different, stylistically. Obviously, just about any series at this point is going to have multiple artists, but are you hoping for more of a visual consistency this time around? Or did you enjoy having different styles on different stories?

I think it speaks to my naïveté about commercial choices — I had no idea that was a problem. I love the variety of artists that I got to work with. No one but Felipe [Andrade] could have done that moment with Grandma Rose on the bench, and have it be both funny and sweet, and express everything we needed to know about why Carol is fighting so hard to protect these people, and why she’s so connected to this particular corner of the world.

The moment in the first arc when Emma [Rios] draws Helen and Carol on the motorbike, and Carol is making the decision, “Am I going to protect the course of history as it is, or am I going to fight for this young girl to have the right to follow her dream? Fuck history, I’m going to fight for this girl.” The way Emma captured that moment — I own that page! It’s such a first-pumping moment. I love that.

And [Dexter Soy]’s splash — “we will be the stars we were always meant to be” — people have gotten that tattooed on them! Multiple people have gotten that tattooed on them! It is beautiful and perfect. Dex did that, and no one could have drawn that the way he did. I want that as a poster; it’s so beautiful, she looks so powerful. There’s also a moment in issue #2 where she’s standing by the plane — the way I had written it in the script, she’s in like, a silk blouse. He’s like, “Nope, t-shirt and jeans.” He puts her in a t-shirt and jeans, and gives her this belt buckle that has the Hala star on it, and she looks so beautiful and so badass at the same time. That moment is the perfect encapsulation of Carol Danvers to me. Right there. That is it. Everything you need to know about what this book is.

Or Scott Hepburn — like we talked about, the tear floating out in space. Or the moment where Jess touches Carol’s face. Or the way Filipe draws Wendy — she always looks like the way my mom used to put me in 19 layers in the wintertime; her coat is so big she can’t put her arms down. All of those things are so perfect that I wouldn’t trade them. I can’t regret any of those choices.

But, my understanding is, people like one artist on a book for as long as possible. [Laughs] David is fantastic, he’s amazing, he’s very gifted, and he’s super-committed to this book. He is in. David is the first artist I’ve worked with who wants to get on the phone with me after every script comes in. There’s this one character I had envisioned as being about two-and-a-half feet tall — because, y’know, we’re in space, and this is an alien. She is the leader of this civilization of settlers, and I had envisioned her as very tiny. I had envisioned her as this squat little woman, and I thought there was something very interesting about that authority coming from someone so wee — maybe that’s borne out of my own, “I’m five feet tall, I want to matter!”

David was like, “No, no, no. She needs to be long and elegant, because at that moment when she makes Carol realize how she has overstepped her bounds, she has to be able to look down on her, literally.” My feeling is always, I have veto power on words, and the artists have veto power on images. Unless there’s some story reason that I feel like I need to fight for a particular look, then I’m always going to defer. It was interesting — “Wow, so not how I pictured her, but I kind of love it!”

There’s something about his alien designs — the storyline that we’re getting into is very real. These stakes are very real. It is not hard to come up with some ideas of how they might be reflective of real-life events — not one-to-one, but they’ll remind you of some things. And yet, his character designs almost look like Hanna-Barbera cartoons I grew up with. There’s a real kind of fun innocence to them. They’re very playful. It’s pretty cool.

Just last week, it was announced that “Captain Marvel” fans will gather at a “Carol Corps Celebration” at the rather appropriate venue of the Museum of Flight in Seattle, on the eve of Emerald City Comicon. What more can you share about the event, and how it came together?

Kind of the beauty of the Carol Corps stuff is, I didn’t do any of it. And I think that is vital, because none of us are tenured here. I will eventually not be writing this character anymore, and if the Carol Corps was me, when I went away, we would go away. And I don’t want that to happen. The beauty of all of this is it’s so fan-driven. And I will participate whenever they ask me and I am able to, but it hasn’t been me. It’s not me. And I love that. I had nothing to do with the Carol Corps Yarn Brigade, except a signal boost when they post every once in a while, and so on and so forth.

This was two of the women who are organizers with Emerald City. We had done a Carol Corps panel at HeroesCon, and it was a really fun, very successful panel — and again, in large part, not on me. The woman who does F Yeah Marvel Crafts brought paper doll crafts to hand out, and Vincenza, one of the most amazing Carol Danvers cosplayers you’ll ever see, baked Hala star cookies. It was as much a social event as it was a panel — even more so, maybe. It got a lot of press for that, because it was a really good time — we had a ton of people there in costume, it was really neat.

These two women that are organizers with Emerald City approached me at Emerald City last year, and said, “We have the Museum of Flight nearby, we really should do a Carol Corps thing at the Museum of Flight, associated with Emerald City,” next year. I was like, “Yes, I will be there. You let me know.” It was months and months later and I hadn’t heard anything about it, and I’d quite frankly forgotten about it. Then I got this email: “OK, so, if you’re still interested, here’s what we’ve talked about, and there’s a t-shirt, and a patch, and it’s a cocktail reception, and we’re going to be there with planes,” and everybody who is going to be at the show who’s worked on the book in the past is going to be there, and we’re just going to mingle, and hang out and have fun. It should be awesome. I’m really excited about it. I know there are people working on new cosplay. Assuming it pays for itself, which I think it should, any profits that are made from the event will then be donated to the Girls Leadership Institute, which is a charity that is near and dear to my heart. So I guess that’s my contribution — I picked the charity.

I think it’s going to be a whole lot of fun, and I think the Carol Corps panel at Emerald City on Sunday is going to be a good time, too.

The new “Captain Marvel” #1 arrives from Marvel Comics in March.