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Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell)

Superman vs Captain Marvel Justice League

Captain Marvel #29 (November 1973). Art by Jim Starlin.

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Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) is a fictional character, a superhero who appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character was created by writereditor Stan Lee and designed by artist Gene Colan and first appeared inMarvel Super-Heroes #12 (December 1967).

The character debuted during the Silver Age of comic books and has made many appearances since then, including a self-titled series and the second volume of the Marvel Spotlight series. Captain Marvel has also been associated with Marvel merchandise including clothingvideo gamestoys, and trading cards.

Publication history

The name “Captain Marvel” had been originally trademarked by Fawcett Comics between 1940 and 1953 for a different character. Fawcett ceased publishing Captain Marvel comics in 1953 due to a 1951 copyright infringement suit from DC Comics, and their trademark ostensibly lapsed. Taking advantage of this, Marvel debuted its new Captain Marvel character in 1967 and quickly trademarked the name.  It was not the first company to try to capitalize on Fawcett’s lapsed trademark; in 1966 the small publisher M. F. Enterprises released a short-livedCaptain Marvel. 

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Marvel’s character debuted as the lead feature in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (December 1967), written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Gene Colan.  Although usually credited as co-creator, Colan had no involvement with Captain Marvel’s conception, and in fact has voiced an intense dislike for the character and especially his original white-and-green costume: “It was awful – just an imitation of any of the other costumed characters I’d ever done.”

Shortly thereafter Captain Marvel was given his own series, commencing with Captain Marvel #1 (May 1968). The series failed to register with readers, and was revamped by writer-artist team Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in issue #17 (October 1969).  The character was given a new uniform, designed by Kane and colorist Michelle Robinson, and greater abilities. An added plot feature was the introduction of sidekick Rick Jones. Jones and Marvel “shared molecules” allowing only one to exist in the real world at a time. Thomas stated that the intent of the change was to create a more science-fiction oriented update that was reminiscent of Fawcett Comics’s original Captain Marvel, who similarly had an alter-ego that could not co-exist with the superhero.

The change, however, was not successful, and the series was published only intermittently from 1969.  It was initially canceled with issue #21 (August 1970), though the character appeared in the Kree-Skrull War storyline in Avengers #89 – 97 (June 1971 – March 1972), also written by Thomas. The Captain Marvel series recommenced with issue #22 (September 1972). Plotter and artist Jim Starlin decided to revamp the character with issue #25 (March 1973).  Comics historian Les Daniels noted that “In a brief stint with Marvel, which included work on two characters [Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock] that had previously never quite made their mark, Starlin managed to build a considerable cult following.”  A spin-off series, Ms. Marvel, was launched in 1977, but sales remained modest, and the series was published on only a bimonthly basis until it was ultimately canceled in 1979.  The continued publication, however, kept the trademark current. This had the effect of requiring DC Comics, which in the meantime licensed the original Fawcett Captain Marvel for publication, to print its new comics under the trademark Shazam!.  Comics historian Don Markstein states, “Marvel didn’t seem to quite know what to do with him—but they did put his comic out every other month through most of the 1970s, if only to maintain their trademark on his name…”  Starlin wrote Mar-Vell’s death in Marvel’s first graphic novelThe Death of Captain Marvel (1982).

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Following the character’s death, Marvel published several comics with new characters taking up the “Captain Marvel” moniker, thereby maintaining their trademark on the name.  The character returned, although not in a living capacity, in storylines in Silver Surfer vol. 3, #63 (March 1992) and Captain Marvel vol. 5, #5 (March 2003). The limited series Captain Marvel vol. 6, #1 – 5 (January – June 2008) was released as part of the 2008 “Secret Invasion” storyline and supposedly heralded the return of the character, although it was eventually revealed that this “Mar-Vell” was an alien Skrull.

Mar-Vell was one of the feature characters in the 2011 three-issue limited series Chaos War: Dead Avengers.

Fictional character biography – 1960’s

After the Kree‘s first encounter with humans, Captain Mar-Vell is sent to spy on Earth and decide if it is a threat to the Kree empire.  He adopts the identity of a recently deceased scientist named Walter Lawson, but occasionally dons his Kree military uniform to protect the people he’s observing. The first time he does this, people near him incorrectly pronounce his name as “Captain Marvel.” His job is made difficult by his jealous Colonel Yon-Rogg, his growing affection for humanity, and his fake identity’s criminal past.

After aiding humanity several times, Mar-Vell is found guilty of treason against the Kree Empire and sentenced to death by firing squad. Mar-Vell escapes in a stolen rocket, but becomes lost in space. After drifting for 112 days, he is weak and on the verge of madness. He is manipulated by Ronan the Accuser and Kree Minister Zarek into helping them overthrow the Supreme Intelligence. To better help them, Mar-Vell is given a new costume and enhanced abilities. After the conspiracy is foiled, Mar-Vell tries to return to Earth. On the way, he is hit by a blast of radiation that traps him in the Negative Zone.

The Supreme Intelligence enables Mar-Vell to telepathically contact Rick Jones, which he uses to lead Jones to a set of “nega-bands” at an abandoned Kree base. When Jones puts on the bands and strikes them together, he trades places with Mar-Vell and is encased in a protective aura in the Negative Zone. The pair discover they are able to maintain telepathic contact. Using this method, Mar-Vell can remain in the positive universe for a period of three hours.

1970’s

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After brief encounters with the villain Scorpio and the Hulk Jones uses Mister Fantastic‘s portal to the Negative Zone to free Mar-Vell, who then becomes embroiled in the Kree-Skrull War.

After battling the atomic-powered Megaton, Mar-Vell is trapped in the Negative Zone once again.  Mar-Vell aids the Avengers against the Grim Reaper and the Space Phantom.  Mar-Vell allies himself with Mentor and Eros against the death worshipper Thanos and his forces in a war for the Cosmic Cube.  Seeing the magnitude of the threat, the cosmic entity Kronos aids them by creating Drax the Destroyer, whose sole purpose is to kill Thanos.  Another cosmic being, Eon, transforms Mar-Vell into the “Protector of the Universe.” This provides the hero with new abilities, including “cosmic awareness.” Thanos gains the Cube and uses it to make himself omnipotent. Thanos’ spirit leaves his body, and Mar-Vell uses the opportunity to shatter the Cube, which was still in Thanos’ hand. This undoes Thanos’s actions.

Mar-Vell teams with Spider-Man to battle the Basilisk and later encounters a new villain named Nitro. While defusing a bomb placed by Nitro, Mar-Vell is exposed to a powerful nerve gas called “Compound 13.” Mar-Vell collapses due to the exposure, but recovers when given an antidote. The gas, however, would eventually prove to be carcinogenic and cause Mar-Vell to developcancer.  Mar-Vell investigates Nitro’s allies, who are revealed to be the Kree “Lunatic Legion,” leading to a series of protracted battles and the eventual trial of the cosmic entity the Watcher for constant involvement in Earth’s affairs.  After ending the threat and aiding the Watcher, Mar-Vell briefly separates from Jones and has an encounter with a space parasite that assumes the form of former lover Una.

Mar-Vell travels to the Kree homeworld of Hala, and through a protracted series of events that almost kills Rick Jones, frees himself from the manipulation of the Supreme Intelligence. During this period Mar-Vell also encounters the cosmic entity the Stranger.  Returning to Earth, Mar-Vell encounters stranded Kree scientists who attempt to retrieve an inactive Kree Sentry located on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. This proves unsuccessful when the Sentry activates but fails to follow direction, going on a rampage. A new villain called the Cheetah attempts to manipulate the Sentry, although both are eventually defeated by Mar-Vell. The hero locates the Kree scientists, and briefly battles Ronan the Accuser, who was left with the mind of a child after a previous encounter.

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Rick Jones is visiting Avengers Mansion when the robotic villain the Super-Adaptoid attacks. During a battle with the Avengers, Jones trades places with Mar-Vell, with the Super-Adaptoid eventually mimicking Mar-Vell’s Nega-Bands. Mar-Vell then brings the Super-Adaptoid’s pseudo bands together, exiling the robot to the Negative Zone and freeing Jones.  Mar-Vell bids Jones farewell and encounters Mercurio the 4-D Man, who tricks Mar-Vell into returning to his home dimension, hoping to coerce the hero into building the Omni-Wave Projector. Mar-Vell, however, defeats Mercurio and returns to Earth.

Mar-Vell continues to have dealings with the Kree, preventing scientist Doctor Minerva from killing Rick Jones and battling High Council member Phae-Dor before travelling to Hala and, with King of the Inhumans Blackagar Boltagon (“Black Bolt”) as his ally, preventing the “War of the Three Galaxies” by exposing a Skrull infiltrator.  After another encounter with Nitro, Mar-Vell briefly attempts to adopt the Walter Lawson identity once again and works at an observatory. This plan is abandoned when forced to become Mar-Vell to stop an energy vampire named “Deathgrip.”  After an encounter with the Thunder God Thor, Mar-Vell is forced to fight off Drax, who has been driven insane due to being unable to fulfill his purpose and kill Thanos.  Eventually convincing Drax to aid him, Mar-Vell enters into a war against ISAAC, the sentient computer that served Thanos and now directs his forces. After a series of protracted battles, Mar-Vell convinces ISAAC’s female minion Elysius to join him, causing her to fall in love with Mar-Vell; he subsequently defeats ISAAC’s other pawns Chaos and Tarterus and the warrior Stellarax on Earth.  Mar-Vell eventually defeats ISAAC by entering the supercomputer’s programming and forcing it to experience life.  Mar-Vell meets Eon once again and reflects on the events of recent times.

1980’s

The Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel (1982). Cover art by Jim Starlin.

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After a battle in the mystical “Dark Dimension”; an encounter with the Hulk and an adventure on an alien world, Mar-Vell discovers that his past exposure to the “Compound 13” nerve gas gave him cancer. Compounding the problem are Mar-Vell’s nega-bands, which keep the cancer at bay but also cause it to resist all known forms of treatment, and lack of access to the Kree Empire’s medical experts since the Kree consider Mar-Vell a traitor. As Mar-Vell accepts that his life is ending, many of his friends and allies come to Titan to pay their last respects. In his final moments, Mar-Vell experiences a vision in which he meets Thanos once again. Thanos has come not as a foe, but as a guide to show Mar-Vell the path to the afterlife. As he, Thanos, and Mistress Death pass into a blinding light, Mar-Vell dies.

His spirit was later called forth by the Grandmaster as a part of the Legion of the Unliving to battle the Avengers.

1990’s

When the Silver Surfer visits the Realm of the Dead, the character is counselled and aided in his escape by someone who appears to be Mar-Vell but is later revealed to be a manifestation of the selfless heroic ideal that is part of the Surfer’s own psyche.  Mar-Vell’s former lover Elysius also impregnates herself with his genetic information, giving birth to a son, Genis-Vell.

When Death declares Thanos to be forever barred from her realm and that she will never love him, Thanos uses the Reality Gemto restore Mar-Vell. They discuss Thanos’ ability to make Death love him with the Reality Gem, and Mar-Vell convinces him not to do it. Thanos agrees, and returns Mar-Vell to death.

2000’s

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Visiting the Realm of the Dead, Genis encounters his father.  He learns Elysius also gave birth to a girl, Phyla-Vell.  TheYoung Avengers member Hulkling is revealed to be the child of Mar-Vell and Princess Anelle of the Skrulls.

2010’s

During the 2010-2011 “Chaos War” storyline, Mar-Vell and several deceased members of the Avengers return from the dead. He takes leadership of the group, helping protect several civilians and the comatose bodies of the main Avengers from chaos demons.  He is impaled from behind by the Grim Reaper and is killed once more.

During the 2012 “Avengers vs. X-Men” storyline, Kree mystics appear to have resurrected Mar-Vell, using a piece of the M’Kraan Crystal in conjunction with the Phoenix Force. The resurrected Captain Marvel is deployed to act as a pawn against the Avengers and in defense of the Phoenix Force. He is shown collaborating with Ms. Marvel and Protector, announcing that they must “Destroy the Avengers.”  Mar-Vell, Ms. Marvel, and the Protector battle the Avengers while under mental influence. The Vision begins to free members of the Kree by countering the mind control, but the Kree are executed.  The Vision then freed Mar-Vell, Ms. Marvel and the Protector from control. It turns out that Mar-Vell had a blue-skinned Kree nephew who lived in disgrace due to the Mar-Vell name being disgraced by Mar-Vell siding with Earth against the Kree long ago. This nephew was named Minister Marvel and his son had the power to influence and control minds. Minister Marvel’s plan was to have the Phoenix evolve the Kree race and take credit for it thus redeeming the name Mar-Vell. Reviving Captain Mar-Vell was part of his plan as he needed a messianic figure to help rally and influence the Kree. Upon seeing his plan fail, Minister Marvel killed his son then killed himself in front of Mar-Vell. The Avengers then confront the Phoenix Force as it approaches the Kree homeworld. Thor and Ms. Marvel fail to stop it and even though Captain Britain was holding the Phoenix at bay, Mar-Vell sensed the truth of the situation. The Phoenix Force was coming to the Kree world to reclaim the Phoenix energy within Mar-Vell’s body that brought him back to life and put his cancer into stasis. He sends Captain Britain away and sacrifices himself to save the Kree race that shunned him by allowing the Phoenix Force to reclaim its energies. The process left Mar-Vell adrift in space and his lifeless body was later seen on the planet with plant life suddenly growing around it. Ms. Marvel reports all this in the Avengers log and decides that the name of Captain Marvel must continue.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Marvel_(Mar-Vell)

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