Higher, Further, Faster, Finally: Radford University Celebrates Women’s History Month with Captain Marvel

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By Karli Ratliff | kratliff13@radford.edu

Captain Marvel’s journey to higher, further, faster has not been easy or short. For the first forty years, the character was consistently knocked down into the role of damsel in distress, said Dr. Matthew Smith, in a presentation that was a part of Radford University’s celebration of Women’s History Month.

Here we are finally getting to see a female character finally take the lead.Dr. Smith, a professor and the Interim Dean of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences, has been involved in many publications about the culture and history of comic books. He recently helped curate the Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit that accounts 80 years of Marvel Comics history.

When Carol Danvers was first introduced, she was not the superhero Captain Marvel, but a strong female character that was continually reduced to the damsel in distress. “It’s part of the complicated process of this character coming into her own in the course of the last 50 years,” said Dr. Smith about the struggles that Captain Marvel faced.

After exposure to the Psyche-Magnitron gave her superhuman powers, Carol Danvers became Ms. Marvel; she just didn’t know it yet.

Eventually, Carol Danvers found out about her superhero alter ego, and the writers began to build out the character into something more than just the damsel in distress. She even becomes the center of the Avengers 200th edition but as the victim. From that point on Carol Danvers was continually built up only to be torn down again.

“Marvel recognizes there’s a particular value to having that intellectual property kept in house, so they’re never gonna get along without a Captain Marvel,” said Dr. Smith regarding the importance of the character to the Marvel universe.

Carol Danvers was sent to space to be apart of the X-Men under the name Binary while other characters took on the name Captain Marvel. “Everybody gets to be Captain Marvel, except Carol Danvers,” Dr. Smith explained saying that Marvel created other characters to take on the name Captain Marvel. Danvers was eventually brought back to the Avengers and made an alcoholic before visiting an alternate reality where she was Captain Marvel, the most powerful superhero.

Dr. Smith believes that Captain Marvel is a hallmark in the progress of the portrayal of heroes and what they can be.The first 40 years of Carol Danvers journey were written and drawn by almost all men. “They don’t know what to do with the character. They kinda fumble and foible around,” said Dr. Smith about these writers. “The default isn’t [to] make her stronger, make her more powerful, make her more interesting, the thought is [to] make her more flawed, and then we can do something with her.”

Dr. Smith continued stating, “2012 is really the turning point in the characters progression.” That year Marvel decided to make Carol Danvers Captain Marvel, and nearly all the writers from 2012 were women. They started writing a new Captain Marvel narrative that embraced her strengths instead of looking for her faults. They gave her a protégé, a young Pakistani woman who uses the name, Ms. Marvel.

“Here we are finally getting to see a female character finally take the lead,” said Dr. Smith about the Captain Marvel film. “The character is going to be at the head of a new wave of Marvel films that really do emphasize female involvement and participation.”

Dr. Smith believes that Captain Marvel is a hallmark in the progress of the portrayal of heroes and what they can be.

Photo Credit: (Caption Marvel Movie)

Dylan Lepore

Dylan is a writer, gamer, avid movie lover, and PlayStation extraordinaire. Currently, he attends Radford University in pursuit of a BS in Media Studies with a concentration in Journalism. If I played the game, I like it; if I haven't played it, just remember that I'm in college. ($ = tuition)