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Comic Book / Captain Mar-Vell

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SHAZA—whoops, wrong hero.

As seen in the Captain Marvel article, that name has been applied to various characters in American Comic Book history. This article is about the ones created by Marvel Comics.

During the 1960s, writer Stan Lee noticed that the name's trademark from the Fawcett Comics character was available again, and decided that Marvel should own it (Marvel Comics, Captain Marvel... makes sense, right?). So he created a new superhero named that, one quite different from the previous ones. The new character first appeared in "Marvel Super-Heroes" #12 (December, 1967). Given the value of the name to DC and the utter obscurity of the Marvel version of the character, you'd think Marvel would cash in and make a mint selling the name back to DC at an enormous profit... except for the fact that he's called "Captain Marvel" and they're called "Marvel Comics" and you just can't let that kind of synchronicity slip away from you.

This "Captain Marvel" was an alien (from the Kree, a race that looked exactly like humans except for a blue-skinned minority that rules them.) His name actually was Mar-Vell and he was a captain in the Kree army. He came to Earth as part of mission to investigate Earth's space technology achievements (later justified by saying that Earth was located near a strategically important space warp.) Mar-Vell is sent to Earth while being monitored from orbit by the rest of his crew, which included his girlfriend Una and his superior, Colonel Yon-Rogg. Mar-Vell discovers he's the exact lookalike of an American senator, who has just been murdered, so he takes over his identity to further his mission.

However, it turns out that Yon-Rogg secretly hated Mar-Vell, mostly because he wanted Una for himself. So he tries to have Mar-Vell killed. This forces Marvel (who has Super Strength due to coming from a planet with higher gravity) to fight openly while wearing his Kree uniform, which caused people to mistake him for a new superhero called "Captain Marvel". He also became a target of a larger power struggle within the Kree government.

The betrayal from his own people (and the eventual death of Una) leads Mar-Vell to adopt Earth (and the name Captain Marvel) as his own. He had a brief relationship with Carol Danvers, a NASA security agent, who later becomes a superhero herself (Ms. Marvel). He gains new powers from an Earth scientist, and later, from The Supreme Intelligence, a supercomputer who is the Kree's true ruler. He also gained his more famous, red-and-blue costume from it.

For a period of time, Marvel found himself accidentally "merged" with teenage singer Rick Jones (the same kid who was involved in the Incredible Hulk's origin) so that only one of them could exist in the universe, with the other one stuck in the dimension called the Negative Zone until the one on Earth struck together his "nega-band" bracelets, causing them to switch places. (Writer Roy Thomas has admitted that this was done as a nod to the original Captain Marvel, who was a child who could turn into an adult superhero.) It was later revealed that this was The Plan of the Supreme Intelligence, who was really a Magnificent Bastard whose ultimate goal was to jumpstart the evolutionary potential of the Kree race via Rick Jones's genes. Eventually, Marvel finds a way to bring back Rick from the Zone and they resume their lives.

The "Captain Marvel" magazine lasted for 62 issues (May, 1968-May, 1979). Tragically, Marvel didn't live long after his series was cancelled. In a very rare case of a comic book character being Killed Off for Real, he died from a cancer he got from exposure to nerve gas during one of his adventures. His death was covered The Death Of Captain Marvel (Marvel Graphic Novel #1, April 1982, written and illustrated by Jim Starlin), and Mar-Vell's death is universally considered one of the most touching, well-written and dignified in the history of comics.

Despite his death having occurred over thirty years ago and him unusually staying dead (save for a brief return during Avengers vs. X-Men), he and his legacy still exert a powerful influence on the Marvel Universe today.

Mar-Vell will appear in the 2019 film Captain Marvel —centered on Carol Danvers, rather than himself— portrayed there by Jude Law.


Monica Rambeau

To keep the trademark over the character's name (especially given that DC Comics had since gained ownership of the original Captain Marvel character) Marvel Comics later created a new character who had nothing to do with the first, an African American cargo ship captain and harbor patrol lieutenant with the power to turn herself into Pure Energy. Monica first appeared in "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #16 (1982), created by Roger Stern and John Romita, Jr. She would soon become a member of The Avengers.

Monica was regularly featured in "Avengers" vol. 1 #227-294 (January, 1983: August, 1988). With most of her appearances written by Roger Stern. She has had several subsequent appearances among their ranks, typically in storylines involving reserve members called back to action, not as one of the regulars. She also starred in two one-shot "Captain Marvel" publications, one in 1989 and the second in 1994. She has not been forgotten though as she has since had appearances as a member of Nextwave and the Marvel Divas, and is currently featured as a major character in the 2013 Mighty Avengers relaunch. She changes her codename a few times (the first two changes were as a direct result of Genis-Vell), most recently taking the name Spectrum.

Genis-Vell and Phyla-Vell

In "Silver Surfer Annual" #6 (1993), a new character, calling himself "Legacy" was introduced. Created by Ron Marz and Ron Lim. He was Genis-Vell, the son of Mar-Vell, created via cloning by Mar-Vell's last lover, Elysius, one of the Eternals of Titan (Saturn's largest moon.) He would later take over his father's identity and become the new Captain Marvel, and starred in his own series. (Rambeau changed her name to Photon out of respect) He is best known for having gone insane (from being given the same omniscience power as his father) and becoming both a hero and a menace until his death.

Genis appared in "Captain Marvel" vol. 3 (1995-1996), vol. 4 (1999-2002), and vol. 5 (2002-2004). For a total of 66 issues, most of them written by Peter David. He then appeared as a member of the Thunderbolts. He was killed in "Thunderbolts" #100 (May, 2006).

An accidental change of history had previously resulting in his gaining a "sister", Phyla-Vell, who would also take over the Captain Marvel identity for a while. More recently, Mar-Vell has been revealed as the father of Hulkling of the Young Avengers, the result of a dalliance with a Skrull princess.


During the events of the Civil War series, the original Mar-Vell reappeared, apparently having been accidentally transported from the past. He tried to fit in the present, knowing he would have to go back in time and die at some point... until it was revealed during the events of the Secret Invasion that he was actually a spy for the alien Skrull race -ironically the Kree's biggest enemies- named Khn'nr who had, like many other such sleeper agents, been brainwashed into thinking that he was the real Marvel. Still, he ends up embracing the Mar-Vell identity and becoming a true hero anyway. Before he died.


The torch was then briefly passed to Noh-Varr, a Kree Super Soldier from another dimension (originally known as "Marvel Boy"). Although he declared war on Earth at first, he was encouraged by the Skrull Captain Marvel to fight the good fight. He was manipulated to become "Captain Marvel" in the Dark Avengers, but left when he saw the team for what it really was. For a while, he became Protector after contact with this Universe's Kree Supreme Intelligence, before deciding to drop the codenames in the Young Avengers, where he's simply Noh-Varr.

Carol Danvers

In July 2012, a new Captain Marvel series was launched, with Carol Danvers taking on Mar-Vell's title, while teenager Kamala Khan uses the Ms Marvel name. For the sake of simplicity her tropes are still listed under her original "Ms Marvel" identity.


  • Aborted Arc: Before it was decided that the mysterious Captain Marvel who had been glimpsed during Civil War was the "returned" Mar-Vell (see Back from the Dead below), it was intended to be the recently introduced character Gravity, who had somehow been given the costume and the role of Earth's protector. One can only assume it would have eventually been revealed just who gave Gravity the costume and the job.
  • The Ace: Handsome, heroic, powerful, and possessing the willpower necessary to utilise Cosmic Awareness without being driven mad by the ability. In life and death, Mar-Vell won the respect of many of his universe's greatest heroes, some of its vilest villains, and a number of the sublime abstracts who lord above all.
  • Affectionate Parody: Peter David's run on Captain Marvel started as a tongue in cheek take on the superhero genre with a few Lampshade Hanging moments delivered by Rick Jones.
  • Affirmative Action Legacy:
    • Monica Rambeau and Phyla-Vell. Carol Danvers claimed the title for herself, as mentioned above, and it will be this version that will be used in the 2019 film.
    • The openly-gay Teddy Altman is the new Captain Marvel in the Bad Future seen in Children's Crusade.
  • Arch-Enemy: The original Mar-Vell is often considered this to Thanos, and his cancerverse version retains this animosity.
    • Before Thanos, the archenemy role was occupied by Colonel Yon-Rogg.
  • Back from the Dead: Mar-Vell. But not really.
  • Beware the Superman: A darkly comical version of this story played out in Genis-Vell's second run, partly driven by his deciding to become a Nietzsche Wannabe.
  • Captain Superhero: A superhero named Captain Mar-Vell. He actually did hold a Kree military rank equivalent to captain before being exiled to Earth.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The second half of Peter David's run. See Darker and Edgier below.
  • Darker and Edgier: About halfway through Genis's run under the name, his title was retooled from a comical series about the relatively earnest Genis to a dark series in which Genis became a Reality Warper with a god complex.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: For a time, Mar-Vell posed as a deceased scientist named Walter Lawson.
  • Disappeared Dad: Captain Marvel never met any of his children: Hulkling was kept by the Skrulls, and Genis and Phyla were created using his DNA after his death.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The more popular Ms. Marvel.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: During Peter David's run, Rick Jones developed "comics awareness", knowing he's in a comic book and that it was about to be cancelled. The final issue of the series was entirely about the fact that it was the final issue of the series.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Eon from Jim Starlin's run is a rare benevolent example.
  • Evil Counterpart: A post-mortem one. In the Cancerverse Mar-Vell made a pact with a pantheon of Eldritch Abominations on his deathbed. Not only did he live, he obliterated death in that universe and turned the Avengers into Lovecraftian horrors under his command.
  • Fantastic Racism: Most Kree are blue-skinned, but some like Mar-Vell have pink skin (i.e., like that of northern Europeans) and are treated as inferior by the blue-skinned Kree. The extent to which this applies to Mar-Vell (and his status as a hero or a traitor to the Kree) depends on the writer.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: Rick Jones, long-time superhero sidekick, has developed 'comics awareness' as detailed in Captain Marvel #60.
  • A God Am I: Genis-Vell during his crazy period where he restarted the universe.
  • Graceful Loser: When he realises that there's no swaying Entropy from recreating the universe and thus subjecting him to the burden of cosmic awareness once again, Genis willingly helps the entity get started by shooting him in the head.
  • Hyper-Awareness: His Cosmic Awareness.
  • I Have Many Names:
    • Common trait among those that take 'Marvel' in their title, outside of the original Mar-Vell himself, is that they will eventually have to change their alias at some point.
    • Monica Rambeau's been hit with this so many times it's a running gag. She lost the Captain Marvel moniker to Genis-Vell, and took the name Photon. Then Genis-Vell changed his name to Photon, having forgotten that Monica was using it; so she changed her name to Pulsar. In at least one storyline she just went by Monica, but has since adopted the name Spectrum.
  • Killed Off for Real: One of the comicbook examples that actually stays, unlike the other Cap.
  • Life Will Kill You: While the cause was mildly fantastic, his death from cancer was played realistically and affectingly, which may be related to his never having been resurrected.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: Mar-Vell receiving the Cosmic Awareness from Eon during the battle against Thanos.
  • Na´ve Newcomer: Noh-Varr both to the Dark Avengers (he didn't even know he was in a team full of villains until Moonstone let it slip) and to the true Avengers.
  • Never Live It Down: Mar-Vell is best known as "that guy who died from cancer", both in-universe and out. As a career soldier, he (actually Khn'nr) wasn't happy to find out he died on a sickbed instead of in battle.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: After rebooting the universe he destroyed with the help of Entropy, Genis was cured of his insanity after being subsumed by the lucid new version of him. Still haunted the spectre of his past failures, he chose to maintain a demented persona to ward off anyone expecting to much from him.
  • PietÓ Plagiarism: The cover of The Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel, featuring the Grim Reaper holding the captain's body. Of all the examples of this trope it's the closest to a true imitation of the Michelangelo work, explicitly borrowing the pose of a sitting Mary with her son's body in her arms.
  • Punny Name: "Phyla-Vell" is a taxonomical pun off of "Genis-Vell" ("phylum" and "genus", respectively)
  • Rasputinian Death: Genis-Vell about a year after joining the Thunderbolts as resident Gamebreaker
  • Reality Warper: Genis-Vell
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: A variant: Rick Jones comes to Reed and the other superintelligent superheroes of the era and asks them to use their great minds to cure Mar-Vell's cancer. They come to the uncomfortable realization that they could have been doing that for everyone in the world the entire time. However, when their efforts fail to bear fruit in time to save Mar-Vell, they just stop trying. Nevermind that other people might be helped in the future, nope, it was "save Mar" or nothing.
  • Re Tool: The original series underwent a few as it struggled to find its identity.
  • Spider-Sense: Cosmic Awareness, once appointed Protector of the Universe, Mar-Vell seemed to control it well enough that whenever universal threats or changes occurred that related to him he could but perceive them. When Genis took the power on it drove him crazy because he couldn't fully control it and kept getting more information then he needed on possible outcomes.
  • Sucksessor: Those who have attempted to take on the Captain Marvel name after the original have all met with immense hardship with some even outright dying as they tried to live up to his daunting legacy while others simply suffer through the misfortune the title seems to bring.
  • Superheroes in Space: Essentially anyone who has the Marvel title ends up in space.
  • Time Travel Escape: Mar-Vell but not really.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Noh-Varr among his original crew who embodied the very best of the Kree's "zen facist" doctrine while he was a wrathful skeptic they were trying to turn around into being a hero like them. Him being their ship's sole survivor winds up being a major headache for just about everybody during his series.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Possibly the classic Marvel Comics example: the death of Captain Mar-Vell.
  • Totally Radical: Genis characterisation in the nineties.
  • Twofer Token Minority:
    • The second Captain Marvel, a black woman named Monica Rambeau. Done as a pretty earnest attempt to create a strong Twofer superhero.
    • Phyla counts as on as well, being a lesbian.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The omniscience afforded by Cosmic Awareness has some serious downsides to those who possess it after Mar-Vell himself.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The reason why Marvel Comics makes sure to publish a comic with a character named Captain Marvel in it at least once every few years.