How 'Captain Marvel' avoided controversial comic-book past to create empowered female hero

While the character of Carol Danvers has existed in the comics for more than 50 years, Captain Marvel co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck didn’t have to dig too far back into the Marvel archives for inspiration in crafting their big-screen take starring Brie Larson.

Danvers first appeared in 1968. Originally known as Ms. Marvel, the character had fought for feminist causes throughout her comic book history, but her depiction by male writers and artists had several problematic elements. The oft-scantily clad Ms. Marvel had a tendency of being objectified or oversexualized; one infamous storyline in 1980 even featured her being raped and impregnated by an intergalactic supervillain.

(Marvel Comics)
(Marvel Comics)

With that controversial past in mind, the Marvel Cinematic Universe chose to look elsewhere for source material for its first female-driven solo adventure. The filmmakers focused on a much more recent work, basing Captain Marvel’s onscreen origin story on the celebrated 2012 reboot written by Kelly Sue DeConnick.

“Obviously that was super important and part of our journey before we even got the job,” Boden told Yahoo Entertainment when asked how important it was to rely on more recent depictions of Danvers (watch above). “As we were digging through all the comics and we really started at the very beginning, and read our way through the history of Carol Danvers. And there’s some fun, interesting stuff in that history, but nothing grabbed us and made us stop and say, ‘This is a character I want to see on screen, this is a character I want to spend the next two years of my life with,’ until we got to Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run, which is when Carol Danvers takes on the mantle of Captain Marvel.”

(Marvel Comics)
(Marvel Comics)

Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige and the other MCU mastersminds were clearly onboard.

“The really cool thing about working with Marvel Studios is that they love the comics, they embrace the comics, and they care so much about the heart and soul of the comics,” Boden explained. “But the specifics of what happened in the comics, we’re not beholden to that in the same way that comic book writers are. The MCU is its own specific thing, and we can take her origin story and turn it on its head a little bit. We can reinvent it for an audience that was contemporary and more modern and had a different idea of what a woman is and what empowerment is.”

Captain Marvel is now playing. Watch Brie Larson talk about what the role means to her:

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