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Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell)

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Captain Marvel #29 (Nov. 1973).
Art by Jim Starlin.
Publisher = Marvel Comics
Debut = Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (Dec. 1967)
Creators = Stan Lee
Gene Colan
Real name = Mar-Vell
Species = Kree
Homeworld = Hala
Alliances = Avengers
Aliases = Captain Marvel, Dr. Walter Lawson
Powers = Superhuman strength
Flight
Cosmic Awareness
Solar energy absorption & projection
Wields Nega-Bands

Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) is a fictional character that appears in publications published by Marvel Comics. The character first appears in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (Dec. 1967) and was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and designed by artist Gene Colan.

Debuting in the Silver Age of comic books, the character has appeared in over four decades of Marvel publications, and starred in a self-titled series and the second volume of the title Marvel Spotlight. Captain Marvel has also been associated with Marvel merchandise including clothing; video games; toys and trading cards.

Contents

Publication history

The name "Captain Marvel" had been originally trademarked for the popular superhero character Captain Marvel, who appeared in publications by Fawcett Comics between 1940 and 1953. However, Fawcett had ceased publishing Captain Marvel comics in 1953 partly as the result of 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 were not the first company to try to capitalize on Fawcett's lapsed trademark; in 1966 the small publisher M. F. Enterprises released a short-lived Captain Marvel.

Marvel's character debuted as the lead feature in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (December 1967), written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Gene Colan. Shortly thereafter he was given his own series, commencing with Captain Marvel #1 (May 1968). These appearances established Captain Marvel, or "Mar-Vell", as an alien of the Kree race who had come to earth as a spy before coming to identify with his human neighbors. The Captain Marvel series failed to register with readers, and the series 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 - 96 (June 1971 - March 1972), also written by Thomas. In 1972 plotter and artist James Starlin decided to revamp the character, with the series recommencing with issue #22 (Sept. 1972). 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..."

The Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel (Jan. 1984). Cover art by Jim Starlin.

Mar-Vell made very few appearances in the Marvel Universe outside the title, appearing in Sub-Mariner #30 (Oct. 1970); Avengers #108 (Feb. 1973); Marvel Team-Up #16-17 (Dec. 1973 - Jan. 1974); Daredevil #107 (Jan. 1974); Defenders #62-63 (Aug.-Sept. 1978); Ms. Marvel #19 (Aug. 1978); Marvel Two-In-One #45 (Nov. 1978); What If #17 (Oct. 1979) and Hulk #246 (April 1980). Starlin wrote Mar-Vell's death in Marvel's first graphic novel, The Death of Captain Marvel (Jan. 1984).

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 in fact an alien Skrull.

Fictional character biography

1960s

When a Kree ship arrives above Earth space, space fleet Captain Mar-Vell is sent by his superior, Colonel Yon-Rogg, to Florida in the United States, as a spy. Once there, and assumes the identity of recently deceased scientist Dr. Walter Lawson, whose death he had witnessed. As Lawson, Mar-Vell commences work at Florida|Cape Canaveral (identified in early stories only as "The Cape") and studies humanity's progress on developing a means of space travel. When the US Army finds, and accidentally activate a Kree robot Sentry, Mar-Vell is forced to don his uniform and defeat it. Onlookers hear the Sentry call Mar-Vell by his name and rank, and thus they mistakenly believe him to be a new superhero named "Captain Marvel." One of the humans who see Mar-Vell is Carol Danvers, security chief at the Cape, who was already suspicious of "Walter Lawson" and now finds herself drawn to the mystery Mar-Vell presents.

Mar-Vell continues to observe the humans, and is ordered by Yon-Rogg -- who secretly lusts after Mar-Vell's lover, medical officer Una, and wants him killed in action -- to fight various threats, including the Super-Skrull; Namor the Sub-Mariner; the Metazoid; Solam; and Quasimodo. During each of these encounters, Mar-Vell finds himself growing more sympathetic towards Earth, and must act contrary to his orders in order to protect those who see him as a hero. These actions further enrage Yon-Rogg, who appeals to his Kree superiors to find Mar-Vell guilty of treason against the Kree Empire. Eventually, Mar-Vell is sentenced to death by firing squad, but before the execution can be carried out, the alien Aakon attack, forcing Yon-Rogg to save Mar-Vell's life by joining the battle. During the ensuing conflict, Una is killed by a stray shot, and Mar-Vell and Yon-Rogg battle over her death. Eventually, a weakened Mar-Vell is sent via rocket into space by Yon-Rogg. After 63 days, Mar-Vell crashes on an alien world, and encounters a sentient towering obelisk called "Zo." Zo offers Mar-Vell new abilities, and the chance to revenge himself upon Yon-Rogg, in exchange for a vow to serve Zo. Mar-Vell accepts, and courtesy of his new powers returns to Earth.

Mar-Vell in original Kree uniform on the cover of Captain Marvel #1 (May 1968). Cover art by Gene Colan & Vince Colletta

However, Zo is not what it appears to be, as Mar-Vell discovers when Zo commands him to attack and destroy the Kree homeworld, Kree-Lar. Taken before the Kree Supreme Intelligence, Mar-Vell learns that Zo is a deception created by deposed Kree Minister Zarek. Zarek, along with his ally Ronan the Accuser and in league with Yon-Rogg, were attempting to depose the Supreme Intelligence and use Mar-Vell as a scapegoat. Although the conspirators are arrested and Mar-Vell is saved by the intervention of the Supreme Intelligence (who proclaims Mar-Vell as "the greatest of all Kree warriors" and symbolically bestows a new uniform on him), he becomes trapped in the Negative Zone shortly after leaving Kree-Lar.

The Supreme Intelligence, however, secretly enables Mar-Vell to telepathically contact Rick Jones (a youth who had previously been a companion to the Hulk, the original Avengers, and Captain America) and lead Jones to a set of hidden "nega-bands" at an abandoned Kree base. He does this by casting an illusion of Captain America, whom Jones is motivated to pursue. By pulling the bands on (they shrink to fit his wrists) and striking them together above his head, Jones is able to trade places with Mar-Vell, with Jones encased in a protective aura while in the Negative Zone. The pair discover they are able to maintain telepathic contact (and Mar-Vell is not above occasionally pestering Jones to make the exchange more often), although Mar-Vell can only remain on Earth for a period of three hours.

After gaining the nega-bands and becoming linked to Jones, Mar-Vell has a final encounter with Yon-Rogg, who holds Carol Danvers hostage at the abandoned Kree installation. Using a device called a "Psyche-Magnitron," which can transform thoughts into reality, Yon-Rogg directs a robot Mandroid to attack Mar-Vell, but the Psyche-Magnitron is damaged in the battle, allowing Mar-Vell to defeat the robot. Mar-Vell escapes with Danvers as the device explodes, killing Yon-Rogg. (Although neither she nor Mar-Vell would realize it until much later, Danvers's body absorbed radiation given off from the Psyche-Magnitron's explosion, which would eventually result in her becoming the superheroine Ms. Marvel.)

1970s

After a brief encounter with the villain Scorpio; Mar-Vell seeks out Dr. Bruce Banner in an abortive attempt to free Mar-Vell and Jones from their shared existence, but instead, Mar-Vell ends up embroiled in a brief battle with Banner's alter ego, the Hulk. After Mar-Vell and Jones are able to use Mister Fantastic's portal to the Negative Zone to free Mar-Vell from the Zone - although they require the aid of the Avengers to draw off excess radiation that Mar-Vell has been exposed to while in the Zone to prevent a cataclysmic explosion - the hero then becomes embroiled in the Kree-Skrull War, and is captured by a Sentry at the direction of Ronan the Accuser.

Ronan attempts to begin "Plan Atavus," and devolve Earth to a prehistoric time to use as a base in the war against the Skrulls. The team of super-heroes called the Avengers manages to prevent this, and Ronan returns to Hala when advised of an impending attack by the Skrulls. The Sentry self-destructs, and destroys Ronan's base. The Super-Skrull, posing as Carol Danvers, persuades Mar-Vell to build an "Omni-Wave Projector," a communications device that, in the hands of non-Kree, is a deadly weapon. Mar-Vell, however, sees through the deception and destroys the device, but is captured along with Avengers Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.

Mar-Vell is taken to the heart of the Skrull empire and after being advised that the captive Avengers will be executed, is forced to build another Projector. The Avengers defeat the Skrulls on Earth and come to Mar-Vell's aid, who is forced to use the Projector, which casts a temporarily freed Rick Jones back into the Negative Zone. The War ends when Jones, using new-found but short-lived mental powers that have been awakened by the Supreme Intelligence, sends a wave of Golden Age heroes with the Avengers against the Skrulls, although Mar-Vell is forced to re-combine with Jones to save his life when use of this power seriously weakens him.

Mar-Vell also aids the Avengers against foes the Grim Reaper and the Space Phantom, with the latter being trapped in the Negative Zone. The hero battles the atomic-powered Megaton, and while successful in stopping the villain's rampage, is trapped in the Negative Zone once again. Mar-Vell also battles and defeats Dr. Mynde, who attempts to storm the Pentagon and seize military secrets.

Mar-Vell then has an encounter with Skrulls disguised as some of Earth's heroes, and learns of the Eternal calleld Thanos. Mar-Vell and allies Mentor and Eros - Thanos's father and brother - engage Thanos and his forces in a war as the villain attempts to learn the location of the artifact the Cosmic Cube. Seeing the magnitude of the threat, the cosmic entity Kronos aids them by creating the artificial being Drax the Destroyer, whose sole purpose is to kill Thanos. Despite Mar-Vell fending off the Thing in a manipulated encounter; defeating the Super-Skrull and Thanos's mercenaries, the villain obtains the location of the Cube from a captured Rick Jones.

Mar-Vell seeks the aid of the Avengers, and after a battle with Thanos's minion the Controller - whose power has been amplified - Jones is split from the hero. Another cosmic being, Eon, transforms Mar-Vell into the "Protector of the Universe," and provides the hero with new abilities, including "cosmic awareness." Returning to rebond with Jones, Mar-Vell defeats the Controller, and rallies his allies for a final battle against Thanos. Despite their combined power, Thanos uses the Cube to become part of - and therefore in control of - everything in the universe. Thanos discards the Cube after this act, believing it to be drained of power. A dying Mar-Vell shatters the Cube, which undoes Thanos's actions and forces him to retreat.

Mar-Vell returns to Earth and has a first encounter with the villain Nitro. In 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 develop cancer. 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 kill Rick Jone 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. New villain 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.

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 Dr. 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 called "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.

1980s

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 (during his battle with Nitro some years before) is killing him. Compounding the problem are Mar-Vell's Nega-Bands, the photonic effects of which have kept the cancer at bay but have also caused it to mutate, resisting all known forms of treatment. As Mar-Vell comes to accept that his life is ending, many of his friends and allies (including Rick Jones, the Thing, Spider-Man, and the Avengers, among others) come to Titan to pay their last respects. In the end, on his deathbed, Mar-Vell experiences a vision in which he meets and battles Thanos once again, though Thanos has come this time not as a foe, but as a guide to show Mar-Vell the path to the afterlife. As he, Thanos, and Death pass into a blinding light, in the real world, Mar-Vell expires.

His spirit was apparently called forth by the Grandmaster as a part of the Legion of the Unliving he had created to battle the Avengers.

1990s

When the Silver Surfer visits the Realm of the Dead, the character is counselled and aided in his escape by Mar-Vell. Mar-Vell's former lover Elysius also impregnates herself with his genetic information, giving birth to a son, Genis-Vell. Courtesy of advanced science, Genis is aged to adulthood to protect him from Mar-Vell's former enemies.

2000s

For a time Genis becomes insane, and commits suicide. Visiting the Realm of the Dead, Genis encounters his father. After speaking with Mar-Vell, Genis attempts to kill him, infuriated at his father's advice. When Genis resurrects himself, he learns that Elysius also gave birth to a girl - and therefore Genis has a sister, Phyla-Vell. Young Avengers member Hulkling is revealed to be the child of Mar-Vell and Princess Anelle of the Skrulls.

Powers and abilities

Upon his arrival on Earth, Mar-Vell possessed no superhuman (or super-Kree) powers apart from being stronger and more durable than most humans due to his advanced Kree physiology. As a soldier, the character is equipped with a device called a "universal beam" (or "uni-beam," at first a handheld pistol but later converted into a wrist-mounted device) that is capable of projecting energy; emitting beams of pure blackness and controlling magnetism.

When manipulated by "Zo" (actually Zarek, the Kree Imperial Minister), Mar-Vell gained the ability to teleport to anywhere in the universe, as well as the ability to mentally project illusions. These abilities were lost when Mar-Vell gained the Nega-Bands, which convert Mar-Vell's psionic energy into greater strength and durability, energy projection, and the power to fly at faster-than-light speeds and traverse vast interstellar and intergalactic distances and enable him to exist unprotected in deep outer space without having to breathe.

Once he is named the "Protector of the Universe" by Eon, Mar-Vell gains "cosmic awareness," which (among other things) allows him to detect threats and perceive changes in the universe as long as they are important to him for some reason. The full range and extent of this ability has never been clearly defined, although it was once described as comparable to Spider-Man's "spider-sense," albeit on a larger scale. This awareness can also be used internally, which alerted him to his terminal cancer even before he went to have medically confirmed.

Mar-Vell's Kree military training gives him mastery of all forms of unarmed combat and extensive knowledge of the technology of the Kree Empire.

Other versions

Ultimate Marvel

The Ultimate Marvel limited series Ultimate Secret, set in an alternate universe, features a version of the character called Mahr Vehl, who aids Earth's heroes against the threat of Gah Lak Tus.

Universe X

In the limited series Earth X, set in the alternate universe Earth-9997, Mar-Vell is reincarnated as the child of synthetic beings Him (Adam Warlock) and Her.

Lord Mar-Vell

In the storyline, "The Thanos Imperative", the main antagonist is Lord Mar-Vell, an evil alternate universe duplicate from the "Cancerverse", a monstrous universe in which "Life has won", and nothing can die. As such, all life has in essence become cancerous undying beings, desperate to find a new universe to grow and infect.

In other media

Television

  • Capatin Marvel appears in an episode of The Super Hero Squad Show and is voiced by Ty Burrell.

Video games

  • Mar-Vell appears as an alternate costume for the PSP exclusive character Genis-Vell in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (2006).

Toys

  • The Toy Biz produced Marvel Select and Hasbro produced Marvel Legends action figure lines both feature Mar-Vell figures.

Bibography

  • Marvel Superheroes Vol. 1 #12-13
  • Captain Marvel Vol. 1 #1-62
  • Iron Man Vol. 1 #55
  • Marvel Feature Vol. 1 #12
  • Marvel Spotlight Vol. 2 #1-4, 8
  • Marvel Graphic Novel #1 (also know as The Death of Captain Marvel)

Collected editions

A number of the stories featuring Captain Marvel have been collected into trade paperbacks:

Footnotes

External links