“In 1980, Carol Danvers was part of perhaps the most irresponsible story Marvel Comics has ever put to paper. The plot involved kidnapping, inter-dimensional roofies, and rape, and it ended with Danvers riding off into the sunset with her rapist as her Avengers teammates wiped away tears of joy.
Today, however, Carol Danvers is Captain Marvel, a feminist icon in her self-titled comic book. And in 2018, she is going to be Marvel’s first female superhero since 2005 to have her own movie.
Danvers’ rise through the Marvel-sphere is, in many ways, the story of women in comics in miniature. And it starts where those stories often started: with the woman as an admiring, leggy love interest.
Carol Danvers makes her first appearance in Marvel’s Super-heroes no. 13, published in 1968. Written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Gene Conlan, Danvers is ostensibly a security officer at NASA’s Cape Kennedy Space Center, but in actuality, she’s primarily introduced as a “girl” who, to Captain Mar-Vell, a man who’s actually a Kree alien, is as stunning as the heavily guarded aircraft.
“And, indeed, even the shock-resistant senses of Captain Mar-Vell are stunned by the awesome sight they behold,” Thomas writes, comparing Danvers to a vehicle. It’s a fossilized example of the comic book industry’s archaic view of women, a view that was too often applied to Danvers.
Danvers wasn’t the only superheroine marginalized in her first appearance. Jean Grey, an original X-Man, was introduced five years earlier in 1963 as Marvel Girl. Susan Storm, a member of the Fantastic Four, was introduced in 1961 as the Invisible Girl. And Black Widow, the only female Avenger to make it to the big screen so far, was just a “gorgeous new menace” in a dress (no costume) in her debut in 1964…”