Working for Justice

News of Two Heroines

Kelly Sue DeConnick has been garnering attention for her work as the writer of the series Captain Marvel, which now features Carol Danvers as the protagonist of the series.  Air Force Major Carol Danvers first appeared in Marvel comics in 1968.  In her non-powered form, Danvers was an accomplished spy, a pilot, and skilled in hand-to-hand combat as well as marksmanship.  Fans saw Danvers morph into Ms. Marvel in the late 1970s when she was subjected to an energy explosion in the course of her duties as Security Chief of a restricted military base.  The explosion caused Danvers’ genes to join with those of Captain Marvel, which resulted in her having a plethora of powers, including superhuman strength, endurance, stamina, flight, physical durability, precognitive senses, as well as a very tough immune system.  Pretty awesome powers, I think we can all agree.

Under DeConnick’s lead, which began in 2012, Marvel elevated Danvers’ character from Ms. Marvel into Captain Marvel, assuming the position formerly reserved for her male colleague.  Certainly Danvers à la Captain Marvel is far from the first super heroine, and she’s also not the first to serve as a comic book’s protagonist.  Still, DeConnick’s incarnation of Danvers as Captain Marvel is laudable because Danvers is cast in as a successful and highly-visible superhero with whom readers can identify. As Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos reports,

DeConnick says she’s writing a person, plain and simple. That a female character being treated like a human is considered groundbreaking speaks to the dearth of well-rounded female characters in the comic world. The overt sexualization of female heroes, still occurs today (see: Marvel’s Spider-Woman cover) and the comics industry has a history of treating their female heroes like sex objects first.

Danvers’ rise has been accompanied by DeConnick’s parallel rise in fame.  The character has led to the creation of the Carol Corps, a largely female fan group that forms long lines to hear DeConnick speak at industry conventions.   DeConnick, however, doesn’t consider the Carol Corps as her personal fan base.  Instead, DeConnick stated in an interview earlier this year,

I get emotional talking to these girls and women who say how much Captain Marvel means to them and that it’s inspired them. It’s very important to me that the Carol Corps not be identified strongly with me, though. Because as important as Carol Danvers is to me, I don’t own Carol and I will not be writing her forever. I would love it if the Carol Corps continued to exist outside of my personality.

Seeing such progress in what has long been a male-centric industry is exciting, in part, because it’s a good omen that we’ll see similar progress in a variety of other industries that are historically dominated by men.  At the same time, it is hard to ignore what is happening to women in the similar but distinct gaming industry (See “#GamerGate”).  Fans, consumers, and the owners of these franchises (whether they be comic books or games) all have responsibilities for creating more welcoming spaces that, as DeConnick has shown us, lead to the creation of great things for all involved.

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP is a nationwide litigation law firm with offices in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, San Diego, Nashville, and Baltimore. We represent individuals against powerful interests. We act as a private attorney general in support of the private and public good. Learn More

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