Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Captain Marvel is Energy

But Marvel Comics could not let the trademark go away. Immediately after the death of their Captain Marvel, they created a new one, introduced in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 16. This one was Monica Rambeau, a stunningly beautiful black female harbor patrol officer from New Orleans. Created by writer Roger Stern and artist John Romita, Sr., she absorbed extra-dimensional energies when caught in an explosion of a dangerous, extra-dimensional energy tapping device. Though a lieutenant, an old family friend had been referring to her as “mon Capitan,” and a Spanish-speaking security guard losing consciousness referred to her as a “Captain Marvel.” The press got a hold of the name, and it stuck.

The energies gave Monica Rambeau the power to transform herself into energy, any form of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum. She pulled together a costume in a Mardi Gras costume storeroom. She was inducted into the Avengers as a member-in-training until she gained full mastery of her powers, and remained with the team for quite a few years, even being the chairman for a while.

As one of the few black female superheroes, she added needed diversity to the ranks of superherodom. As a stable, smart, responsible hero, she was a contrast to the other high-profile black female superhero, Storm of the X-Men (who had become a near schizophrenic, and suffered horribly from claustrophobia). At the beginning there was some awkwardness as friends of Mar-Vell were not sure about this new hero taking on the name of their respected late friend. But Monica Rambeau proved herself, and even though she herself considered giving the name up (she had not known about Mar-Vell when she first accepted the name that the press had bequeathed her), she embraced it. It was acknowledged that she was a worthy successor of Mar-Vell's heroic legacy.

She never had her own regular series, though she proved herself an admirable superhero. Though she had her ups and downs in her personal life, she took the job of being a hero seriously and responsibly, eventually becoming leader of the Avengers. For some reason, though, editor Mark Gruenwald wanted Captain Marvel to be shown as an inferior leader so that Captain America could take over the team. Writer Roger Stern objected, noting that this could be seen as racist and sexist. Stern was then dropped from the book. New writers had Rambeau developing insecurities about the job. Ultimately she lost her powers and nearly her life when she came in contact with sea water in her energy form and was spread across the ocean. She recovered, and took part in many, many significant adventures, many of them in outer space. But she never led the Avengers again.

She had two one-shot special issues (in 1989 and 1992) that were issue driven, specifically about racism and intolerance, in the early 1990's, but by then the comic book world was changing, and a new Captain Marvel was created.

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