Rant: Captain Marvel, Crossovers, and Going Mainstream

I have a lot to do today and it’s going to take basically all my focus and motivation to do it…so I’m going to write a kind of ridiculous unplanned blog post first! That probably sounds counter-productive, but I’m hoping it will both clear my mind of the rambly ranty thoughts currently inside it and help me get my head in order. I always feel more like a functional productive person when I write.

Warning! This is spoiler-filled (for current Marvel comics) and totally my own unresearched opinions. I haven’t looked for interviews or blogs or anything by the actual writers, just thinking about how it seems to me as someone who has completely avoided the recent crossover events except in this one comic. Ok, actual post now.

When I first started reading The Mighty Captain Marvel, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. It wasn’t my favorite Marvel comic (probably around #5 really) but it was good and I liked the way it was tackling Carol’s emotions and the trauma of the last recent crossover event and letting her move on.

And then she got dragged into the newest one. The one with Steve Rogers going Hydra (well revealing himself to retroactively always having been Hydra) that I had otherwise managed to avoid. And yes, I read articles about it and kept up with the justifications and explanations and it’s all crap. Not going to convince me ever that this was a good idea no matter how it all works out in the end.

All my other Marvel comics have managed to avoid it altogether. It would be hideously out of place in something like Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, which stars and is aimed at kids around maybe 8-12. So she’s been off on her own adventures and I don’t think Hydra Cap has gotten so much as a side mention. Hulk and Hawkeye could more reasonably be drawn into the mess, but…they haven’t. No explanations or justifications or reasons, just…no, not touching it, thanks. And as a reader, I’ve really appreciated that.

America’s a weird one. In her own solo series, she’s doing her own thing and the Cap situation hasn’t come up at all that I can remember. But she doesn’t just exist in her own series, I think I remember seeing her in at least 3 different comics when Marvel started announcing their “all new all different” line, and one of the places she is currently showing up is in Captain Marvel’s crew of heroes locked outside of earth by a giant shield Steve tricked Carol and her team into building. So the character is technically involved in the conflict, but if I wasn’t reading Captain Marvel I wouldn’t know about it.

Speaking of that series, lately I haven’t been nearly as excited about it. I suppose that crossover is an obvious reason, but after every issue I would think “Well, that wasn’t bad. The writing’s still good. Steve’s not even in it and these characters are all so good. It’s still about relationships and trauma and hope. It’s still Captain Marvel. Trust the writer.” And, well, I do. This has been about as good as it can be, all things considered. But it doesn’t seem to be telling its own story.

Captain Marvel hasn’t really had time to develop on her own in the ways set up in the first couple of issues, because she’s been dragged into someone else’s terrible story and no matter how good this writer is, it’s hard to come out of the garbage fire that is Marvel crossover events without being covered in hot garbage. And I’m kind of left feeling like both the character and the writer have been taken hostage to play out parts in someone else’s pathetic drama and it all reminds me a little too much of Batgirl and The Killing Joke and it just makes me feel so UGH.

Poor Carol. Poor Margaret Stohl. They both deserve so much better.

So why is Captain Marvel being dragged into this mess if other characters have managed to avoid it so well? I think the obvious answer is that she needs and has gotten more visibility thanks to the movie coming out soon. People who have only passing familiarity with Marvel comics and no idea who she is are seeing this name in the future of the MCU and if they want to know more about her, Marvel wants that to be easy to do. She has to be someone who fits at the core of these film characters and is a Big Deal in the universe where they play and so of course these big attention-grabbing events have to include her in a central way.

And that gets really tricky. Like, do I want her not to be included in the MCU because she’s not well known enough and treated like a background character? Do I want comic newbies who won’t know where to look to miss out on her altogether? Nah, of course not. Yes, of course this is how it is going to be and she’ll get more fans because of it and eventually she can go back to her own story.

But I still kind of resent that she got taken out of it in the first place. Used to make someone else’s shitty point. I hate how often that happens particularly to awesome female characters. That the way most comics fanboys wind up seeing “our” characters is as side characters in weaker stories and those events wind up defining them in the popular narrative.

Such a dilemma. Keep our most awesome characters in relative obscurity to avoid being corrupted by mainstream bullshit, or fight for more diverse, feminist storytelling in the mainstream and see our characters taken from us to serve a more popular, baser narrative? Sigh. Both are necessary, I guess. And we’ll get back to normal again soon (until Marvel announces its Next Big Thing). In the meantime, thank goodness for lesser-known characters, I guess.

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