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Captain Marvel went through multiple incarnations in 1960s, 1970s series

by Matthew Price Modified: April 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm •  Published: November 8, 2011

The 1960s-1970s “Captain Marvel” series was introduced at a time when most of what Marvel launched became a huge hit. But despite being created by Stan Lee, Captain Marvel floundered quite a bit before finding some critical success at the pen of Jim Starlin, who gave the hero “cosmic awareness” and made him the protector of the universe.

Captain Mar-Vell was originally an alien military officer of the Kree assigned to spy on Earth who finds himself having feelings for Earth people.

Introduced in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, the Captain went through a variety of writers, artists and situations in the first 15 issues of his title.   Most of the time, he’s in conflict with his superior, Yon-Rogg, who assigns Mar-Vell to tasks he hopes will kill him.  This is because Yon-Rogg is in love with Una, Mar-Vell’s girlfriend serving on the same ship.  Meanwhile, on Earth, Mar-Vell, who is going by the secret identity of Dr. Walter Lawson, is drawn into a love triangle with Carol Danvers, who works on the rocket base he’s investigating.  With Captain Marvel (as the earthlings come to call Mar-Vell when he’s in his Kree uniform), Carol and Walter, it’s a love triangle; adding Una and Yon-Rogg makes it a fairly complicated love pentagon.  Along the way, Captain Marvel’s  mission and powers seem to undergo some type of change every few issues.

Writer Archie Goodwin attempted to make sense of all that had gone before in issue 16, clearing the decks for Roy Thomas and Gil Kane to revamp the series with Oct. 1969′s issue #17.   This issue found Captain Marvel sharing atoms with former Hulk and Captain America sidekick Rick Jones — only one could exist in the regular universe at any one time, with the other being exiled to the Negative Zone.   This was reminiscent in some ways of the Fawcett Captain Marvel, in which the young Billy Batson gave way to an adult Captain Marvel, only Thomas’ version gave the whole thing a very Marvel Comics twist.    The new costume was a definite improvement, but the new series only lasted through issue #21 before going on hiatus.

After a 2-year hiatus, Captain Marvel returns in some fairly forgettable issues (drawn by Wayne Boring and Gil Kane) before Jim Starlin arrives on the scene as the penciller of issue #25.    Starlin’s run really gets going when, in issue #29, Captain Marvel is given new powers, a slightly new look, blond hair and the title “protector of the universe.”

The new protector is quickly thrown into the Thanos War.  Thanos, introduced in Iron Man #55, is intent on getting the Cosmic Cube and becoming the ruler of the universe.    He bombs his own planet, Titan, wiping out millions before coming to earth in search of the cube.  It’s up to Captain Marvel, the Avengers and other assorted allies to put an end to Thanos’ plan.  It’s a story that reads a bit like a rough draft to the later “Infinity Gauntlet,” but it’s Captain Marvel at his best in the storyline, which concludes with issue #33.

Issues read:  Marvel Super-Heroes #12, Iron Man #55, Captain Marvel Vol. 1 #1-33.

- Matt Price
Comics read in 2011:  1,696. Still to go:  315.

by Matthew Price
Features Editor
Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s...
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