For Your Consideration: Marvel’s Captain Marvel: Monica Rambeau

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

Marvel wisely claimed the trademark to Captain Marvel back in the 1960s, robbing DC Comics of the ability to properly market the Big Red Cheese. But, in 1982, Mar-Vell was about to die and they didn’t want to let the name go unused. Knowing the Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel was coming gave the creative staff time to conceive of a new hero. Roger Stern was mulling ways to come up with someone brand new, unrelated to the Kree cosmology. His wife, Carmela, pointed out the name was gender neutral, which got him to thinking and suddenly the new character slipped into place.

Captain Marvel: Monica Rambeau

Captain Marvel: Monica Rambeau


You can revisit those early adventures in Captain Marvel: Monica Rambeau, celebrating her and the connection to the forthcoming Captain Marvel movie (with a character named Rambeau as a part of the cast). Please note: this is a direct market exclusive (just like the good old days) and it collects Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, Avengers #227 and 279, Marvel Team-Up #142-143, Captain Marvel #1, Captain Marvel #1, Avengers Unplugged #5, and stories from Solo Avengers #2 and Marvel Fanfare #42 and 57.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16


At the time, Stern was writing Amazing Spider-Man and was seeking a story for the 1982 annual and decided her introduction was exactly what he needed. “I always wanted Monica to be a hero in the classic Marvel tradition—a normal person who suddenly had incredible powers thrust upon her—not unlike Spider-Man before her,” Stern says. “At the time I was developing Captain Marvel, a lot of the newer superheroes didn’t seem very heroic. A lot of them were seriously messed up. I wanted to give the world a new character who was … let’s say, better adjusted… someone from a strong, stable, and supportive family, a family with a background of service,” Stern told Back Issue.

She was designed by John Romita Jr. who happened to be served at a restaurant by a woman with an amazing afro, which proved inspirational. His father, also at the meal, was equally captivated and wound up inking the debut tale.

Avengers #227

Avengers #227


A New Orleans Harbor police lieutenant, she had greatness thrust on her and gained her light-based powers, and met first Spider-Man then the Avengers, the other title Stern was writing. As a result, a month later, Stern, Sal Buscema, Brett Breeding had the Wasp offer to make her an Avenger-in-training position. Monica was already a trained law enforcement officer so excelled in her heroic role, rising to become Avengers chair with issue #279, from Stern, John Buscema, and Tom Palmer.

“It was sheer serendipity that I got to gradually develop her as a member of the team. I got to show Captain Marvel slowly growing into her powers—and becoming comfortable in her role as a superhero—all within the context of being a rookie Avenger. The drawback was that I was always kept so busy with the Avengers and other projects that I never found the time to propose or write a solo Captain Marvel book,” Stern said.

Marvel Team-Up #142

Marvel Team-Up #142


She remained a part of the series, going on to guest star here and there including a two-part story in Marvel Team-Up, from David Michelinie, Greg LaRocque, and Mike Esposito. Here, she is accidentally trapped in her photonic form as Spidey and fellow Avenger Starfox tried to fix things.

Later, Stern gave her a solo story, drawn by Kieron Dwyer and Bob McLeod in Solo Avengers, while Dennis Mallonee, Bob Hall, and Bill Sienkiewicz also gave her the spotlight in Marvel Fanfare #42. The latter story had her travel to 1784 to retrieve blood from Count Dracula to save her friend Marie Laveau. Her second Fanfare appearance was a curiosity in that the plotter decided not to be identified in the credits, letting Bill Mantlo and artists George Freeman, Al Milgrom complete the story.

Captain Marvel #1 (1994)

Captain Marvel #1 (1994)


Dwayne McDuffie, the first African-American to write the character, arrived in 1989 with a 48-page eponymous one-shot, illustrated by M.D. Bright, Stan Drake, and Frank Bolle. By this point, post-Stern, her powers fluctuated in the hands of other writers and here he tried to instill some science behind her abilities, clarifying the power set. McDuffie got a second opportunity in 1994 with a second one-shot, which took on racism with the Sons of the Serpent and Skinhead. Bright also pencilled the story, inked by Dennis Jesnen, Barb Kaalberg, and Mark McKenna. Her original powers were restored soon before this second one-shot as a result of the Operation: Galactic Storm crossover.

Avengers Unplugged #5

Avengers Unplugged #5


By 1996, Captain Marvel was relegated to the B-list, making infrequent appearances. Editor Mark Gruenwald tapped Glenn Herdling to write the new Avengers Unplugged series which allowed him to do some housekeeping. Herdling explained to Back Issue, ““When Mark tapped me to write Avengers Unplugged, I had some reservations. The biggest being that it would be considered an offshoot title where nothing significant would be allowed to happen. Mark assured me that would not be the case. So when I suggested that Genis take on the name of Captain Marvel, Mark was all for it.” Genis-Vell was a son of Mar-Vell and using the codename Legacy at this point.

“Legacy was just such an odd name for the character of Genis, and about the same time I believe the Legacy Virus was beginning to infect Marvel’s mutants. Considering Genis’ passion for the ladies, I doubt he would have wanted a moniker associated with a lethal virus.”

So, Herdling wrote a Monica story for issue #5, illustrated by M.C. Wyman, Sandu Florea, and Tom Palmer, where she crossed paths with Genis-Vell, and gave him the title. She took, instead, the name Photon.

She has continued to play a role in the Marvel firmament and may be rediscovered anew with attention given to the feature film’s Easter Eggs. In the meantime, this volume will let you relive those formative appearances.

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