Why did I specify “lady” in the article title? Because any negative review of the MCU version of Carol Danvers is written off as sexist misogynists rather than actual issues with the work itself. Never mind that Natasha Romanoff doesn’t get the same negative response, even from her movie. So let’s look into what a writer who is a girl says about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s famous movie girls.

In the video below, as part of her “Science Of The Story” series, author Abbie Emmons compares Carol Danvers in the Captain Marvel movie to Natasha’s arc not in Black Widow but the first Avengers movie trying to figure out why the former is hated by the movie fans while the latter is embraced to the point that fans had wanted her to get her own film since her first appearance in Iron Man 2 where she didn’t even have a character arc. So how do I make this a feature article with my own thoughts? Because Emmons is only focused on the movies I thought I’d chime in with the comics…but there are a lot of differences there. We used to like Carol but even comics Carol has failed where comics Black Widow continues to succeed.

As someone who also wants to see the end of child sex trafficking (and the adult variety too if they’re being forced) here is a link to the charity she promotes in the video.

One thing I like is that Emmons focuses on the writer rather than the actress. Some attention should also be given to the director for not getting Larson to show emotion in a movie where emotion is part of the theme. So let’s take the acting out of the equation entirely and compare their decades-long comic portrayals, because even there we have seen a huge problem with how Carol and Natasha are written. Like I said in the intro, we used to like Carol Danvers.

When Carol was first introduced in Marvel Super Heroes #13 she didn’t have any powers. (We’ll get to the retcons, don’t worry.) She was a former Air Force pilot and current NASA security chief. Cutting to the chase, Carol would later be hit with energy from the Kree’s “Psyche-Magnetron” that had filtered through the body of the reformed Kree hero Captain Mar-Vell. Yes, that’s where they got “Captain Marvel” from, which was Marvel taking advantage of the copyright stuff going on to ensure they had the hero named Captain Marvel instead of the character DC was taking from Fawcett Publications under the logic of “well, we’re Marvel comics so why should anyone else have the name Captain Marvel?” and screwing over Billy Batson’s fans because DC may be jerks but Marvel excels at being petty. Just ask Jim Shooter.

Carol would take on the name “Ms. Marvel” after the source of her powers, join the Daily Bugle staff as editor of their woman’s magazine creatively titled Woman Magazine. (J.J., you genius!) In the time since she would be attacked by the then-villain and later reformed X-Men member Rogue, who drained so much of her power that Carol’s superstrength and flight became part of Rogue’s power set until I think recently. Honestly I don’t follow the X-corner of the Marvel comics universe. Carol has since gone through different character names and powersets (my favorite name she used was “Warbird”) until the retcon happened. In unity with the MCU the comics decided that Carol don’t need no man to be her power source and straight up made her half-Kree, a secret kept from her. And yet she’s still taken on Mar-Vell’s hero name (one of many to do so) and keeps failing to keep a series of her own for more than a handful of issues.

But if you want to talk about struggle, comics Carol had some serious struggles before her retcon. When she first gained (or now unlocked) her powers she suffered from a split personality. Ms. Marvel would fight crime and Carol Danvers didn’t realize she was Ms. Marvel. She’s also had issues with her powers, changed powers, and also suffers from alcoholism (unless they retconned that away recently too so she wouldn’t show any weakness at all). They’ve also at times leaned into her military history and her current “rank” as Captain in how she’s approached events. Somehow she always ends up on the bad guys side of hero vs hero battle even when she’s trying to do right. Even Kamalah Khan, the fangirl who took over the Ms. Marvel name when she got her stretching powers, was disappointed when meeting her. None of these ideas made it into the MCU because their Carol had to be the bestest ever and her character arc was that she just had to realize how totally awesome she really is. Carol in the comics is, or was, more interesting that Carol in the movies.

(Yes, we’re ignoring that one Avengers story. There is no way to go into it without simultaneously getting more confusing and more annoyed at what they did to her. Long time comic fans know what I’m referring to. I’ll spare the rest of you, but if you’re that interested look up Avengers volume 1 #200, though I strongly recommend you do not. I just know even with the lack of comments I get on this site someday someone is going to mention it. I know, I just wish I didn’t.)

 

And she did that in high heels and a slinky dress. I’d say “let’s see James Bond do that” but given the current Hollywood climate they might take that as call to action.

Natasha on the other hand is very different. Starting as a saboteur, spy, and assassin for the Soviet Union since she debuted during the Cold War in Tales Of Suspense #52 when it was an Iron Man comic, the “Black Widow” was sent to take out Tony Stark, who had been embarrassing the commies with his various gadgets and his bodyguard, Iron Man. Using the crush sideshow performer Clint Barton had for her and his being falsely accused of a crime, Natasha eventually saw the error of her ways, leaving the KGB spy program and defecting to the US, eventually becoming a SHIELD agent and even leading the Avengers for a brief time. Like her movie counterpart, Natasha sought redemption but unlike the movie version eventually cleared her conscience, though some of it still haunts her, like her part in training the brainwashed Bucky Barnes into the Winter Solder. While her past still rings up to say hi she found her redemption in the comics.

Unlike Carol, who was only trained in the MCU, Natasha wasn’t able to rely on superpowers to handle bigger men than her, like Hauptman up there. She won not by being able to toss men around like a bean bag but using her wits, martial arts skills, and her femininity against her opponents. She know the pressure points to hit a man, can use the environment around her to her advantage, was acrobatic and nimble, and when that fails she knows how to use various weapons, including her signature “Widow’s Sting” gauntlets, to incapacitate or eliminate her foe. She was badass and cool, feminine but dangerous. This is why when she appeared in Iron Man 2 showing off the skills we knew and loved her for as comic fans, calls went out for a Black Widow movie. This only continued as she followed through her arc in the Avengers movies, even sacrificing herself to allow this version of Clint (already a SHIELD agent when they met) to return to his family, only for Clint to reverse it to help in her redemption. He got better because movie based on comics so everything’s fine.

It also played into her growing attraction to the MCU version of Bruce Banner. Both did things they regret, Hulk out of Banner’s control while Natasha was “following orders” and this helped bring them together as a couple, especially as Bruce learned to control the monster within. Meanwhile the comics had Natasha and Hawkeye eventually becoming friends as he ended up involved with fellow superhero Mockingbird while Natasha continued in her SHIELD work. She’s also one of the few Marvel heroines not to date Tony Stark…and he once hooked up with She-Hulk. From what I hear as modern Marvel has pretty much lost me, classic Marvel fans still like Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff while Carol “Captain Ms. Marvel Warbird Binary” Danvers has lost a lot of favor in making her closer to the MCU “I’m just awesome” counterpart. And you can’t blame Bree Larson for the comics failure any more than you can credit Scarlet Johannsen for her comic counterpart’s success. It’s all the writers and the editors (who like to pretend they are or still are writers) and how the character is approached. Writing and directing/editing does make a difference.

Fans do want strong women characters just as they want strong male characters. Abbie Emmons is an accomplished author, meaning she makes a career at writing books just as she does teaching others how to, as she puts it in other videos, make your story matter and find their own success. I’d ask if we could stop pretending wanting good female characters instead of Mary Sues isn’t being sexist after this but again, I know the modern culture too well. Stop being afraid of making your women characters human, including in superhero stories. That’s what worked for the guys.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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