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'Captain Marvel' Brings Comic Book Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick's Vision To The Screen

"Captain Marvel" is based on the comic book series by Kelly Sue DeConnick. (Marvel Studios)
"Captain Marvel" is based on the comic book series by Kelly Sue DeConnick. (Marvel Studios)

Marvel Studios and Disney have built a hugely successful Avengers franchise with characters like Iron Man and Captain America. And this week, a woman is joining their ranks.

Captain Marvel” opens with Academy Award-winning actress Brie Larson playing the title character who is a human with superhuman powers. The movie is inspired by the Marvel comic book series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick ( @kellysue), who took a longtime Marvel character, the Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, and gave her a new story.

Carol Danvers entered the Marvel universe in the 1960s and was given superpowers in the late 1970s when writer Gerry Conway made her into the heroine Ms. Marvel, DeConnick tells Here & Now’s Robin Young.

“Carol and I share a connection to the military, actually. My dad was in the Air Force. I grew up on Air Force bases,” DeConnick says. “When I was growing up in the 1970s, there was a big overlap in comic book culture and Air Force culture. … It makes sense that people who are drawn to service would also be drawn to stories about heroes.”

DeConnick says that Captain Marvel’s character “occupies this great space between Captain America and Iron Man,” whose real name is Tony Stark.

“She is a soldier like Captain America, but she also has a little bit of that swagger and that twinkle in her eye, orneriness that Tony has,” DeConnick says. “And so the way I expressed it was Captain America always gets back up because it’s the right thing to do. Carol gets back up because … [she says], ‘You won’t keep me down. You will not defeat me.’ ”

Interview Highlights

On how being a female comic book writer in a male-dominated informs her work 

“I get asked a lot about being a woman in a male-dominated industry, but I think there all male-dominated industries even, you know, even lines of work that have more women than men. It’s usually the men that are better paid. It’s usually the men that are superstars, so there are more women hairdressers but most of the highest paid are men and teachers and down the line. And so whatever industry you go into, it’s going to be male dominated. And so I think it’s important that you do what you love.

“I also, the thing about Carol that’s so important to me and that Brie Larson captures so beautifully is Carol isn’t perfect. She will never have that Rita Hayworth moment of she lands and she flips her hair back, and it’s exactly what we want it to be. Carol tries to do that, and the hair flops in her face and she has to blow it out of her way with her lips. And I don’t know if there’s a woman alive who doesn’t feel that. But she doesn’t ever let it make her feel less than. She just gets back up and keeps going. And I think that speaks incredibly to women, but I think it’s universal. I don’t think there’s a human being alive who doesn’t have something powerful to learn in that moment.”

On reaction to rebooting the Captain Marvel character 

“There was a backlash. It was unpleasant, but it wasn’t overwhelming. And I think there was a lot more people who were on board with the shift than people who were angry. It’s just that the people who were angry were a lot more vocal about it. But it wasn’t really a change. It was really a restoration. Carol as Ms. Marvel in 1977 was a much more overt feminist iteration than my iteration. But we’re in this space right now where there are a lot of people who are very threatened by that, and I’m sorry to see it. But this is a book and this is a film about a woman who is coming into her own power, who is becoming comfortable literally with the power she wields. In the climax of the film, she’s basically saying, ‘I won’t be judged by your standards. I won’t hide my gifts. I’m bringing everything I have to the table, and I’m not going to fit in your box.’ And I think that’s an incredibly powerful message. Again, I think it is a message that speaks especially to women but certainly not solely to women.”

Emiko Tamagawa produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web. 

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.