#10 cover.For a fictional character, Carol Danvers has been busy. The Avengers mainstay had an important journey this past year, headlined by her shift in status from "Ms. Marvel" to "Captain Marvel," and starring in a solo series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, with art from Dexter Soy, Emma Rios and Filipe Andrade.
In last month's Captain Marvel #9, her run of good fortune encountered a major setback — news from her doctor that she has a lesion in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of her brain, with the end result of not being able to fly. Given the importance of flight — both superpowered and airplane-enabled — to the character, it's a real blow.
We talked with DeConnick, who's also writing at Marvel and readying creator-owned debut , about her experience writing the series thus far, the implications of the latest Captain Marvel developments, the good and bad side of Tumblr and the new (or is it old?) Deathbird appearing in issue #10, out later this month.
#10 interior art.Newsarama: Kelly Sue, Captain Marvel was first announced last March at WonderCon, so it's been out there in one shape or another for almost a year. Obviously it was a big deal personally for you, as your first Marvel ongoing series. How the experience been so far?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: Almost a year, already? That doesn’t seem possible. It's been an extraordinary experience, one for which I am most grateful.
Not just my first Marvel ongoing — my first ongoing! I’ve learned a lot, I think. Recently, in fact, it feels particularly like gears have been clicking into place. My workload is heavier than it’s ever been before and it’s been challenging but rewarding too to figure out how to try and make it all work. Looking back, I’ve made some missteps, if I’m being 100 percent frank. [.] Starting with the fact that I was utterly and completely convinced we would not get past six issues! [.]
I still sort of operate on the idea that every script I turn in might be my last, but I'm not writing that way anymore. The visual feels to me like braiding — if you were to take a three-strand braid and lay it on its side. I don't have, for every story, an explicit A plot, B plot and C plot, but it's kind of that idea; what becomes the main story point in one issue is then backed up by two other strands that will follow as the main story points down the line a bit. Which is not groundbreaking by any means, but it's nothing I've ever done before. So that’s shifted my way of storytelling. And then just learning to play in a big, shared sandbox — I'm not the only person that writes this character. She doesn't belong to me.
#10 interior art.I feel like it’s all starting to make sense, though. Recently there's been these ", OK" moments. There have been several lately... I think I’m finally getting it. I hope! I could be wrong. . That happens a lot. (I'm reading a book on creativity right now, so I'm sort of bizarrely aware of my process — I've been observing myself in a more abstracted way than I ordinarily would.)
Anyway. I’m pleased with my progress and with what the book is becoming, how we’re finding our footing. I'm proud of it, of our team, [editor Steve] Wacker’s office — I'm super-proud of the Carol Corps, the fanbase that's grown around the book, specifically around the character, which I can only take partial credit for, because I think a lot of it predated me. I just kind of pulled people together as much as I could.
Nrama: It appears that there's been a tremendous amount of support from fans —fan art, cosplay. You're right that Carol Danvers was popular before, but the new presentation of the character and the Jamie McKelvie-designed uniform seemed to kind of galvanize support a bit more, that might not have happened with the old title and costume.
DeConnick: I hope so. I think that would be great. But her old costume was really progressive at the time, you know? She was supposed to be a feminist icon!
#10 interior art.I dunno. I get weirdly protective of her. When people persist in referring to her as "Ms. Marvel," I get sort of testy about it — quietly, in front of my computer — as though she's my pal. There's a Tumblr site that's like, "Comic Book Butts," or something. I follow the "Captain Marvel" tag, and every time Carol's butt shows up, I get pissy about it. As though this friend of mine is secretly having ass shots taken of her while she’s at work and posted to the internet, and her body presented for commentary --, which would, you know, suck deeply if she were a real human being but hello! She is pretend. I guarantee you she is not offended. It's like, "Wow, OK. Step back. Deep breath."
Nrama: Clearly it's an important book and an important character to you. And I did just Google "Comic Book Butts" and "Tumblr."
DeConnick: You’re welcome! There is also "msmarvelsbutt.tumblr.com." "All about the ass of Carol Danvers." Yay?
It's bizarre. There's a part of me that's like, "Why do you care?" And part of me that gets angry about it. That's not what she's about. Or at least, I don’t think it’s what she's meant to be about.
Nrama: The new outfit and her being "Captain" Marvel does seem to have changed that type of response — now you see little kids in that costume.
#10 interior art.DeConnick: I know, right? In fact, in the next issue, we have a little girl dressed up like her. That kid’s going to go on to be really important.
Nrama: The most recent issue had the big development that Carol is grounded, which is obviously a huge blow to her. You've hinted that she's not going to necessarily take her doctor's advice. You mentioned that you weren't really planning long term at first, so presumably this wasn't a long-term plan, but what inspired the development, and how long has it been in the works?
DeConnick: It was a vague notion, that if I got to continue, this is where I would go; the repercussions of the opening arc. It's sort of a past/present/future approach. The opening arc was literally going backwards, going back to her origin, and looking at the shoulders on which she stands. Her interior supporting cast — her heroes, her history. Then we come to her present, and her life in the now, and her supporting cast in the now. Then this challenge forces her to think about who she is, or who she will be going forward. What kind of hero is she? What is she willing to put down?
Nrama: Right, obviously with flight in a couple different senses being such a big part of her identity, it's a very significant obstacle.
#11 cover.DeConnick: It was an interesting several phone calls trying to figure out what it would mean, what exactly the limitations of it would be. "So, she can't fly, can she fly a plane?" Is it an altitude thing or a flight powers thing? I'm not going to say too much about that, because it gets revealed in-story and I don’t want to spoil anything, but it's not a case where she has to constantly have her feet on the ground.
Nrama: So it sounds like that this is something that's going to be significant for, at least in some sense, fairly long-term — not overturned in the next issue or two?
DeConnick: No. This is five or six months' worth of story around this. Where it came from, and who might try to exploit it, and how she essentially fights with one hand tied behind her back.
Nrama: It's been clear throughout the series that you're interested in filling out Carol's real world, not just her superhero life. More than a lot of superhero books, there's a sense of Carol Danvers as a person, along with her as a superhero. How important that aspect is to you? Is it kind of an outreach of what you normally would do, or something that's intrinsic in the character that lends itself well to that type of treatment?
#12 cover.DeConnick: It's the most important thing to me. We've talked about it from the very beginning, from the first phone calls that Steve and I had. We talked about wanting her to be a hero on every level, and what that meant. It's not enough for her just to defend herself when she's attacked. It doesn't have the same weight if she's just sort of the superhero police. A hero makes sacrifices on behalf of other people. So let’s see the other people. Let’s give her relationships with real human beings. And let’s make sure her fellow superheroes are relatable, too.
Peter Parker is the heart and soul of Marvel Comics, right? Peter is someone who is entirely relatable. It's what makes us care on a really invested, emotional level. Look at all of the hullabaloo around . People feel as though they know Peter; that he is a friend of theirs. They care.
Nrama: And he's always had a real world supporting cast around him, a sense of place that's not just the extraordinary. And that's what you see in Captain Marvel #9 — you see her at home and interacting with regular people.
DeConnick: I'm really, really proud of that issue. Jordie [Bellaire] and Filipe [Andrade] made it so beautiful.
#9 cover.Nrama: Is Filipe the regular artist on the book? He's solicited for the next few issues.
DeConnick: I hope so. We get on well. I love his work; it's beautiful.
Nrama: Andrade 's art is definitely unconventional for a superhero book, and it seems that Captain Marvel has had something of a pattern of that — with Dexter Soy right at the beginning and a few issues by Emma Rios, it's been an interesting mix so far on the book.
DeConnick: I love it. I know there are people who wildly disapprove. We have such a huge female readership for this book, and I don't want to make too big of a deal out of that, but I'm one of the only people I know who has a much larger following on Tumblr than I do on Twitter. That is where my readers hang out online. Not so much the standard comic book forums that we're all used to. I don't wish to be in any way exclusive of anyone, but I'm learning that, "Oh, maybe it’s okay to take a different approach." Maybe it's OK that this book looks a little different, because in large part, if the people who interact with me are representative of the people who are actually reading the book, I suspect we're a slightly different audience. I get probably one or two asks or emails a week of people telling me that this was their first physical comic that they bought. I got one the other day from somebody that said, "I'm 52 years old, and you sent me back into a comic book store." Which was super-cool. You want everybody to like the book, but not everybody's going to like the book. So maybe make the book you want to read and be really nice to the people who share your taste...? It’s a theory anyway. Guess we’ll find out if it works.
I write the way I write. The book wants to be what it wants to be. There are certain things I can't control.
I love it. I have been very happy with all of my collaborators. I think Dex's underwater spreads in #7 and #8 were just astonishing. Jaw-dropping. The mechanics of that giant robot he did were incredible. I'm so proud of issue #1 and the two pages where Carol takes Helen's ashes up to the edge of space, and lets her kind of finally be fulfill her dream. Those are so beautiful, I would put a poster of that on my wall.
And then Emma is my favorite collaborator, so I'm always nuts for her work. Carol and Helen on that motorcycle makes my heart beat a little faster. So great. When she makes the exit through the top of the NASA building in Houston — beautiful, beautiful work.
I didn't know what to expect from Filipe. I couldn't wrap my brain around how this book would look until I saw it, and then it was like, ". Oh, of course!" You do a little back and forth when you first get paired up — "Hey, what do you like to draw? What do you hate to draw? How many panels a page are you comfortable with?" That sort of thing. He said something about wanting to do some '70s New York thing. I didn't really know what to do with that. I was thinking, like, . I couldn't quite figure out what he meant. And then when the pages started coming in, I still can't put my finger on exactly what it is, but there is something kind of '70s about it. It's so expressive. I get it. But it's not the grungy, dark '70s New York thing. It's light. You remember the "Keep On Truckin'"? The guy with the really long leg? It's like that. There's this real, groovy, exaggerated thing that happens. Ernie Barnes, almost. Like, if Ernie Barnes spent some time in Europe and then came home to do "School House Rock."
Nrama: Looking ahead at the solicitations, it looks like Deathbird is coming to the series — but it's a new version of the character?
DeConnick: What if it's an old version of the character? I can't explain that too much without really letting you know what's behind the whole arc. It is someone dressed as Deathbird using the name Deathbird. I believe the last time we saw Deathbird she was in a coma. Seems unlikely she just woke up!
Nrama: And Deathbird started as a Ms. Marvel villain, even though she's primarily thought of at this point as an X-Men character.
DeConnick: Yeah, . Dun dun duuuuuuuuun.
That doesn’t mean anything. I just like making that sound. Here, I’m going to do it again:
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