Carol Danvers, like Captain America, is a soldier as well as a superhero - something Mighty Captain Marvel writer Margaret Stohl will key into as she and artist Michele Bandini take the title into Secret Empire.
Trapped outside Earth's atmosphere and facing off against a seemingly unending Chitauri horde, Carol and her crew will form what Stohl calls a "band of sisters" to survive the onslaught, harkening back to the most heroic stories of World War II. Stohl and Bandini will also introduce a trio of young Alpha Flight recruits in May 24's Mighty Captain Marvel #5, who will be instrumental in helping Carol and her team save the day.
Newsarama spoke to Stohl about Captain Marvel's legacy, her quest for redemption, and how Generations - and Carol's post-Secret Empire adventures - will delve into her origin and her past with Captain Mar-Vell, her predecessor.
Newsarama: Margaret, you’re into the second arc of Mighty Captain Marvel, and to say Secret Empire has changed things is an understatement. Did you know this part of the mission was coming when you took the job?
Margaret Stohl: I’ve been to two or three Marvel creative summits now, so I’ve known where things were headed before I ever wrote a word. The creators in that room are all geniuses - and all completely nuts - and if I thought it was going to be easy I would have never taken the job.
It was actually much harder to reconcile the emotional fallout from Civil War II than it was to send Carol off into combat during Secret Empire. (Brian Michael Bendis: see genius, see nuts!) But I had a super strong team at Marvel to help with that: my boss and idol-in-all-things Sana Amanat, my assistant editor Charles Beacham, and even Steve Wacker (who now works in Marvel Television but who edited the original Captain Marvel reboot.) It took all three of them to help me think through the roadblocks to launching Carol’s first arc…I sweat blood over my zero and one!
Going into the second arc was much simpler - probably because putting Carol into space and surrounding her with intergalactic hostiles is about the greatest use of her character, backstory and powers that I could ever ask for. When Nick asked me if I wanted in, I just leaped at it. (Nick Spencer: see genius, see nuts!) It’s just been a joyride, honestly.
Nrama: With Secret Empire, Carol has now clashed with two of her strongest, oldest allies - Captain America and Iron Man. Where has that left her as a hero?
Stohl: Carol is left with herself, with her fellow space heroes - the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Ultimates - and of course, with Alpha Flight. But at the end of the day, Carol knows she has to be her own ally. She is tough as nails, so she can handle it—and I’m guessing she will. (No spoilers!) That said, I think sometimes people forget there is more than one Captain at Marvel. The fall of one Cap necessitates the rise of the other. Carol now has no choice but to step up as a hero and as a leader. We get to see her doing what she does best - standing up for humanity, defending the defenseless, and (hopefully!) defeating insurmountable odds.
Nrama: Carol’s got a whole host of heroes out in space with her as you said, including Alpha Flight, the Ultimates, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. We already saw some heavy hitters from Carol’s ranks fall during Secret Empire #0. What are the chances everyone is walking away from this?
Stohl: Not everyone will walk away. That’s how it is in comics, and in life. It’s heartbreaking.
Nrama: You’ve put an emphasis on the idea of Captain Marvel as a soldier, even previously comparing the Chitauri assault to the invasion of Normandy and Omaha Beach. Is that legacy on Carol’s mind as she’s leading this veritable army of heroes?
Stohl: Absolutely. It’s on Carol’s mind and on my mine. As I’ve mentioned, I sometimes listen to documentary footage from WWII when I’m writing. I could listen to old recordings of Winston Churchill’s radio speeches forever, and I love to watch the propaganda movies Frank Capra made. (Check out Five Came Back on Netflix and then watch all the footage it links to.) I hate war, but I love soldiers, and leaders, and the way the darkest times in our history can shine a light on the most heroic human traits. I have so much respect for military veterans throughout the world, and I love how many of them read Captain Marvel.
Nrama: So who are these new recruits to the Alpha Flight program? How are they dealing with Secret Empire?
Stohl: Dante, Glory, and A’di are the first three Alpha Flight Cadets, which is Carol’s new training initiative. They had no idea they would see actual combat; they’re in a Chitauri attack simulation when the Chitauri attack in reality. As the innocents of the crew, they’re at the most risk, and Carol will do anything to defend them.
As for the teens themselves, Dante is a character who first appears in one of my Black Widow YA prose novels, a Latino épée fencer from New Jersey, the son of a cop. Glory is a gay Filipina teen, a techie genius who built her own cybernetic legs after losing them in an accident. A’Di is a Wakandan girl who idolizes the Dora Milaje, and whose best friend is a neurotic drone named Itz who she carries around like a backpack, using his robotic tentacles as straps.
Nrama: You’re working with Michele Bandini for the Secret Empire arc. How have you adjusted to a new creative partner? What’s your favorite thing he’s drawn so far?
Stohl: Michele is incredible. He can do all the fine line work, the sci-fi precision that makes Alpha Flight seem real - while letting Carol’s beautiful face really shine on the page. He also gets the emotionality and the humor that are such a big part of her personality. I love everything Michele does, but I think my favorite collaboration so far has been the development of the Alpha Flight Cadets, our three new teen characters. I just handed him three character descriptions for these wacky teens, each with very different backgrounds, and he ran with it. Michele went to amazing lengths to get their faces to reflect their unique identities. I love his Alpha Flight cadet uniforms, too. It was really something to watch.
Nrama: If Carol Danvers could break through the planetary defense system right now, what would she do to Steve Rogers?
Stohl: Probably smash that vibranium shield over his head and tell him to wake up. It’s a good thing she’s trapped in space…at least for Steve.
Nrama: Considering the events of Civil War II, is Secret Empire a chance for Carol to redeem herself? Does she need redemption?
Stohl: We all need redemption. Carol will be redeeming herself - and giving herself new things to redeem - for the rest of her life. You can be strong without being perfect. Perfect characters are the worst. Perfection is so boring! That said, I love Carol for who she is, at any point in that journey to right herself. I like my heroes a little broken. How do those song lyrics go? "There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in…?" I forget, but we wrote it into one of the Beautiful Creatures books. But that’s Carol, and I wouldn’t have her any other way.
I don’t want to deal with Carol needing to be redeemed. Whether or not people have that perception of her, I think it’s unfair to put that on her.
Nrama: Does Carol believe she could have prevented Steve’s betrayal if she had been allowed to use Ulysses’ powers more freely?
Stohl: She’s probably thought about it in passing, but nothing will change what has happened, and hindsight can’t change what Steve has done any more than it can undo what happened to Tony or Kamala or Bruce or Rhodey. Carol’s eyes are on the future, and on Earth.
Nrama: After Secret Empire, what’s next for Carol Danvers and Mighty Captain Marvel?
Stohl: I’m working on Carol’s Generations issue, where Carol gets to team up with Captain Mar-Vell. My editors and I are having so much fun playing with some classic comics tropes and the ideas of gender and heroics. After that, I hop right into our third arc, which takes Carol to all kinds of places she’s never been - both emotionally and physically - and gives us a whole new look at her origin story. It’s something I hatched at our last Marvel retreat, and the guys were really supportive, so we’ll see where it goes. It’s so fun to explore the universe with Carol; I’m a lucky girl, and I love my job!