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Life of Captain Marvel Interview: Margaret Stohl Redefines Origin


Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, is arguably one of the strongest heroes in the Marvel Universe. Much of her physical might comes from the fantastic abilities she wields, but the bulk of her inner strength comes from her experiences with families. She developed her iron focus and resolve growing up in a family where she had to prove herself, and those qualities were strengthened and tempered by her experiences in the Air Force and NASA — which became a found family for her much in the same way groups like the Avengers and Alpha Flight have during her present-day superheroic career.

This summer, a traumatic event in the present day will force her to go back and reexamine her ties to her biological family. It all begins in the July-debuting five-issue series The Life of Captain Marvel, by writer Margaret Stohl and artists Carlos Pacheco and Marguerite Sauvage. The series that will unfold in both the title character’s present day and the past, via flashbacks.

RELATED: New Captain Marvel Comic Will Reinvent Carol Danvers’ Origin Story

CBR spoke with Stohl about the structure of the series, the parts of Carol’s past it will examine, and the mysterious antagonist that will make Carol’s life miserable in the present day. The writer also shared her reaction to the first Marvel Cinematic Universe tease of Captain Marvel — which came in the post credits sequence of recently released megahit Avengers: Infinity War.

Life of Captain Marvel #1 cove by Julian Totino Tedesco

CBR: In The Life of Captain Marvel #1, you kick off a new story that reexamines Carol Danvers’ past, but parts of it unfold in the present day as well. Would it be fair to describe your story as a mystery tale about how Carol became the person she is today?

Margaret Stohl: Absolutely. All origin stories are mysteries. They’re actually my favorite kind of mysteries. And that’s absolutely the structure of this. It’s been really fun to play with, but hard to get exactly right. So we put a lot of work into this one in terms of the hours of shifting through all the evidence and turning the reader’s eye to the right moments in particular.

What inspired you to look into Carol’s past? And how deep are you digging in this story? Does this involve her childhood in Boston as well as her military experiences and life as a superhero?

It does, but this is actually a family story. It follows Carol as she returns home not to Boston, where we’ve taken her before, but to a summer home that her family had in Maine, where Joe Sr.’s brother worked as a fisherman. So this story takes place in a really small town in Maine.

Life of Captain Marvel #1 interior page by Marguerite Sauvage

Whenever a story that reexamines a character’s origin is announced there’s a worry that past continuity that some readers have gotten attached to will be retconned in favor of something new. Is this a story that does that? Or is it more of a look at what happened sort of in between the raindrops of her established origin?

Yes, in between the raindrops is exactly it. Not every return to the past is a retcon. This is more of a contextual shift. Marvel actually has a really specific approach to looking at the past. It’s that consistency is sometimes more important than continuity. So the heart of your story and the emotional through line have to feel right, and this is a very meticulous attempt to keep Carol’s origin intact with the goal of really letting her tell and own the story.

It also allows her to figure out as a character what the source of her power really is. That’s sort of the idea that’s been radiating through this piece. Carol Danvers is arguably the strongest hero in the Marvel Universe. The understanding of her as a hero is fundamentally tied to her strength, but being strong is not entirely the same as having Kree powers. So it’s been a really interesting journey looking into the nature of Carol’s strength; what makes her strong as a person and as a hero? Where is that all coming from? Also, in every hero story that’s going to be inevitably tied to what makes you weak. So it’s also been the most frail and kind of broken human story that I think we’ve ever had for Carol.

It’s been a remarkable character piece, which is what I’ve done forever and ever as a novelist. So this has been a really interesting sort of culmination of things I have in my wheelhouse about emotion, characters, and family. It’s also really the result of sitting in the Marvel writers’ room and seeing how these stories tie into and explore the fundamental nature of heroics. So this is the hardest thing I’ve done, but it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.

You mentioned strengths and weaknesses, so it makes sense that this is a family story — because ultimately, a lot of our strengths and weaknesses come from our families.

Yes, absolutely. If you think about it, that’s all of our origin stories. You can’t talk about Tony Stark without going back to his parents. You can’t talk about Cap without his family and his experience of being a weakling. You can’t talk about Thor without his sort of family trauma. It’s all really part of the story, and it’s interesting to have the opportunity to look at that and really kind of interrogate it and investigate it for an entire arc.

I’ve worked with some stellar collaborators on this story like Carlos Pacheco, Marguerite Sauvage, Sarah Brunstad, Sana Amanat, Axel Alonso, Joe Quesada and Steve Wacker. It’s been one of those experiences where everyone is building in the same direction, and all the notes are insanely great. So it’s been a fabulous collaboration, and that’s what I love more than anything.

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