By Jude Deluca
Following from my previous post, I will be talking about another rape survivor in comics. Because of the length of my original draft, I’ve split the discussion into two articles. The first piece, which you are reading now, will discuss the story where said character was raped. The post following this one will discuss the story where her rape, and the ramifications behind it, was properly addressed. This is considered one of the worst cases of sexual abuse in comic book history, especially considering the people who worked on the story did not even realize what they’d done to the character until it was too late. Today, I will be talking about Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel of Marvel Comics.
(Captain Marvel #1 (2016)/Art by Kris Anka)
Carol has used several different codenames since her creation. Ms. Marvel, Binary, Warbird, and as of right now, Captain Marvel. As Ms. Marvel, Carol was considered the female counterpart to Mar-Vell, Marvel Comics’ first Captain, and there’ve been several characters to call themselves Captain Marvel before Carol. As Captain Marvel, Carol has cemented herself as one of the premier superheroines of Marvel, in many ways she is to them what Wonder Woman is to DC. Currently, the name Ms. Marvel is worn by Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager and practicing Muslim with her own comic.
(Carol’s First Costume/Ms. Marvel #1 (1977))
(Carol’s Second Costume/Art by Dave Cockrum)
First created in 1968, Carol started out as part of the United States Air Force, and being a pilot is something still integral to her character. She gained superpowers after being exposed to a machine created by an enemy of Mar-Vell. In 1977, Carol received her first series as Ms. Marvel, written by Gerry Conway and later Chris Claremont. Remember Claremont’s name, he’s a key figure regarding later discussions. Carol’s publishing career is a versatile one. Aside from the name changes, she’s been an affiliate of several different superhero teams, mainly the Avengers, she’s lost her powers and memories, she’s a recovering alcoholic, she’s died and come back, she’s travelled through time and fought alongside an all female fighter pilot group during WWII, she’s been replaced by a super villain, and her last two series (as they were written by Kelly Sue DeConnick) created a legion of fans known as “The Carol Corps.” Right now, Carol has a new comic being written by Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters… and, yes, Carol is a rape victim - although the story it occurred in never used the word “Rape.”
Avengers #200 has the distinction of being one of the most controversial and convoluted comics ever published. A year later Avengers Annual #10 was written to undo and address the damage that was perpetrated against Carol Danvers. As best to my knowledge, one of the problems with the creation of Avengers #200 is the story passed through several different writers and editors, so it feels as though no one had an actual idea of what was being published until it was too late. That still doesn’t excuse the finished product. I’ll explain what happened in Avengers #200 as best to my ability so no one gets confused.
In Avengers #200, Carol (at the time Ms. Marvel), is shocked to discover that she is showing signs of an abnormally fast pregnancy. It’s not long before the baby is born. Carol is horrified by what is going on, whereas the rest of the Avengers congratulate the “Proud mother and her newborn.” It turns out Carol’s “child” is also the man who impregnated her in the first place. Carol was basically abducted by one Marcus Kang, son of the Avengers villain Immortus. Marcus took Carol into his dimension, tried to make her love him, and as Marcus admits, used his father’s unworldly machinery to make Carol return his affection. Why? Marcus wanted a “Mate,” and seeking to go to Earth, he picked Carol as, well, his delivery system. With Carol’s empowered body, she’d make Marcus the perfect vessel. He also erased her memories when she was sent back to Earth. The issue ends with Carol and Marcus returning to Marcus’ dimension, and everybody waving goodbye to Carol and acting like this is the happy ending to a fairy tale. No one objects to Marcus’s story. They’re all so happy that Carol is leaving with her inhuman baby child that is really its own father that has more or less admitted to raping Carol and treating her like a pack mule. And that’s a happy ending. Disgusting.
There’s the disregard for the violation of Carol’s body, and all the attention is focused on the baby. This is still a phenomena occurring around women who’ve been raped and impregnated, wherein they find themselves caught in a maelstrom of misplaced concern for the embryo conceived inside them. Regardless of their well being, questions arise about the baby and conflicts begin if the term abortion is considered. Carol isn’t even given that option, as her pregnancy spirals so quickly the baby is born before too long. And yet, how would anyone have reacted if Carol did consider an abortion?
Then there’s the casual disregard for Carol’s trauma after said baby is born and Marcus’ intentions are revealed. The comic is pretty much romanticizing or rather the comic is trying to romanticize rape by acting like Marcus has done nothing wrong and letting him keep Carol. Her dehumanization continues onward as we find out Marcus forced her to love him, and like a total creep manipulated her memories to allow her to “enjoy” a mysterious pregnancy. It’s like the equivalent of a date rape drug and the implications go over everyone’s heads. The Avengers, supposed to be the premier superhero team of the Marvel Universe, have utterly failed to understand the subjugation of Carol’s body and mind, and cap it off by wishing “Bon Voyage!”
Thankfully, as I will discuss later, Chris Claremont had something to say about Carol’s mishandling …