There is a long tradition of simply tacking a character onto an existing male super hero’s legacy in order to meet some kind of female hero quota. Ms Marvel is that rare occasion where this concept branches off into a series in its own right.
In a desperate attempt to nab the copyright on the name Captain Marvel, Marvel Comics developed the reluctant Kree alien invader who debuted in the pages of the part reprint series ‘Marvel Super Heroes.’ Mar-Vell sought an alter ego (for some reason) and chose to hide out as a scientist on an air force base housing a Kree Sentry. Introduced as a companion character to Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers was at first security officer who suspected Mar-Vell’s secret identity before she herself was transformed due to the explosion of as Kree device.
Her initial series was a bit of a dud and if not for the design work of John Romita it might have been canceled on the spot. To give you an idea of how awkward the series was initially, Danvers starts off as a retured aire force office looking to make a name for herself editing a magazine aimed at female Daily Bugle readers. Seriously.
However,the arrival of Uncanny X-Men scripter Chris Claremont changed all of that. Enamored with strong female characters. Claremont became the unofficial cheerleader for Ms. Marvel, helping the character make it through 21 issues of her own series before graduating to Avengers status. Claremont even brought the character over into the pages of X-Men where she was adapted into the character Binary during a run in with the Brood. Claremont took what was essentially a cheesecake character built off of another hero’s name and turned her into a unique character. It’s a shame that it took ages for anyone else to see the same potential in Ms. Marvel, but her time did come.
More recently, writer Brian Reed has brought Ms. Marvel into the limelight with his popular ongoing series. In the pages of the mega event series House of M, Danvers was hailed as a hero the world over. When she returned to her own reality, she retained that memory, but not the prestige. After wallowing in self pity for not being the success that she now knows she could be, Ms. Marvel finally decided to better herself, finally achieving the role of team leader in the Avengers. Issues have explored her destructive nature, her place in the Marvel universe and yes the troubled love life of a super heroine.
I have never really been one to enjoy comic books based on in female characters for whatever reason. Beyond the George Perez Wonder Woman run, I was never really all that drawn to them. After hearing about the high quality of the Ms. Marvel series I decided to give it a try and I’m glad that I did. It combines a lot of the classic ideas behind a typical Marvel comic book; a super powered hero beset with self doubt unable to function socially along with over the top super villains. In recent months I’ve found myself overloaded with comic books and have started to question certain key conceits of the genre. This could be due to the success of post-modern comics that deeply analyze the concept of the super hero. However, there is none of that here. Ms. Marvel is simply a super hero comic in all of its glory and while I wouldn’t want all comics to be this straight forward, there is certainly a place in the world for them.