So both Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) and Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) will be appearing next season in Avengers Assemble. This is the first animated appearance of Kamala, but not for Carol. However, it will be her first appearance as Captain Marvel. As you might be aware, she isn’t the first to call herself that. Let’s look at all the others.
Captain Marvel (Billy Batson)
First appearance: Whiz Comics #1 (February 1940)
Other names: Shazam, the Big Red Cheese
Billy Batson was the first Captain Marvel, created just a few years after Superman. In fact, he was so popular, DC Comics sued in 1941 and it went through seven years of litigation, eventually causing Fawcett Comics to stop publishing him.
The story was this: Billy Batson was an orphan who went down into the subway and found the Wizard Shazam, who instructed Billy to call out his name, each letter standing for a different deity - the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Once he called out “Shazam!” Billy was transformed into Captain Marvel, the “World’s Mightiest Mortal.” He was even able to share this power with his sister, Mary Marvel, and his wheelchair-bound friend Freddy Freeman, who became Captain Marvel, Jr. Other members of the Marvel Family include Tawky Tawny, an upright talking tiger; Uncle Marvel (who had no powers); the Lieutenant Marvels (who also had no powers); and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. Together they fought such menaces as Black Adam, Dr. Sivana, Captain Nazi, and Mister Mind and the Monster Society.
After Fawcett stopped publishing Captain Marvel, DC was able to buy the character. In the meantime, however, Marvel had trademarked “Captain Marvel,” meaning DC had to name their series The Power of Shazam! After their latest reboot, they simply renamed the character from Captain Marvel to Shazam in order to cut down on confusion.
Marvel Comics, however, wasn’t the first to capitalize on the Captain Marvel name.
First appearance: Captain Marvel #1 (April 1966)
Other names: none
This Captain Marvel was published by M. F. Enterprises in the interregnum between Fawcett’s and Marvel’s. It didn’t last long: four issues of his own self-titled series and two issues of Captain Marvel Presents the Terrible Five. He was credited to Carl Burgos, the creator of the original Human Torch.
This Captain Marvel was an alien android from a destroyed planet — mixing up the origins of both Superman and the Human Torch — and his superpower was that he could cause his body parts to separate by yelling “Split!” and then reattach by yelling “Xam!” Most of his adventures can be summed up by the following: if you can copy one name, you can copy them all. Seriously: he fought against villains named “Dr. Fate,” “Plastic Man,” and “the Bat” (who was so similar to Batman it was immediately changed to “the Ray” the next issue - and the Ray was already a character in Quality Comics).
And his sidekick was a boy named Billy Baxton. Needless to say, this is one character was the quickly forgotten.
Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell)
First appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (December 1967)
Other names: Walter Lawson, Pluskommander Geheneris Hala’son Mahr Vehl
Created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, this Captain Marvel was actually Mar-Vell, a Kree soldier who had come to Earth as a spy, taking the identity of scientist Walter Lawson. (The Kree had just debuted a few months earlier in Fantastic Four #65.) His commanding officer was Colonel Yon-Rogg, who was always jealous of Mar-Vell. During this time, he also met Carol Danvers, then a major in the Air Force, which eventually leads to Yon-Rogg kidnapping her and an explosion with a Psyche-Magnetron, giving Carol the same powers as Mar-Vell.
Mar-Vell went on to become trapped in the Negative Zone and would only be released when Rick Jones strikes a pair of “nega-bonds” together, causing them to switch places. This was Roy Thomas retooling the character, since he hadn’t been selling well, and deciding to do an homage to Fawcett’s Captain Marvel.
Eventually, Mar-Vell and Rick are separate and Mar-Vell went on to have other adventures, fighting against his arch-enemy Thanos, eventually culminating in his death from cancer in Marvel Graphic Novel #1 graphic novel. This was one of the few comic book deaths were was never reversed. Whenever he is resurrected, it’s always shown that he is either an impostor or he is immediately killed again.
Mar-Vell died in 1982, but Marvel Comics still wanted to use the name. So in the same year, they debuted the next Captain Marvel.
Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau)
First appearance: Spider-Man Annual #16 (December 1982)
Other names: Photon, Pulsar, Spectrum, Monica F☠☠☠☠ing Rambeau
Monica Rambeau was a lieutenant in the New Orleans harbor patrol and, like most superhero origins, got exposed to some exotic radiation. Due to this, she was able to transform her body into any kind of energy (except the ones they make up on Star Trek). She joined the Avengers, battling against Moonstone and Blackout, and then she became the leader of the Avengers.
Monica never really took off as a character, however, and was retired from the Avengers, only making sporadic appearances after that. She eventually had to change her name to Photon when Mar-Vell’s son took the “Captain Marvel” moniker and then changed it to Pulsar (and later Spectrum) when he again took the “Photon” name. In Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., she doesn’t even go by a superhero name. She is currently appearing as Spectrum in Captain America and the Mighty Avengers.
Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell)
First appearance: Silver Surfer Annual #6 (October 1993)
Other names: Legacy, Photon
After Mar-Vell’s death, his lover Elysius managed to use his genetic material to impregnate herself and have a son. At first, he called himself “Legacy” and wore very ‘80s outfit, including headband, but after Avengers Forever, three things happen: he gets cool new powers (including “Cosmic Awareness”), he starts calling himself Captain Marvel, and he got bonded to Rick Jones, just like his dad.
Rick and Genis eventually become friends. This series was written by Peter David, who had written Rick many times during his Incredible Hulk run. His Captain Marvel run was more humorous, less serious, with Rick even stating that he has “Comics Awareness.”
And then the book was relaunched as part of U-Decide, where Peter David and Bill Jemas bet each other that their book would last longer — and Jemas’s book was the horrendous Marville, so you can see who won.
After the relaunch, Genis suddenly found that his Cosmic Awareness was driving him insane and he turned into a villain, destroying and recreating the universe in a dark storyline. He eventually separated from Rick and joined the Thunderbolts, taking the name Photon (and teeing off Monica in the process). He is currently spread through the Darkforce Dimension, so who knows if we will ever see him again.
Captain Marvel (Phyla-Vell)
First appearance: Captain Marvel (Vol. 5) #16 (December 2003)
Other names: Quasar, Martyr
When Genis-Vell destroyed and recreated the universe, there was only one slight difference: his mother had created two children instead of just one. Phyla-Vell was Genis’s sister and she fought him during his insanity, claiming the title of Captain Marvel.
At the end of Peter David’s Captain Marvel, it was revealed that Phyla was a lesbian and attracted to Moondragon. Both of them appeared again during Annihilation, where she fought in the final battle and took on Quasar’s nega-bands after he died. She had her own mini-series during Annihilation: Conquest, where she got super awesome moment after Moondragon was turned into a literal dragon.
Soon after that, Moondragon died and Phyla was left distraught, eventually teaming up with Moondragon’s father, Drax the Destroyer, to bring her back. In order to do so, Phyla had to make a deal to become Oblivion’s new avatar, Martyr, and kill the Avatar of Life, the Magus.
Unfortunately, she failed and though she wasn’t killed at the time, she later died at the hands of a newly resurrected Thanos. If she does make an appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, then odds are, she will return to the main Marvel Universe.
Captain Marvel (Noh-Varr)
First appearance: Marvel Boy #1 (August 2000)
Other names: Marvel Boy, Protector
Noh-Varr first appeared in Marvel Boy, a six issue mini-series by Grant Morrison and J. G. Jones. Noh was a Kree soldier from an alternate dimension, traveling on am interstellar schooner that traveled through dimensions before it crashed on Earth and everyone on board except for him was killed. He fought against Hexus the Living Corporation and Doctor Midas and his daughter, Oubliette. It was, like most things Morrison, incredibly strange, but one interesting twist was that Noh-Varr wasn’t a hero: he acted more like a terrorist, even spelling out the words “FUCK YOU” in flames.
During Secret Invasion, he met the Skrull-duplicate of the original Captain Marvel (who had been posing as a time-displaced Mar-Vell) who declared Noh-Varr to be the new “Protector of the Earth.” Noh-Varr eventually helped stop the Skrull invasion and tried being a hero.
It was during Dark Reign that he took on the name “Captain Marvel” as part of Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers. He eventually left when he realized the rest of the team were actually criminals.
After another foray as “Protector” in deep space, he returned to Earth and met Kate Bishop, becoming a member of the Young Avengers, listening to Earth music, and practicing the custom known as the “hot make out.”
Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers)
First appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March 1968)
Other names: Ms. Marvel, Binary, Warbird
And finally, we return to Carol Danvers, the latest Captain Marvel. She made her first appearance one issue after Mar-Vell as an officer in the Air Force. After being caught in the explosion of the Psyche-Magnetron, she found that she had the same powers as Captain Marvel. She then got her own book called Ms. Marvel in 1977.
This book was deliberately (and clumsily) feminist — even the title a reference to the more feminism-associated “Ms.” (Seen in Ms. Magazine.) Unfortunately, this didn’t always turn out to be well-written — during the much-maligned Avengers #200, Carol gave birth to a rapidly aging man named Marcus and then went to live with Marcus in another dimension. After returning, Carol ripped into the Avengers for letting her leave, when it was obvious she was under mind control. (It was right before this point when Rogue stole her memories and powers.)
After that, Carol became more associated with the X-Men, even traveling with them into space to fight the Brood. During the Brood Saga, she was experimented on and gained the power of a binary star, taking the name Binary and joining the Starjammers. After a while, though, she returned to Earth and rejoined the Avengers, losing her Binary powers and taking the name Warbird.
During Kurt Busiek’s run on Avengers, it was revealed that Carol was an alcoholic, struggling to come to terms with both her power loss and memory loss. During House of M, she saw herself as the world’s most popular superhero, Captain Marvel, which inspired her to work harder and, in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s 2012 series, she took the name Captain Marvel and has used it ever since.