Marvel Action: Captain Marvel

Two things that you should know about me: I like cats and I like comics. One of my favorite novels is The Door Into Summer by Robert Heinlein because it features, in Petronius the Arbiter, possibly the greatest cat character in all of literature. Combining these two interests, I recently did a pretty extensive overview of Chewie the Cat from Captain Marvel for this very blog. You can find it here: The Book of Goose.

Petronius, from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1956
Image result for marvel action captain marvel

So, when I saw the cover of Marvel Action: Captain Marvel #1, I knew I had to pick up a copy. Sadly, it’s insipid; the very thing I feared back when Disney first bought Marvel.

I’m not really a fan of Disney the corporation. Walt, as far as I know, was great. From his drive to make his parks amazing to the “this-is-how-we’ll-go-to-Mars” programs with Werner Von Braun to the whole cryogenics thing. Fascinating stuff from end to end. But in high school, I would occasionally read the Mickey Mouse strip in the Sunday paper and it was terrible. It was unfunny, preachy and an insult to the intelligence of anyone who happened to read it. When The Tao of Pooh was on the best seller list and I decided to write a parody called The Hedonism of Tigger with the premise that, to borrow a different metaphor, eastern philosophy is Mr. Miyagi while America philosophy is Cobra Kai. It never got written but while I was thinking about the project, I did buy and read Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. When I did, I realized how diminished these works were in the Disney adaptations I had liked as a kid. When you watch the original Disney Pooh shorts, Tigger, for example, is merely the wacky, gregarious comic relief who likes to bounce.

Image result for a a milne tigger

In the original books, Tigger has a child-like quality that to me comes across as a charming innocence. He’s a much richer character and he still loves to bounce. Occasional, accidental encounters with bits of the Disney Afternoon in the days before TiVo convinced me that, at least in the 90s, modern Disney entertainment was predominantly an empty vessel.

Let me back up a bit. What the hell am I reading? It’s not your everyday Marvel Comic. Disney has thankfully left those pretty much alone. The “Marvel Action” line is a collection of comics featuring Marvel characters that are not published by Marvel. Disney has licensed the characters to IDW and according to the descriptions on line, these carry an “all ages” rating. I think I understand that; early Warner Brothers’ cartoons were delightful and entertaining for kids but they also contained plenty of entertainment value for adults as well. Older viewers might recognize Edward G. Robinson or characters taken directly from Of Mice and Men. And who could forget this masterpiece, which makes a pretty salient point about the Arms Race?

But that doesn’t seem right. Other descriptions suggest that this comic is for “Middle grades” and I discover that that means ages 8 to 12. Middle grades, I guess, for back in the long-long-ago when elementary school lasted until grade 8. That doesn’t seem right either. I started reading comics when I was 8 and even then I can’t imagine having the patience for this comic. I still remember reading the three comics pictured below when I was 8 and I enjoyed them.

Those were far more complex than Marvel Action: Captain Marvel. Maybe I’m wrong about what “all ages” means. Maybe it means “really little kids.” I look up some lists of “all ages books.” Nope. My first thought was right. Harry Potter and The Hobbit aren’t my cup of tea, but they’re interesting. Shel Silverstein makes my skin crawl but ditto. I know I could sit down right now with a Dr. Seuss, or Where The Wild Things Are or Harold and the Purple Crayon and enjoy it. The Winnie-the-Pooh books are excellent! And evidently there’s something called Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I want to read that right now! Why does the pigeon want to drive the bus? Does it even have a license? Is the regular driver ill? I want to know! All of this is great stuff. Sadly, what’s not great is Marvel Action: Captain Marvel #1.

IDW’s Captain Marvel is exactly like the Disney Afternoon shows from the 1990’s. Simplistic and uninteresting. There are no layers, no nuance, nothing to interest anyone other than small children. I also find the art off putting. It looks rushed to me. More distracting is the fact that the two main characters are women, presumably in their early 30s, and they’re drawn like children. I’ve seen some of Sweeney Boo’s other work and it’s far better.

Seriously, what’s even going on here?

Clearly this comic wasn’t written for me, not even 8-year old me, but it might be fine for little kids. The cats are cute and there’s a thread of story. And if there’s anything that would intrigue small children about the Captain Marvel story, it would be Goose. Or Chewie. Whomever. So, that’s a good place to start and the book works somewhat well on that level. But it’s a weak effort that diminishes the Marvel brand and I worry what the long term effects of that might be.

Bottom Line:

References:

The Book of Goose

This was written as an answer to the question “Where is Goose (Captain Marvel) from? Does he have a backstory?” and published simultaneously on Quora.

In the comics, the name of Captain Marvel’s cat is Chewie and she’s a she. If you have Marvel Unlimited or access to enough Marvel trade paperbacks through your library or somewhere else, it wouldn’t too hard to read through the all of Chewie’s appearances. You can find a list of them here:

Chewie (Marvel)(Carol Danver’s cat)

Credit where it’s due, Jason Levine at Arousing Grammar did a nice job cataloging and describing all of her appearances for the first few years.

Ms. Marvel’s cat Chewie

Levine’s post goes through November 2013 here are some highlights.

Chewie’s first appearance is in Giant Size Ms. Marvel #1 (April 2006). In the story, Carol is remembering being Captain Marvel during the House of M timeline. While fighting Sir Warren Traveler, who, evidently had been Sorcerer Supreme in this version of history, Carol encounters a cat,

and promptly throws her at the bad guy!

Seriously, NOT COOL, CAROL! I don’t care if you promised tuna. Cat’s are not weapons! Doubly so against super villains! Either way, this is an inauspicious first appearance.

The fastball special disrupts a time travel spell Traveler is casting and he and Chewie disappear to some undisclosed location.

The next time we see her, is in Ms. Marvel (2006) #4. Chewie appears in Carol’s apartment as a precursor of an attack by Traveler.

Dr. Strange gets involved and he and Carol defeat Traveler and mostly, Chewie is on the sidelines, but along the way Chewie does get to be an avatar for the proper Sorcerer Supreme when Steven contacts Carol in a dream.

That happened in Ms. Marvel (2006) #5. After all is said and done, Carol has a cat. Here I must say I approve; this is a proper way to get a cat. Cat needs you; cat shows up; you have a cat. I’ve gotten more than one of the little buggers that way.

After that, Chewie is mostly around in the background. If you want to see these appearances without digging through all of the issues, I refer you again to Jason Levine’s site. He does a nice job of showing them all.

Chewie gets things to do interesting things again in the Captain Marvel (2014) series. Carol decides to head out to space on a voyage of self discovery with Chewie in tow. Issue 2:

Eventually, she and Carol encounter the Guardians of the Galaxy, where Rocket identifies Chewie as a Flerkin.

If it isn’t obvious, this begins the main part of Chewie’s story that is source material for the 2019 film. Of course, in the film, it’s Talos making the flerkin argument.

At the end of the issue, Carol’s ship is stolen with Chewie aboard by a stowaway named Tic.

In issue 3, the ship is recovered and, Carol decides to help Tic after hearing her story.

As a side note, this is a testament to this creative team’s understanding of cats. I’ve seen this sort of comforting behavior many times.

We don’t see Chewie again until issue 7, when Carol and Tic return to Carol’s ship. It’s been under the care of Rocket and the argument as to whether Chewie is a cat or a flerkin resumes. While Carol’s been gone, Rocket has been putting out feelers; to see if a flerkin could be sold and for how much.

This attracts pirates who commandeer the ship and suddenly, the flerkin argument becomes moot. Chewie lays eggs. Lots and lots of eggs.

Things come to a head in issue 8.

The ship is boarded,

Rocket and Chewie make peace and of course…

the flurkittens are all fine. There’s a lot of nice touches and these two issues are the apotheosis of Chewie stories. If you like cats or you like Chewie, you should check out these two issues even if you don’t check out anything else.

The final Chewie-centric story line occurs in issues 12 and 13. Haffensye pirates attack Carol’s ship and abduct Chewie, intending to use her as a weapon.

Unfortunately, most of the action involves getting the ship repaired, navigating through a dangerous region of space and fighting off pirates without weapons or propulsion.

Once Carol catches up with the Haffensye ship, she makes short work of the pirates, rescues Chewie and commandeers the pirates, ship for Tic.

After the pair returned to Earth, Chewie reverted to being a background character which she has remained for all of her subsequent appearances.

And that then, is the story of Chewie or Goose if you prefer. There’s always hope that she will be featured in future Captain Marvel stories or join the Pet Avengers or star in her own Major Motion Picture.

There’s much more fun to come, I think, and Carol’s come a long way from the cat flinging incident. She must have sensed it at the time, because this was her response to Chewie’s very first disappearance.

It was meant to be.