Splash Page: What you need to know before you see ‘Captain Marvel’

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Splash Page: What you need to know before you see ‘Captain Marvel’

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Samuel G. Reece, contributing writer

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“Captain Marvel” is coming to a theatre near you this Friday. As with most movies based on Marvel Comics, you can expect connections to other Marvel movies (and maybe even some TV shows!) as well as to the vast number of Captain Marvel comics. Though you’ll be able to see the movie and enjoy it without knowing all the background, that information will surely enhance the experience. Here’s a quick guide to what you need to know before “Captain Marvel” flies onto the big screen.

Q: What Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are required watching before “Captain Marvel?”

A: The quick answer is none. This movie is set in the 1990s, more than ten years before the rest of the MCU (excluding “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which is mainly set during World War II.) There will be characters from the wider Marvel Universe showing up, namely Nick Fury and Phil Coulson, whose adventures are chronicled on the ABC series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” but both will be younger versions than we’ve ever seen before, meaning we’ll probably be introduced to them like they are brand-new characters. Some characters from “Guardians of the Galaxy” will appear as well, but expect them to be little more than cameos. The biggest thing you should know is that space-villain Thanos is currently menacing the Avengers, and Captain Marvel’s cosmic adventures will probably be a key element to his defeat in next month’s “Avengers: Endgame.”

Q: Is this the “SHAZAM!” guy? And isn’t Captain Marvel a man?

A: Captain Marvel has a long and complicated history. A character with that name first appeared in the pages of Fawcett Comics in 1940. That character was later acquired by DC Comics. He’s starring in a movie called “SHAZAM!”, to be be released in April, about a young boy named Billy Batson whose magic word turns him into the magical hero Captain Marvel. In recent years his name has been changed to his iconic catchphrase to keep him from being confused with the Marvel Comics character.

The MCU version of Captain Marvel is based on a character created as tribute and update to the DC Comics character while the trademark had expired for a time. In the Marvel Universe, a young boy named Rick Jones could slam his science-fiction “Nega Bands” together and swap places with the alien warrior Mar-Vell from a race called the Kree. He had a half-human, half-Kree partner named Carol Danvers who took on the name Ms. Marvel and joined teams like the Avengers and X-Men.

In recent years, long after Mar-Vell had died and a string of characters had taken his name, Carol Danvers took up the mantle of Captain Marvel to honor her fallen friend. She doesn’t need to trade places with anyone via the “Nega-Bands,” and her connection to the original version of “Captain Marvel” is separated by so many stories, names, and versions of the characters that the two heroes are no longer very similar. Expect Carol’s story to be greatly condensed in the film – she’s almost guaranteed to skip being Ms. Marvel and go straight into her now-iconic name and costume.

Q: What is all this about shapeshifting Skrulls and Kree? What does that even mean?

A: Carol Danvers’ story is tied to the Kree, a race of intergalactic conquerors who control a galactic empire. Their chief rivals are the Skrulls, another Imperial race whose chief claim to fame is their shape shifting ability. The centuries-long conflict between the Kree and the Skrulls was first explored in the classic Avengers story “The Kree/Skrull War Saga.” The Skrulls have been foes to many Marvel heroes, but they notably popped up in the 2008 story “Secret Invasion” that posited that the Skrulls had infiltrated the Earth’s power structures and superhero teams in a decades-long invasion. Expect that conflict between Skrulls and Kree, and the possibility of anyone around you being a green-skinned monster, to be a key part of “Captain Marvel” and play into themes of memory and identity. What’s important to keep in mind is that while the Skrulls have often been villains, they have sometimes redeemed themselves. In addition, the Kree have often been villains themselves (Big-bad Ronan from “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a member of the Kree!). Carol Danvers will be walking a fine line between good and evil in this movie, and we’ll probably never know which is which.

If you worry about the complexities of comic books or comic book movies, “Captain Marvel” will probably be a perfect gateway into the world of the Marvel Universe. There will be tons of big Science Fiction action and 90s-blockbuster action. And for old fans, there will probably be lots of clues (or at least rumor fodder) for the way in which Carol Danvers will bring the hurt down on Thanos in just a few weeks.