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SYFY WIRE Ms. Marvel

Carol Danvers and the saga of WOMAN Magazine

By Sara Century

We here at FANGRRLS are no strangers to the struggles of being a woman and working in publishing, and although the downsides of working in what is still somehow a male-dominated industry affect each of us differently and at various extremes, you can rest assured that most, if not all of us, have given a lot of thought to the subject.

Perhaps that is part of why we love Carol Danvers so much. This lady was hired on the spot to be a magazine editor for J. Jonah Jameson’s WOMAN Magazine by virtue of being a woman standing in his office the moment he decided that WOMAN was too feminist and fired the prior staff. Intending Carol to focus in on a more ladylike subject matter, our guy JJJ had another think coming. The comic arc that followed wasn’t always good, and it wasn’t always particularly feminist, but it is a story of nobody being able to tell Carol Danvers what to do with her own dang life, and for that reason, we’re here for it.

I’m Sorry, Did You Say Carol Danvers Was A Magazine Editor?

Yes! Carol Danvers was indeed once a magazine editor, but before that, she was in the Air Force. In 2018’s The Life of Captain Marvel miniseries, we discovered that Carol is actually half-Kree, and was named Car-Ell by her mother, who abandoned her life on Kree-La to marry Carol’s terrible father. Why? Not sure.

Due to her mother’s terrible choices in life, Carol was raised as a human with no knowledge of her heritage and was stuck dealing with her father’s sexism and vitriol on a regular basis. Although this is usually addressed only via brief flashbacks, her troubled relationship with her father does seem to come back again and again in her life. Most people who are estranged from their families understand how triggering memories can be, and how complex emotions often are towards the parent that stood by and allowed the abuse. Carol doesn’t exactly reconcile with her parents before their deaths but does work to put the past behind her.

When Carol initially announced that she wanted to join the Air Force, her father berated her and eventually disowned her, unwilling to help her in any way with a career in what he considered to be “man’s work.” This was a sentiment that would be regularly echoed at Carol by various male characters throughout the original Ms. Marvel series.

Carol developed an interest in a man that she believed was human but who turned out to be a fellow Kree known as Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel. At the time, it was believed that Carol had somehow absorbed some of his power during an explosion. Although that was eventually retconned in The Life of Captain Marvel, it was the origin that writers stuck with through most of Carol Danvers’ history.

After the explosion, Carol’s life and her feelings towards the Air Force changed, and she ended up leaving. It was at this time that she went for work at the Daily Bugle, to which J. Jonah Jameson more or less replied, “A WOMAN? GREAT, I NEED A WOMAN! Congratulations, you’re the editor-in-chief of WOMAN Magazine now.” A surprised Carol recovered from her shock fast enough to play hardball and refused to leave his office before negotiating her salary. JJJ muttered some sexist sentiments to try to avoid the conversation but Carol refused to budge until he conceded. 

"I’m A Career Woman Now!"

One of J. Jonah Jameson’s complaints about the former EiC of WOMAN is that she was too feminist. He casually comments that the magazine has been running too many articles about Kate Millett and too few recipes and articles about husbands. Carol nods absently, not really paying attention, which is pretty much her entire response to JJJ in a nutshell. Her complete lack of interest in paying attention to JJJ leads to her immediately putting herself, as Ms. Marvel, on the cover of the magazine.

Folks, these are the actions of a real American hero.

Having officially earned JJJ’s unending ire by combining his two most hated things, feminism and superheroes, Carol does her best to avoid him at all costs through the rest of her brief tenure at WOMAN. This is highly understandable. JJJ is sometimes written a little more sympathetically than he is here, but if Ms. Marvel is your only context for this character, you’re probably going to hate him. (Side question: why is he a major character in this story? This whole series would have gone a lot better if Carol had been given her own unique supporting cast.)

Meanwhile, Carol goes out of her way to hire an older female journalist, named Tracy Burke. Even though Carol admires Tracy, the two women verbally spar with one another and neither of them ever let their guard down around each other. True to the tired trope of female cattiness, Tracy judges Carol and hopes that she fails with no motivation for it other than jealousy. When Carol is fired, she gives the job to Tracy, who takes it. Carol, for her part, appears to have no inkling of the underlying hostility from Tracy.

It makes sense that Carol seeks Tracy out; a lot of her staff is male-dominated despite the subject matter, and when she turns down a series of covers from random employee Gene, he throws an actual hissy fit in the office.

The Look of Like

One of the most enjoyable things about Carol and this series is that she does not even pretend to entertain the idea of settling down with any of the men that express interest in her. She dates her therapist and a coworker, but any time either of them become too demanding she simply averts her attention to flirt with someone else. Her blase attitude towards men through this series is amazing. When her coworker-slash-love interest offers to drop her off closer to her apartment, implying that she can't safely walk to her own place, she completely jumps down his throat and tells him not to dare patronize her when she is fully capable of taking care of herself, and then she jumps out of the car and storms off.

Meanwhile, in countless other Marvel comics, when JJJ yells, everyone in the office scrambles and frets. For her part, Carol tends to deflect and evade him except when she’s demanding a higher salary. Unlike most of the Bugle staff, Carol is not intimidated by this guy, and it’s pretty refreshing to see after watching him bully his employees for decades now. Because she never fully invested in magazine work as her only possible career, his threats are meaningless to her.

Back In The ‘70s If A Journalist Got Fired, They Got Severance Pay Apparently

It probably won’t surprise anyone, including Carol Danvers, that after weeks of telling her employees off, showing up late and leaving early, and directly disobeying the magazine owner’s wishes, she was finally fired and given a check. As a millennial, the idea of getting fired and being given a check larger than $50 is quite shocking indeed, but this was a different time. Although her coworkers helped contribute to her demise as a magazine editor, they insisted it was unfair and all got together to throw a party for her to say goodbye. This story is, fortunately, the last time we the audience ever saw the majority of these characters.

In the end, Carol Danvers wasn’t exactly the best editor-in-chief, but she was up against a whole lot and we can’t entirely blame her for dropping the ball. She was a bonafide amnesiac superhero for a lot of her arc, she had an unruly staff to say the least, and she was dating a few pretty interchangeable guys the whole time, to boot. Besides, working in an office with JJJ is pretty much the definition of a hostile work environment, so it’s easy to forgive Carol for her failings. Regardless of everything, scoring a job as women’s magazine editor with no writing experience then making her sexist boss regret ever giving her the job, to begin with, is still pretty heroic if you ask us.