A Modern Comics Legend Speaks
Captain Marvel comes to cinemas in March and here’s Marvel legend Roy Thomas, who played a major part in revamping the original Captain Marvel in the late sixties, talking about his iconic run on The Avengers and how much input he had with the new film with Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
TRIPWIRE: How much did you flesh out the original Captain Marvel character with Gil Kane?
ROY THOMAS: Actually, I woke up one morning with an idea to totally revamp CM, into a sort of SF answer to the old, defunct Fawcett hero, who I figured was never likely to return, right? I told Stan (before I told him what it was) that I’d give him this idea… if I could write the book again, and he said fine. I got a plot off to then-artist Don Heck, but then Gil Kane told Stan he’d love to take a stab at Captain Marvel. I okayed that, and Gil revised the costume I had drawn, based on the old Atoman in 1946 comics by Jerry Robinson. Gil and I had never worked together before and barely knew each other, but we became friends and often collaborators after that. Meanwhile, we had Don and then-writer Archie Goodwin introduce the costume in the previous issue, and we were off and running.
TW: What was the genesis of the iconic Avengers story The Kree Skrull War?
RT: When I was 14-15, I got a book by mail from the Science Fiction Book Club: THIS ISLAND EARTH, by Raymond Jones, in which people on Earth discover they are caught in the middle of a war between two intergalactic races… the equivalent of being some South Pacific island during WWII. I loved the idea, though I didn’t like the movie later made from it.
Since the Kree had been recently introduced by Stan and Jack in FANTASTIC FOUR, I asked Stan if I could have them and the Skrulls class, because it seemed to me that with these two major and aggressive interstellar races out there in the cosmos, they were likely to go to war. I had in mind from the outset that eventually it would be revealed that the human race on Earth was destined to surpass them both, with Rick Jones as the avatar of that. And I established Senator Craddock to be the fourth Skrull, who wasn’t caught in FF #2.
Around the time the story was to go into higher gear after four issues building up by Sal Buscema and me, Neal Adams came aboard. He added appreciably to the concept, after I told him about how three Skrulls had been turned into cows… and he suggested things like utilizing the Inhumans (because he and I had done a few tales of them together not long before), Ant-Man and Vision (in a beautiful sequence that basically had almost nothing to do with the war), and SHIELD’s space station, which I was wary about because it came out of left field. But I figured Neal would draw it beautifully, so what could it hurt. We carried the fight to outer space… which was intrinsic in THIS ISLAND EARTH anyway, so would have been done in Sal had stayed on the book… but of course Neal had few if any equals in drawing things dramatically. Unfortunately, Neal fell too far behind the schedule by the 7th and last issue, so I had to get John Buscema to bail us out on that one, which he did wonderfully.
TW: At that time it was unusual for comics to feature such an epic story. Was there much trepidation when you were writing it?
RT: No, it was just another story. Sure, more ambitious than most, but Stan and I and others were always trying to stretch the Marvel Universe, so this was just the next and most logical step.
TW: Captain Marvel plays a major role in the forthcoming film. Did you ever imagine that one of the Marvel characters you had such a major hand in (you fleshed out Mar-Vell significantly) would ever appear in a Marvel movie?
RT: Not really. Of course, other people developed the current Captain Marvel, and my main contribution is that I came up with the character Carol Danvers in my first Captain Marvel story in 1967-68… and wrote the story in which she got drenched with Kree energy (I forget the details–haven’t read that story in a while), which led to her later becoming various super-hero incarnation, including now Captain Marvel.
I introduced her as a head of security at what was basically Cape Canaveral, but her fighter-pilot identity makes just as much sense. It’s weird to see a character I created with Gene Colan being developed along a 50-year path by various talented people until she emerges as a major Marvel hero, but quite gratifying. The current developers, of course, deserve most of the credit for that… but I’m happy to have given them something (someone… Carol Danvers) to build on.
TW: And how do you feel about Mar-Vell appearing in the new film?
RT: Nice! Yon-Rogg, too, right? Those were Stan’s creations, of course, in that first 14-page CM story.
TW: How much input have you had in to the new Marvel film?
RT: Zero. I’m just a cheerleader… and perhaps minor financial beneficiary.
Captain Marvel is out in cinemas from 8 March. Roy Thomas will be appearing exclusively at the Portsmouth Comic Con on 4 to 5 May 2019