Comics
Published July 22, 2021

'Captain Marvel' Reaches the Next Level

Writer Kelly Thompson, artist Jamie McKelvie, and editor Sarah Brunstad chat Carol's future!

“It's wild to realize it's been nearly 10 years since I did that design,” enthuses Jamie McKelvie, the illustrator behind Carol Danvers’ initial visual revamp as Captain Marvel over a decade ago. “As a comics artist you dream of having that sort of lasting impact, so it's been so fulfilling to see the costume stick around like it has.”

McKelvie makes his return to the character he helped shape with this week’s CAPTAIN MARVEL #30, an oversized issue celebrating a new milestone in Carol Danvers’ ongoing adventures. In addition to the short story he has written and drawn featuring Kamala Khan, the main feature sees regular writer Kelly Thompson teamed with artist Jacopo Camagni bringing their latest arc to a close.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 cover by Marco Checchetto
CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 cover by Marco Checchetto

“I think the most important thing happening in [CAPTAIN MARVEL #30] is that we’re really excavating Carol as a character more than we usually get to,” Thompson shares about the story that will pit Cap against her new archenemy, Ove, and his mother the Enchantress. “She’s really questioning herself and her choices. She doesn’t like some of the decisions she’s being forced to make but also doesn’t see another way. But part of her inability to see another way comes from her own failings. So Carol confronting her flaws—and I don’t mean her weakness to magic—is exciting, and I think important.”

We spoke with Kelly and Jamie as well as series editor Sarah Brunstad about what lies ahead for one of Marvel’s mightiest heroes.

It's a big deal for any book to get all the way to issue #30 with no signs of slowing down! How do you feel about reaching this milestone with CAPTAIN MARVEL?

Kelly Thompson: It’s incredible, I honestly never dared to dream it. Now we just gotta fill more and more pages with story…anyone got any good ideas? Just kidding, I think we can keep this going for a while. I’ve teased before that something big for Carol is coming in this “Last of The Marvels” arc—so I hope we can get to #50 with ease—fingers crossed!

How does CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 figure into the broader mission statement of this book and this character?

Sarah Brunstad: I would say that the mission statement of this book has evolved a lot. When we first started, we didn’t have any idea how far we’d get—maybe it’d only be 12 issues to make our mark. So we started with a really specific mission to bring Carol back to Earth, literally and metaphorically. We wanted her to feel connected to real human struggles, especially after LIFE OF CAPTAIN MARVEL revealed that she isn’t, in fact, entirely human.

The Life of Captain Marvel (2018) #1

The Life of Captain Marvel (2018) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

But then we got past 12 issues. And in fact, our third big arc, “The Last Avenger,” saw sales jump up even more. The book grew organically as word got out and fans got on board—which is just the absolute best possible thing you can ask for as a creative team. And it opened up new opportunities for us. So going into the arc that ends with #30, we changed tacks a little bit. We wanted to dig into an extremely vulnerable place for Carol, one that directly addresses her powers and limitations as a superhuman. I’m seeing this issue as kind of a landmark moment where Carol actually loses something very valuable to her—and that’s great story fodder. Having the room to explore her highs and lows is such a gift.

Next arc—which is going to have some huge character reveals—will give us a chance to explore another of Carol’s worst fears. So if we have a mission statement now, I guess it would be: Give Carol hell, and have a hell of a time doing it. 

Why was it appealing to have Carol come up against magic as a sort of adversary? Why bring a mystic element to a character who has traditionally not been oriented that way?

Thompson: Plainly? It’s hard to find worthy challenges for Carol when it comes to action. So putting her up against magic, which is one of her only weak areas, creates a lot of interesting angles for her. My favorite aspect of this story is how Carol’s stubbornness is truly her greatest strength and greatest weakness. It’s so much of what makes her powerful…but it also keeps her blind to things. Carol is so powerful and larger than life but it’s her weaknesses that help make her human and relatable. This story with magic has been a great chance to delve into those corners of her.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 variant cover by Peach Momoko
CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 variant cover by Peach Momoko

Tell me more about where Ove came from as far as concocting a new big bad for Carol?

Thompson: A big goal of ours from the beginning has been to develop a great rogues' gallery for Carol. So many of her big villains are borrowed from other characters or have been lost to them, others have moved on in one way or another, like Rogue, or Carol’s just way too powerful for them to be a serious threat at this point. So we’ve tried to both create new villains and do rehab on some old ones to really build up that gallery for her.

In Ove I wanted someone truly powerful that could really be a threat for Carol and give her a sort of "Days of Future Past" storyline that would have lasting impact for her. Amora will always be a Thor character—but Ove straddles that line nicely and I think he can be a great villain for her going forward—especially after the events of CAPTAIN MARVEL #30.

Where did the idea to have Jamie contribute come from and how did you approach him about participating?

Brunstad: I am, obviously, a huge fan of Jamie’s work across the board. He designed the Captain Marvel suit, and without that amazing new look for her, the huge fan response would not have been the same. He absolutely made a huge mark that took this character to incredible places. So when I thought about how I wanted to do something special to celebrate the book making it this far, it was pretty much instantaneous: “What are the chances Jamie McKelvie would want to revisit her, all this time later?”

I also know that an artist who can draw like he can has storytelling chops to rival any established writer. So I reached out with a really broad offer; I wanted to give him all the options on the table and see where he’d go with it. I’m incredibly honored that he agreed to it and that this issue got to be his Marvel writing debut.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 variant cover by Terry Dodson
CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 variant cover by Terry Dodson

Kelly, what does it mean to have Jamie on board to contribute to this issue?

Thompson: Jamie’s presence on this issue and his story specifically are so emotionally rewarding for me and I think for any fan. And I wasn’t involved in Jamie’s story at all, but I really love how he pulls on all the things that are going on in Carol’s interior life especially—the sort of crisis she’s been facing—and made it into its own thing. It works so perfectly with Kamala and their relationship.

Jamie, how closely have you followed the arc of Carol Danvers since redesigning her a decade ago?

Jamie McKelvie: My comics reading has waxed and waned for various reasons (mostly time!), but I've always been aware of what Carol has been up to. I've really enjoyed Kelly and co's run, and where they've taken Carol as a character, so I was very happy to be asked to contribute to #30.

Why was the story you get to tell in CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 one you felt needed to be dealt with?

McKelvie: From a selfish perspective I thought it would be nice to tell a story featuring both Carol and Kamala, because while I designed the costumes for both, I'd never told any stories for either. So from that starting point, I thought about the broad structure of the last 30 issues of CAPTAIN MARVEL, and wow, Carol has been through a lot. I thought it would be good to spend a little time reflecting on that—what has it been like for Carol? How is she dealing with it? And who does she talk to about it?

It struck me that most of her friends have been around for roughly the same amount of time, are the same age group...maybe she needed a moment to talk it through with someone who has a fresh perspective. So that was the way in to telling this story with the two of them. Even though I was working on it concurrently with the team on the main story in the issue, I really like how it ended up as a companion piece to the resolution of that arc, like we'd planned it!

CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 variant cover by Rob Liefeld
CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 variant cover by Rob Liefeld

What are the challenges as well as the advantages to being both writer and artist for the same story?

McKelvie: Well, I can't be mad at the writer for asking me to draw an aerial view of Jersey City! The main challenge is the extra time needed. Beyond that, I found the process really rewarding. It's a lot more fluid than when I'm working with a writer—I had the basics of the story, which I broke down into pages, and then I did layouts first, then rough dialogue, pencils, more polished dialogue, inks, colors. But even that doesn't really reflect the flow of it—realizing I didn't have enough space for a line even at the inks stage, I could make the choice to move the figure or trim the line. Every step was a draft, and I could consider the story as a whole. It felt very natural.

Actually, that does lead to a challenge, but for Sarah rather than me—to anyone outside of my head, it might be hard to see the full shape of the thing until I've handed in the final pages. That required a lot of trust along the way, and not much time towards the end for editorial to do their thing. Sorry, Sarah and [assistant editor] Kat [Gregorowicz]!

What will this story tell us about the relationship between Carol and Kamala?

McKelvie: I don't want to give anything away, but I think it builds on what's there already, and provides a little deeper insight into how their relationship began, and where it's at now. Insight for Carol, as much as for the reader. I think it pushes it in a slightly different direction, and I'll be excited to see what's in store for them next.

Getting back to the lead story, Kelly, how long have plans been in place that are coming to a head now? Obviously you played with Strange, Amora and magic dating back to the book's early issues and then introduced elements in CAPTAIN MARVEL: THE END that are still paying off. Where are you as far as the big picture?

Thompson: From the beginning, like any book these days, you have to think more in terms of arcs than the idea of getting 40 issues…because that’s rare. We had a little more room to breathe when we started the “New World” storyline and that gave us the option to build on that story with subsequent issues instead of just leaving it behind to maybe come back to much later. You only have the ability to do that if you’ve got some room to spread your wings. CAPTAIN MARVEL #35 is a bit of a game changer…it’s going to change where we’re headed and I think be exactly the shake up we need after 35 issues.

Look for CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 from Kelly Thompson, Jamie McKelvie, and more at your local comic shop today!

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