The ‘Women of Marvel’ Guide to Monica Rambeau
In this episode of the ‘Women of Marvel’ podcast, our hosts dive into the history of Monica Rambeau, a hero with as much range as the electromagnetic spectrum!
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Captain Marvel. Spectrum. Photon. Monica Rambeau has used many names in her Super Hero career, but her ability to lead has never wavered. Now going by the name of Photon, this cosmic hero—and former leader of the Avengers—is energy personified, a seemingly all-powerful being of pure, invincible light. Frankly, no one else has the range. And that makes sense since her powers span the spectrum of electromagnetism itself!
In the tenth episode from the latest season of the Women of Marvel podcast, our hosts Ellie Pyle and Preeti Chhibber explore the dynamic history of Monica Rambeau, from her beginnings as a lieutenant with the New Orleans Harbor Patrol to her galactic rise as an Avenger and member of the Ultimates. Joining them are Angélique Roché, author, journalist, and Marvel’s Voices host, comics writer and author Eve Ewing (MONICA RAMBEAU: PHOTON), and “Ask an Expert” correspondent Isabel Robertson who offered a scientific survey of Monica’s amazing abilities.
Listen to Monica Rambeau’s full Women of Marvel spotlight, then catch our episode highlights below!
MONICA RAMBEAU: FRIEND, LEADER, AVENGER
Monica Rambeau super-fan Angélique Roché was enthusiastic to share her top five reasons for loving Monica. But Roché did admit it was difficult to keep it down to five!
“Okay, one, she’s a really great friend, period,” said Roché. “Go back and check out her friendship with all of the women Avengers going up until her run on THE MIGHTY AVENGERS (2007). She even was like, ‘Carol [Danvers], you stole my name. But you know what? We’re still friends. We’re still cool but you should have told me first.’”
“Two: She’s always going to be down for the community. When you meet her, and in Dwayne McDuffie’s two solo [one-shots], the first thing you see is her basically policing the city of New Orleans [and saving] someone’s life. She really believes in the community. Also, shoutout to [writer] Reginald Hudlin; when we meet Monica in his BLACK PANTHER series, she and her father are helping people get to safety from Hurricane Katrina.”
“Three: She’s an amazing leader. Go read that Roger Stern [AVENGERS run] and see how many people the Avengers beat during that time with her as a leader.”
“Number Four,” Roché continued, “Monica is powerful, like she can decide to just fly into space, just her body, not on a ship. She’s like, ‘I’m just going to go check this quadrant in space!’ Being able to put yourself through TVs and phones and radios and transmute yourself into a non-solid state—how dope is that?”
“And then, Number Five,” Roché concluded, “I think she’s just very relatable. We’ve seen her fight the Sons of the Serpent, we’ve seen her have relationships with folks like Blue Marvel, we’ve seen her have this amazing relationship with her family. And even when she suffers from burnout, and she falls back as an Avengers reserve member—and her powers dissipate—she’s still bodybuilding and still working on being active. She’s a real hero and I love her for that.”
WRITING MONICA RAMBEAU: PHOTON
Eve Ewing also filled Ellie and Preeti in on what it was like to write Monica in her five-issue limited series MONICA RAMBEAU: PHOTON (2022).
“So, I have a privilege that a lot of comics writers don’t have, which is that I have a regular job,” Ewing explained. “I’m a professor at a university, and I do a lot of other writing projects. And so what that means is that I have the privilege of saying ‘no’ to a lot of things. There have been times when Marvel has come to me and said, ‘Hey, you want to write this person or that person?’ And I never take on the character unless I really feel like I have something to add to their publication history.”
“In Monica’s case, I was really drawn to her because I felt like I could relate to her and like she was relatable for so many Black women,” Ewing said. “I was struck over the course of her publication history. On the one hand, she’s been around the Marvel Universe for such a long time. She’s a legacy character. She’s incredibly powerful. But on the other hand, she had never had a storyline or a level of centrality that I felt was commensurate with the level of her power.”
Ewing tapped into that expansive history—and the roadblocks Monica has faced as an Avenger and as a woman of color—to help develop her narrative in Monica’s solo series.
“One of [Monica’s] most important storylines involves her being the leader of the Avengers and then basically getting sabotaged and second-guessed into being depowered, both in terms of her own abilities and her leadership,” Ewing reflected. “And I just felt like there was something relatable for Black women, for women of color, for women in general. But I think specifically for women of color to think about that idea of being so incredibly powerful, but being pushed into a corner where you find yourself second-guessing yourself and never quite having the chance to shine center stage. Monica is the ultimate team player and it was really cool to have a chance to tell her story as the solo cast member.”
“Ask an Expert” correspondent (and Women of Marvel producer!) Isabel Robertson dropped by with scientific fun facts to explain the full range of Monica’s powers.
“So, electromagnetic waves are one of the ways that energy can travel,” Robertson explained. “Stuff like radio waves, X-rays, sunlight, light in general. They’re all types of waves. Where the spectrum part comes in is when we compare those waves to each other. The spectrum is the way that the electromagnetic waves are classified by their wavelength and frequencies. So, on one end of that spectrum is higher energy, which is why they’re dangerous. That’s why we have to wear those lead bibs when we get X-rays at the dentist. And it’s also at that end of the spectrum that gamma rays live which, obviously, turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk.”
“Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, we have the super low energy waves,” Robertson continued. “We’re basically all swimming in radio waves all the time, but unfortunately not turning green. And that’s because those waves have very low energy. And then somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, we have infrared UV rays and microwaves, and then the visible spectrum of regular light. That visible spectrum does not include microwaves. Otherwise, we’d be able to see what was happening in our microwaves while they’re heating up our frozen dinner. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen!”
Finally, Robertson shed some (non-infrared) light on Monica’s super hero monikers: “A photon is the name for a particle of light. So, Monica has been called Photon. She’s also used the name Spectrum, which obviously popped up here a lot!”
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