Long Beach Comic Expo 2019

Edited by Christopher Edelen
Photos from Ariel Landrum

Image from Marvel

One of the most magical moments at any convention is witnessing a well known creator geek out. At the Disney sponsored Captain Marvel: Origins panel on Saturday, February 16, 2019 at Long Beach Comic Expo, fans hoped to learn more about this new heroine taking over the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What unfolded were endearing moments of novelist Margaret Stohl fangirling over sharing the stage with legendary comic book author Gerry Conway.

As the moderator of the panel introduced the speakers, Stohl added with her introduction how stocked she was that she was going to get a chance to pick Conway’s brain regarding his inspiration, writing choices, and overall experience as co-creator of the female Captain Marvel. Literally taking the mic, becoming the new moderator, she faced Conway and began to fire-away.

Conway reported that back in the ‘70s he and the comic book community felt the business was dying, and he realized the dying was due in part to the fact that they were not attracting a female audience, nor were they creating a cultural impact. Working late nights with John Buscema and Stan Lee, the three figured out that the best way to attract girls to comics would be to create a strong heroine.


Conway didn’t want to create a character who was subservient, or whose sole purpose was to be someone’s love interest. Looking through existing characters in the Marvel universe, he realized that Carol Danvers could become a credible female character, as she was already an Air Force officer. Adding to her backstory, he placed her as editor of a magazine after her retirement from military service. This was a distinct choice because he wanted to maintain the image of being in power and charge, versus being simply a reporter.

Comparing her to other noteworthy heroines, such as Wonder Woman from rival company DC, Conway realized that she needed to become a mentor for other females. As her backstory already aligned her with the Spider-verse, she became a mentor for Mary Jane Parker. Conway closely focused their interactions to gear away from any discussions around men and relationships, and at the panel joked that his writing would have passed the Bechdel test.

Impressed by his focus on female empowerment, Stohl asked what inspired his desire to write female characters, as at the time he had created Powergirl, and if writing them felt like  “picking the losing straw”. With a chuckle, Conway stated that he enjoyed and enjoys writing for the underdog, and female heroes are often seen in that light. He also added that he received inspiration from women in his life who are creative and take charge.

As Stohl pondered these responses, the designated moderator slowly took some control of the panel to ask Stohl about her experiences writing such an iconic character. He also noted that she may have had some experience regarding the writing of the upcoming film.

Jokingly Stohl stated that she can neither confirm nor deny that she knows anything regarding the film, and that if she blinks the wrong way the high powers of Disney would come raining down on her.

Stohl stated that her past experience centered on writing novels geared towards young adults, often family dramas that were female driven. When approved to take on Captain Marvel, she was asked by Joe Quesada to create an elevator pitch of the characters origin. This was a rather tall order as the character had undergone almost 50 years of growth, change, and traumas. Stohl was fearful she couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t until an all-night brainstorm at Marvel with other creators that she realized Marvel stories are family stories. Stohl reported that what makes Marvel special is the focus on the human side of the superhuman. With this realization, she focused on the traumas the Danvers experienced, and the healing it took for her to shift back to the being protagonist of her story.

Pointing back to Conway’s statement regarding social change, she stated that women often have to make themselves known in the room. Often females, in the real and comic book worlds alike, are placed in spaces as side characters, or left unseen. She concluded that the heroine’s journey differs from a hero's journey in that male protagonists is assumed, and given, unquestionable permission to start their journey. For a heroine, she must first accept that she is even allowed to have a journey at all.

Both Conway and Stohl ended the panel stating that the true origin of the character was that she made herself known in the room. Though she was given her powers, she took hold of being a hero.

Writer’s Note: there were no name cards on the table, or names on the program, so I was unable to obtain the name of the moderator for this panel.

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