It took Carol Danvers more than a decade to make her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But those with knowledge of Captain Marvel’s history in the pages of Marvel Comics know lengthy waits are nothing new for her. After making her first appearance in 1968, the character didn't become a superhero until 1977, and then underwent years of renamings and rebrandings before finally coming into her own in the new millennium. The road from Carol Danvers to Captain Marvel is indeed a long and winding one.
The 2019 Captain Marvel film was filled with plenty of Easter eggs and callbacks to her comic book history, but it also offered a condensed version of her typical origin story. The real comic storylines that have defined Carol Danvers as a character are so numerous - and occasionally so convoluted - that adapting her entire arc to the big screen would be next to impossible.
Carol Danvers gained worldwide recognition as Captain Marvel because of her cinematic debut in 2019, but when she first shows up in the pages of Marvel Comics, she doesn’t have any superheroic identity - she’s just Carol Danvers, regular human.
Debuting in Marvel Super-Heroes #13, Danvers starts as a supporting character for the original Captain Marvel - Mar-Vell, an undercover Kree warrior disguised as a human scientist. But just because Carol doesn’t have superpowers at this point doesn’t mean she’s not already a hero.
Long before suiting up as an Avenger, young Carol Danvers spends time in the US Air Force - joining as soon as she graduates high school and quickly becoming an ace pilot. Eventually, Danvers is recruited to join the Air Force’s Special Operations department, where she starts to come into contact with the rest of the Marvel Universe.
While working for Special Ops, Danvers goes on missions with some of Marvel’s oldest heroes, including Nick Fury and Wolverine. She even has an adventure with another young pilot, Benjamin Grimm, who goes on to become the Thing of the Fantastic Four.
After earning a reputation for toughness and ingenuity during her time with the Air Force, Carol Danvers is hired by NASA to become their head of security - and her career as a cosmic adventurer truly begins. While employed by the space agency, Danvers meets Dr. Walter Lawson, who happens to be the Kree warrior Mar-Vell in disguise.
After a handful of confrontations with alien foes, Carol learns Mar-Vell’s secret and sees him in action as Captain Marvel on numerous occasions. The two enjoy a brief romance and Mar-Vell is eventually responsible for Danvers receiving her powers.
As Mar-Vell grows increasingly fond of her, Carol Danvers becomes a target for Captain Marvel’s enemies, including the villainous Kree soldier Yon-Rogg. Rogg takes Danvers in hopes of drawing Mar-Vell into a fight - and it works - though it doesn’t ultimately prove to be a wise decision.
The fight between Mar-Vell and Yon-Rogg over Danvers results in a piece of Kree technology, the Psyche-Magnitron, shattering. In a cascade of energy that nearly finishes Yon-Rogg, Danvers is bestowed with her Kree-like superpowers - though it's years before she realizes she has them.