Who is Captain Marvel? It depends on which Captain Marvel you’re talking about.

The star of Marvel’s new movie with that name — Carol Danvers, played in the new film by Brie Larson — is not the original hero to hold that title. She’s not even the first hero in the Marvel Universe with that name. (Technically the original Captain Marvel is the character who now mostly goes by “Shazam,” who is also getting his own movie in theaters this spring and predates any Marvel hero with that name by several decades.) Before Carol Danvers became Marvel’s cosmic protector, an alien warrior named Mar-Vell defended Earth under the superhero name Captain Marvel.

There’s no guarantee that Captain Mar-Vell appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Captain Marvel, but there’s no way to understand Carol Danvers’ comic-book history without first understanding Mar-Vell’s complicated origin and backstory. In this column, we’ll break down all the highlights (and at least one or two lowlights) of Mar-Vell’s career. In a follow-up post, we‘ll discuss everything you need to know about Carol’s superhero life.

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