How Maria Rambeau’s comic backstory changes in Captain Marvel


Maria Rambeau is one of the central characters in the Captain Marvel movie. How does she compare to her comic book counterpart?

WARNING: This story contains spoilers for Captain Marvel.

Let’s get honest. Without Maria Rambeau, Carol Danvers would be in serious trouble. She helps to bring her best friend back from a six-year mind trip that has Carol convinced she’s an alien warrior instead of a fighter pilot. Maria also plays a pivotal role in the final action of the film, thanks to her own flying ace skills. She’s also admirably composed in the presence of a terrifying flerken. No, you probably wouldn’t be able to hold it together if your cat sprouted tentacles, okay?

It’s true that Maria Rambeau has a presence in the Marvel comics side of things. But, while you might expect her to have an intensive backstory on the page, she’s barely there. Her biggest role is being the mother to Monica Rambeau, who we see as a small child in Captain Marvel, but who actually has her own deep history as Captain Marvel.

Maria and her husband, Frank, do have the distinction of being one of the more supportive parents of superheroes. Sure, they’re shocked when their daughter reveals that she’s Captain Marvel, but they are also incredibly proud. Maria’s dress shop also proves to be useful when Monica needs to quickly change identities. Better than a phone booth, anyway.

Unfortunately, Maria’s most distinguishing feature here seems to be her ability to worry. Maybe we shouldn’t blame her too much, considering that Monica is her only child, and a beloved one at that. The idea of sending her daughter into dangerous space battles and against a constantly morphing roster of foes is enough to give anyone indigestion and the urgent need to get a therapist.

Maria also ends up having to do a lot of homework, given that her daughter changes names every few years. In addition to taking on the Captain Marvel moniker, Monica has also gone by Daystar, Pulsar, Spectrum, and Photon. The movie-based Maria’s nickname, as seen on her fighter jet, is also “Photon.”

At least Maria eventually lets her daughter fly, metaphorically and literally. She’s there to pick Monica back up and speak in support of her. When Monica is asked to lead the Avengers, Maria emphatically says that her daughter is the right person for the job.

Yet, comic book Maria doesn’t really cross paths with Carol Danvers. That’s a real shame, because the friendship between Maria and Carol is at the heart of Captain Marvel the film. Without Maria Rambeau, Carol could very likely have been left adrift and completely missed her own calling as Captain Marvel.

In the movie, Maria is also a hotshot fighter pilot, a far cry from a seamstress running a shop in New Orleans. She’s positioned on the same level as Carol, in terms of energy and skills. It’s pretty easy to imagine movie Maria in the pilot seat, taking on some irradiated superpowers and beating up Yon-Rogg herself.

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Instead, Carol Danvers, the comic superhero, has far more time with Monica Rambeau. In most versions of the story (and this is comics, so there are at least three modern takes on Danvers’ Captain Marvel for us to follow), Carol is friendly with Monica. They’re contemporaries who meet quite a few times, though there’s isn’t much of a fighter jet-based relationship between them.

Maybe all of this is why the changes to Maria’s character are so thrilling for the film. It’s built almost out of nothing and to great effect. She goes from a very peripheral figure to the heart of Carol’s story, from a professional worrier and concerned mom to a quick-thinking, risk-taking, morally upright fighter pilot. In Captain Marvel, Maria Rambeau is given the chance to become a fully fleshed-out character who helps to carry the weight of the story alongside her friend Carol.