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Jamie McKelvie details his Captain Marvel redesign

Captain Marvel
(Image credit: Jamie McKelvie (Marvel Comics))

One of the biggest pieces of news coming out of this past weekend's WonderCon in Anaheim was Marvel's new Captain Marvel series, debuting in July.

The book — written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated by Dexter Soy — not only puts long-time 'Ms. Marvel' Carol Danvers into the storied role of 'Captain Marvel,' it also provides the Marvel hero with a new costume, one seemingly much more functional — and much more covered up — than the character's past outfits.

The costume was designed by Phonogram and X-Men: Season One artist Jamie McKelvie, who talked to Newsarama about his approach to the costume, the importance of retaining a link to the past, and what it means to him as a Marvel fan that Carol Danvers is now Captain Marvel.

Newsarama: Jamie, strictly as a Carol Danvers fan, how excited are you about the character finally taking on the role of Captain Marvel in her new series?

Jamie McKelvie

(Image credit: Image Comics)

Jamie McKelvie: Very! She's a great, complex character. I think she should/can be every bit as much of a flagship character as Captain America or Iron Man. Being Ms. Marvel was a great and bold move when the character was created, but there's a sense with it that she is 'just' a female counterpart to a male superhero. With the name change, she's standing up there under her own power.

Nrama: Obviously, a huge component is that it's a rare superhero costume - male or female - that actually appears fairly practical. Was that a major part of the goal from the start? In general, would you like to see the mainstream comic book industry move more towards that direction?     

McKelvie: I wouldn't say necessarily practical - but that's a result of us trying to create something that came out of her character and background in the military. I think the best and strongest costumes arise from the character's personality, backstory, and so on.

(Image credit: Jamie McKelvie (Marvel Comics))

It deserves a much longer answer, but I'd like to see more consideration for what message a female character's design is putting across. I think we, as an industry, are getting better at it though, which is heartening.

Nrama: Though the look is new, there are definite touches of past costumes, most prominently the sash. Was it a priority for you to incorporate elements of what's come before?

McKelvie: Yes - we wanted to provide a link to her past while also striking out with something new. So you've got the basic layout of the first Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel colors, but flipped; the sash from the Warbird look, then the stripes, gloves/boots, and collar taking inspiration from her Air Force life. 

In the same way Captain America's costume is very much superhero, but also tells you he comes from an army background.

(Image credit: Jamie McKelvie (Marvel Comics))

Nrama: Along with the costume, Carol's hairstyle when in costume is also striking — though I know it's pinned back rather than cut, how important was that style to the overall presentation? 

It all seems to work really well together, adding up to a look that's very distinct and obviously very different from typical female superhero outfits.

(Image credit: Jamie McKelvie (Marvel Comics))

McKelvie: Firstly, all credit where it's due - the helmet/hair combo was Joe Quesada's idea (and how cool is it I got to collaborate with him on this?). He did some sketches of it to show the hair kind of replacing the fin of the Kree helmet, and what the style would be like to make it work, and we went from there.

Distinct is good though - how many female superheroes have the same long hair? It certainly makes her stand out when in costume, and again is part of marking a new era for her. The helmet is kind of a visual indicator of drama - when she has it on, you know things are about to get intense.

Make sure you've read all the best Captain Marvel stories.