The Marvels: The comic book history of Monica Rambeau

Monica Rambeau in The Marvels
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Monica Rambeau has been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2019's Captain Marvel, in which she appeared in flashback as the child of Carol Danvers' friend and ally Maria Rambeau (who is herself the Captain Marvel of an alt-Universe seen in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness).

But in The Marvels, Monica, played by Teyonah Parris, finally takes on a starring role as a superhero alongside Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan, following up on her appearance in the WandaVision streaming series, in which she gained powers of her own.

Now, the first trailer for The Marvels offers an explanation of what Monica's MCU powers are - she can "manipulate light energy." 

So with Monica's MCU origin and powers established, we're looking back into her comic book history, including how she got her powers and how they compare to the MCU, her many superhero codenames, and her time as the leader of the Avengers.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Monica Rambeau first appeared in comics in 1982's Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16. Created by writer Roger Stern and artist John Romita Jr., Monica got her powers while investigating a criminal plot as a Harbor Patrol agent in New Orleans. 

In the story, Monica is exposed to a strange kind of energy extra-dimensional that alters her body and gives her the power to transform her body into any kind of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum - including light, Cosmic Rays, Gamma Rays, and much, much more.

Initially dubbed 'Captain Marvel' by the media, Monica Rambeau became the second Marvel character to take on the name after the deceased Kree hero Mar-Vell, who died in the 1980 graphic novel The Death of Captain Marvel. Though she was at first wary of taking on the name of the fallen hero, she was assured by Mar-Vell's ally Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four that Mar-Vell would have approved of her taking on his superhero codename.

Monica went on to become a core member of the Avengers for a five year stretch, even appearing alongside the team in the original 1985 Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars event story, culminating in a term as the Avengers team leader.

After departing the Avengers, Monica remained a mainstay supporting character in the Marvel Universe, occasionally returning to the Avengers as well as joining the team Nextwave, and later the Ultimates, and eventually becoming an Agent of SWORD, as seen in WandaVision.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Over that time, her codename has changed a few times. After she stopped using the name Captain Marvel, Monica took up the codename Photon. She later briefly changed her name to Pulsar, before eventually settling into the name Spectrum.

Most recently, in the limited series Monica Rambeau: Photon, she's returned to the codename Photon, which is apparently the superhero name she'll use in the MCU. 

That story, which wraps up with April 25's Monica Rambeau: Photon #5, has dealt with Monica visiting alternate realities and dealing with the origins of her powers, even including an appearance by a new Variant version of Secret Wars villain The Beyonder.

With a starring role in The Marvels on the way in November, Monica is poised to take a much bigger role in the MCU. That could include a place in the new MCU Avengers, which is itself seemingly building toward an adaptation of the Avengers comic era in which Monica was an integral part of the team as they faced off against Kang, the current major villain of the MCU.

Is Zawe Ashton playing Kree Accuser Lauri-Ell in The Marvels?

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)