Slightly later than planned, we bring you a week of posts dedicated to women in positions of authority starting with a guest post by Memory Scarlett. Memory Scarlett reads a lot of comics. She writes about the experience on her blog, In the Forest of Stories, and tweets her comics-related feels on Twitter as @xicanti. She’d very much like to be BFFs with Carol Danvers and Jessica Drew.
Carol Danvers, codename Captain Marvel, isn’t just a superhero with stellar powers: she’s also an army officer with a talent for command. Whether she’s heading the Avengers, as she does at the beginning of Brian Michael Bendis’s run on Mighty Avengers, or serving as the organization’s ambassador to the stars, as in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s most recent Captain Marvel series, Carol takes charge.
She’s earned the right to call herself Captain, and she keeps on earning it every day of her life.
Carol’s seemingly effortless competence is one of my favourite things about her. She’s a fabulous, complex character who leads others by harnessing a variety of valuable social skills that make her as epic a force off the field as on. I want to talk about a few of them today.
She listens to advice and can compromise when necessary
Carol is tough, smart, and capable, and she has strong ideas as to how any engagement should go down; however, she’s not inflexible in her views. When she assembles the post-Civil War Avengers team, for example, she does so with plenty of input from Tony Stark, who’s brought her in specifically for her military experience. They both understand she’ll be in charge of the group, but Carol also accepts that Tony may have valuable input on their future teammates. She doesn’t waste time arguing a point unless she strongly believes he’s in the wrong.
Plus, with the Avengers now designated as a military operation, he’s her superior officer. Carol’s army through and through. She knows how the chain of command works.
Well, most of the time.
Over on the Captain Marvel front, Carol is an ambassador, not a commander. In her capacity as a representative, advisor, and soldier-on-loan, she’s quick to reevaluate her understanding of any given situation once she’s listened to the people with the highest stake in the game. It’s very much a matter of collecting information and understanding lived experiences so she can discover the best way she can help.
And on a related note...
She surrounds herself with committed people.
When Carol assembles her Avengers, she takes everyone’s strengths into account and considers how best they can aid the group on a professional level. She takes care to choose individuals with unique strengths that’ll mesh well with what each of the others brings to the fight.
By the time she’s assumed a leadership role out in the wider cosmos, she hardly needs to think twice about this sort of thing. She’s quick to choose a team that’ll help her achieve her goals, and she refuses to let first impressions influence her choice. She selects her allies on Torfa for their intelligence, their brawn, their technical know-how, and their heart, because that’s what she needs in this particular situation. Their knee-jerk reactions to her don’t mean squat next to what they can bring to the cause--and each they quickly reward her trust in them. Carol understands a good commander ain’t nothin’ without troops who can pull their weight.
She leads from a position of respect
You won’t catch Carol leaving any of that to chance, though. Good commanders can’t expect their troops to fall in line as if by magic. Carol asks for everything those under her command can give, without demanding more than they’re capable of. And she’s able to gauge the correct amount to push because she pays attention to who they are as people.
Carol is in charge, yeah, but she isn’t super-duper formal about her command. She’s always willing to step away from her role for a moment so she can accept anyone she meets as a fully realized person with their own motivations and sticking points. She recognizes what inspires them, what frustrates them, and where they’ll be most effective based on their experience and personality. She respects both their abilities and their limitations right from the get-go.
Carol also nurtures bonds between the people she’s responsible for because she understands they’ll work harder and perform better if they don’t have to go it alone. She ensures they know she’s got their backs, even if she may have to enter captain-mode and exercise her absolute authority if things get rough. When these situations do crop up, she rarely has a problem with insubordination. Her troops willingly follow her because she’s shown herself to be a committed leader who respects others and is worthy of their respect in turn.
She doesn’t take crap.
Friendships and solid working relationships are important to Carol, but she’s far from a doormat. She’ll listen to you, she’ll evaluate your position, and she’ll change her mind if you’ve made a compelling argument, but she will not take any crap from you.
She won’t be an asshole about it, though. Carol will earn your loyalty less with a show of (incredibly impressive) force and cocky bravado than with a relentless barrage of demonstrable capability and keen-eyed understanding. She’s as prone to annoyance as anyone else, but she can leave personal concerns at the door when she’s in command mode. You will respect her authority because she respects the work you’re capable of putting in, and because she puts the work in herself--not just on the battlefield, but also in the lead-up to the conflict.
She recognizes what she isn’t.
Carol recognizes that delegation is important. She can’t do everything on her own.
In the most recent Captain Marvel series, she finds herself in an ambassadorial role--and Carol is not a diplomat. She knows she’s not a diplomat. She takes the job as a way to see space and help a whole new array of people in her role as Avenger, but once she’s there she recognizes she’s at once a representative imbued with a great deal of power and an outsider who must find ways to work within the system. Without a regular, answerable-to-her team to call on, she’s going to have to deputize people to help with the non-punching part of her job. And that’s exactly what she does.
Likewise, she picks her Avengers team with the full understanding that each of these people brings something to the table that she herself may lack. She’s not a Thor. She’s not a Wolverine. She’s a Marvel (Ms, at this point in her timeline; not yet Captain in name, though still Captain in rank). She has a lot to offer, but she can’t offer everything.
That’s where her team comes in, under her capable guidance. A good leader inspires, respects, listens, exercises her authority, and delegates--and Carol lives up to the title.
I can’t wait to see who she’ll gather around her throughout the rest of her Captain Marvel run, and I’m beyond excited to see her take charge in Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps.
Give me Carol Danvers being awesome and capable and in charge, please. ie, give me Carol Danvers existing in character.