Originally appearing in the pages of Marvel Comics back in 1968, Carol Danvers is a character with a long, rich history. As with most comic book heroes, her story changed through the years, and the new Captain Marvel movie reinvents her for a new generation—and positions her to carry the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) into its next phase.

Launching a new franchise is never easy. With Captain Marvel, the stakes are high as Marvel Studios introduces a new character who fans expect to be an integral part of The Avengers going forward.

The Academy Award-nominated Black Panther was the most recent solo launch for the MCU—a massive global success that was met with a shortage of product in some regions. Captain Marvel is the first film in the series with a female star, and there’s huge opportunity to reach a diverse audience by planting the seeds for Danvers to be just as evergreen as Iron Man or Captain America.

“We took a thoughtful approach to creating a long-term, cross-category assortment for Captain Marvel that will resonate with fans and live up to the inspiring creativity and story surrounding Carol Danvers,” says Josh Silverman, executive vice president, global product commercialization, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

Much of that story is a heavily guarded secret, on-par with something that S.H.I.E.L.D. would keep tucked away in a desert bunker somewhere—information they selectively release on a need-to-know basis. A part of the mystery is that Carol was—and still is—so many things to so many people, and we just don’t know which pieces of her legend made their way into the film just yet.

She is a warrior, a leader, and somehow a member of the Kree, an alien race with incredible powers. She knows that in another life she was a pilot, a friend—a human. Those around her play vital roles in shaping the woman that Danvers will ultimately become.

“We see this as an important expansion of the Avengers franchise with a diverse set of characters, headlined by one of our most powerful heroes to date,” Silverman adds.

That diverse set includes hints at where the MCU could end up as we look to the past for visions of the future.

In the film, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) is a fellow fighter pilot, one of Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) closest friends, and single mother to daughter Monica—a youngster that in some tellings grows up to adopt the moniker of Captain Marvel for herself. Jude Law plays a Starforce Commander, likely Yon-Rogg, who traditionally maintains an adversarial relationship with Captain Marvel. Rounding out the Starforce team on which Danvers (as “Vers”) serves are Minn-Erva, Att-Lass, Bron-Char, and Korath. The latter, along with Ronan the Accuser, represents an even bigger connection to the Cosmic side of the MCU, previously appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The presence of Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his army of shape-shifting Skrulls open new realms for storytelling beyond the Kree-Skrull War, and could potentially unseat the entire MCU should it introduce elements of the famed “Secret Invasion” storyline from the comics, in which Skrull imposters replaced many of Earth’s heroes over the years.

Younger and less-jaded versions of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) lend to the freshness of exploring an era that wasn’t all that long ago, but one for which audiences are already nostalgic. The ‘90s setting of the film throws it back to the days of Blockbuster Video, pay phones, and pagers, providing some creative opportunity to do product tie-ins with fun and fresh design elements.

Styled by Marvel grew into a fashion and lifestyle movement that retailers and fans readily embrace, and for this rodeo they’re going grunge. Standout designs tap into the era, such as a Nirvana-inspired, yellow-on-black swirl T-shirt, and the very KISS-esque“swirl” design—which itself just might actually be a nod to The Melvins. Beanie hats and bomber jackets complete the retro look.

Reaching back to the source material, Marvel Comics relaunched Captain Marvel as an ongoing series last month, just as Marvel Press aims to reach readers of all ages. Select titles include What Makes a Hero? (grade school), Starforce on the Rise (middle school), and Higher, Further, Faster (young adult). Marvel’s Powers of a Girl showcases 65 women who changed the universe, while The Life of Captain Marvel collects the recent five-issue “definitive origin story” from the comics in a square-bound trade paperback. That makes a perfect starting point for
new fans.

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel blasts into theaters on March 8, with new products set for release throughout the year.

This article was originally published in the Pop Insider’s Winter 2019 Issue No. 2, click here to read more!