Carol was Binary from 1983 to 1998. Her debut as Binary is a powerful one, with cosmic grandeur, during a classic X-Men story arc. And then… and then ..! (video). And then, very little. It’s a 15-year-long missed opportunity.
Carol’s increased stature during the 2010s and — apparently — in the forthcoming movie version can thus be framed as making up for what didn’t happen 30 years before.
- Real Name: Carol Susan Jane Danvers.
- Former Aliases: Ms. Marvel, Lady Marvel (in Morgan’s reality).
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: Joseph (father), Marie (mother), Steve (brother, deceased), Joseph Jr. (brother).
- Group Affiliation: Starjammers. Associate of the Avengers, of the X-Men, of the Starcore lab.
- Base of Operations: The voyages of the starship Starjammer, Avengers’ Mansion, Starcore station, and her parents’ house in Beverly, MA.
- Height: 5’11” Weight: 120 lbs.
- Eyes: Blue Hair: Blonde.
Powers & Abilities
Binary can emit immense amounts of energy. That includes heat, light, other EM radiation, etc.. She also can manipulate gravity.
Her peak output is not something that’s normally encountered on Earth. It’s more akin to that of a large starship or even a small star.
Carol has compared this to Mar-Vell’s cosmic awareness, but physical rather than spiritual. Her ability to handle energy has been compared both to that of a star, and that of a white hole.
A star is born, ohhh aaahaaahaaa aaah haaahahaaa hohoha
White holes are theoretical astrophysical bodies. That is, they logically *could* exist in relativistic physics. This type of gravitational singularity is the reverse of a black hole. Nothing can leave the event horizon of a black hole, but nothing can *enter* that of a white hole.
There are several kinds of black hole, so flipping the equations means several types of white holes. Back in 1982, a popular idea in science-fiction was a kind of white hole where the matter and energy swallowed by a black hole get expelled. The black hole, and its corresponding white hole, exist in two separate universes.
The original run of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe , released shortly after Binary’s appearance describes this kind of white hole. She opens small rifts through which she can emit energy from the white hole she’s linked with, or alter space/time curvature.
Watch as I dive in, I’ll never meet the ground
What Binary is actually seen doing :
- Huge energy blasts, comparable to that of a dreadnought-class starship. These are powerful enough to obliterate a small city or a large starship. She didn’t harm Gladiator (Kallark) much, but she was pulling her punch.
- Existing in hard vacuum without apparent vital needs.
- Flying at least as fast as a starfighter. Binary can quickly cross a solar system, but doesn’t seem capable of galactic-scale speeds.
- Enormously enhanced — reportedly “Class 100” — strength and durability. For instance Binary can bodily fly through thick, armoured walls without slowing down. However, multiple hits by space artillery — or a solid hit from a Marvanite Monitor — could stun her.
- Radiating waves of anti-gravity to clear space around her.
- Using unspecified enhanced senses, likely having to do with energy. She could sense energy signatures in space, such as approaching starships and other fast objects. Oddly, she also seemed to have slightly enhanced empathic senses.
Binary often uses but a fraction of her nominal output, in order not to devastate everything (including nearby allies). When in deep space, she has more room for huge blasts.
When Danvers re-accessed her Binary powers years after this era, she showed a greater range. She could manipulate magnetism and/or gravity, and sometimes had a degree of cosmic consciousness. But these returns to Binary power levels were brief.
She once manipulated starship-scale plasma artillery blasts, returning them to the sender. This doesn’t “count” in that her powers were being manipulated by the Inciters at that point. But this is likely something she could achieve with training.
Carol knows at least one form of the Shi’ar language, and is familiar with manning Shi’ar starships. She learned Rajaki (the language of Sapper) and presumably a number of other alien languages.
Carol appears to be knowledgeable about international procedures for extraterrestrial intrusion aerospace response. Since she’s been with the USAF, NASA, the Avengers and Starcore, that seems reasonable.
The previous chapter had some Vangelis, since heroic synthwave evoked this part of the 1980s. Therefore, not using Pulstar as musical atmosphere for this part of Carol’s career would be odd.
Admittedly it’s from the 1970s rather than the 1980s. But as Kasumi Gōtō once observed, nobody’s perfect.
The X-Men (plus Carol and Lilandra) escaped from the Brood. They fled aboard the Z’ree Shar, Lilandra’s space yacht. Danvers and Wolverine (James Howlett) figured out her minimal armament, killing a number of pursuing fighters.
However, the Earthlings gradually realised that they now were incubators for Brood larvae.
The depowered Carol hadn’t been implanted with an embryo. Yet it was with her that the changes first became evident.
In my dreams, I am the star
Ms. Danvers remained an optimal meld of Human and Kree genetics – a perfect platform to express A-list superhuman abilities. Which is what she suddenly did, emitting torrents of energy that took out all pursuers. She then repowered the depleted drive cores of the Z’ree Shar.
Carol was delighted by her new power, her new perceptions – and finally being out there among the stars.
She renamed herself Binary. This is a reference to solar systems with twin suns. Since she grew up on Golden Age Of Science Fiction novels, this may have been inspired by any number of Jack Vance sci-fi novels . Or perhaps Stanisław Lem’s landmark Solaris .
I am an avenger
The X-Men seemed doomed by the implanted embryos, which enraged Binary. She took on the entire Brood clan responsible for this, razing their bases and destroying their fleet.
Meanwhile, the Acanti aliens (aka the “space whales”) allied with both Binary and the X-Men. This alliance came up with a longshot plan to save both the X-Men and the Acanti from the Brood. The desperate effort was reinforced by the Starjammers – then by Lockheed the miniature space dragon.
With her enormous energies, Carol freed the racial soul of the Acanti, saving the species. The first action of the reborn Acanti Prophet-Singer was to purge the Brood embryos within the X-Men, saving them in turn.
Aboard the Starjammer, Carol and the X-Men then rushed back to Earth. There they took down the Brood who had taken over Professor Charles Xavier.
While she was back dirtside, Carol resumed staying at the X-Mansion. She visited her parents in MA, though she had lost her emotional bond with them.
She also attended poker night at Avengers’ Mansion, once again winning all the money. When Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) came in, Carol was puzzled by her use of this name. This is how she learned that her friend Mar-Vell had died months before.
She flew to Titan then to Mar-Vell’s grave to pay her respects. But there again, her memories of the great Kree protector were devoid of their emotional weight. Distraught, she considered leaving Earth and joining the Starjammers.
While she was gone Xavier took Rogue (Anna-Marie NLN) in. Refusing to stay under the same roof as Rogue, Danvers left in anger.
Binary did enlist with the Starjammers. But most of their space adventures remain space unchronicled. What was seen had a Star Wars vibe, which was unavoidable back then. One bit also snuck in Grimjack references.
In 1985, Binary powered an inert stargate. This allowed Corsair and Lilandra to teleport to Earth to medevac the dying Charles Xavier. The Professor then joined the crew, since the Starjammer was too damaged to return to Earth any time soon.
In 1987, Illyana Rasputin teleported into outer space to reach Xavier. The ‘jammers space rescued her from space slavers, then helped with reuniting the time-lost New Mutants. Binary helped Xavier and the New Mutants take down the immensely powerful Magus, of the Technarchy.
Howbeit the fight ruined the small planet it occurred on. And the Starjammers escaped their Shi’ar pursuers by the slimmest margin yet.
In 1990, the Starjammers learned that Shi’ar empress Deathbird was after something called the “Phalkon”. They attempted to locate it before Deathbird could. This took them all the way to Earth.
The “Phalkon” turned out to be the Phoenix Force. Deathbird drained some of it, but it backfired. The Starjammers hijacked the stolen energy and used it to empower Professor X for a while. Thanks to this extra might and the Phoenix imagery, the Starjammers led a major rebellion against Deathbird.
This rebellion was a success, but was hijacked by a cadre of Warskrulls. These captured the Starjammers. Then they impersonated Lilandra and Xavier, stealing their image and powers to take the throne from Deathbird.
The Warksrulls were taken down by the X-Men, who freed the Starjammers.
White holes and revelations
During the big Kree/Shi’ar war of 1992, the Starjammers fought for Empress Lilandra. Binary and a team of Imperial Guards protected the Nega-Bomb project. They delayed Quasar (Wendell Vaughn) long enough for this cosmic warhead to be finished.
Howbeit, heavy stargate traffic had destabilised Sol – Earth’s sun. Quasar attempted to purge the instability forming within, but he wasn’t powerful enough. Binary dove into the Sun and formed a small white hole, vacuuming up the unstable matter from her native star.
No, this doesn’t make any astrophysical sense. What we can observe is :
- She created some sort of singularity that only affected unstable matter, across the whole of Sol. Quasar was shunting some leftovers into the Quantum Zone dimension, but that was negligible. Why does the vacuuming always fall to women ?
- This apparently formed something called a “white star” or a “white hole star” in a different part of the galaxy. Presumably, what she purged was turned to energy by the wormhole.
The Shi’ar knew of at least one other “white hole star”. Perhaps Binary wasn’t the first to shunt such matter through a singularity, creating a weird celestial body elsewhere.
This is for the Raza
Though she saved the Solar system, the effort left her comatose. Quasar flew Danvers out of the Sun and to Avengers Mansion for medical care. While bedridden, she socialised with the Avengers and the Mansion staff.
The Starjammers dropped by to check on her. However, it was also a cover used by Raza Longknife and Hepzibah as part of an assassination contract. Raza very nearly slew the Black Knight (Dane Whitman), and the Avengers went after him.
Carol found Raza first. He confessed that he was in an unwinnable situation. The Kree were threatening to kill Raza’s long-lost son if he didn’t murder the Black Knight.
Being loyal to both the ‘jammers and the Avengers, Danvers lied. She made up something about a will-dampening device having been used to manipulate Raza.
This left Raza and the ‘jammers free to attempt to rescue his son. In return, Longknife told what he knew about the Kree Supreme Intelligence’s plot against Earth.
Binary then took a leave of absence. Presumably, she felt uncomfortable about her preserve-both-teams’-interests deception.
Carol indicated she wanted to spend time with her parents in MA. However, she came to miss being in outer space. This led Carol to :
- Work on her first sci-fi novel, Binary. This was a fictionalisation of her time with the Starjammers.
- Consult for Dr. Peter Corbeau, an old ally of Professor X and the X-Men. Corbeau headed Starcore, a United Nations orbital lab. Starcore was also Earth’s main early warning station about outer space threats.
Ms. Danvers apparently held a formal rank with Starcore, allowing her to issue certain orders with UN-wide authority.
In 1994, alien ne’er-do-wells shot a giant thruster at the Moon. Professor Xavier asked Binary to investigate. The responding superhumans managed to get rid of the thruster before it could mess up the Moon’s orbit. However, this was a diversion. It covered for the kidnapping of one Kayla Ballantine, who held the cosmic Starbrand energy.
To prevent misuse of the Starbrand, Quasar enlisted those present to go after Ballantine’s captors. They stole a Shi’ar starship to give chase. But one of the volunteers, Vanguard (Nicolai Krylenko), was slain.
While securing the Starbrand, the party allied with the Stranger. He used his many powers to strengthen them. In Carol’s case, he restored the emotional connection that was missing from her memories.
However, this didn’t hold long. Losing this connection for a second time did a number on Carol’s mental health, and she started drinking.
In 1997, Dr. Peter Corbeau asked the X-Men to help Binary pump a few terawatts into the depleting Starcore reactor. However, an ancient techno-organic species, the Inciters, was making its return. They psionically interfered with Danvers’ mind.
The Inciters manipulated her into destabilising the “white hole star” she had created whilst saving Sol. They also created a new one (which destroyed Zenn-La, the Silver Surfer’s homeworld) and destabilised Kiletra, a third “white hole star”. Having all three go nova at once would devastate large swathes of four galaxies – the Milky Way, Andromeda, the Kree/Greater Magellanic Cloud and Shi’ar.
Though Binary was overwhelmed by the Inciters’ vast psionic powers, Jean Grey came through. She helped Carol regain control, and desinterface from the “white hole star”. Meanwhile, the Surfer seemingly destroyed the Inciters.
However, Binary’s powers were damaged by the “white hole star” manipulations. Over months, her maximum output diminished and her range narrowed. This worsened her alcohol problem.
(At this point there is a retcon . The celestial body the Inciters had her tamper with is now presented as the white hole that gave Binary her powers all along. The goal likely was to simplify a jumbled sequence of events.)
(Our proposed alternative would be that the Inciters psionically drew from Binary’s energies to destabilize two “white hole stars” and create a third near Zenn-La. That works well with the material in X-Men Unlimited Vol. 1 #13, without an overt retcon. And that such cosmic feats would damage her powers seems reasonable.)
In 1998, the Avengers responded to worldwide attacks by magical creatures. They called in all reservists and ex-members. Binary responded, wearing an old Ms. Marvel black costume. Since she wasn’t seen among the response teams, it is possible she was sent to fight solo.
The attacks were caused by the Fée Morgane. Morgan cast a powerful spell that turned the world into an alternate, Arthurian-themed reality. In this new world, Carol was — and always had been — Lady Marvel, one of Morgan’s champions. She seemed close to the Jade Giantess, the new identity of the She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters).
Eventually, the Avengers broke Morgan’s spell.
In the wake of this crisis, they reorganised. Carol hid her alcoholism, hid that she was rapidly losing her Binary powers, and was determined to prove that she still could make it. She made the cut, and joined as Warbird.
This didn’t go well.
Return of the trellis framework
Since you have faithfully read this series of profiles, you vividly remember our “trellis” No-Prize Hypothesis. That is, the odd coherence that appears in hindsight about Carol’s tribulations, given a charitable reading.
Here, we have a narrative collision between the Starblast LS and the 1998 volume of Avengers. In Starblast, Gruenwald has the Stranger fix the damage done to several characters – particularly Binary, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) and Perun.
But in Avengers, Busiek throws out the “repairs” done to Carol’s psyche in order to deploy his Warbird character arc. That regresses the character to where she was before becoming Binary.
The Stranger’s exact words are that he “restored [her] fragmented psyche” to have all heroes present “at the peak of [their] abilities”. He doesn’t say anything about the emotional valence of Carol’s memories, which aren’t “fragmented”. And her memories from years before aren’t germane to her efficiency right now.
Our proposed approach is the Stranger doesn’t care about Carol’s lost emotions. What he does is callously tinker with the old Psyche-Magnitron “trellis” persona fragment. The one once used to help Carol deal with the torture at Lubyanka and the destruction of her life. Perhaps he makes her more Kree-warrior-like by making the persona fragment dominant again.
Though this likely had brief benefits, it soon falls apart. The delicate, gradual strengthening work using the “Kree” persona as a trellis is swept from under Carol’s feet. This unravels decades of healing, almost all the way back to 1967 – when she joined NASA. All for very little gain.
Yes, this also works as a metaphor. But then, what doesn’t.
I as in Icarus
The “trellis” approach is proposed to explain the wild variations in power, stature, assertiveness, competence, etc. during the 50+ years of Carol’s career. Thus, it might be tempting to stretch it to explain why her time as Binary was such a missed opportunity.
IMO, this isn’t a fruitful idea.
Rather, let’s imagine that her time as Binary was full of dramatic, spectacular, high-powered space adventures – with and occasionally without the Starjammers. They simply weren’t documented for the most part. And the parts that were documented weren’t the best bits.
This take fits better with later characterisation works, such as Busiek’s and DeConnick’s. Carol did reach out, did touch the stars (literally !), but her wings caught fire and she messily fell. Then she painfully got up again to have another go at it.
When powered up, Binary’s skin becomes deep red. Some areas (particularly the top of her outfits’ leggings and gloves) may give off flames. At her lowest intensity her hair will be flame, like Firestorm’s. But in most cases the top of her head will look like a star burning bright.
Her tears also manifested as a burning liquid.
The costume, including the twin stars insignia above the left breast, just appeared out of nowhere when she first assumed her Binary form.
It was originally a sort of swimsuit (plus long gloves and boots), but she soon modified it. The modified costume is actually a body glove, but most of it is deep-red – the same colour as her skin when she’s powered up. The white parts are just drawn-on motifs.
There’s a circular opening between her shoulders blades, perhaps to evacuate excess heat. Or to make fun of Power Girl.
The 5’11” listed above is her official, Handbook height. But in her prior appearances Ms. Danvers is never drawn as being that tall. Thus, our No-Prize Hypothesis is that she got taller in stages, as part of her physical mutations. Becoming Binary would be one such “growth spurt”.
5’11” is likely based on a panel in UXM #166, where Carol is clearly, hmmm, 6′. Look, let’s not quibble for an inch. And 5’11” seems right for scenes where Carol is standing next to Mr. Edwin Jarvis (who’s 5’9″).
The 120 lbs. weight is also the OHOTMU one. Binary doesn’t have a human physiology so heh, maybe it’s correct. But it does feel like a typo, even assuming the “handbook scale”. For such a tall, shapely, athletic woman, 150 lbs. seems more reasonable. Even on the handbook scale.
Carol sometimes comes across as cranky, aggressive, arrogant and wanting to cut loose. This could be a product of her dealing with the immense energies at her disposal. But honestly… it feels more like so-so writing.
In her other appearances there’s little notable characterisation or quotes.
DC Universe History
If you want to keep the Supergirl parallels, Carol’s Binary career could actually take part in a version of the Legion of Super-Heroes’ XXXth century.
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly
|Dex: 08||Str: 17||Bod: 14||Motivation: Responsibility|
|Int: 04||Wil: 04||Min: 05||Occupation: Missed opportunity|
|Inf: 04||Aur: 04||Spi: 05||Wealth: 004|
|Init: 020||HP: 050|
Attraction/Repulsion: 15, Bomb: 12, Empathy: 01, Detect (High energy): 30, Energy blast: 19, Flame immunity: 20, Flame project: 19, Flight: 25, Power Reserve (STR, Detect, Energy Blast, Flame Project, Flame immunity, Flight): 03
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Attraction /repulsion can have an Area of Effect.
- Detect only functions in outer space. On most planets, there’s too much interference to cleanly pick the signal.
- Energy Blast is easily modulated, allowing Binary to harmlessly recharge most kinds of batteries, engines, beings, etc. powered by EM energies.
- Power Reserve can only be used outside of a planetary atmosphere.
Artist (Writer): 03, Vehicles: 05, Weaponry (Firearms, heavy): 05
Expertise (Poker), Familiarity (Shi’ar tech, Terran extraterrestrial intrusion aerospace response procedures, SCUBA, Military equipment and protocols), Language (Low Shi’ar, Rajaki and presumably others), Life Support (Full), Slowed Ageing, Misc.: Limitless energy (see below).
X-Men (Low), Avengers (Low), Dr. Peter Corbeau (Low), Starjammers (Low).
Mistrust (when hunter by the Shi’ar military), Misc.: If expanding too much energy too quickly, Carol will revert to her human form (No Powers, DEX 06 STR 04 BOD 05) for a while.
There isn’t enough material about Binary to firmly assess her power level. So a fair few stats are speculative. The Powers are also a mite broader than what was demonstrated.
Some of her stats are lower than the 1980s Ms. Marvel, since — except for the Brood story arc — she’s less impressive and on the ball during this span.
People who want a more dynamic and badass Binary should draw from the 1980s Ms. Marvel stats.
Her high relativistic flight speed (29 is the speed of light) is eyeballed to allow her to get from Earth to Titan (about 41 APs of distance) within less than 12 hours. This is the one good example we have of her flight speed. But it’s useless for intersystem flight – getting to Alpha Centauri would take her a decade.
Danvers can only harness so much energy at any given point. Her output is enormous, but it has limits. However, the energy she draws *from* is cosmic scale. It’s essentially limitless.
Therefore, attempts at draining, duplicating, stealing, mimicking, etc. Binary’s power are done against an AV/OV of 40/40.
Attempts at neutralising her probably will attack her normal APs, since they’re presumably “aimed” at the interface between Carol and the white hole. But if a Neutralize or similar attempt is done in a more brute force manner, then it’s 40/40 time baby.
This approach is based on how such characters usually work, plus two specific incidents :
- Zenith of the Imperial Guard was unable to replicate her powers due to their limitless nature.
- The Warskrulls, who duplicated Charles Xavier’s telepathy, were unable to duplicate Carol Danver’s Binary power. They also had to use what seemed to be starship-scale tech to keep her subdued.
She’s megascale, mate
Binary can also use these 40 APs when gradually pumping energy into a system – usually a powerful starship’s drive, such as the Starjammer. However, if she deploys more APs than her Energy Blast APs, she’ll revert to her Carol Danvers form (but keep her Binary costume) for a while.
If more than 30 APs were used, or if something weird happened whilst pumping energy, Carol may remained diminished for a few days even after she regained her Binary form.
This limitless energy can also be used for megascale energy manipulation stunts. This stuff isn’t usually modelled by a specific Power – one example was purging spreading anti-matter out of Sol. When doing megascale energy manipulation, Carol can engage 35 APs of power – about the level of your typical G-type star. However, this is Catastrophic Marginal.
Carol can lower this fee to Serious Marginal, but this instantly drops all of her Current Conditions to 00. She’ll likely remain comatose for several days and require high-end medical care for months. On the other hand, that doesn’t force her to revert to human form.
Real big fish
Early on, Binary destroys a weaponised adult Acanti. From Marvel’s official numbers about average Acanti mass, such a creature has a BODY of 33 or so. A sleazoid aboard also mentions that the “ship” has shields, likely raising its RV.
This isn’t factored into our EV calculations for Binary (though between a Devastating Attack, a good roll and HPs….). This is in large part because we’ve always suspected that the general mass=BODY rule for vehicles doesn’t work, especially for large numbers. This is in part what led to the Damage Capacity Power.
It is also common for attacks that demolish huge space objects (like spaceships and asteroids) to be markedly less efficient when they hit a person. Many space-based characters display this space phenomenon.
Source of Character: Marvel Comics.
Writeup completed on the 17th of November, 2018.