The latest surprise comes in Captain Marvel, when the audience finds out that Goose, Carol Danvers’s lovable cat, is not what it appears to be.
The cat, which was a consistent presence in the film’s promos and marketing, is truly one of the most enjoyable elements about the movie. And the eventual reveal of Goose’s true nature is one of its biggest twists, with repercussions that affect, in a roundabout way, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Goose the cat is actually an alien species called a Flerken
There’s a running gag in Captain Marvel that Nick Fury — who is known for being lovable but gruff, and not at all touchy-feely — takes a liking to Goose. But other characters, including Skrull general Talos, as well as the Kree scanner, indicate early in the film that Goose is actually scary.
When Talos confronts Fury and Carol Danvers, he recoils and expresses a deep fear of Goose, telling Fury that the animal is not what it appears to be. And in the film’s third act, we see Goose unleash its true nature when Carol asks Fury to hold the Tesseract for safekeeping — Goose takes it upon itself to protect the Tesseract and promptly unleashes a mouthful full of tentacles to “swallow” it.
That’s because Goose is a Flerken: an alien species that lays eggs and that can shoot large tentacles from its mouth. Flerkens can also shapeshift, thanks to their ability to hold a pocket dimension inside their bodies.
While fearsome to their enemies, Flerkens seem to be loyal to their friends — though this characteristic is seemingly contradicted late in the movie, when Goose scratches out Fury’s eye.
So by the end of Captain Marvel, Goose is responsible for one of the most iconic eye accessories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Fury’s eyepatch, as well as the temporary caretaker of a very important Infinity Stone.
Goose being a Flerken is a faithful adaptation of the Captain Marvel comics. The only thing the movie really changes is the creature’s name: In the comics, Carol Danvers has a cat named Chewie, after the Star Wars character Chewbacca.
As former Captain Marvel comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick told me, Chewie the cat was seemingly introduced by writer Brian Reed in 2006, in Giant Size Ms. Marvel No. 1 (the comic is about an alternate dimension that’s created during the “House of M” event).
But Chewie’s Flerken nature wasn’t part of the character’s story until later, when DeConnick wrote it in. DeConnick started writing Captain Marvel in 2012, and expanded on Reed’s creation in part by incorporating some of her own real-life experiences into the comic.
“When I took on the character [of Captain Marvel] it was important to me that we have a sense of her home life and her supporting cast,” DeConnick told me. “Chewie was just funny to me. And I [used to have] this cat, Ham, who I absolutely loved but he was the nastiest creature to everyone but me. I thought it was fun to make Chewie like Ham.”
DeConnick says that Chewie became a fixture in her second Captain Marvel run because it gave Carol Danvers a sense of humanity and another character to talk to. And since Chewie was nasty to anyone who wasn’t Carol, fellow Avengers like Rhodey didn’t want cat-sit. That gave her a reason to bring the “cat” into space.
“I was worried about Carol having to leave all these characters I’d spent so much time and energy developing in order to go to space,” she said. “And I was afraid I’d slide into writing too many internal monologues if Carol didn’t have someone to talk to. So it was just a solution to a problem for her to take the cat with her.”
But what about turning Chewie into a Flerken?
“The idea of the cat being an alien came later, when I got to write the Guardians of the Galaxy [into the comic],” DeConnick said. Carol Danvers interacts with the Guardians, particularly Rocket, during Captain Marvel No. 7 and No. 8 in an arc dubbed “Release the Flerken.”
Not unlike what happens in the movie, Rocket tells Carol that her beloved cat isn’t what it appears to be. And it’s in those aforementioned issues that Chewie’s Flerken nature is revealed.
“I wanted to play with the dynamic of Rocket and Chewie,” she said — referring to the idea that even though the two characters look like a raccoon and cat to human readers, Rocket and Chewie are much more powerful beings — there’s a disconnect between the visual and their abilities, and when Rocket reveals Chewie’s nature, it’s a shock. “I remember having this conversation with Brian Bendis and my husband, Matt Fraction, in Brian’s kitchen years ago. [It’s very] strange to see all this come to fruition [on the big screen].”
“Oh, and when Brian Reed introduced Chewie, the cat just appeared in Carol’s apartment around the same time as she was dealing with an inter-dimensional space traveler, so it all just made sense in retrospect,” she added.
DeConnick’s conception of Flerken Chewie extended beyond her run with Captain Marvel, which ended in 2015. Margaret Stohl wrote Carol Danvers in the 2018 comic The Life of Captain Marvel,and leaned into Chewie’s other powers like shapeshifting:
“I had so much fun messing around with his very ‘merf’ ‘yawn’ ‘so over it’ reactions,” Stohl told me. “I played around with his shape-shifting on my first run, ‘Alien Nation’, but most of the time he functions like comic timing, a reaction shot to some of Carol’s epic superhero-sized physical humor.”
I asked both DeConnick and Stohl to assess Chewie’s power levels by posing each a simple question: Would you rather fight 100 Chewie-sized Thanoses or one Thanos-sized Chewie?
“One huge Chewie!” Stohl declared, noting that Flerken powers render the idea of a Chewie-sized Flerken moot. She said that “Chewie-sized” truly means nothing in that context, since size and density mean nothing to shape-shifting Flerkens.
DeConnick said she would just give up.
“Oh man, do I have to?” she said. “Can’t I just surrender? I for one welcome our new Flerken overlord.”