In Captain Marvel it would appear as if Carol can break the fourth wall. First, we have the "knowing smile" she gives after Stan Lee's cameo in the film which directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck acknowledge as her breaking the fourth wall without stating in those terms.

At one point, her eyes fall upon an elderly man conspicuously reading a _Mallrats _script. It's Stan Lee, practicing his lines for his cameo in that other movie. "Trust me, true believer," he mutters to himself. You can watch that entire Mallrats scene below:

The Captain Marvel scene was originally written by directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck as just another fun, funny appearance by the comics legend. But after his passing in November, the filmmakers felt compelled to update the sequence to acknowledge the "gravitas" of the moment.

"Instead of just the pure laugh we had, we had a little bit of a smile from Captain Marvel in response to it, and she kind of breaks character for a moment," Boden told me during an interview in Los Angeles last month. "I think it reflects a little bit of what the audience is feeling, and we allowed that to happen."

In the finished cut of Captain Marvel, Vers' gaze lingers on him for a few moments and she smiles to herself, before moving on with the rest of her quest. At the screening I attended, the audience definitely appreciated the homage – there were sighs, moans, and even a smattering of applause.

Mashable, How Stan Lee's 'Captain Marvel' cameo changed after his death

Later in the film we then have a scene where Carol is trying out new suit designs where each design is probably a reference to a previous comic version of the character. The last one she stops on is the white and green suit of Mar-Vell and Carol appears to give a "knowing look" before moving on to pick the final design.

In both cases she doesn't have to have broken the fourth wall in universe for the scenes to still make sense. The first "break" could be read as Vers breaking her "angry Vers must catch evil Skrull" character and smiling at "an old man" practising lines on a train rather than her actually breaking the fourth wall. And the second could simply be her "liking the design" rather than acknowledging the reference.

Regarding both of these it would appear that she might be able to break the fourth wall. However, I would like to know if there is any official statement on this in that if the character actually can or if it was more "just a bit of fun". If she can break the fourth wall has this ever been shown in the comics?

Can Captain Marvel break the fourth wall?

I am mainly looking for answers related to the MCU but answers sourced from the comics are perfectly acceptable too.

  • 17
    Captain Marvel breaks the glass ceiling, but responsibly leaves the fourth wall intact. Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 11:14
  • 3
    I imagine that Carol simply recognized Stan Lee, who was a well known public figure even in the 1990s, Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 8:03

1 Answer 1


You've kind of answered your own question by pointing out the fact that, in the movie, she does appear to acknowledge the audience, and that the directors intentionally allowed it to be perceived that way.

There is quite a lot written about comic characters breaking the fourth wall, and it certainly isn't limited to the well-known example of Deadpool. Marvel characters Luke Cage, Iron Fist and She-Hulk are apparently among those that have done it in comics. I can't find any reference to Captain Marvel doing it in comics but I cannot be certain.

If you are completely absorbed into and invested in the MCU, it could seem a little jarring to have one character "ruin" the reality of every other film by breaking the fourth wall whilst being part of the same universe. Although let's face it, it doesn't harm continuity and realism any more than having Stan Lee portraying a different person in every single film.

To answer your question of "can Captain Marvel break the fourth-wall"... I don't perceive it as an "ability" of certain heroes to do this, but just that the stories of different characters within the Marvel universes (comics or movies) have different storytelling devices. Most literature is characterised by either being told in first-person perspective or by a narrator in the third-person. If you perceive Deadpool, for example, as being the narrator of his own story then he can tell it any way he wants. Sometimes narrators do lie, and fictional narrators of their own story such as Baron Munchausen have been termed "unreliable narrators".

I think it is also worth noting that quite a lot of Marvel characters "narrate" their own story without actually going so far as to break the fourth wall. For example, in many of Spider-Man's comic stories, Spidey constantly voices his thoughts as if he is talking to himself. He has also engaged in banter with foes who may not even understand what he is saying and do not answer back. Talking "too much" is considered to be a characteristic of Spidey, but all of this, of course, is a story-telling device, and really the character is speaking to the reader which is really not so different from what Deadpool does in a more direct way.

Out of universe, Carol Danver's wink is undeniably a break from character as explained by the directors; but in-universe it could be explained as a break from the storytelling rather than from the reality.

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    “in-universe it could be explained as a break from the storytelling” — in-universe, I think it's fine. She just smiles at an old guy on the bus. It's only significant out-of-universe, because we know that's recently-deceased Stan Lee, presumably playing younger-Stan-Lee, and doing all his de-aging himself without special effects. Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 15:05
  • @PaulD.Waite Sure - if a character looks right at the camera we don't have to assume they are looking at us any more than if they look to the left it means they are looking to viewers on that side of the theatre. I've attempted to explain how we could view it in different ways if we have a problem with the concept, and I don't think the directors would have allowed something so deliberately jarring anyway (with the exception of Deadpool which comes with the character).
    – Astralbee
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 15:39
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    See I don't think it's jarring in and of itself. You can read it as a reference to Stan Lee's death, and it was put in for that purpose, but smiling at an old man reading something aloud on a bus doesn't inherently acknowledge the audience. Remove the context of Stan Lee (and plenty of the audience will have no idea who Stan Lee is), and it reads fine as just Carol smiling at an old guy who's really into his rehearsal. Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 15:45

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