The release date for the eagerly-awaited Captain Marvel is still two months away, but speculation about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s twenty-first film has been going strong for the better part of a year, partially driven by the fact that Nick Fury sends a desperate call to Captain Marvel at the end of Avengers: Infinity War before dissolving into ash. While Captain Marvel’s possible role in saving the world from the Mad Titan has certainly been the subject of conversation, the lion’s share of fan curiosity has been devoted to a different character entirely: the superhero’s pet cat.
In a poster released on September 19, Captain Marvel stands in an airplane hangar wearing her iconic blue and red suit. It didn’t take fans long to find a cuddly Easter egg hidden in the left corner of the poster: the rear half of an orange feline. The discovery spawned countless articles rejoicing that Captain Marvel’s cat—actually an alien species known as Flerken in the comic books—would be playing a role in the upcoming film. Fast forward to early December when Marvel dropped the second trailer concluding with Nick Fury gushing over an adorable cat whose nametag reads "Goose" and the internet once again went wild.
“Aren’t you the cutest little thing?” coos the formidable warrior, super-spy and S.H.I.E.L.D. director. “Aren’t you cute? And what’s your name, huh?” When Captain Marvel attempts to reclaim Fury’s attention, he whispers “I’ll be back” to the purring feline. The scene does reveal one vital change from the comics: Fury’s check of the cat’s nametag reveals that Captain Marvel has named her cat Goose in a nod to the Naval Flight Officer from the 1986 film Top Gun. In the comics, Captain Marvel’s feline/Flerken companion goes by the name Chewie in a nod to Star Wars. In keeping with its reputation for remaining tight-lipped about essentially every detail of future films, Marvel has yet to reveal the motivation behind the name change, but the outpouring of attention and affection for the feline raises a larger question: why are fans so obsessed with Captain Marvel’s cat?
Screen Rant provided an answer of sorts in an article titled 15 Coolest Pets in Comic Book History (and no, Chewie/Goose the Flerken/cat did not make the list although Dogpool, Batman and Robin’s cow Bat-Cow, Falcon’s beloved Redwing and Ace the Bat-Hound all made the cut). “At the end of the day, superheroes are people too,” the article points out. “They need that incomparable bond just as much as the rest of us. Their lives may be drastically different from ours, but the feelings for their furry companions remain the same.”
Do we love Ace the Bat-Hound and Goose the cat because they provide a point of commonality with our favorite superheroes? It’s entirely possible. We can watch Captain Marvel rocket through the sky with power and grace, but we can’t join her and that’s a tough pill to swallow. We can, however, identify with the Captain Marvel who complains about her family to her pet cat, as happens in the comics.
Daily Superheroes offers another perspective in the article 10 Superhero Pets We Want Onscreen (once more, Chewie/Goose did not make the cut, although Wonder Woman’s kangaroo Jumpa, Superman’s dog Krypto and Kitty Pryde’s dragon Lockheed all did). “But superhero pets also tell us something about our heroes that nothing else can—that they have the ability to bond to something, anything. Many of our heroes are rogue, unable to maintain healthy relationships for any reason, but with pets, they’re brought closer to us.” In other words, pets have a humanizing effect on our heroes, and while we might admire our superheroes for being stronger, faster and braver than we ever could be, that link to their humanity remains important for fans.
The list of superhero pets is lengthy, from Spider-Man’s Aunt May’s dog Ms. Lion to Throg the Frog of Thunder to the aforementioned Ace the German Shepherd Bat-Hound. Some of these pets help fight crime, some have superpowers and complicated origin stories while others are just ordinary pets who happen to belong to extraordinary people. The Guardians of the Galaxy had a golden retriever/Labrador mix named Cosmo with telepathic abilities and a history with the Soviet Union’s Space Program. DC Comics launched the Legion of Super-Pets which boasted such notable members as Krypto the Super-Dog, Streaky the Supercat, Bat-Cow, another Bat-hound named Titus and Flexi the Plastic Bird. The pets faced off against the Joker and Harley Quinn’s pet hyenas Bud and Lou, named after renowned comedic duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
We don’t yet know how large a role Goose will play in Captain Marvel. We don’t know if Goose will, in fact, be Flerken or simply an ordinary feline. In case you’re wondering what, exactly, a Flerken is and how an alien species could be mistaken for an ordinary domesticated cat, the Nerdist explains: “…Flerken are alien creatures resembling Earth’s house cats. You wouldn’t notice any differences between the appearance of your best feline friend and a Flerken, and for the most part, they act exactly the same. Of course, physiological differences do exist. Flerken lay eggs to produce offspring (they can drop over one hundred at a time) and have tentacles that extend from their mouths. And they have human-level intellect.”
In the comics, the Guardians’ Rocket Raccoon recognizes Chewie as a Flerken but Captain Marvel refuses to believe Rocket until Chewie lays 117 eggs that turn into 117 kittens, substantiating Rocket’s allegations. Fortunately, Chewie’s loyalty to his human suggests that she’s not in any danger from Chewie’s fanged tentacles. The reality is, even if the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Goose does turn out to be a Flerken, that might not necessarily be a bad thing for the many victims of the Mad Titan’s iconic finger snap. In an article titled “Every Flerken Thing You Need to Know About the Furry Easter Egg in Captain Marvel’s Poster” The Mary Sue argues, “In the MCU, Goose’s various powers could render her a worthy opponent against Thanos, or at least a helpful aid in his demise.”