January 28, 2014

Marvel introduces a Muslim superhero

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Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel

Next month, Marvel will introduce its new Ms. Marvel, a superhero pseudonym that’s been used by three other characters previously, since it originated in 1977 with Carol Danvers, an Air Force officer whose DNA was fused with Captain Marvel’s in an explosion (as so often happens in these situations). The latest hero to take on the Ms. Marvel mantel is Kamala Khan, the first Muslim character to headline her own comic book.

The author of the new series, G. Willow Wilson, was on NPR‘s Tell Me More yesterday to talk about the character with host Michel Martin. On Khan’s genesis, she says that she hadn’t planned on her own to create a Muslim hero, and that she wasn’t sure the world was ready for one. “So when I got a call,” she explains, “from Sana Amanat and Steve Wacker, the series editors at Marvel, saying ‘Hey, we want to create, from scratch, a young, teenage, Muslim female superheroine and give her her own series,’ I was very surprised.” And when the Danvers character took the Captain Marvel title and joined The Avengers, the door was open for Khan to become the new Ms. Marvel. “It seemed like a perfect title for a young, emerging superhero to take on,” Wilson tells Martin.

Per Wilson, a big part of Kamala’s story will be her struggle to reconcile her cultural and religious identity with her superhero status. A high school student in New Jersey whose parents immigrated from Pakistan, she’s “on the more relaxed end of the spectrum” of Islam. Her brother, on the other hand, is more strict and “can be a bit tiresome at the dinner table about that kind of stuff,” whereas her father is comparatively progressive and has high hopes for her career. The range of perspectives is a deliberate choice by Wilson and Marvel, to “show that there is a huge diversity of belief and practice within the American Muslim community, that it’s not a monolith.”

While Wilson is short on details of Ms. Marvel’s powers in the interview, focusing (understandably) on the significance of creating a Muslim superhero, she does promise that “people can expect a lot of the fun, you know, action-adventure that characterizes most superhero books. She will be up against villains. She will by plying her super powers in the name of good.” Ms. Marvel #1 will be available next Wednesday, February 5.

 

Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.

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