Comic Books

The New Ms. Marvel: the Extraordinary Kamela Khan

Hanna Lafferty ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

In February, a new character will take on the mantle of one of Marvel Comic’s most iconic heroes, Ms. Marvel. Meet Kamala Khan, a Pakistani Muslim teenager from New Jersey. Lately the Marvel Universe has been pushing for a more diverse superhero lineup, and this new Ms. Marvel has been creating quite a buzz. The original Ms. Marvel (currently known as Captain Marvel) was created in the 1960s and is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Boston native who defied her father’s expectations by going into the Air Force and becoming a spy. When Khan discovers her abilities as a polymorph–someone with the ability to grow, shrink, and even shape-shift–she decides to follow in her hero’s footsteps and takes on the identity of Ms. Marvel.

Kamela Khan showing off her powers.

Khan is not only continuing the legacy of a strong super heroine, but is also the first Muslim superhero to be featured in a Marvel monthly comic series. While there are currently several other Muslim heroes in the Marvel Universe (such as Dust, M, and Faiza Hussain), none have headlined their own series. The idea for this new Ms. Marvel is credited to the series editor Sanat Amanat and senior editor Steve Wacker, with writer G. Willow Wilson (who wrote for Vertigo’s Cairo and Air) and artist Adrian Alphona (co-creator of Marvel Comic’s Runaways) as the creative team for the project.

Khan’s ethnicity and religion will play a large role in the series as part of an identity that she struggles to balance with her duties as a hero. Not only does she have to balance school and the high expectations of a conservative family, she also has to protect her identity as a hero.

In an article for Telegraph, Shelina Janmohamed, a British writer for The Times and The Guardian, expressed her excitement for an empowered Muslim girl that contextualizes her background not through political means, but fantastic ones. Khan is a prime example that Muslim women can be and are powerful. Marvel is not only breaking down the superhero stereotype that has long been dominated by white, male Christian heroes, but also the many different stereotypes that Muslim women face as well. What Marvel could accomplish with Kamala Khan is the creation of a hero that Muslim-American teens can relate to on a more personal level, something that is a big step forward for diversity in a medium like comic books. However, Khan should not be viewed through only her faith, something that the creative team for Ms. Marvel makes very clear.

Like any sixteen year old girl, Khan is just trying to get her life in order and figure out who she wants to be. Regardless of religion, every teenager faces pressure from friends and family and feels awkward in his or her own skin. Ms. Marvel just has to deal with superhuman abilities on top of that. Khan is more relatable on so many levels besides her faith for all kinds of comic book fans. The new Ms. Marvel comic is a great opportunity to show that diversity in the comic book world is not only progressive, but utterly vital for the story and to relate to a wide range of audiences.

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