There’s a New Ms. Marvel, and She’s a Shapeshifting Muslim Teen From Jersey City

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Kelly Sue DeConnick‘s much lauded Captain Marvel series heralded the beginning of a new stage in the life of Carol Danvers. In the absence of her friend Mar-Vell, she took on his superhero name: no longer Ms. Marvel, she was now simply Captain Marvel. Of course, that leaves the name of Ms. Marvel hanging empty, and Marvel Comics has just announced how they will be filling it.

In February, Kamala Khan will be taking on the mantle of Ms. Marvel in her very own title written by G. Willow Wilson, writer and Islamic convert. Kamala, like lots of people I know (or know through Tumblr), is a big fan of Carol Danvers, and when she discovers that she has shape-shifting powers she borrows the first superhero name of her favorite superhero. “Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for,” Wilson told the New York Times. “She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.’ ”

Sana Amanat, a Muslim-American herself and one of the two Marvel editors (along with Steve Wacker) who came up with the loose idea of Kamala and pushed for her inclusion in the Marvel Universe, added “It’s also sort of like when I was a little girl and wanted to be Tiffani-Amber Thiessen,” from “Saved by the Bell.”

Wilson says, “It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith,” and that the series will deal directly with how “familial and religious edicts mesh with super-heroics.”

More from the Times:

Kamala will face struggles outside her own head, including conflicts close to home. “Her brother is extremely conservative,” Ms. Amanat said. “Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.” Next to those challenges, fighting supervillains may be a welcome respite.

The fact that Kamala will be starting out in her own title shows the significant push that Marvel is willing to put behind her: historically sidekicks and other spinoff characters start out as secondary characters in a more famous character’s book, build some name recognition, and then eventually get their own series. This is also just plain cool because female superheroes with sidekicks? They are few and far between. There’s Wonder Woman and Donna Troy, Batwoman and Flamebird (Or Bat-Girl, if you want to get old school), and you’d be hard pressed to name any more, primarily because so many female superheroes are either sidekicks, spinoff characters, or members of a team. Women who mentor or are mentored by women are thin on the ground in popular fiction, and I look forward to seeing some juicy interactions with Carol’s realization that some kid thinks she’s so cool that she’ll put her life on the line for other people.

Superhero stories are often about people who bridge two worlds, due to the trope of a “secret identity,” but Kamala’s character, as described, gives Wilson a great opportunity to tackle the “two worlds” tropes from a different angle, with a character’s struggle to sort out the difference between the expectations she genuinely has for herself, whatever they may be, and the expectations she has adopted because they’ve been laid upon her by outside forces. I’m just as interested in seeing that conflict play out as I am in seeing Kamala kick some superbaddie butt.

(via The New York Times.)

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Susana Polo
Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.