Marvel Comics is embracing diversity by introducing a new young superhero, in the form of 16-year-old Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim girl living in New Jersey. The new Ms. Marvel will make her debut in February 2014.
For young female comic book fans, this is a time for rejoicing. The last Ms. Marvel was a blonde, blue-eyed female so the introduction of Kamala might encourage more girls of color to follow her story. There is still a lack of diversity in media but this small move is an encouraging (but not unexpected) move from Marvel Comics, which is known for confronting sensitive issues such as religion and homosexuality.
Creator G. Willow Wilson is an American who is Muslim herself. In fact, she published a memoir called “The Butterfly Mosque” about her conversion to Islam and her romance with an Egyptian man. Being responsible for such an important storyline will bring its own challenges for Wilson. She says, “Any time you do something like this, it is a bit of a risk. You’re trying to bring the audience on board and they are used to seeing something else in the pages of a comic book.”
Marvel Comics editor Sana Amanat, who is also Muslim American, will be collaborating with Wilson on developing Kamala’s storyline. Amanat says they will show Kamala’s struggle with her Muslim faith but it will not be a prime focus. Rather, the creators are determined not to come across as preachy about religion to faithful Marvel Comic readers.
Though Kamala will be shown struggling with her faith, the real story will be her relationship with her family. With a conservative brother, a paranoid mother and a strict father, the Khan family could easily be like yours; that is, if you are from a nuclear family. Aside from learning to deal with her superpowers, Kamala will contend with the pains of being a teenager and her desire to rebel. Marvel Comics will also show Kamala relating with her peers, who will see her as “different” from them.
Clearly, Kamala is different from her peers. The Marvel universe is populated with mostly male characters (two female characters will be introduced in 2014), and few are anyone of color. Kamala is the first creation by Marvel Comics who is a teenager, female and a person of color. Oh, and let’s not forget the religion part. It may seem as if Kamala will carry a large load when she appoints herself as Ms. Marvel but she will have company—the previous Ms. Marvel herself, as well as the Marvel universe. They won’t be introduced right away, though; Amanat wants fans to get to know Kamala first.
“Also, as you’ll discover in the story, Kamala is a part of a much larger event in the Marvel U—which she won’t really understand the ramifications of until later down the road,” Amanat said. “We will definitely get there; we just want you to get to know Kamala first.”
Two Marvel female characters, She-Hulk and Elektra, will get their own series next year.
By Juana Poareo