More On MARVEL’s ‘Controversial’ New MS. MARVEL Series

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mm2Earlier this week Marvel announced a new Ms. Marvel series as part of Marvel NOW! Phase 2 featuring a new female character named Kamala Khan. Kamala is a 16-year old Muslim girl from Jersey City who gains superpowers and takes up the old mantle of her hero, Captain Marvel. The addition of a female Muslim hero was touted as being ‘controversial‘ and ‘risky,’ but by and large most people took the announcement in stride. Of course there were folks on both sides of the fringe who crowed about it one way or the other, but that was a loud but vocal minority. Since the announcement Tuesday a few interviews and more information about the series and the character have come to light. We’ve rounded some of the bigger points and put it in one place to close the week out.

Before we get into that though, here’s what Stephen Colbert had to say about the announcement. As you can imagine, he wasn’t too pleased. Colbert went so far as to say “This is nothing more than Sharia creep, plain and simple. First she’s a comic character, then she gets her own movie, then action figures, the next thing you know, my kids are dressing up as her for Halloween and shouting trick or treat, death to Captain America.“:


mm3On the more series side of things, writer G. Willow Wilson (Air, Mystic) and artist Adrian Alphona are hard at work on the book launching this February. After the original announcement Tuesday, the writer spoke with Marvel.Com about the new Ms. Marvel and how she’s more than just a new set of superpowers. Kamala has to struggle with conservative Pakistani parents, regular teenage angst, and finding out she has superpowers (which seem to be tied in with Inhumanity and the Terrigen Mists). Kamala will be a polymorph, able to shrink and grow at will, who can change her entire body or specific limbs. Her powers will eventually grow and allow her to transform into different people and objects. We’ve been told to expect a few cameos (like Captain Marvel) early in the series. Wilson talked about the new character and the first story arc:

The Ms. Marvel mantle has passed to Kamala Khan, a high school student from Jersey City who struggles to reconcile being an American teenager with the conservative customs of her Pakistani Muslim family. So in a sense, she has a “dual identity” before she even puts on a super hero costume. Like a lot of children of immigrants, she feels torn between two worlds: the family she loves, but which drives her crazy, and her peers, who don’t really understand what her home life is like.

This makes her tough and vulnerable at the same time. When you try to straddle two worlds, one of the first things you learn is that instead of defending good people from bad people, you have to spend a lot of time defending good people from each other. It’s both illuminating and emotionally brutal. That’s what makes this book different.

In the first arc, Kamala is her own primary obstacle. She has to grapple with overwhelming new powers, decide whether it’s safe to tell anybody, and juggle becoming a teen super hero with the expectations of her conservative, Pakistani family.

It’s an origin story in every sense of the word. She’s so young—only 16—that the normal trials and tribulations of being in high school are still very much a part of her life, even as she’s becoming something different and amazing. Crises. Kebabs. Coming-of-age. It’s all there.

While a lot of headlines have pointed out Kamala is a Muslim, Wilson and book editor Sana Amanat point out that the character’s religion is not going to be the major point of the title. Wilson said the last thing she wanted to do was “write some grim manifesto about a Muslim girl in America.” Religion will be a major part of Kamala‘s identity, but it’s more about how she struggles with her heritage and how she sees herself as an ‘outsider,’ both as a regular person and a super powered individual:

G. Willow Wilson: Islam is both an essential part of her identity and something she struggles mightily with. She’s not a poster girl for the religion, or some kind of token minority. She does not cover her hair –most American Muslim women don’t—and she’s going through a rebellious phase. She wants to go to parties and stay out past 9 PM and feel “normal.” Yet at the same time, she feels the need to defend her family and their beliefs.

Sana Amanat: As much as Islam is a part of Kamala’s identity, this book isn’t preaching about religion or the Islamic faith in particular. It’s about what happens when you struggle with the labels imposed on you, and how that forms your sense of self. It’s a struggle we’ve all faced in one form or another, and isn’t just particular to Kamala because she’s Muslim. Her religion is just one aspect of the many ways she defines herself.

It’s hard for a series to get attention when it involves a completely new character, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for the new Ms. Marvel book. Inhumanity will birth a lot of new heroes, so it only makes sense that we’ll see a few more diverse powered individuals. It will be interesting to see how the new title is handled and if people will give it a shot after the ‘shock‘ factor of the whole announcement wears off. What do you think about the new Ms. Marvel series from what you’ve heard so far?

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