Quick, name your top 5 favorite Muslim superheroes. If you came up with three, I’d be impressed. If you came up with even one who wasn’t shoe-horned into a story in the name of “diversity” you may have thought of Marvel’s latest Ms. Marvel.
For over 75 years, comics have been a safe haven for children and adults alike, and comics are back in the limelight. Marvel Studios is making hit after hit, and America can’t get enough of comics. But one thing doesn’t sit right with about half the viewers/readers/consumers. You’ve got Iron MAN, BatMAN, SuperMAN, and a slew of other manly-men thrashing around in tights. They also happen to be white (except Superman, who one can argue is a literal illegal alien). It took Black Widow in “The Avengers” to show many people unfamiliar with the comics that it was indeed possible to have some kick-butt women heroes. And comics have started delivering said women role models.
Enter Kamala Khan, a dorky but lovable teenage Muslim girl from Jersey City. Sounds like the lead character to a teen RomCom. But she’s so much more. She’s a second generation Muslim struggling to find a balance between her parent’s traditions and America’s youth culture. She goes to her local mosque. She writes fan fiction on the internet. She’s a normal teenage girl. And isn’t that just how Peter Parker started? (With the exception of his second X-chromosome being a Y-chromosome.) Soon enough that normal teenage girl finds out she’s a class of mutated human (not to be confused with Marvel’s ‘mutants’) called Inhumans. She’s got alien DNA that triggers a transformation when it reacts to a special crystal, or in her case, mist. With the help of some classic Marvel characters (which are totally not just there to sell comics of a new/unknown hero ((yes they are))), Kamala starts to get a hold of her new powers, and even dons the now vacant position of her favorite super hero: Ms. Marvel!
One of the most important things about the new Ms. Marvel series is that it is a major triumph for representation. Also important is that Kamala’s character faces some struggles regarding being a Muslim, but it doesn’t define her. She’s not a one dimensional character whose defining trait is being Muslim. The author of the series, G. Willow Wilson (@GWillowWilson) is a Muslim woman who writes from her own personal experience and from the experiences of those she grew up with. One can argue the story of Kamala Khan is that much more interesting, that much more personal, because it’s not a coming-of-age story about a teenage Muslim girl written by a middle age white guy.
This is an all new, all powerful Muslim teenager / superhero / fanfic writer who is breaking her way into the hearts and minds of comic readers. She’s a super heroine with character growth and family issues on par with those of Peter Parker back in the 1960s. She’s a hero for a new age, a new demographic, and a more inclusive comic market. Kamala Khan is the new Ms. Marvel.
If you’re interested in getting into the Ms. Marvel series, stop by The Seidenberg School at 163 William Street and take a look at the first 5 issues in “Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal”.
Written by –
Brent McDonald is a Pace University Alumnus, and a revered Yarn-Weaver of the Seidenberg School. He enjoys computer science, and his creativity (read: incessant prattling) allows him to keep people entertained.