Marvel Comics latest minority superhero is a teenaged Muslim-American girl of Pakistani descent who will take on the currently unused Ms. Marvel persona.
The teen will be named Kamala Kahn, a Muslim girl going to high school and growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey.
For the last few years the comics giant has been engaged in an effort to introduce “diversity” into a comics universe historically dominated by white, male superhero characters. Marvel has been floating all sorts of new minority superheroes into the comic book market in the hopes that one or more will stick with readers.
This new Ms. Marvel is part of that campaign.
The idea of a teenaged, female, Muslim character came from Marvel editors Sana Amanat, a Muslim herself, and Steve Wacker. The pair then approached writer G. Willow Wilson to begin to develop the character. Wilson is an American convert to Islam.
Since converting to Islam in college, much of Wilson’s work has been centered on Islam, Egypt, and Muslim-themed fantasy stories. But Wilson has also written for Marvel’s Mystic series as well as for rival comic company DC Comics where she wrote several entries in the Superman and The Outsiders titles.
This young Muslim’s super powers are a departure from past Ms. Marvel powers in that she can morph her body parts and shape shift instead of shooting energy beams from her fists.
From reports on the character, it seems that Miss Kahn will develop her powers X-Men mutant-style by just discovering she has them. She then assumes Ms. Marvel’s name because she admired Carol Danvers, the human alter ego of the previous Ms. Marvel–a character now called Captain Marvel.
“Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for,” Wilson is quoted saying in The New York Times. “[Danvers is] strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.'”
“It’s also sort of like when I was a little girl and wanted to be (Save By The Bell actress) Tiffani-Amber Thiessen,” Wilson said.
Wilson insists that Islam will not be the central or overriding theme of the new Ms. Marvel. Religion will just be a part of the character’s background and family life.
This story will not be Muslim “evangelism,” Wilson claims “It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith.”
The original Ms. Marvel was introduced in the 1960s as a part of the Captain Marvel (the male version) series. The character has waxed and waned over the years and had several brief runs as the featured hero of her own series.
The character was once even involved in a shocking story line that some called a rape fantasy where the character was impregnated unwillingly by an alien baddie in a series of stories in 1980-81.
More recently the original Danvers character has become the new Captain Marvel. This left the Ms. Marvel character defunct until the arrival of Miss Kamala Kahn in the Marvel universe.
The Ms. Marvel will debut next year in a February introduction where fans will learn how she gets her powers and why she connects herself to Ms. Marvel.