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Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)

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Ms. Marvel
Kamala Khan.jpg
Kamala Khan on a textless variant cover of Ms. Marvel #2 (March 2014).
Art by Jorge Molina.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Captain Marvel #14 (August 2013)
Created by Sana Amanat
Stephen Wacker
G. Willow Wilson
Adrian Alphona
In-story information
Alter ego Kamala Khan
Species Inhuman
Team affiliations Avengers
Champions
Abilities Shapeshifting
Healing factor

Kamala Khan is a fictional superheroine appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, Khan is Marvel's first Muslim character to headline her own comic book. Khan made her first appearance in Captain Marvel #14 (August 2013) before going on to star in the solo series Ms. Marvel, which debuted in February 2014.

Within the Marvel Universe, Khan is a teenage Pakistani American from Jersey City, New Jersey with shapeshifting abilities, who discovers that she has Inhuman genes in the aftermath of the "Inhumanity" storyline and assumes the mantle of Ms. Marvel from her idol Carol Danvers after Danvers becomes Captain Marvel. Marvel's announcement that a Muslim character would headline a comic book was met with widespread reaction and the first volume of Ms. Marvel won the Hugo Award for best graphic story in 2015.

Publication history[edit]

In November 2013, Marvel Comics announced that Kamala Khan, a teenage American Muslim from Jersey City, New Jersey, would take over the comic book series Ms. Marvel beginning in February 2014. The series, written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Adrian Alphona, marks the first time a Muslim character has headlined a book at Marvel Comics.[1] However, Noelene Clark of the Los Angeles Times noted that Khan is not the first Muslim character in comic books, which include Simon Baz, Dust and M.[2] The conception of Kamala Khan came about during a conversation between Marvel editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker. Amanat said, "I was telling him [Wacker] some crazy anecdote about my childhood, growing up as a Muslim-American. He found it hilarious." The pair then told Wilson about the concept and Wilson became eager to jump aboard the project.[3] Amanat said that the series came from a "desire to explore the Muslim-American diaspora from an authentic perspective."[4] Amanat stated that Khan's costume was influenced by the shalwar kameez. They wanted the costume to represent her cultural identity, but did not want her to wear a hijab. Amanat also stated that they wanted the character to look "less like a sex siren" to appeal to a more vocal female readership.[5]

Marvel knew that they wanted a young Muslim girl, but stated that she could be from any place of origin and have any background. Wilson initially considered making her an Arab girl from Dearborn, Michigan but ultimately chose to create a Desi girl from Jersey City.[6] Jersey City, which sits across the Hudson River from Manhattan, has been referred to as New York City's "Sixth borough".[7][8][9] It therefore forms an important part of Khan's identity and the narrative journey of her character since most of Marvel Comics' stories are set in Manhattan. Wilson explains, "A huge aspect of Ms. Marvel is being a 'second string hero' in the 'second string city' and having to struggle out of the pathos and emotion that can give a person."[10]

The series not only explores Khan's conflicts with supervillains but also explores conflicts with Khan's home and religious duties. Wilson, a convert to Islam, said "This is not evangelism. It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith." Wilson continued, "Her brother is extremely conservative, her mom is paranoid that she's going to touch a boy and get pregnant, and her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor."[3] Amanat added,

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.[1]

First appearance of Kamala Khan from Captain Marvel #14 (August 2013) by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Scott Hepburn.

In the series, Khan takes the name Ms. Marvel from Carol Danvers, who now goes by the alias Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick revealed that Khan actually made a brief appearance in Captain Marvel #14 (August 2013) saying, "Kamala is in the background of a scene in Captain Marvel 14... She is very deliberately placed in a position where she sees Carol protecting civilians from Yon-Rogg."[11] According to Wilson, Khan idolizes Carol so when Khan acquires superhuman abilities, she emulates Danvers.[10] "Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for. She's strong, beautiful and doesn't have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and 'different,'"[3] Wilson explained. "Khan is a big comic book fan and after she discovers her superhuman power – being a polymorph and able to lengthen her arms and legs and change her shape – she takes on the name of Ms. Marvel," Amanat elaborated.[12] Khan is one of several characters who discover that they have Inhuman heritage following the "Inhumanity" storyline, in which the Terrigen Mists are released throughout the world and activate dormant Inhuman cells.[13]

In the series' first story arc, Khan faces off against Mr. Edison / the Inventor, an amalgam of man and bird. Wilson created the Inventor to be Khan's first arch rival in order to mirror Khan's own complexity. Wilson characterizes the Inventor, and the overall visual look of the opening story arc as "kooky and almost Miyazaki-esque at times", owing to the art style of illustrator Adrian Alphona, which balances the drama of the threats which Khan faces with the humor of Alphona's "tongue in cheek sight gags." During the storyline, Khan also teams-up with the X-Man Wolverine against the Inventor. Because Wolverine is dealing with the loss of his healing factor during this time, Khan is placed in the position of having to shoulder much of the responsibilities, as Wilson felt this was a role reversal that would subvert reader expectations that Wolverine would take the lead in such a team-up.[14]

At the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International, writer Dan Slott announced that Khan would team-up with Spider-Man beginning in The Amazing Spider-Man #7 (October 2014) during the "Spider-Verse" storyline. Slott characterized Khan "the closest character to classic Peter Parker,"[15] explaining, "She's a teenage superhero, juggling her life, making mistakes, trying to do everything right."[16]

Beginning in June 2015, Ms. Marvel tied into the "Secret Wars" crossover event with the "Last Days" storyline, which details Khan's account of the end of the Marvel Universe. Wilson explained, "In the 'Last Days' story arc, Kamala has to grapple with the end of everything she knows, and discover what it means to be a hero when your whole world is on the line."[17] In the storyline, Khan rushes to deal with the threat in Manhattan. However, Wilson revealed, "She will face a very personal enemy as the chaos in Manhattan spills over into Jersey City, and she will be forced to make some very difficult choices. There will also be a very special guest appearance by a superhero Kamala—and the fans—have been waiting to meet for a long time."[18]

In March 2015, Marvel announced that Khan will join the Avengers in All-New All-Different Avengers FCBD (May 2015) by writer Mark Waid and artists Adam Kubert and Mahmud Asrar, which takes place in the aftermath of "Secret Wars".[19] A second volume of Ms. Marvel starring Khan by Wilson, Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa is also debuted following "Secret Wars" as part of Marvel's All-New, All-Different Marvel initiative.[20] Amanat said,

By the time this new launch comes around, it will have been almost two years since the premiere of Ms. Marvel—and boy, has Kamala Khan been through a lot since then. She's been slowly coming into her own, dealing with the challenges of navigating adulthood and being a super hero. But her training is over now and it's time for the big leagues; the question is can she handle it?... As much as Kamala has a right to be there—it's still a bit of a culture shock. Dreaming of being an Avenger and then suddenly being one is a lot to take on for someone of her age. So, she'll be a little awestruck, a little overly ambitious.[21]

In March 2016, Marvel announced that Ms. Marvel would tie into the "Civil War II" storyline by releasing a promotional image illustrating a rift between Khan and Danvers.[22] "While "Civil War II" may have initiated this rift, we've known for some time that Kamala would eventually need to separate herself from her idols. Her journey centers around self-discovery and identity, and a part of that exploration includes separating yourself from those you put on pedestals. The rift between Carol and Kamala doesn't really have to do with right and wrong. It has to do with growing up and realizing that you perceive the world differently from even the ones you love," Amanat elborated.[23]

In July, Marvel announced that Khan will join the Champions, a team of teenage superheroes who split off from the Avengers following the conclusion of "Civil War II". The team, featured in a series by writer Mark Waid and artist Humberto Ramos, consists of Khan, Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Nova (Sam Alexander), Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Viv Vision, and a teenage version of Cyclops. Waid said, "The first three are the kids who quit the Avengers proper. That was an easy get. Those three, in and of themselves, form a nice little subteam. Their dynamic is great. They all show up in each other's books, and even though they have their arguments and stress points, clearly they're good together."[24]

In August, Khan made an appearance in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #10 by writers Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare. In the issue, Khan acts as a mentor to Moon Girl (Lunella Lafayette) who is also a young Inhuman that suddenly came into her powers. Amanat stated that Khan sees much of herself in Lafayette and by teaching her, Khan learns much about herself.[23]

In November, Marvel announced that Khan will join a new incarnation of the Secret Warriors in a series by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Javier Garron that debuted in May 2017. The team, formed in the wake of the "Inhumans vs X-Men" storyline, also includes Quake, Karnak, Moon Girl, and Devil Dinosaur. Rosenberg stated that there is some conflict and friction amongst the team members explaining, "Ms. Marvel and Quake are really fighting for the soul of the team in a lot of ways, while Moon Girl will continue to really do her own thing. They will all be tested and challenged, they are superheroes after all, but they are going to do things their way."[25]

Collected editions[edit]

Paperback
Title Material collected Publication date ISBN
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal Ms. Marvel #1–5, material from All-New Marvel NOW! Point One October 28, 2014 978-0785190219
Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why Ms. Marvel #6–11 March 24, 2015 978-0785190226
Ms. Marvel Volume 3: Crushed Ms. Marvel #12–15, material from SHIELD #2 June 23, 2015 978-0785192275
Ms. Marvel Volume 4: Last Days Ms. Marvel #16–19, material from Amazing Spider-Man vol. 3 #7-8 November 24, 2015 978-0785197362
Ms. Marvel Volume 5: Super Famous Ms. Marvel #1-6 July 12, 2016 978-0785196112
Ms. Marvel Volume 6: Civil War II Ms. Marvel #7-12 December 27, 2016 978-0785196129
Ms. Marvel Volume 7: Damage Per Second Ms. Marvel #13-18 August 1, 2017 978-1302903053
Hardcover
Title Material collected Publication date ISBN
Ms. Marvel Volume 1 Ms. Marvel #1–11, material from All-New Marvel NOW! Point One August 25, 2015 978-0785198284
Ms. Marvel Volume 2 Ms. Marvel #12–19, Annual 1, Amazing Spider-Man vol. 3 #7-8 April 19, 2016 978-0785198369
Ms. Marvel Omnibus Volume 1 Ms. Marvel #1–19, Annual 1, Amazing Spider-Man vol. 3 #7-8, S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 and material from All-New Marvel NOW! Point One November 1, 2016 978-1302902018
Ms. Marvel Volume 3 Ms. Marvel #1-12 June 27, 2017 978-1302903619

Reception[edit]

Initial reaction[edit]

Marvel's announcement was met with widespread reactions online. Fatemeh Fakhraie, founder of Muslimah Media Watch, a diversity advocacy group, told Al Jazeera America that "She is going to be a window into the American Muslim experience" and that she "normalizes this idea of the American experience as Muslim."[26] Brett White of Comic Book Resources said, "With Kamala Khan, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants living in Jersey City, Marvel Comics has shown yet again that it wants to include groups of the American population that have yet to be personally inspired by their heroes."[27] Hussein Rashid writing for CNN said, "The character of Kamala Khan has the opportunity to offer something new to pop-culture portrayals of Muslims. She is born in the United States, appears to be part of the post-9/11 generation and is a teenager."[28] Muaaz Khan of The Guardian compared Kamala Khan to Malala Yousafzai and indicated that the rest of entertainment industry should follow Marvel's example.[29] However, Dr. Leon Moosavi of the University of Liverpool felt that the character's family would reinforce the stereotype of restrictive Muslim parents and that her shape-shifting ability resembled several anti-Muslim stereotypes, especially taqiyya:[30] a legal dispensation whereby a believing individual can deny his faith or commit otherwise illegal or blasphemous acts while they are at risk of significant persecution.[31] Political satirist Stephen Colbert joked about Marvel's decision to introduce a Muslim superhero on his television show.[32] Comedian Conan O'Brien also made a joke via Twitter, linking the character's religion to polygamy, but later removed it due to public backlash.[33]

Critical reaction[edit]

Meagan Damore of Comic Book Resources said, "There is nothing not to love about Ms. Marvel #1: every character is well formed and distinct; the story, lovingly crafted; the art, meticulously planned and—at times—downright funny."[34] Jen Aprahamian of Comic Vine said "Ms. Marvel makes a delightful debut, showing confidence and heart even before she puts on a mask. Kamala is not your average superheroine and her stories seem like they're headed in an exciting direction. Kudos to Marvel for expanding its range; amping up the diversity factor in a way that doesn't feel token or temporary is a great move, and Ms. Marvel is launching with a solid first issue and a world—a universe, even—of story possibilities."[35] Joshua Yehl of IGN said, "Ms. Marvel introduces a vibrant and troubled character that you can't help but love."[36] George Marston of Newsarama said, "Ms. Marvel is a solid debut issue, and that in itself should be a victory not just for G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, but for Marvel Comics itself... It's not exactly edgy, and Kamala Khan is not exactly the first reluctant teen hero in Marvel's long history, but Ms. Marvel is one of the strongest debuts for a new character that Marvel has had in a long time."[37]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Winner/Nominee Result Ref.
2015 Hugo Award Best Graphic Story Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal Won [38]
Eisner Award New Series Ms. Marvel, by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona Nominated [39]
Writer G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel Nominated
Penciller/inker Adrian Alphona, Ms. Marvel Nominated
Cover artist Jamie McKelvie/Matthew Wilson, The Wicked + The Divine; Ms. Marvel Nominated
Lettering Joe Caramagna, Ms. Marvel, Daredevil Nominated
Harvey Award Best New Series Ms. Marvel, Marvel Comics Nominated [40]
Best Writer G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel, Marvel Comics Nominated
Joe Shuster Award Outstanding Artist Adrian Alphona, Ms. Marvel Won [41]
2016 Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for a Series Ms. Marvel, by Adrian Alphona and G. Willow Wilson Won [42]
Eisner Award Best Writer G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel Nominated [43]
Harvey Award Best Writer G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel, Marvel Comics Nominated [44]
Dragon Award Best Comic Book Ms. Marvel Won [45]

Sales[edit]

Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal was the best-selling graphic novel in October 2014,[46] and by November 2014, it reached #2 on The New York Times Best Seller list of paperback graphic books.[47] In April 2015, Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why debuted at #4 on The New York Times Best Seller list of paperback graphic books.[48] In July 2015, Ms. Marvel Volume 3: Crushed debuted at #3 on The New York Times Best Seller list of paperback graphic books.[49]

Cultural impact[edit]

Creator Sana Amanat presenting President Barack Obama a copy of Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 at a reception for Women's History Month.
  • In January 2015, images of Khan began appearing over anti-Islamic advertisements on San Francisco city buses. The advertisements, purchased by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, equated Islam with Nazism. In response, street artists covered the ads with images of Khan alongside messages like ""Calling all Bigotry Busters," "Stamp out Racism," "Free speech isn't a license to spread hate," "Islamophobia hurts us all," and "Racist." About the response, Wilson tweeted, "Some amazing person has been painting over the anti-Muslim bus ads in SF with Ms. Marvel graffiti... To me, the graffiti is part of the back-and-forth of the free speech conversation. Call and response. Argument, counterargument."[50]
  • In March 2016, Sana Amanat introduced President Barack Obama at a reception for Women's History Month in the White House. In his opening remarks Obama replied, "Ms. Marvel may be your comic book creation, but I think for a lot of young boys and girls, Sana's a real superhero."[51]
  • In October 2016, Khan appeared on the cover of The Village Voice in an illustration by Autumn Whitehearst that pays homage to J. Howard Miller's "We Can Do It!" poster. The cover is accompanied by an article by Mallika Rao titled "The Super Hero For Our Times: Ms. Marvel Will Save You Now" that profiles Wilson, with a focus on the increasing diversity of comic book characters, creators, and fans.[52]

Other versions[edit]

  • An older version of Khan appears in Inhumans: Attilan Rising by Charles Soule and John Timms as part of the 2015 "Secret Wars" storyline, which details Black Bolt's rebellion against Queen Medusa of New Attilan. In her review of Inhumans: Attilan Rising #2, Emma Houxbois of The Rainbow Hub said, "While [Khan has] had a few chances to shine in the core Inhuman book, her reintroduction (complete with character redesign by Dave Johnson and strong line work by John Timms) packs a real punch. Soule's evolution of her powers and costume will hopefully also coincide with further opportunities later in the story to learn more about her views on the resistance and reasons for supporting Attilan – solidifying this version of Kamala as a comparatively matured hero forced to make difficult moral choices."[53]

In other media[edit]

Audio books[edit]

  • In August 2015, GraphicAudio released Ms. Marvel: No Normal, which adapts the first-five issues of the comic book series into audio format. Marvel and GraphicAudio have collaborated before in the past but Ms. Marvel: No Normal marks the first time that they have adapted an audiobook straight from a comic book. Jeff Reingold Marvel's Manager of Licensed Publishing said, "The challenge here was conveying the comic visuals into a strictly audio form without the use of a third-person narrator."[54]

Books[edit]

  • In March 2016, Marvel Press announced that they would release a 128-page chapter-book titled Ms. Marvel: Fists of Fury in October 2017. According to the official synopsis, the story will focus on bullying due to Khan's gender and background.[55]

Television[edit]

Video games[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]