Ms. Marvel’s new avatar is a Muslim girl, with parental pressure to boot.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: Always at the forefront of subverting pop culture stereotypes, Marvel Comics is re-introducing its classic Ms. Marvel character – only this time, she’s a Pakistani Muslim.
The character traditionally known as Carol Danvers will now be known as Kamala Khan, a Jersey City 16 year-old who lives with her Pakistanti immigrant parents. This makes Ms. Marvel the company’s first-ever Muslim superhero, and follows along with some recent re-imaginings the comic book titan has done with some of its most revered comic book heroes and villains.
In 2011, Marvel rebooted its most popular character, Spider-Man, by changing him from Caucasian Peter Parker to the half African American, half Latino American Miles Morales. The revolutionary change to such an American icon was heralded by many as a sign of America’s evolving cultural and societal landscape. Spider-Man creator Stan Lee also welcomed the re-created character, saying it was important for children of ethnic minorities to have a superhero role model.
The Ms. Marvel revamp was done largely by the three person team of writer G. Willow Wilson, artist Adrian Alphona, and editor Sana Amanat. Wilson is a convert to Islam, while Amanat grew up in the US as a Muslim. The idea to transform the white female superhero into a Muslim one, said Amanat to The Daily Telegraph, was borne out of “a desire to explore the Muslim-American diaspora from an authentic perspective.”
In a clever twist that’s typical of Marvel’s own self-awareness, the character Kamala is actually a fan of the original Ms. Marvel, who has now donned the identity of Captain Marvel. Her admiration for the original Carol Danvers leads to her becoming the new Ms. Marvel in the comics. Amanat says that Kamala will face very real problems in addition to her super-heroic ones, such as her mother not wanting her to talk to boys and her father wanting her to become a doctor.
Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man are not the only minority characters Marvel plans to roll out. The company’s X-Men franchise will also feature a score of minority and female characters in upcoming issues. The X-Men, a team of superheroes created by genetic mutations they have no control over, were originally created in the 1960s as a parallel of the civil rights movement, but now – thanks to a resurgence in their popularity because of the hugely successful film franchise – they’re seen as a pop culture analogy to the fight for gay rights.
The new Ms. Marvel comics will hit shelves soon. Marvel will also be releasing its latest superhero movie epic, Thor: The Dark World, in US theaters this coming Friday. The film was released in certain international markets last week, where it grossed $109.4 million in a five day span. The company’s previous 2013 release, Iron Man 3, grossed $1.2 billion worldwide and is the fifth highest-grossing film of all-time.
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