Kamala Khan: The new Ms. Marvel
Kamala Khan is a Marvel property, and was created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona. Kamala first appeared as the new Ms. Marvel in All-New Marvel Now! Point One before receiving her own 13 issue series. Her series has done so well, that is has broken records at Marvel. Kamala Khan is the current Ms. Marvel, previously held title of, Carol Danvers. She is a Muslim female, who definitely explores a point of view in comics that has never been explored before. Not only is she a Muslim character, she is also the first ever headlining Muslim-American character in comics. This century, all of fifteen years old, the Mainstream American Superhero Comic Book Machine is at an all-time high in terms of the presence of women, people of color, LGBT people and disabled persons. If it is one thing I’ll give the surge of comic book movies and such, it is that they have become a shining huge light on the diversity issue in comics. And Kamala Khan, has become one of these shinning lights of diversity, in comic book history.
Passing the Ms. Marvel Mantel
Debuting in Marvel Super Heroes #13, in 1968, Carol Danvers was an Air Force pilot who was caught in the explosion of an alien Kree device, in which her genetic structure was radically reshaped.After the explosions she discovered new powers of flight, super-strength, and energy manipulation, she donned the super hero name, Ms. Marvel. Carol soon joined the Avengers, and despite some personal challenges she has served as a stalwart member of that team several times over the years. Recently, she opted to take the name of her deceased friend Mar-Vell and has been reborn as Captain Marvel. After several issues in her own comics, Captain Marvel crossed over into several Marvel comics.
Kamala’s Origin Story
Kamala Khan is the youngest of two children from a traditional Pakistani family in New Jersey. Despite her traditional roots, Kamala is the typical American teenager. She yearns to be herself, but to also still make her family proud. For several years, Kamala was a fan of superheroes especially the Avengers and, more importantly, Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel). So much, in fact, that she started writing online fan-fiction about the Avengers and Captain Marvel. Even going as far as joining the Carol Danvers Corps online. She stumbles across her powers after sneaking out of her room to go to a party that her parents forbid her from going, due to the presence of boys. She leaves the party abruptly and on her way home is wrapped by the Terrigen Mists that were released during Infinity, revealing that Kamala is a descendant of the Inhumans.
Encased in a cocoon, her Inhuman powers developed and she is put in a dream like state where, a figure of Captain Marvel appears in front of her. Captain Marvel asks her: “Who do you want to be?” Kamala replies: “I want to be you.” In doing so, she bursts from the cocoon looking exactly like Carol in her old black unitard costume. After a panic, Kamala learns she has gained shape shifting powers, allowing her changer her appearance and parts of her body at will. This is one of Kamala’s defining moments. Kamala is mortified when she turns in to her idol, Carol Danvers. Kamala longs to be a hero, but transformed into a familiar, blonde, Caucasian beauty, she instinctively recoils. This is not who she wants to be. Her individuality matters too much to her, and is something she fiercely protects. She eventually changes back to her own appearance and takes on the identity of the all-new, Ms. Marvel intending to be a superhero like Carol. She chooses to hone the Ms. Marvel name in honor of her idol and what she represents. Siddhant Adlakha talks about Kamala’s identity crisis and responsibility in his article titled, Power & Responsibility: Why Ms. Marvel Matters.
When she starts to face questions about her identity and her place in the world, every aspect of her existence comes into question. Now that she’s an Inhuman, and more importantly a superhero thrust into this massive shared continuity at the age of sixteen, what is she supposed do? How is she to proceed? Who is she meant to become? Does she choose the path set by her school, her peers, her city and her celebrities? Or does she follow the traditions and values laid out before her by her parents and their parents before them? How the book deals with this particular topic is one of the things I’m most thankful for. Writer G. Willow Wilson is an American Muslim herself, and having been both a white woman in Egypt and a hijabi Muslim in America, she’s able to bring unique insight to the topic of both internal and external cultural struggle.
What is an Inhuman?
Kamala is not a mutant. She is something called an Inhuman, which you may have heard referenced in ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of Shield, in which Daisy ‘Skye’ Johnson refers herself. To put in very very basically, Inhumans are people that had powers laying dormant inside of them and they needed something called, the Terrigen Mists to activate them. Eventually, the Terrigen Mists were released all around the world and a whole punch of people gained powers that were hidden inside of them, and Kamala was one of them.
Terrigen Mists goes way back to the dawn of human kind, tracing back to the Cree, a race of aliens. They came to earth and realized that with a few mad scientist experiments they could turn mankind into potential weapons for their never ending wars. In the end they decided to scrap the plan, but the damage was already done, and they had ended up turning a small portion of their test subjects into a new form of life, known as Inhumans. These Inhumans were highly evolved and significantly more intelligent than the average human.
They decided to live in secrete, isolating themselves from the rest of mankind. For years later, Inhumans discovered something called, Terrigen Crystals, and they learned that when these crystals were exposed to water, they released a mist. When an Inhuman was exposed to this mist, they underwent a transformation, emerging with strange new powers. The general belief of the Inhumans was that whatever you emerged as after you went Terrigenesis, was your true self, being brought out to the surface.
Ms. Marvel’s Powers
Although Kamala has the same superhero alias as previously Danvers did, her powers are not as similar to Captain Marvel. Kamala becomes a polymorph after being exposed to the Terrigen Mist, in issue 1 of Ms. Marvel. This gives her the ability to stretch her body in almost anyway imaginable. Kamala can also increase and decrease her size to both gigantic and tiny sizes. In a way, she’s a cross between Mr. Fantastic and Ant-Man, rolled into one.
The limits of this ability has yet to be revealed but she has grown large enough to handle a car and shrunk to the size of a cockroach. She can also selectively increase and decrease the size of any part of her body, although she prefers to increase the size of her fists, which allows her to increase the power of her blows. But she also uses the ability to increase the length of her legs so that she can travel great distances in a short amount of time. Kamala also has the ability to shape-shift. In theory she can look like anyone she wants, but so far she has only changed into Carol Danvers and her own mother. Kamala also has healing abilities since she has been shot in the stomach but was able to heal over the wound when she transformed back to her original form. She cannot transform again until the healing process is complete.
Why is Kamala so Groundbreaking?
Not only is Kamala the first female Muslim- American comic book character, she is also just this nerdy kid, obsessed with super heroes, gamer, who writes fanfiction, has strict parents, doesn’t fit the Eurocentric beauty standards and is not obsessing about having a boyfriend. When she meets Wolverine, she fan girls and takes a selfie with him – doesn’t matter that they’re battling a gigantic crocodile at the time (she ends up saving wolverine). She sneaks out to save the world and gets grounded for breaking her curfew, she sees a enormous dog running down the street and she decides to adopt him and doesn’t even flinch when she discovers he can tele-transport. She respects her Pakistani heritage, but also doesn’t ever really fit, neither in the american community, nor in the Pakistani community.
She’s also incredibly brave and righteous and fiercely independent. A Pakistani-American Muslim teenager who is also a superhero. For the larger part of the decade, there was a potent cloud of racism and hatred towards Muslim people. Today, the fact we can portray young Muslim girls as superheroes is a beacon of hope for what is to come. Sure, a lot of people will say “it’s just a comic book.” But I’d like to think somewhere out there, it’s making a difference in a young Muslim girl’s life. And even if the message gets lost and Khan’s character doesn’t sell well, at least a young girl could have her own superhero to look up to.
Kamala Khan is character that isn’t reduced to being the villain in every single American film. A character that doesn’t rely on worn out stereotypes. A character like other people who went through the same childhood I did. A character like a lot of people who haven’t dealt with the harsher realities of life quite yet. For some, there are feelings of uncertainty about how it’s strange that Kamala is getting a lot of attention that other Muslim characters haven’t gotten in the past (Faiza Hussain, Monet St. Croix, Sooraya Qadir, etc.) and how she isn’t the first Muslim in comics. This is not a good way to approach Kamala with that attitude. In viewing Kamala, she should be looked at as adding to the mix and diversity of positive representations of Muslims. She is not the epitome of all Muslims or all Pakistanis or all teenagers. She’s a superhero who happens to be Muslim.
Will we be Seeing Kamala in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe)?
Seeing as how the Inhumans movie follows shortly after Captain Marvel in the MCU movie slate, and seeing how Kamala got her powers from the Terrigan mists, Kamala being Captain Marvel makes perfect sense. One of the most criticized parts of the MCU (and superhero movies in general) is the lack of diversity. Kamala Khan being Captain Marvel would be a huge step in the right direction, seeing as she is female, Arab and Muslim, the movie would be killing three birds with one stone. Earlier this year, the rumor that Marvel and Sony had made a deal to share Spider-Man, raised the question, which Spider-Man? Peter Parker or Miles Morales. Obviously, we are getting a Peter Parker, Spider-Man, but that doesn’t rule out Miles in the future. This is the same for Kamala, just like we will be getting Carol Danvers, the original Ms. Marvel, there is not reason why wouldn’t be able to get Kamala, later on, maybe in phase 4 or 5, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Although, Kamala is gaining a lot of readers and popularity, not a lot of people know her has Ms. Marvel, and that’s okay. This allows her to have more comic background in the upcoming years, that can gain sustenance to have her in her own movie, or a cameo. However, it shouldn’t be surprising if fans find Kamala or a reference to her, in Marvel’s Agents of Shield, in which they have several Inhumans on the show and are possibly doing a Secret Warriors story-line. So, Kamala Khan would be a great entry into this show, allowing her to have a little bit of exposure before ever getting her on the big screen.
Wilson, G. Willow, and Adrian Alphona. Ms. Marvel. Collected ed. Print.
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