Marvel introducing first female Muslim-American superhero
(CBR) Marvel Comics once again has a "Ms. Marvel," one a lot different from the past incarnation -- and nearly every other mainstream superhero.
As first revealed on Tuesday, this Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, the 16-year-old daughter of Pakistani immigrants, a shape-shifter, a resident of Jersey City and a Muslim -- making her one of very few Muslim characters at either Marvel or DC Comics, and already one of the most high-profile. Following an appearance in January's "All-New Marvel NOW! Point One" one-shot, the character will star in a new "Ms. Marvel" ongoing series, debuting in February 2014 from the creative team of "Air" writer G. Willow Wilson and "Runaways" artist Adrian Alphona, who made a recent return to interior comics work on "Uncanny X-Force."
The book is set to connect to the Marvel Universe as a whole as part of the upcoming "Inhumanity" storyline, where dormant superpowers are activated in numerous unaware Inhuman descendants due to the release of the Terrigen Bomb in last month's "Infinity" #4. Like the real world, the Marvel Universe has devoted fans of Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel and current Captain Marvel -- among them "polymorph" Kamala Khan, who's inspired to take up the previous guise of her hero.
The series is already making news, and Wilson, who this past weekend won "Best Novel" at the World Fantasy Awards for her 2012 release "Alif the Unseen," told Comic Book Resources, "The real challenge really has nothing to do with controversy as such, it has to do more with getting people excited about a book that's a little bit different from what they usually see."
The author, who documented her conversion to Islam in the memoir "The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman's Journey to Love and Islam," comes to the series with a distinct perspective. In an interview with CBR News, Wilson makes it clear that she's not afraid of any controversy or criticism the book, which she calls "risky," might receive.
CBR News: Willow, you've been concentrating on prose work, making "Ms. Marvel" your first comic book work of length since "Mystic" in 2011. Had you been keeping up with the world of comics in your time away from the medium?
G. Willow Wilson: Absolutely. I never stopped following all the gossip and all the stuff that's going on in the industry; reading the books that people are recommending. It's great to be able to get back into it, for sure.
I've been reading a bunch of the new series that have been coming out. I've been reading "Saga," going kind of nuts over that. That's one of my favorite books from recent years. I'm following all of the fascinating ups and downs of DC's move to Burbank -- it's almost like a fraternity, you know? You're out, but you're never really out. You're always sort of listening in on what's going on.
Let's start at the beginning with "Ms. Marvel" -- how did it come about for you? Was it an idea that you pitched to Marvel, something they came to you with, or somewhere in between?
It was something they came to me with, which I was terribly flattered to be asked. I got a call from [Marvel editors] Steve Wacker and Sana Amanat over a year ago. It was extremely abstract at that point. They knew they wanted to have a young Muslim girl superhero, and that was kind of it. They said, "Do you think this is something that you'd be interested in tackling?" and I said "Heck yes!"
We started working on it, and we really spent a lot of time in development to make sure that we got to a character we were all excited about, and a story to tell that was really interesting. I think it really paid off, because we're all very excited about how this series has shaped up. I think all the work that was put into it beforehand will show.
Was it always going to be under the "Ms. Marvel" title, or was it originally not even that developed?
It wasn't even that developed. There was some relay about what direction to go. There were several Marvel events that were in production at that point, and there was some question as to whether we wanted to tie this character into any of those events. It started out very open-ended.
I think it was Sana's idea, because we had been talking about the most recent other big, successful rebranding of a female character, that being "Captain Marvel," and the very interesting fan culture that's come up around that, and all the great work that Kelly Sue [DeConnick] has done with it. It was in the course of that conversation that Sana came up with the idea -- "Wouldn't it be interesting if this girl was a hardcore Captain Marvel fan? A Carol Corps person?" In that case, it would make sense for her as sort of a junior female superhero who really looks up to Captain Marvel, to take up the "Ms. Marvel" mantle.
The book ties-in to the forthcoming "Inhumanity" status quo, then, with multiple emerging new potential superheroes?
Yes. But the details of that, in terms of how the book will fit into the larger scheme, and what kind of potential crossover might be there, has not yet been fleshed out. There's not a whole lot more detail than that at this point.
So the main character is a Captain Marvel fan -- what else can you share at this point about her? She's a shape-shifter, right?
Yes! She's a polymorph. She can grow and shrink, both her whole body and specific limbs, and eventually she'll be able to transform into different people and objects, as well. We wanted to give her a very physical, visual fun power set. I didn't want to make her another sparkly, flirty kind of a character. I wanted her to look a little bit weird. We made her a true polymorph, in the tradition of Morph -- god rest his soul.
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