New Ms. Marvel isn’t the first Muslim — or religious — superhero

Nov. 06, 2013 | 6:00 p.m.

A cover for the first issue of the upcoming "Ms. Marvel" series, written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona. The series is slated to launch in February. (Sara Pichelli / Marvel)

Artist Adrian Alphona's concept art for the upcoming "Ms. Marvel" title. Heroine Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani American living in New Jersey, is shown second from left. (Adrian Alphona / Marvel)

G. Willow Wilson, author of "Alif the Unseen," will write the new "Ms. Marvel" comic book title. (Amber French / Grove / Atlantic)

G. Willow Wilson, author of "Alif the Unseen," will write the new "Ms. Marvel" comic book title. (Amber French / Grove / Atlantic)

DC Entertainment introduced Simon Baz, a young Lebanese American man of Muslim faith, in 2012. Simon, who took over as Green Lantern, was the publisher's first title character of Muslim faith. (Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy / DC Entertainment)

Monet St. Croix, whose superhero alias is M, was introduced in 1994. M is a Muslim woman of North African descent, and her considerable powers include superhuman strength, speed, reflexes and even healing. She's shown here on the cover for 2008's "X-Factor" No. 38. (Marvel)

Dust, whose real name is Sooraya Qadir, debuted in 2002. Dust is an Afghanistan-born Muslim woman whose powers allow her to turn herself into a sand-like substance. She's shown here on the cover of 2005's "New X-Men: Hellions" No. 2. (Clayton Henry / Marvel)

Marvel has announced that the heroine in a new “Ms. Marvel” series will be a 16-year-old Muslim girl from New Jersey.

In the new title, Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager living in Jersey City, discovers she has superhuman powers, including shape-shifting abilities. A lifelong devotee of Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, Kamala decides to take the name Carol used early in her superhero career — Ms. Marvel.

The series will be written by novelist and multi-Eisner nominee G. Willow Wilson (“Air,” “Alif the Unseen“) and illustrated by Adrian Alphona (“Runaways,” “Uncanny X-Force”).

G. Willow Wilson, author of "Alif the Unseen," will write the new "Ms. Marvel" comic book title. (Amber French / Grove / Atlantic)

G. Willow Wilson, author of “Alif the Unseen,” will write the new “Ms. Marvel” comic book title. (Amber French / Grove / Atlantic)

“The inspiration for the new ‘Ms. Marvel’ series stemmed out of a desire to explore the Muslim-American diaspora from an authentic perspective and yet, this story isn’t about what it means to be a Muslim, Pakistani or American,” said series editor Sana Amanat in a news release. “Those are just cultural touchstones that reflect the ever changing world we live in today. This is ultimately a tale about what it means to be young, lost amidst the expectations bestowed upon you, and what happens when you get to choose.”

Nevertheless, Kamala’s introduction is a landmark event in mainstream superhero comics; though Kamala isn’t the first character of Muslim faith to grace the pages of superhero comics, she is the first Muslim character in the Marvel Universe to get her own series. (DC introduced Simon Baz, a young Lebanese American man of Muslim faith who took over the mantle of Green Lantern, in 2012. One of his first obstacles was a federal agent who thought he was a terrorist.)

Marvel has laid the groundwork for a character like Kamala with several predecessors who claim diverse backgrounds and viewpoints.

The publisher introduced Miles Morales, a black Latino teenager, as an alternate version of Spider-Man in 2011. Northstar, Marvel’s first openly gay hero, tied the knot with his boyfriend Kyle Jinadu in a 2012 issue of “Astonishing X-Men,” marking the first same-sex wedding in mainstream superhero comics. The company has found great success with “Captain Marvel,” by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, and has several more female-led titles lined up, including books for She-Hulk, Elektra and Black Widow.

Artist Adrian Alphona's concept art for the upcoming "Ms. Marvel" title. Heroine Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani American living in New Jersey, is shown second from left. (Adrian Alphona / Marvel)

Artist Adrian Alphona’s concept art for the upcoming “Ms. Marvel” title. Heroine Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani American living in New Jersey, is shown second from left. (Adrian Alphona / Marvel)

Marvel comics are also known for weaving tales that explore the protagonists’ personal lives as well as their heroics, and for some characters, religion is no small part of that. For example, Daredevil (Matt Murdock) grappled with his Catholic faith in Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada’s “Guardian Devil” story arc in the late 1990s. Magneto, sometimes a hero and sometimes a villain, is a Jewish Holocaust survivor. Other characters, like Wolverine and Iron Man, are more skeptical but dabble in occasional spiritual practices.

The most obvious Marvel Universe precedents for the new Ms. Marvel, however, might be Dust and M.

Dust, whose real name is Sooraya Qadir, debuted in 2002. Dust is an Afghanistan-born Muslim woman whose powers allow her to turn herself into a sand-like substance. She's shown here on the cover of 2005's "New X-Men: Hellions" No. 2. (Clayton Henry / Marvel)

Dust, whose real name is Sooraya Qadir, debuted in 2002. Dust is an Afghanistan-born Muslim woman whose powers allow her to turn herself into a sand-like substance. She’s shown here on the cover of 2005′s “New X-Men: Hellions” No. 2. (Clayton Henry / Marvel)

Dust, whose real name is Sooraya Qadir, was created by Grant Morrison and Ethan Van Sciver and debuted in a 2002 issue of “New X-Men.” Sooraya is an Afghanistan-born Sunni Muslim who, when kidnapped by slave traders, uses her mutant power to turn herself into a sand-like substance to flay them alive. She is discovered by the X-Men and eventually enrolls in the Xavier Institute. Dust was preceded in the X-Men realm by Monet St. Croix, whose superhero alias is M. She was introduced in a 1994 issue of “Uncanny X-Men.” M is a Muslim woman of North African descent, and her considerable powers include superhuman strength, speed, reflexes and even healing.

(In the DC Universe, Kahina the Seer made a splash in the pages of Geoff John’s “Aquaman” No. 7. The Tehran-born woman had visions of the future, but the character was killed in the same issue she was introduced.)

Though Kamala Khan’s introduction might mark a breakthrough for Marvel, her youth, powers and everyday life are as much a part of her story as her religion, the creative team said.

“I wanted Ms. Marvel to be true-to-life, something real people could relate to, particularly young women,” said Wilson, the comic’s writer. “High school was a very vivid time in my life, so I drew heavily on those experiences — impending adulthood, dealing with school, emotionally charged friendships that are such a huge part of being a teenager…. It’s for all the geek girls out there, and everybody else who’s ever looked at life from the fringe.”

The new Ms. Marvel will be introduced in January’s “All-New Marvel NOW! Point One” one-shot comic. The series is slated for a February start.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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Comments


9 Responses to New Ms. Marvel isn’t the first Muslim — or religious — superhero

  1. Roy says:

    Why is Simon Baz carrying a gun? Is possessing one of the most powerful intergalactic weapons powered by sheer will insufficient?

    • Roberto Felgueiras says:

      He said he doesn't trust power he doesn't fully understand and that it's always "good to have a backup plan".

  2. Miqque says:

    A wee bit od research, please. "Northstar, Marvel’s first openly gay hero, tied the knot with his boyfriend Kyle Jinadu in a 2012 issue of “Astonishing X-Men,” marking the first same-sex wedding in mainstream superhero comics." No. The first gay superhero wedding was in DC's "The Authority" written by Mark Millar; where The Midnighter and Apollo wed and adopted Jenny Quantum (the resurrected "Century Baby" that was once Jenny Sparks.) This story line continued in "StormWatch" when DC relaunched a couple of years ago as The New 52.

  3. Atomic Kommie Comics says:

    I have no problem with a new character taking over an existing name
    (How many Captain Marvels has Marvel done?, Heck, how many Captain Marvels have there been in comics history?)
    I have no problem with a muslim character.
    I have no problem with a teenage girl character.
    I have no problem with a character based in (gasp) New Jersey.
    But why, oh why, did they have to give her a set of powers that several Marvel characters (including the Fantastic Four's Mr Fantastic and Great Lakes Avengers' FlatMan, the X-Men's Changling AND Morph, and Liberty Legion's Thin Man (who was a 1940s character) already have?
    Couldn't they come up with some NEW combination of abilities?

  4. Sophie says:

    Yes! Marvel rocks.

  5. Gotham_Buckeye says:

    Of coure the anti-DC bias will ignore Simon Baz… the muslim Green Lantern… introduced to the DC universe over a year ago (Sep '12) who has played a part in the Justice League of America and has been a solid character since his introduction….

  6. Bytowner says:

    Kamara's closest peer in Marvel's ranks might be in the ranks of superhero fandom itself over in the UK: Dr. Faiza Hussein AKA "Excalibur" of Captain Britain and MI-13 fame co-created by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk.

    A meeting between these two "fangirls" made good might be worthy of some ink and bandwidth!

  7. "The publisher introduced Miles Morales, a black Latino teenager"

    Miles Morales is NOT a "black Latino." His father is a black American and his mother is a Puerto Rican. Black Latinos are Latinos who are black like Zoe Saldana and Gina Torres.

    This is just like the media calling George Zimmerman a "white Latino" because his father is white. No, white Latinos are people like Ricky Martin and Alexis Bledel—Latinos who are racially white.

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