First, it was DC Comics that proved that, despite its name, it was also AC. In 2012, the company broke the mold by coming out with a superhero who was “coming out.” That was gay Green Lantern. Next up — and out — was Batgirl, who in April of this year revealed to the world that she was transgender and bisexual.
Now, competitor Marvel Comics has announced it is bringing Ms. Marvel back to the funny pages, reinvented for this incarnation as Kamala Khan, the 16-year-old daughter of Pakistani immigrants living in Jersey City. The Associated Press reports:
The character — among the first to be a series protagonist who is both female and Muslim — is part of Marvel Entertainment’s efforts to reflect a growing diversity among its readers while keeping ahold of the contemporary relevance that have underlined its foundation since the creation of Spider-Man and the X-Men in the early 1960s.
Writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, working with editor Sana Amanat, say the series reflects Khan’s vibrant but kinetic world, learning to deal with superpowers, family expectations and adolescence.
The idea for the switch reportedly grew out of conversations with the fittingly named Stephen Wacker, a senior editor, and Amanat, a Muslim-American, who compared stories about growing up.
Amanat is quoted as characterizing the series as a “desire to explore the Muslim-American diaspora from an authentic perspective,” while simultaneously telling the story of a teenager coming to grips with having super powers. Khan will be able to grow and shrink her limbs and her body and ultimately shape shift into other forms.
The description seems at cross-purposes with the vision of the character articulated by Wilson, who told AP, “I wanted Ms. Marvel to be true-to-life, something real people could relate to, particularly young women.”
Wilson, a convert to Islam, goes on to allow as how “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.”
Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso explains that “Kamala is not unlike Peter Parker,” aka Spiderman.
She’s a 16-year-old girl from the suburbs who is trying to figure out who she is and trying to forge an identity when she suddenly bestows great power [sic] and learns the great responsibility that comes with it.
Jersey City (shown here) is a suburb? It sounds as though there is a strain of fantasy running through Marvel’s “realistic” narrative.
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