November 6, 2013
Comic-book connoisseurs will recognise the name Ms Marvel as the superhero alter ego of a blonde, blue-eyed and busty former US Air Force Major named Carol Danvers. But following her removal from the role by Marvel Comics last year, a more progressive successor has been found: Kamala Khan is the 16-year-old Muslim daughter of Pakistani immigrants from Jersey City, New Jersey.
The character of Khan will star in a new Ms Marvel series starting in February, making her one of few female Muslim comic-book characters, let alone series protagonists. Her introduction indicates Marvel has an eye on contemporary cultural relevance, even as the company maintains its A-list roster of white, male superheroes such as Spider-Man, Iron Man and Captain America.
The teenager’s creators say she will be forced to deal not only with her developing superpowers and the day-to-day struggles of adolescence, but also with the strict demands placed on her by her family. Marvel editor Sana Amanat told The New York Times, “Her brother is extremely conservative. Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.”
Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso emphasised that Khan’s religion is just one facet of her character, and that she has much in common with Marvel’s existing protagonists, not least Spider-Man. “Kamala is not unlike Peter Parker,” Mr Alonso told the Associated Press. “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 and learns the great responsibility that comes with it.”