Considering the character of Kamala Khan – better known as the modern-day Ms. Marvel – only made her début in August 2013, she’s already made quite a mark. Creator Sana Amanat was by none other than President Barack Obama:
“Ms. Marvel may be your comic book creation, but I think for a lot of young boys and girls, Sana’s a real superhero.”
High praise indeed – and fair, too. Kamala Khan has captured a generation, and surely it’s only a matter of time before she enters the MCU!
WHAT MAKES KAMALA KHAN SO SPECIAL?
Right now, Marvel Comics has a strong focus on what I call ‘Legacy Heroes’. A Legacy Hero is a brand new character who stands in the shadow of an older, established superhero; the original superhero becomes an inspirational figure, while the new bears a powerful mantle to enhance their mystique. Kamala Khan, of course, bears the title ‘Ms. Marvel’ – she’s testimony to the legacy of , or Captain Marvel, who will be the first female superhero to star in a Marvel movie.
But Kamala Khan is a lot more than just a Legacy Hero. She’s an everyman figure, created after the pattern of Peter Parker; a teenager who is introduced into a world of superheroes. Her response is everything any fanboy would have in those circumstances! Her team-ups are characterized by gleeful exuberance, and her delight at being part of the Avengers is beautiful to see.
Curiously enough, though, Kamala Khan is dramatically counter-cultural in twoways. First of all, at a time when Islam is controversial, she’s an American Muslim; her complex cultural identity is the rich backdrop for her ongoing comics. This new Ms. Marvel’s power as a cultural icon was never better displayed than in 2015, when the anti-Islamic American Freedom Defense Initiative purchased bus ads in San Francisco that equated Islam with Nazism. Street artists took action – and used Kamala Khan as their symbol!
Another key part of Kamala Khan’s brilliance is that she challenges stereotypes of youth. In the 1920s, social patterns began to change and the concept of ‘teenager’ emerged. This new sub-culture of society was met with fear, and by 1954 Newsweek had a cover, “Let’s Face It: Our Teenagers Are Out Of Control”. The fear of youth has only seemed to increase over time, as the social differences between today’s teenagers and their parents grow ever wider (in part due to the changing social patterns caused by new technology). In turn, this then leads to a fear of the future itself.
Kamala Khan stands front-and-center in opposition to the fear of youth. She insists that the future is bright, and that today’s teenagers will transform the world for the better. Her first supervillain was a new character who was trying to persuade teenagers that they were worthless in order to use them as nothing more than biochemical power batteries, but check out Ms. Marvel’s response to the kids who believed him.
All of these elements – the legacy of Captain Marvel, the boldness of her ethnic origin (she’s the first American Muslim superhero to star in her own book), and the counter-cultural message of hope – combine to make Kamala Khan a fantastic character. They’re greatly helped by the brilliant writing of G. Willow Wilson, who has ensured that Kamala Khan’s characterization transcends all these messages.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO INTRODUCE KAMALA KHAN’S MS. MARVEL TO THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE?
Although Captain Marvel is already set to enter the MCU, the film won’t be released until 2019. What’s more, Carol Danvers’s MCU début will be as ‘Captain Marvel’ – she’s skipping straight past the ‘Ms. Marvel’ title. Given that Kamala Khan was created in part standing within Captain Marvel’s shadow, at first glance we’d seem to need time for that shadow to be set in the first place.
But that’s not necessarily the case. Although the relationship between Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers is a fun one, there’s no reason Kamala couldn’t simply be a separate character. She’s well-developed enough to be a lot more than just a Legacy Hero, after all! What’s more, the MCU’s approach may actually make things easier; the lightning bolt symbol that Kamala wears in honor of her mentor is likely going to be skipped completely in the Captain Marvel movie.
Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has introduced to the MCU, one of exuberant youth that could well start a trend. Marvel deliberately chose to introduce the MCU Spider-Man as a fifteen-year-old kid, and there’s no reason he couldn’t be just the first younger superhero out there. In another hopeful sign, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had its own release of Terrigen, the Inhuman chemical that triggered Kamala Khan’s powers. Similar concepts will no doubt be part of Marvel’s Inhumans movie, postponed for Phase 4. So the mechanics are there already.