The New York Times broke news today of a new solo superhero title launching from Marvel early next year — and this one comes as a welcome change of pace for readers who want to see more diversity in their super-books.
Ms Marvel #1, from writer G. Willow Wilson (Cairo) and artist Adrian Alphona(Runaways), introduces the world to the young Muslim woman who takes on the mantle of Ms. Marvel formerly held by Carol Danvers, the current Captain Marvel. The new Ms. Marvel will be the first Muslim character to get her own ongoing solo series at Marvel, one of a growing number of female solo leads, and the only person of color headlining a solo book in the Marvel Universe.
The star of the new title is Kamala Khan, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants living in New Jersey. As described by Wilson and series editor Sana Amanat, the character will balance fighting super villains and coming to grips with her body-morphing powers against the pressures of her conservative family background. She takes the name Ms. Marvel because of her longstanding admiration of Danvers.
“Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for,” Ms. Wilson told NYT. “She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.’”
The writer added that Ms. Marvel will be “about the universal experience of all American teenagers, feeling kind of isolated and finding what they are” but “through the lens of being a Muslim-American” with superpowers.
The idea to create a new Muslim solo hero within the Marvel universe was conceived by Amanat in conversation with Spider-Man group editor Steve Wacker, and has been billed as part of a continued effort to push diversity at the publisher.
Naturally this is something we loudly applaud here at ComicsAlliance. The superhero genre needs more heroes for young women and people of color to look up to, and to introduce a hero who is Muslim — one of the most maligned and misunderstood minority groups in America today — is especially bold and especially laudable.
In Amanat and Wilson the book can boast both a female Muslim editor and a female Muslim writer, which seems to ensure a high degree of sensitivity to the issues that a book like this could be expected to raise. The choice of artist is also brilliant; Adrian Alphona’s style is a perfect fit for a book that surely hopes to pick up a young and female-skewing audience. Thrown in a costume by Jamie McKelvie (who also designed the current Captain Marvel and Young Avengers’ Miss America Chavez) that looks like something a Muslim-American girl might choose to wear for herself, and it seems likely that this book will treat its lead respectfully, with no broke-back poses or T&A pretzel twists. This is not another female-led book where the choice of artist seems guaranteed to drive away many women readers.
Whether that increases Ms. Marvel’s chances of finding an audience remains to be seen, but Marvel has shown an increased willingness of late to give new titles time to build a readership. The Ms. Marvel brand is not an especially strong one, so the book will have to make an impact on its own merits.
For those keeping track — that would be us — this brings Marvel’s total number of ongoing female-led books up to seven (Uncanny X-Force, X-Men, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Elektra, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel) to DC’s nine (Wonder Woman, World’s Finest, Batgirl, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Supergirl,Pandora). Marvel can also claim four minority-led titles (Ultimate Spider-Man, Mighty Avengers, Ms. Marveland the forthcoming Ghost Rider, whose title character is apparently Latino) to DC’s one (Batwing). Obviously a flat count does not show how many of these titles are actually being written to appeal to a diverse audience.
Ms. Marvel instantly becomes the highest-profile Muslim character at Marvel, though the publisher also has Monet St. Croix (soon appearing in Brian Wood’s X-Men), and Dust, Excalibur and Justice (Josiah X). We’ll call that a starting point.