In what will no doubt be picked up by Fox News as “forcing a diversity quota,” Marvel Comics editors Sana Amanat and Steve Whacker recently announced a new Ms. Marvel character: Kamala Khan, a Pakistani Muslim American teen with shape-shifting powers who takes up the mantle of her personal hero, former Ms. Marvel (and current hero Captain Marvel) Carol Danvers.
The comic will be released in February and has an amazing creative team: Muslim American writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, who previously worked on the teenage-superhero comic “Runaways.”
According to Wilson, one of the main struggles Kamala will have to deal with is her “dual identity before she even puts on a costume … she feels torn between two worlds: the [conservative Pakistani] family she loves but which drives her crazy and her peers, who don’t really understand what her home life is like.”
This is a huge step in the right direction for Marvel, which in the last two years has married two male members of the X-Men and introduced half-black and half-Hispanic teen Miles Morales as an alternate-universe Spider-Man, which faced intense backlash. Diversity in comics has always been lacking, and Marvel editors understand this; DC Comics, on the other hand, seems to be taking the opposite approach, not allowing “Batwoman” writer J.H. Williams to marry the openly gay hero to her partner because superheroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives.
Amanat mentions that editors at Marvel are aware of the backlash this will generate, and it is a very real fear, given increased Islamophobia in America over the last decade. As an avid comics reader, I can also understand fears over low sales of a new hero. But the fact that Marvel is willing to take that risk shows that perhaps not all is lost; only time, and sales, will tell.