Marvel Comics to introduce Muslim female superhero

The 16-year-old character lives with her conservative Pakistani parents in New Jersey and will make her debut in January
By Reuters
Thu 07 Nov 2013 11:20 AM

Move
over Black Widow and step aside She-Hulk: Marvel Comics is introducing a new
superhero - a 16-year-old Muslim-American girl named Kamala Khan, to reflect
the growing diversity of its readers.

The
character, who will be the new Ms. Marvel, lives with her conservative
Pakistani parents and brother in New Jersey. She will make her debut in January
and appear in a monthly series starting on February 6.

"It
is so important that we tell stories that reflect the ever-changing world that
we live in and being a Muslim-American is so much a part of that," said
Sana Amanat, the series editor, who also worked on Ultimate Spider-Man and
Ultimate X-Men comic books.

Although
the inspiration for the new series came from a desire to explore the
Muslim-American experience, she said it isn't about what it means to be a
Muslim, Pakistani or American.

"It
is about a young girl who is figuring out who she is and what happens when
these really extraordinary things happen to her," she added in an
interview.

Khan
is a big comic book fan and after she discovers her superhuman power - being a
polymorph and able to lengthen her arms and legs and change her shape - she
takes on the name of Ms. Marvel. The title had previously belonged to Carol
Danvers, a character Khan had always admired.

"It
pays homage to the legacy character," said Amanat.

The
idea for the new superhero stemmed from a casual conversation Amanat had with
her senior editor, Steve Wacker, about her own experiences growing up as a
Muslim-American.

"He
was interested in the dilemma I faced as a young girl and the next day he came
in and said, 'Wouldn't it be great to have a superhero that was for all the
little girls that grew up just like you, and who are growing up just like you
are today, and to create a character they can be inspired by,'" Amanat
said.

Writer
G. Willow Wilson, a convert to Islam, and artist Adrian Alphona are the team
working on the project, which started about 18 months ago.

Wilson
said she wrote the character as a true-to-life person so that people,
particularly young women, can relate to her.

Khan
experiences the usual teenage angst, feelings of confusion and being an
outsider, dealing with the expectations of her parents and problems at high
school.

"It's
for all the geek girls out there, and everybody else who's ever looked at life
on the fringe," Wilson said in a statement.

Kahn
is not the first Muslim-American character in the superhero world, which has
been largely dominated by white males, but Amanat said she is being pushed to
the forefront of the Marvel universe.

"People
have been mostly positive about it," she said, adding that the real test
will come early next year when the series begins.

Amanat
believes the options for the new character, and others like her, are limitless.

"We
are always trying to upend expectations to an extent but our point is to always
reflect the world outside our window, and we are looking through a lot more
windows right now," she said.

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