When you think of iconic comic characters in this current generation, you point to all the usual suspects. Batman, Iron Man, Superman, Captain America, Wolverine… all characters who have become popular in pop culture in some respect due to movies, shows, or comic panels that have come over the years – all (usually) white men.
It’s been the norm for most superhero characters for so long now, especially for Marvel. So when Kamala Khan burst onto the scene, she shook up a lot of things. So much so that most recently, she became a main playable character in the Marvel’s Avengers video game next to characters like the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and Black Widow.
Even more exciting is the fact that she will be getting her own solo Disney+ series and the MCU has officially cast new actress Iman Vallani to portray her!
But then you may be asking: how’d she get here? There are other diverse legacy characters like Miles Morales that also have their fanbases, but they haven’t received the status that Kamala enjoys. Read on to answer some of these questions!
Captain Marvel Fangirl
Kamala Khan was first a superhero fangirl before the life of superhero-ism was bestowed upon her. The 16-year-old New Jersey teen’s life changed one night when she snuck out of her house due to an argument with her strict but loving Pakistani Muslim parents.
This caused her to be exposed to the Terrigen bomb mist, which activated her latent Inhuman genes and granted her powers of mainly limb extension and shapeshifting. From there, she took on the moniker of Ms. Marvel, the old alias of her idol, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel.
Created by writer G. Willow Wilson, artist Adrian Alphona, and editor Sana Amanat, her first issue was published in 2014. Since then, she’s gone on to star in two separate solo series, guest star in several other comic books, and even become an Avenger (just like she dreamed of)!
Making A Name Of Her Own
While Kamala isn’t the first and only new hero that Marvel pushed in their bid for more diverse stories and characters, she definitely ended up being arguably the biggest name to come from that.
Her story wasn’t only a vehicle to show the Muslim-American story, but it was also a relatable one on a base level. A story about feeling different and trying to find oneself between all the pressure one gets whether it be familial or societal – that’s a tale any person that has gone through teenagehood can empathize with.
Some would even argue that she’s doing what Peter Parker did in the 1960’s when he first debuted: an earnest and sincere take on what it feels like to have the weight of the world on your shoulders when you’re only so young.
That’s not the only reason, though! Possibly more significant is how Kamala Khan became an icon for real-life issues as well. Her stand as the most significant Muslim comic book character made her almost the emblem against Islamaphobia especially for those in the US.
Her Small Screen Debut
This all comes down to the expectations that are on this new Disney+ series. This will be the most accessible form of media that Ms Marvel will appear in thus far and doing it right will possibly propel her to an even larger status of familiarity. We’re talking possibly becoming as well-known in pop culture as Spiderman as Kevin Fiege claimed that the studio has plans to bring her to movie screens after her show.
More interestingly is the other potential impacts the story of Kamala Khan can have on society in general. Bringing the brown Muslim teenager experience to such a large platform in a world where tolerance is building, but hate is still prevalent – if it’s handled as empathetically as it is in the comics – the positive waves it could have over people could be incomparable.
My Own Hero
In the end, with the impact that she’s had on comics and beyond, there’s no doubt that Kamala Khan will be remembered in some form. It’s just a matter of time before her legacy extends into what’s expected and maybe even beyond.
Personally, as a Ms Marvel fan myself, this character has become very important to me. Her first comic debuted when I was sixteen myself and just as I was submerging myself into comics. So, she couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. She became a source of comfort for me for a very long time and to see someone just a little bit like me take on the title of a superhero was so much more significant than I could’ve expected.
(So, really, if Marvel screws this up at any point, I will be crying in my corner.)