For International Women’s Day this year, I wanted to cover a female character who’s become a particular favourite of mine: Ms Marvel, aka Kamala Khan.
What sets Kamala apart from many other superhero characters is that she’s incredibly relatable. She’s a teen – which, admittedly, is something I haven’t been for a very long time – and she’s kinda geeky, a bit awkward and she struggles with an awful lot of stuff that many of us have difficulty with. She’s also a Muslim; her brother is a lot more conservatively religious than she is and her parents are also very traditional in that respect. Kamala doesn’t necessarily struggle with her identity, but she does have issues trying to please all of her loved ones, who admittedly only have her best interests at heart.
The first volume of her adventures see Kamala develop superpowers after being affected by the Terrigen Mists, which were released throughout the world during the 2013 ‘Inhumanity’ Marvel comics crossover event. Her powers give her shapeshifting abilities, allowing Kamala to change the size of her limbs. When original Ms Marvel Carol Danvers adopts the Captain Marvel moniker, Kamala – a big fan of Danvers – adopts the newly available Ms Marvel name, using her new abilities in secret to keep her friends and family safe as she fights to keep her neighbour hood safe.
G. Willow Wilson – herself a practising Muslim – writes Kamala with an engagingly wide-eyed, optimistic and believable voice. Her adventures are nicely small scale and see her struggling to fit in as a teen, as a Muslim and as a superhero; the juggling of her various identities, even without her superhero alter ego, is one that so many people can relate to. Adrian Alphona’s wonderfully expressive and detailed art is the icing on the cake; his excellent style really does lend itself well to the relatively down-to-earth situations our hero finds herself wrapped up in, at least until she develops her powers of course.
A few months ago, a Disney Plus TV series featuring Ms Marvel has been announced – so we’ll get to see Kamala in live action for the first time later this year.
It’s clear that Kamala has become a hugely popular character – she even had a big role in Square Enix’s Avengers game, released in late 2020. Composer Bobby Tahouri, in my interview with him last year, said that he had a lot of fun coming up with Kamala’s musical themes, as she had – at that point – not really been represented a great deal beyond the comics page. Tahouri said “With Kamala, because she’s more of an internal character, I wanted to reflect that with electric piano – delays and long reverbs. I just went with my gut; just to reflect her internal headspace – being in her bedroom, feeling like an outsider, playing video games, focusing on all things Avengers because she’s a huge Avengers fan.”
That relatability, along with her optimism and sheer joie de vivre, makes Kamala’s adventures an absolute pleasure to read. She’s a wonderfully written character and – unlike many women in comics over the years – hasn’t been designed with a mainly teenage male audience in mind, something that’s been a bit of a bugbear in mainstream comics since, well, forever. There’s none of the casual sexism or titillation with Kamala – she’s a sweet, positive role model for women, minorities and outsiders; someone that everyone can look up to in dark and uncertain times, which makes her the perfect choice for International Women’s Day.
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