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Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American Muslim superheroine
The Times of India, Jul 01 2016 Marvel's latest offering that traces the origins of Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim superheroine, shows her parents migration from India to Pakistan during the turbulent partition era. With their latest comic, Marvel traces the roots of Kamala, the superheroine from New Jersey , and it dates back to India's partition in 1947.
Kamala is a fictional superheroine appearing in comic books published by Marvel Comics.
The first few pages of the new comic have recently been released and they show Kamala's parents, Kareem and Aisha, as Indian Muslims in the then Bombay in 1947 when the largest human migration in history was underway . They are en route to the newly-found Pakistan.
The appearance of the characters --bold gold bangles and salwar kameez paired with a dupatta -depicts the Muslims of the subcontinent, the Express Tribune reported.
Kamala's parents are anticipating her birth as her mother asks God for a sign that will reassure her of her child's safe future in Pakistan.
Created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, Kamala is Marvel's first Muslim character to headline her own comic book.
Kamala made her first appearance in Captain Marvel #14 (August 2013) before taking over the Ms Marvel comic book series in February 2014.
Aaron Reese on Kamala Khan’s 2013 debut
Two Years Ago: The Debut of Kamala Khan, The Modern Marvel Hero
When you think of the term superhero, what instinctively comes to mind? Is it a straight white man with bulging muscles and a scarlet cape? Or a brooding vigilante with an aggressive streak and a heart of gold? Whatever your thoughts on mainstream superheroes, Kamala Khan, otherwise known as Ms Marvel, effortlessly dismantles them. Debuting on this day in 2013 in a cameo in the pages of Captain Marvel, the Pakistani American Muslim teenager quickly became one of the most honest and relatable heroes in the Marvel pantheon.
Created by editors Sana Amanat and Steve Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, Kamala Khan deals with average teenage problems that readers will recognize in the pages of her self-titled Ms Marvel series. These problems include overprotective parents and not feeling cool enough to fit in with the popular kids — but she’s also dealing with the specific challenges of life as a young Muslim in Jersey City. Though she wasn’t Marvel’s first Muslim character (she’s preceded by Monet St. Croix and Sooraya Qadir, among others), she was the first to headline her own comic, and her faith plays a major role in her life, as in her choices about when to wear the hijab, and her banter about shared experiences with her Muslim BFF Nakia.
Kamala also captures a spirit that every comic reader shares: the spirit of fandom. Her love of the Avengers may be what makes her most accessible. Living in a world of superheroes, mutants, aliens, and magical hammers must be awe-inspiring, and Kamala celebrates all of that. In fact, that wonder is part of what inspires her to do good.
When Kamala first discovers her shape-shifting abilities, she morphs into the likeness of her idol Carol Danvers as the original Ms Marvel — and she’s mortified. This is one of Kamala’s defining moments. Kamala longs to be a hero, but transformed into a familiar, blonde, Caucasian beauty, she instinctively recoils. This is not who she wants to be. Her individuality matters too much to her, and is something she fiercely protects.
But that connection to Carol Danvers matters too. Though her heroic identity can ultimately be traced back to a male hero, Marvel’s first Captain Marvel, Kamala is actually one of the few female legacy heroes in comics inspired by another woman.
Though, like us, Kamala loves all kinds of heroes. After aiding Wolverine in a battle with a giant sewer alligator in Ms Marvel #6, Kamala unabashedly asks the disgruntled hero for a selfie, and he obliges, resulting in the cover art for issue #7. The magic of this isn’t just that she just met one of her and our faves; it shows Kamala interacting with the wider Marvel Universe on her own terms Between this and her addictive superhero fan fiction (I totally support anyone who ships Storm and Wolverine), Kamala emerges as a fun and vibrant hero who feels both fresh and familiar.
When I read Ms Marvel, I see a not-so-self assured teen who wants to do good, and a hero who loves heroes. Kamala is, in many ways, the voice of the readers. We hope we’ll still be celebrating her place in the Marvel Universe for decades to come.
Noah Berlatsky/ The Atlantic on Kamala's awesomeness
What Makes the Muslim Ms. Marvel Awesome: She's Just Like Everyone
Like Superman or Spider-Man, the story of a young Pakistani American named Kamala Khan is both an empowerment fantasy and an assimilation story. - Noah Berlatsky, The Atlantic Mar 20, 2014
Ms. Marvel, the Marvel superhero comic that debuted last month, has gotten a ton of media coverage because of what makes it unique. Mainstream superheroes are almost all white and almost all guys, and women of color virtually never carry their own titles. Even the X-Men's Storm, a widely recognized and popular character, hasn't ever headlined an ongoing series. So the fact that the new Ms. Marvel is a young Muslim girl named Kamala Khan is, for superhero comics at least, a long-awaited and much-welcome innovation.
The great thing about Ms. Marvel, though, is not how unusual it is, but how familiar. The second issue came out this week, and as the story goes on, it’s only becoming more apparent that Kamala's narrative fits neatly into traditional superhero narratives. Like many a Peter Parker-esque nerd before her, Kamala is out of place and uncomfortable. Her parents don't let her go to parties, and her acquaintances make clueless/mean-spirited comments about her background ("Nobody's going to, like, honor kill you? I'm just concerned."). The first scene of the first comic shows Kamala sniffing a bacon sandwich that she can't eat because of her family's dietary restrictions—wanting but not quite able to do that thing everybody else does: eat American. She's the unpopular kid, and then she gets superpowers so she can be admired by all those who rejected her. Thus, it’s an empowerment fantasy.
There's More to Making Non-Sexist Art Than Not Being Sexist
It’s also an assimilation fantasy, but that fact isn't a quirk or a variation. It's just how superhero empowerment fantasies have always worked. Most of the original, iconic superheroes were created by Jews, and the ethnic subtext isn't very hard to understand. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Clark Kent is practically a stereotype Jewish caricature—a skinny, bespectacled nerd, constantly emasculated by Lois, until he ducks into a closet and emerges as the Hitler-fighting, quintessentially American Aryan Superman. The same is true of the skinny, bespectacled, poor, and ridiculed Peter Parker. The X-Men are often read as a metaphor for the civil-rights movement, but especially early on, the series seems to resonate much more directly with Jewish experiences of hiding difference or assimilating than with the African-American freedom struggle. In one particularly poignant scene in the first X-Men comic, we see Angel wearing an elaborate restraining belt to keep his wings flat to his back so no one will know he's different. Perhaps while they were creating that scene, Stanley Lieber and Jacob Kurtzberg thought for a second about their pseudonyms, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, which perhaps pinched a little bit on occasion as well.
Ms. Marvel is well aware of this history—which is why, in the comic, superheroes are portrayed explicitly as offering a means to assimilation. A big part of Kamala's connection with American culture is her connection with superheroes. She writes Avengers fan fiction (much to her mother's confusion) and idolizes the superhero Ms. Marvel. The mysterious forces that grant her powers aren't gods (as with Billy Batson/Captain Marvel) but rather the Avengers (or some force taking the form of the Avengers), who appear out of a strange mist to grant her desires. And when she transforms into Ms. Marvel, it's the iconic Ms. Marvel she transforms into, complete with ridiculous thigh-baring outfit, blonde hair, and white skin.
Being a superhero is a way to fit in, but stretching yourself or going blonde or taking off your pants to fit in doesn't necessarily fix everything.
Siegel, Shuster, Lee and Kirby rarely, if ever, directly questioned the logic of assimilation—indeed, they were so committed to assimilation that their characters could only be surreptitiously Jewish. Peter Parker and Superman, despite the clear Jewish signaling, were both established within the narrative as Christian. The Thing has long been read as Jewish, but his ethnicity was only revealed definitively in 2002—40 years after his creation.
Writer G. Willow Wilson (herself a Muslim convert) is much less coy—and in part as a result, she's able to think through some of the disadvantages of coyness. Becoming blonde and Caucasian doesn't make Kamala happy or glamorous. Instead, rendered in Adrian Alphona's cartoony pencils, she looks goofy and spindly and out of shape. "It's almost like a reflex, like a fake smile," she thinks of her transformation. Being a superhero is a way to fit in, but stretching yourself or going blonde or taking off your pants to fit in doesn't necessarily fix everything. As Kamala says,
Being someone else isn't liberating. It's exhausting.
I always thought that if I had amazing hair, if I could pull off great boots, if I could fly—that would make me happy. But the hair gets in my face, the boots pinch … and the leotard is giving me an epic wedgie.
Superheroic assimilation is also complicated by the fact that, for Kamala (as implicitly for the X-Men, or for that Kryptonian immigrant Superman) one's heritage is hard to separate from one's strength. Kamala finds the courage to use her newfound, not-quite-under control powers to save another girl after she remembers a passage from the Quran: "Whoever saves one person, it is as if he has saved all of mankind." She may look like Ms. Marvel on the outside, but that's just a costume. What's inside is Kamala, and part of who Kamala is, is her family, her religion, and her ethnicity.
In Ms. Marvel, shape-changing seems to suggest that flexibility is a strength.
Ms. Marvel is part of her too, though. As Kamala tells her mystic superhero benefactors, "I'm from Jersey City, not Karachi!" She adds, "I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I don't know who I'm supposed to be." It's fitting, then, that her power is shapeshifting; she takes on the appearance of Ms. Marvel because she can take on the appearance of anything, like Plastic Man. She can shrink and stretch and bend; she rescues a girl from drowning by stretching her hand until it can act like a giant shovel, scooping up the thrashing girl and a big wad of lake mud as well.
You could see this power as a kind of metaphorical curse, reflecting Kamala's uncertainty; she doesn't know who she is, so she's anyone or anything. I don't think that's quite what it signifies, though. Changing shape doesn't mean that Kamala erases her ethnicity, nor, in the way of Superman, that she is forever split between nebbish and overman. Rather, in Ms. Marvel, shape-changing seems to suggest that flexibility is a strength. Kamala is a superhero because she's both Muslim and American at once. Her power is to be many things, and to change without losing herself.
Be The Hero: Get to Know Sana Amanat’s Story
Sana Amanat is a renowned comic book editor and the creator of the breakthrough Muslim-American female comic book superhero, Ms. Marvel. Growing up in overwhelmingly white suburban New Jersey, Amanat was pained and felt like an “outsider” as one of the only Muslim families in the community, and often the only person of color in her class. Amanat’s identity as a Pakistani-American Muslim (her parents were recent immigrants) in an otherwise overwhelmingly Caucasian community led her to find solace in an unlikely place: on the pages of X-MEN comic books, where she found friends and inspiration in the “otherness” of the superhero characters of those stories.