Most comic book fans know about the first Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers. She's recently taken on the mantle of Captain Marvel, leaving an opening for a new hero to fill her shoes. Normally such characters, especially brand new ones, have a hard time living up to the predecessor, but Kamala Khan is the rare character who not only lives up to her namesake, but, in some ways, surpasses her.
Born to Pakistani immigrants living in Jersey City, Kamala just wanted to live a normal life and be able to stay out past curfew, but life had other plans. When Jersey City is engulfed in the Terrigen Mists, Kamala's Inhuman abilities awaken. Due to her love of superheroes in general, and Carol Danvers in particular, Kamala decided to use her powers to defend Jersey City as the new Ms. Marvel.
Despite being one of the most popular characters to be created within the last decade, Kamala is still fairly new, so we've assembled a handy guide of the top 15 Things You Need To Know About Ms. Marvel.
15 Aside From The Name, She Has Little In Common With Captain Marvel
“Nice uniform. I’m still not sure how I feel about the name.”-Carol Danvers.
Superhero mantles tend to get passed around a lot. There have been multiple Flashes, several incarnations of Spider-Man and even a few different Batmen. Oftentimes, these legacies are passed down to a sidekick or even a family member. With that in mind, new readers could be forgiven for assuming that Kamala Khan began her superhero career as the sidekick to the original Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers.
In fact, she doesn’t have any connection to Carol. By the time Kamala gained her powers, Carol had taken the title of Captain Marvel. Kamala simply chose the name Ms. Marvel because the original was her favorite superhero. That being said, the two do eventually form a partnership with Carol assuming a mentor role similar to the traditional hero/sidekick relationship, but the two rarely go on missions together.
14 The Series Was Expected To Flop
“A series like this was, by the superhero industry math of the time, was doomed to fail. It was the trifecta of death: New characters don’t sell. Female characters don’t sell. Minority characters don’t sell."-G. Willow Wilson
Given the runaway success of Ms. Marvel, it might surprise our readers to learn that the series’ writer, Willow Wilson, expected it to be a colossal failure. The problem is that, despite many comic book fans lamenting the lack of new ideas, new characters and concepts often fail regardless of the quality of the work. This is especially true if the character is female, though some female-led series, such as Batgirl or Lumberjaines, have found success.
Wilson’s biggest fear, however, stemmed from Kamala's religion. She once joked that they would need to hire an intern simply to open all the hate mail. Regardless, Wilson took the job because she would be crazy to pass up the opportunity to create an original character for Marvel.
13 President Obama Is a Fan
“Ms. Marvel may be your comic book creation, but I think for a lot of young boys and girls, Sana’s a real superhero”-President Barack Obama
Comic books, like video games, have a bit of a reputation for being a “boys only” industry, but the recent success of Ms. Marvel, Batgirl, and other female-led and created series is helping to change that perception bringing in new readers to the industry. With that in mind, it makes sense that Ms. Marvel’s creator, Sana Amanat, would be honored at an event celebrating women’s history.
In March of 2016, during a reception for Women’s History Month, Amanat was invited to the event as the introductory speaker for President Obama. The President praised the book for its positive portrayal of Muslim Americans and said Ms. Marvel served as an uplifting role model for boys and girls across the country.
Prior to the event, Amanat gave a copy of Ms.Marvel’s first trade paperback to the President. He never said whether or not he actually read the book, but, he did admit to being a comic book fan.
12 She's An Inhuman
"It seems like anytime you want to learn something, you have to unlearn something else. I thought I was a mutant — now it turns out I’m part alien. I’m a Pak-American, Part-Alien, Morphogenic nerd."-Ms. Marvel
Despite her inner-fangirl really hoping she was a mutant, it turns out that Kamala is actually one of the Inhumans. If we’re being honest, there’s probably a bit of corporate meddling behind this decision. If Ms. Marvel had been created a decade earlier she probably would have been a mutant. However, with the loss of the X-Men movie rights, Marvel has been pushing the Inhumans rather hard lately.
The Inhumans were a race of humans that were genetically altered by the Kree. Unlike mutants, whose powers tend to activate on their own around puberty, the Inhumans don’t receive their powers until they undergo terrigenesis.
Despite meeting the royal family, and having their dog as a pet (more on Lockjaw later), Ms. Marvel doesn’t focus too heavily on her Inhuman heritage, aside from a minor love interest turned villain. Her struggles on fitting tend to focus more with her heritage as an American Muslim teenager than her identity as an Inhuman.
11 Lockjaw Is The Best Dog Ever!
"You are just the cutest most humongous thing I have ever seen! Who’s a good dog? Who’s a good bizzaro doggie?”-Ms. Marvel
Once she discovers she’s an Inhuman, Ms.Marvel is taken the city of Attilan where she meets Queen Medusa. Apparently, Kamala made an impression on the alien monarch because she later sent Kamala a gift in the form of the family’s pet, the giant Indog, LockJaw.
In addition to being far sweeter than any creature that size has any right to be, Lockjaw is also an effective ally in combat. His sheer size makes him a threat to your standard mook and he can teleport. The teleporting has actually helped Kamala out of several binds as well as kept her from missing the all-important curfew.
Narratively speaking, Lockjaw also serves to highlight the fact that Kamala will make friends with just about anyone or anything she meets. It’s rather refreshing considering how cynical and untrusting some superheroes are.
10 Kamala Khan Is A Nerd Who Loves Fanfic
“My Wolverine and Storm in space fanfic was the third most upvoted story on Freaking Awesome last month!”- Ms. Marvel
In a trait that many of us share, Kamala Khan is a huge superhero fan. In fact, in the very first issue, we find her perplexed mother interrupting her Avengers fanfic to remind Kamala that dinner is ready. When she first meets Wolverine, after her initial freak out, she excitedly brags about the popularity of her Wolverine/Storm fanfic. Logan’s disappointment that a Cyclops/ Jean Grey fic beat his story did nothing to damper Kamal's enthusiasm
Kamala’s love of superheroes is a theme that persists throughout the series. Even after she becomes one, the sense of wonder and amazement never fades. Even as she deals with the mounting pressure of being an Avenger, she never loses that sense of sheer joy that comes from actually being an Avenger. Ms. Marvel is wish fulfillment in it’s purest and most joyful form.
9 She Is One Of The Youngest Characters To Join The Avengers
Teenage superheroes are hardly an uncommon occurrence. Batman has the various Robins, Spider-Man began his crime fighting career as a teenager and there are even entire teams of teenage superheroes.
What makes Ms. Marvel different from a lot of these heroes is that she is one of the youngest characters to officially join an Avengers team. A few of the Young Avengers, such as Wiccan or Stature, were a bit younger than Kamala,but, as much as we love them, the Young Avengers weren’t a sanctioned team.
Ms. Marvel officially joined the roster as part of the All-New, All-Different initiative that followed the events of Secret Wars. Along with two other teen heroes, she fought alongside Iron Man, Thor, Vision and Captain America. For a time, the chance to fight alongside her childhood heroes was a dream come true, but it wasn’t meant to last. She left the team in the wake of Civil War II, but would go on to help found the Champions.
8 She Helped Found The Champions
“But we can be better than that. We have to start enforcing justice without unjust force….Help us win the hard--the way-right way-not with hate, not with retribution, but with wisdom and hope. Help us become champions.”- Ms. Marvel.
Marvel’s Champions was created in the 1970s, but they haven’t seen much action since the country decided bellbottoms were a terrible idea. But that changes this month with the release of Champions #1. The new team is founded by the three ex-Avengers, Ms. Marvel, Nova, and Spider-Man. After getting fed up with the Avengers lack of concern for ordinary people, Ms. Marvel abandons Earth's Mightiest Heroes and creates the Champions; a team of young heroes dedicated to righting the wrongs of their predecessors.
Ms. Marvel is, at its heart, a series about growing up and few things are more integral to growing up than learning your heroes and mentors aren’t the perfect people you sometimes imagined them to be. More than that, though, Ms. Marvel is a character who embodies the optimism of youth and the idea that your generation can build on the works of the previous ones to make the world a better place.
7 Ms. Marvel's Powers Are Many And Varied
“I’ve got big power!”-Ms. Marvel
As we’ve already mentioned, Kamala shares little in common with her namesake, Carol Danvers, including powers. The original Ms. Marvel could fly, had super strength, and fire energy blasts. Kamala’s powerset is a bit more varied.
One of her most used abilities is shapeshifting. She is able to enlarge, or “embiggen,” parts of her body. This can give her increased strength and she’s especially fond of embiggening her fists to punch people. Additionally, she’s able to grow or shrink. Think Ant-Man without all the bugs. The growth comes in handy in combat, but she tends to rely on shrinking to get out of dangerous situations or to avoid being seen. She can stretch and elongate her arms and legs like Mr. Fantastic and she shares Wolverine’s healing factor, though his is more powerful.
One of her more rarely used abilities is the the power completely change her appearance. When she first got her powers she took on the form of Carol Danvers, but she hasn’t used that ability very often.
6 The Series Won The Hugo Award
Ms. Marvel has made quite a splash in the comic book industry. Since its launch, it has won several awards and been nominated for many more. Perhaps the most prestigious was the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. The award show itself was plagued by political controversy, but we won’t get into that here as it has little to do with Ms. Marvel aside from a general backlash regarding more diverse offerings in science-fiction.
The series was also nominated for several Eisner Awards. It’s a bit of a cliche to say that being nominated is an honor in and of itself, but considering the competition Ms. Marvel was up against at the 2015 and 2016 Eisner Awards, it’s still quite an accomplishment especially considering the number of categories for which it was nominated.
In addition to the Hugo, the series did win the Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Artist and Dragon Con’s Dragon Award.
5 She's Not From New York City
"A huge aspect of Ms. Marvel is being a 'second string hero' in the 'second string city' and having to struggle out of the pathos and emotion that can give a person."-G. Willow Wilson.
Marvel has always been about “the world outside your window” meaning they wanted to set their stories in the “real world.” Unfortunately,the “real world” seems to be New York City. An absurd number of Marvel’s heroes and villains make their home in the City That Never Sleeps.
That’s why it’s so refreshing that Ms.Marvel is based out of Jersey City. Sure, it’s right across the river from Manhattan, but it’s still nice to see Marvel explore a slightly different location. Plus, it gives Kamala a chance to establish her own niche since she doesn’t have to compete with so many other established heroes. Manhattan has dozens of heroes, but Jersey City only has Ms. Marvel; fortunately for them, she is more than up for the job.
4 She's The First Muslim Character To Headline A Marvel Book
“As much as Islam is a part of Kamala’s identity, this book isn’t preaching about religion or the Islamic faith in particular. It’s about what happens when you struggle with the labels imposed on you, and how that forms your sense of self. It’s a struggle we’ve all faced in one form or another, and isn’t just particular to Kamala because she’s Muslim.”-Sana Amnat, creator of Ms. Marvel.
In addition to being a brand new character, Kamala Khan is unique in another way as well. She is the first Muslim character to headline her own book in Marvel history. During an interview, Sana Amnat mentioned that she wanted to create a character who could “explore the Muslim-American diaspora from an authentic perspective.”
Kamala’s religion is certainly an important part of her character, but Amnat and, series writer, G. Willow Wilson, have stressed that they do not want the series to become an Islamic story. They want it to be relatable to all readers regardless of faith or life experiences.
3 She Made An Appearance on "Avengers Assemble"
Despite being a relatively recent addition to the Marvel Universe, Ms. Marvel’s popularity has allowed her to make the leap from comics to TV and other forms of media fairly quickly especially considering that some characters have been around for decades not had a TV appearance.
Kamala first made a cameo in the Avengers Assemble episode “Inhuman Condition” where the Avengers are brought to Attilan to help rescue the royal family. Ms. Marvel later appeared, with a larger role, in the “The Kids Are Alright” where she helped the Avengers battle a rogue Ultron robot.
This was Kamala’s first TV appearance, but it wasn’t her last. It’s already been announced that she’ll be a recurring character in season four of the series which will be titled “Secret Wars.” Personally, we’d love to see her show up on Agents of Shield, but animation is a good medium to start especially consider the fact that her powers might be a bit difficult in live-action.
2 She May Be Getting Her Own TV Show
We’ve already mentioned Ms. Marvel’s appearances on Avengers Assemble, but there is a chance she might be getting her own TV show fairly soon. The rumors are that Oscar-winner John Ridley will helm the series. It should be noted that these are strictly rumors at this point and the Ridley link comes from Reddit. We know that Ridley is working on a series for Marvel, but it could just as easily be Cloak and Dagger.
Alternatively, Marvel could take a cue from DC’s Arrowverse and have Ms. Marvel appear as a recurring character in Agents of Shield before giving her a show of her own. This would be especially fitting considering the show’s ties to the Inhumans. Plus we’d love to let see her and Phil Coulson fanboying/fangirling over the Avengers.
Alternatively, they could take the animated route and let her spin-off of Avengers Assemble. Animation might be a better fit for her powers, but we would still prefer a live-action adaption simply so she could have a connection to the MCU’s Captain Marvel.
1 She's Been In Several Video Games
“One minute Ammi... there is epic stuff happening on the internet.”-Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel launched in 2014 and, during that time, the character has made the leap to several other forms of media including video games. One of her earliest playable appearances is in the puzzle game Marvel Puzzle Quest. Additionally, she has appeared in several mobile titles such as Marvel Future Fight and Marvel Contest of Champions.
For those who prefer their video games in adorable block form, she is also a playable character in Lego Marvel Avengers. The appearance we’re most excited about, however, is as a team-up character in the action MMO Marvel Heroes: 2016. The main reason this has us excited is because we can, hopefully, get her as a playable character next year and we think the developers could have a lot of fun with her powerset.