Marvel Studios has already announced the perfect Spider-Man replacement - Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel. Spider-Man has been described as "Marvel's Mickey Mouse," their most recognizable and distinctive superhero brand. That's why Marvel Studios went to such effort to reach an unprecedented deal that brought the wall-crawler into the MCU, and it's why the recent collapse of the Marvel/Sony deal is such a blow to their shared cinematic universe.
When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spider-Man, they envisioned him as the ultimate "Every-man Hero." In a superhero universe filled with hyper-intelligent geniuses, strange visitors from other worlds, military-trained super-soldiers, and scientists with breathtaking anger management issues, Spider-Man is essentially an ordinary person who's gained super-powers. According to Lee himself, the idea for Spider-Man came from a surge in teen demand for comic books, and he was envisioned as a character teens could identify with. The MCU has followed the same approach; that's why Tom Holland's Spider-Man grew up in a world of Avengers, and has been given such a close relationship with Tony Stark. Marvel understood that their modern, teenage viewers had grown up on a diet of MCU movies, and they see 2008's Iron Man as the beginning of their own superhero journey. Their Spider-Man reflects this.
The loss of Spider-Man means that the MCU no longer has an "Every-man Hero" who represents the teen audience. Fortunately, Marvel recently announced that they have a replacement: Kamala Khan, who is getting her own Ms. Marvel series on Disney+. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has been teasing Kamala's MCU debut for over a year now, stressing that the MCU's Ms. Marvel would be comic book accurate. Those plans are finally coming to fruition, with Kamala set for Disney+. Ms. Marvel will then migrate to the movies, where she could actually fill the Spider-Man-shaped hole in the MCU.
It's easy to forget that Ms. Marvel was designed after the pattern of Spider-Man. Her creators - Marvel editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, and writer G. Willow Wilson - envisioned her as another "Every-man Hero", designed to represent the complexity of a modern, multicultural society. Where Peter Parker was originally a Jewish kid, they created Kamala Khan as a young Muslim, and the majority of her stories subtly explore themes of social justice in the context of fundamentalist faith.
G. Willow Wilson followed the Spider-Man pattern when she wrote the popular Ms. Marvel comic book. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko carefully built a strong sense of place around Peter Parker, so that readers felt they got to know New York itself by reading the wall-crawler's adventures. In the same way, Wilson ensured that her Ms. Marvel run gave Kamala a sense of what she called "particularity," truly making her feel as though she existed in a real place.
Wilson showed the same dedication to Kamala's supporting cast, working hard to flesh them out so Kamala felt as though she was interacting with real people. It's hard to reproduce this effect on the big screen, which may well be why Marvel Studios has chosen to introduce their version of Ms. Marvel on Disney+; they get to take their time building her world and strengthening her supporting cast, before moving her into the movies. Like the MCU's Peter Parker, Kamala Khan is even a superhero fan, although in Kamala's case, her idol is Captain Marvel, not Tony Stark.
As popular as Kamala Khan's Ms. Marvel may be, all this isn't to say that she's already become the equal of Spider-Man in terms of cultural impact, brand recognition, or even merchandise value. She's a remarkable success, to be sure - especially for a character who was only introduced in the comics back in 2013 - but she's nowhere near that big. What it does mean, though, is that she can fill the narrative and thematic gap left in the MCU by Spider-Man's departure, the loss of an "Every-man Hero" who occupies a very specific, particular part of the world and has a strong supporting cast. Marvel has made a wise decision focusing in on her at just the right time.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Black Panther 2 (2022) release date: May 06, 2022