Kamala Khan isn't your average teenage Muslim girl. Though she lives in New Jersey and juggles the identity crisis that's often part-and-parcel of growing up Muslim-American, her shape-shifting is of a literal sort.
That's because Kamala Khan is a superhero, code-named Ms. Marvel.
Khan is the brainchild of Marvel editors Sana Amanat and Steve Wacker, who concocted the character together after Amanat entertained Wacker with anecdotes from her Muslim-American childhood. When author G. Willow Wilson heard about the project, she was eager to jump on board as the series' writer, particularly as she's written a graphic novel before, 2008's "Cairo."
G. Willow Wilson said in a press release, “I wanted Ms. Marvel to be true-to-life, something real people could relate to, particularly young women. High school was a very vivid time in my life, so I drew heavily on those experiences--impending adulthood, dealing with school, emotionally charged friendships that are such a huge part of being a teenager.” Willow went on to say, “It's for all the geek girls out there, and everybody else who's ever looked at life from the fringe.”
How will audiences react? “I do expect some negativity,” Amanat said, “not only from people who are anti-Muslim, but people who are Muslim and might want the character portrayed in a particular light.”
However, Khan won't be the only superhero confronting traditional stereotypes and gender norms about what a hero should be. The Times reports that Marvel's other titles with female or minority leads include an X-Men series highlighting women, and the "Mighty Avengers" series which has many nonwhite faces.
This Ms. Marvel also isn't the only Muslim superhero. Marvel introduced niqab-clad Sooraya Qadir, code-named "Dust," as part of the X-Men universe in 2002. DC Comics gave Lebanese American Simon Baz the Green Lantern ring in 2012, and a new Pakistani television series features "Burka Avenger," a girl fighting against misogyny and corruption in her society. Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa has even dreamed up a whole universe featuring mainly Muslim superheroes called, "The 99," which banded together with The Justice League in 2010 for a six-issue crossover miniseries.
One thing's for sure -- we can't wait to see the Muslim Ms. Marvel kick butt and take names.