The Arty Semite

Marvel To Launch First Muslim Super-Heroine

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share

She’s just a 16-year-old Jersey girl “suddenly bestowed with super-human powers that send her on the adventure of a lifetime.”

But Kamala Khan’s also a Pakistani Muslim-American. And as the title character of Marvel Comics’ new “Ms. Marvel” series, she’s making history.

The team behind the series includes Eisner Award-nominated writer G. Willow Wilson — who’s also a Muslim convert. “I didn’t want to start with making her the perfect poster child for Islam,” Wilson told the AltMuslim web site. “I’ve been wearing hijab for ten years, but I wanted to make her representative of Muslim woman at large, and the majority does not wear hijab.”

Considering the heavily Jewish lineage of both superhero comics and Marvel itself — co-founder Stan Lee, ne Lieberman, was the son of Romanian immigrants — the character’s appearance represents a turning point, according to Steven Bergson, whose Jewish Comics blog offers a Hebraic spin on the comics world.

“We’re in an age where it’s not only much more acceptable but expected and highly marketable to give characters unique identities, whether it’s religious, national, sexual or physical i.e. disability),” Bergson told the Forward. “In the past, Jewish creators have written non-Jewish characters and Gentiles have written Jewish characters like Marvel’s golems, DC stories with rabbis, Marvel’s Moon Knight.

If Ms. Marvel turns out to be “an anti-Semite, that would be as unacceptable as if the character were sexist, homophobic, or racist. If she is merely critical of Israel, then she’ll join the ranks of political-minded superheroes, which includes Superman, who joined an Arab Spring protest not that long ago,” Bergson added.

But Marvel’s announcement about the series was careful to downplay political implications. “This story isn’t about what it means to be a Muslim, Pakistani or American,” series editor Sana Amarat said in a press release. “Those are just cultural touchstones that reflect the ever changing world we live in today.”

To get the inside story on Ms. Marvel’s secret identity, the Forward caught up with Amarat in New York. Ms. Marvel #1 will appear this February in print and online.

Michael Kaminer: Many off the original superhero creators were Jewish; some of the characters came out of adversity Jews faced in the early 20th century. Can we draw any parallels between that and the birth of the Muslim Ms. Marvel today?

Sana Amarat: In some senses yes, we’re focusing on a minority group that may not have much screen time in the media — particularly in a positive light. We wanted to create a character whose story is representative of the world today and hopefully break traditional stereotypes.

Will the character take any political positions?

No, Kamala is just like any American teenager maneuvering the sometimes daunting path towards adulthood. And having super powers on top of that, makes it all the more complicated, yet exhilarating!

Since the announcement, what kind of feedback have you received? Have you heard anything from any Jewish organizations?

It’s been overwhelmingly positive for the most part. With a story like this, you’re not going to please everyone, but we’ve been so thrilled with how supportive and excited people have been.

How does a character’s background and back-story affect how fans relate — or don’t? And can a back-story ultimately affect sales?

It can open you up to a whole new audience that may not have been reading comics before. People do want to see versions of themselves reflected in the media — but positive ones that they can be inspired by. And when a certain demographic that normally isn’t represented suddenly is, people respond.

At the same time however, this story is universal because it isn’t about Ms. Marvel’s Muslim faith — that’s just one aspect of who she is. It’s about all of the facets of her identity, and how that affects the person she is and the person she will become. It’s about the struggle to forge your own path and identity — and that’s something everyone can relate to.

What’s your impression of comics following/fan base in Muslim-American communities?

I don’t have solid numbers on it quite honestly, that’s hard to track. Regardless, hopefully this comic will engage that audience.

Will Marvel export her overseas, including to Muslim countries?

This comic will be available wherever comic shops exist internationally. Also it will be downloadable as a digital comic on our Marvel Comics App.

Ms. Marvel’s styling resembles M.I.A.’s quite a bit. Coincidence?

Do you mean the singer? It’s definitely a coincidence!


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ms. Marvel, Marvel, Comics, Comic Books, Sana Amarat

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.