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Home / Pop Culture / Cartoons / Marvel is Pushing for Multiculturalism and Diversity with their Newest Superhero, a Teenage Muslim Girl

Marvel is Pushing for Multiculturalism and Diversity with their Newest Superhero, a Teenage Muslim Girl

Political Correctness Rising…

wilson marvel is pushing for multiculturalism and diversity with their newest superhero, a teenage muslim girl Marvel is Pushing for Multiculturalism and Diversity with their Newest Superhero, a Teenage Muslim Girl wilson

Writer G. Willow Wilson

Marvel’s newest superhero will be just a little bit different from most of her predecessors. She may even shock you. As part of a continuing effort to “diversify” its offerings, Marvel Comics has put out a series whose lead character, Kamala Khan, is a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City. [2] The new Marvel superhero comic  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. [5] 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 not only a big deal but also “a long-awaited and much-welcome innovation,” for superhero comics enthusiasts according to the Atlantic. [5] But quite frankly it’s very hard not to see this new character as the latest manifestation of “political correctness” that is currently invading the cartoon world as much as any other corner of our society these days. Marvel’s announcement that a Muslim character would headline a comic book was met with widespread online reactions and the first issue of Ms. Marvel received favorable reviews from critics. [3] No doubts that liberals must love it. Even the Daily Beast made a positive review of the series. They said that “Marvel’s work is a watershed moment in breaking down fear and ignorance, and creating greater awareness and familiarity.” [7] Created by editor Sana Amanat, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artist Adrian Alphona, Khan is Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic book. The writer of the series, G. Willow Wilson, says that her religion will factor into the story. “Islam is both an essential part of her identity and something she struggles mightily with,” Wilson says on Marvel’s blog. [2] Khan made her first appearance in Captain Marvel #14 (August 2013) before headlining the Ms. Marvel comic book series in February 2014.

The Latest Arrival in Marvel’s New Multiculturalist Superhero Creed

mamarvel1 marvel is pushing for multiculturalism and diversity with their newest superhero, a teenage muslim girl Marvel is Pushing for Multiculturalism and Diversity with their Newest Superhero, a Teenage Muslim Girl mamarvel1The genesis of the character began mundanely, in a conversation between Sana Amanat and Steve Wacker, two editors at Marvel. “I was telling him some crazy anecdote about my childhood, growing up as a Muslim-American,” Ms. Amanat said. “He found it hilarious.” Ms. Amanat and Mr. Wacker noted the dearth of female superhero series and, even more so, of comics with cultural specificity. [2] When they told G. Willow Wilson, an author, comic book writer and convert to Islam, about their idea, she was eager to come on board as the series’ writer. “Any time you do something like this, it is a bit of a risk,” Ms. Wilson said. “You’re trying to bring the audience on board and they are used to seeing something else in the pages of a comic book.” [2] Within the Marvel Universe, Khan is  a 16-year-old teenage Pakistani American from New Jersey with shapeshifting abilities, who discovers that she has Inhuman genes in the aftermath of the “Inhumanity” storyline and assumes the codename Ms. Marvel from her idol Carol Danvers. [3] She explains that Khan won’t only be struggling with supervillains. She’ll also be addressing what it’s like to live as the child of immigrants in New Jersey, in addition to the standard difficulties of high school. “In a sense, she has a ‘dual identity’ before she even puts on a super hero costume,” Wilson confessed. [3] “Like a lot of children of immigrants, she feels torn between two worlds: the family she loves, but which drives her crazy, and her peers, who don’t really understand what her home life is like.” [1] Like many a Peter Parker-esque nerd before her, Kamala is out of place and uncomfortable. [5] Kahn’s power will be feats of body-morphing, though Wilson isn’t letting on yet how that’ll play into the story. 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. [5]

Kamala-Khan-1 marvel is pushing for multiculturalism and diversity with their newest superhero, a teenage muslim girl Marvel is Pushing for Multiculturalism and Diversity with their Newest Superhero, a Teenage Muslim Girl Kamala Khan 1

Kamala, whose family is from Pakistan, has devotedly followed the career of the blond, blue-eyed Carol Danvers, who now goes by Captain Marvel, a name she inherited from a male hero. When Kamala discovers her powers, including the ability to change shape, she takes on the code name Ms. Marvel — what Carol called herself when she began her superhero career. “Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for,” Ms. Wilson said. “She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.’ ”[2]  Ms. Amanat said, “It’s also sort of like when I was a little girl and wanted to be Tiffani-Amber Thiessen,” from “Saved by the Bell.” [2] Kamala will face struggles outside her own head, including conflicts close to home. “Her brother is extremely conservative,” Ms. Amanat said. “Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.”[2] Her parents don’t let her go to parties, and her acquaintances make clueless/mean-spirited comments about her background. [5] 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. Kamala’s character will struggle to exist in her observant Muslim family. Breaking the rules is something every teenager does—and it becomes harder when your culture is not about embracing your individuality, but often more about your community. [7] 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. [5] Next to those challenges, fighting supervillains may be a respite. [2] 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.” [5] 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. [5]

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.  [5] 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. [5] 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. [5] 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. [5] As for Kamala, Ms. Wilson said the series was “about the universal experience of all American teenagers, feeling kind of isolated and finding what they are.” Though here, she adds, that happens “through the lens of being a Muslim-American” with superpowers. [2]

The creative team is braced for all possible reactions. “I do expect some negativity,” Ms. 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.” [2] But “this is not evangelism,” Ms. Wilson said. “It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith.” The series, Ms. Wilson said, would deal with how familial and religious edicts mesh with super-heroics, which can require rules to be broken. [2]

This new pro-diversity series will help to expand Marvel’s efforts in reaching new readers. [1] Its most notable effort began just over two years ago, when the publisher began a new series of Spider-Man that featured a black Hispanic teenager named Miles Morales as the hero. According to The New York Times, the original Spider-Man series is still the better seller, doing around 80,000 copies for its September issue, but Morales’ comic performs pretty well on its own, doing around 32,000 copies that same month. [1]

But the quest for cultural diversity in comics is not always successful. The market can be unwelcoming to new characters and attempts at inclusion can seem like tokenism when not handled well. [2] Then there are the firestorms: In September at DC Comics, the writers of Batwoman, announced that they were leaving the series because of editorial interference, including an edict that would prohibit the lesbian title character from marrying. Dan DiDio, the co-publisher of DC Comics, said the decision was about keeping true to the mission of the Batman characters, who have sacrificed their self-interests for the greater good. [2] They “shouldn’t have happy personal lives,” Mr. DiDio told fans at the Baltimore Comic-Con. [2] In 2011, when Marvel announced that Miles Morales, a black Hispanic teenager, would take on the alter ego of Spider-Man as part of an alternative take on the character, there was an uproar by those who thought that Peter Parker, white and angst-ridden, had been replaced. (He wasn’t. Miles is part of a separate series that offers fresh takes on Marvel characters.)

The Bus Add Incident

The American Freedom Defense Initiative, sometimes known as Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), recently purchased a series of anti-Islamic ads on public buses in San Francisco. The ads paradoxically encourage viewers to “stop hatred” by visiting what the liberal medias called “a racist website filled with anti-Islamic propaganda.” [6] Previous versions of the ads have rolled out in other cities. Like the ones in San Francisco, they, too, appeared with references to Hitler. The ads – perceived as out of step with the city’s largely liberal metropolitan community – called for an end to aid to Islamic countries and depicted a Muslim leader consorting with Hitler, essentially equating Islam with Nazism. [3]  This is where we may get a glimpse of the real function of those “politically correct” cartoons that we see popping everywhere: they are ammunition for pressure groups and useful idiots who are fighting to IMPOSE the diversity agenda . They feed the imagination with the proper content to articulate the liberal mind and twist it in such a fashion that it will go out there and fight the “good fight”… the liberal fight. Ironically, as if they wanted to bring some weight to this assertion, The Guardian mentioned that “for the first time ever, Muslim Americans have a visible, mainstream superhero they can call to arms.” [3] Her image is synonymous with her message: freedom of speech belongs to everyone. [3] Yeah right… now political correctness enforcers are the overseers of free speech. How ironic when you see the ad below.

so-called-islamophobic-add marvel is pushing for multiculturalism and diversity with their newest superhero, a teenage muslim girl Marvel is Pushing for Multiculturalism and Diversity with their Newest Superhero, a Teenage Muslim Girl so called islamophobic add

But in San Francisco, a group of street activists has been fighting back by strategically modifying the ads to display images of Kamala Khan instead of their original messages. The group claiming credit for the movement is Street Cred, a subset of the Bay Area Art Queers, an arts activist community based out of San Francisco. The group’s website proclaims “a long history of liberating public spaces.”[6]

kamala3 marvel is pushing for multiculturalism and diversity with their newest superhero, a teenage muslim girl Marvel is Pushing for Multiculturalism and Diversity with their Newest Superhero, a Teenage Muslim Girl kamala3

“The ads now feature Kamala Khan, Marvel’s Comics first Muslim character to headline her own comic book with messages against islamophobia, racism and hate speech and a group of protestors [sic] calling for more love,” they wrote on their Facebook page. “Enjoy.” To offset the damage of the original campaign’s racist rhetoric, the San Francisco Transportation Agency will donate the ad revenue to the city’s Human Rights Commission. [6] Among those celebrating was Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson:

willow-wilson-stupid-tweet marvel is pushing for multiculturalism and diversity with their newest superhero, a teenage muslim girl Marvel is Pushing for Multiculturalism and Diversity with their Newest Superhero, a Teenage Muslim Girl willow wilson stupid tweet————————————————-

[1] Jacob Kastrenakes, Marvel pushes for diversity with newest superhero, a teenage Muslim girl, The Verge, November 6, 2013 05:55 pm
[2] George Gene Gustines, Mighty, Muslim and Leaping Off the Page. Marvel Comics Introducing a Muslim Girl Superhero, New York Times, November. 5, 2013
[3] Andrea Letamendi, Meet the Muslim superhero fighting bigotry on San Francisco buses, The Guardian, Sunday 1 February 2015 17.30 GMT
[4] Susana Polo, Racist, Anti-Islamic San Francisco Bus Ads Have Been Awesomely Defaced With Kamala Khan, The Mary Sue, Monday, January 26th 2015 at 1:19 pm
[5]  Noah Berlatsky, What Makes the Muslim Ms. Marvel Awesome: She’s Just Like Everyone, The Atlantic, Mar 20 2014, 7:30 AM ET
[9] Molly Hannon, Kamala Khan, Marvel Superhero, Fights Real-Life Racism, The Daily Beast, 02.15.15
[10] New Muslim Ms. Marvel Doesn’t Drink, Date Or Eat Bacon, NPR, January 27, 201411:00 AM ET
[11] Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Comic Heroine Ms. Marvel Saves San Francisco From Anti-Islam Ads, NBC News, January 27th 2015, 3:58 pm
[12] Luke Malone, Marvel’s Kamala Khan Is Fighting Anti-Islam Bus Ads In San Francisco, Vocativ, 01/27/15 11:27 EST
[13] Arianna Rebolini, Someone Is Covering Up Anti-Muslim Bus Ads With Ms. Marvel Art, BuzzFeed, Jan. 26, 2015, at 7:52 p.m.
[14] Ethan Sacks, Ms. Marvel, aka Muslim teen Kamala Khan from Jersey City, set to make historic comic book series debut, New York Daily News, Tuesday, February 4, 2014, 7:44 PM
[15] Wardah Khalid, Muslim Superheroes — Marketing Gimmick or Much More?, The Huffington Post,  11/11/2013 3:11 pm EST
[16] Yasmine Hafiz, Marvel Muslim Girl Superhero Kamala Khan Destroys Bad Guys As Well As Stereotypes, The Huffington Post, 11/05/2013 5:04 pm EST
[17] Matt Moore , Ms. Marvel returns as Muslim teen Kamala Khan, The Star, Wed Nov 06 2013
[18] Arun Dev, American Muslims were proud of Kamala Khan’, The Times of India, Sep 15, 2014, 04.30AM IST
[20] Abraham Riesman, Meet G. Willow Wilson, the Muslim Woman Revolutionizing Superhero Comics, Vulture, March 20, 2014 11:00 a.m.
[21] Cavan Sieczkowski, Artist Uses Muslim Superhero To Battle Anti-Islam Bus Ads, The Huffington Post, 01/27/2015 1:49 pm EST


About Bill Wallace

Bill Wallace is a self-fashioned writter, a computer programmer and cybermarketer from Quebec City, Canada who decided to enter the political arena after his disillusionment with the socialist system under which he was living in the French Canadian province of Quebec.