Like many fans, Iman Vellani’s first encounter with Marvel superheroine Kamala Khan was on the cover of a comic.
With a comic store right across the street from her high school, Vellani — a self-confessed Iron Man superfan — spent all her pocket money there “just to buy as many Invincible Iron Man comics as I could.”
“Kamala was on the cover of one of those comics [with Ironheart Riri Williams] and I just went down a rabbit hole of Ms. Marvel comics,” Vellani said. “She felt so different from all the other Muslim teenagers I’m used to seeing in mainstream media. Their culture and religion were something that motivated them and really served to enhance their story as a whole. [But] The comics were never about being Muslim or Pakistani… [they were about] a fanfic writing nerd obsessed with Avengers.”
Vellani makes her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as the incarnation of Kamala Khan in Ms. Marvel,” premiering Wednesday on Disney+. Created for television by head writer Bisha K. Ali, the six-episode series is an origin story in which Kamala, a Pakistani-American teenager living in Jersey City, NJ, gains superpowers from a mysterious family artifact. These powers give her the potential to become a superhero like her idol, Captain Marvel, but saving the day is much easier said than done.
Who is Kamala Khan?
Kamala has a much shorter comic history compared to other Avengers characters like Captain America, Thor, and her idol, Carol Danvers.
After making a few untitled cameos in other comics, Kamala’s comic book origin story was adapted into 2014’s “Ms. Marvel” #1 (by writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona). As the first Marvel comic to feature a Muslim and Pakistani American teenager as the title character, the series caused quite a stir even before it launched.
In the comics, Kamala gains Transfiguration and other enhanced abilities after being exposed to a special mist that awakened latent powers associated with a race of super-powered, human-like aliens. A superhero superfan, when Kamala’s power was first unleashed, she took the form of Carol Danvers in her former Ms. Marvel costume.
The series received critical acclaim and was loved by fans, including those it introduced to comics. Aside from the representative milestones, the comics were known for their vibrancy and fun.
“Everyone who worked on it [series] loves the comics,” said Ali, who also serves as executive producer of the series. “We just love and adore her completely.”
The origins of the origin story
Alongside Wilson and Alphona, Sana Amanat, an executive producer on Ms. Marvel” and Stephen Wacker.
According to Amanat, Kamala eventually came about after a nudge from her “old boss.”
When both Amanat and Wacker were Marvel Comics editors, Amanat shared stories about her experiences growing up as a Pakistani-American teenager — from going to no-date prom to playing lacrosse during Ramadan.
“My life just changed a little bit, and Stephen Wacker was like, ‘It would be nice to have a character like that for the young Sanas of the world,'” said Amanat. “And I took action.”
So she turned to Wilson, a Muslim American writer she admired, to brainstorm. They ended up with a story about identity.
“A young girl growing up in the Marvel Universe, who is she looking at?” said Amanat. “She looks at all these great heroes. She’s looking at Carol Danvers, one of the most recognizable women in the Marvel Universe, and she’s tall and she’s beautiful and she’s blonde and she’s white.
“What does it mean for a young girl to constantly see this picture to save the world? What does that mean about what she thinks of herself and what she thinks is powerful? That’s when the idea really came to us.”
How the show is different
One of the most obvious changes made for Kamala’s live-action debut is her superpowers and origins.
In the comics, Kamala has the ability to shapeshift, which includes taking the forms of other superheroes as well as enlarging, shrinking, and stretching her body. But in the “Ms. Marvel” TV series, Kamala’s powers appear to involve some form of energy field that she can create and manipulate with the help of a bracelet.
As the story of Kamala’s powers will unfold throughout the series, Ali couldn’t go into details about the changes, but she did have one message: “Trust us. We’re doing something.”
As a comic book superhero fan, Ali understands the impulse to be skeptical of change, let alone a character’s powers. But she also points out that the story in the broader MCU differs from the comics and that part of the arc of “Ms. Marvel prepares Kamala for her future adventures in The Marvels.
“What was really important to everyone, and certainly to me, was the way it was in the comics [Kamala’s] Forces are directly related to how she thinks about herself [and] connected directly to their inner world,” Ali said. “This interconnectivity between character and powers was imperative in the comics. In the same way, the connection between Kamala on screen and their power set, what they mean to them and why they are who they are, they are inherently connected and important too.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-06-08/ms-marvel-kamala-khan-cast-comics-powers-captain-marvel-explained ‘Ms. Marvel’ explained: Powers, comics, Captain Marvel, more