Marvel Comics Introducing a Muslim Girl Superhero – NYTimes.com

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With most superheroes, when you take away the colorful costume, mask and cape, what you find underneath is a white man. But not always. In February, as part of a continuing effort to diversify its offerings, Marvel Comics will begin a series whose lead character, Kamala Khan, is a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City.

No exploding planet, death of a relative or irradiated spider led to Kamala’s creation. Her genesis began more 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.

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.”

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.’ ”

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.”

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.” Next to those challenges, fighting supervillains may be a respite.

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.”
 

Written By: By GEORGE GENE GUSTINES
continue to source article at nytimes.com

36 COMMENTS

  1. In reply to Ms. Amanat:

    “I do expect some negativity,” Ms. Amanat said, “not only from people who are anti-Muslim, but people who are Muslim.”

    I’ve got news. You are not only going to merely get “negativity” from Muslims, but probably a few death threats as well. They don’t like cartoons, period. Even if the Islamic character is portrayed in a sympathetic light. It is largely a completely humorless culture with no understanding of theater. It is simply unacceptable if a Muslim is shown as being anything other than pompous pious ass, and praying five times a day on a throw-rug. I can already hear the screams from Imams all over the world about the disgrace of her not wearing a hijab, even if she shape-shifts into a platypus.

    I wonder if this character will just be sticking to the usual bank robbers and street thugs, or be using her powers to stop people from flying planes into buildings or strapping on suicide vests and blowing up train stations, busses, and pizza parlours. Probably not, as that would certainly involve the arrests of many of her relatives.

    • In reply to #1 by IDLERACER:

      In reply to Ms. Amanat:
      They don’t like cartoons, period….

      Actually, there’s already a Muslim girl Superhero — called Burka Avenger — and she’s made in Pakistan. Burka Avenger doesn’t always wear her burka. Her weapons are pens and books.

    • In reply to #1 by IDLERACER:

      In reply to Ms. Amanat:

      “It is largely a completely humorless culture

      In the 90s I infiltrated Islam to learn as much as I could about Muslims. They were clannish (warm to insiders, suspicious of outsiders).

      On thinking about it, I agree they were humourless. I think part of the reason is this notion of haram. There are endless lists of what is forbidden. It is like a minefield, just about impossible to avoid doing something haram. In theory, all it takes is one transgression to get you a trip to a hell that makes Bosch look like a theme park. You are dependent on merciful Allah to forgive some of these transgressions. Allah is not constrained by any rules.

      You must publicly pretend to believe in djinn, evil spirits. Whether you actually do does not matter. The important thing is you must never publicly question Islam and its attendant customs and beliefs.

      It is a full time preoccupation to monitor how much haram you are committing. Conversations often revolve around the fine points of what is haram. Continuously worrying about being roasted alive tends to suppress a sense of humour.

    • Very cool, a strong female role model young Muslim girls can identify with. I wonder if it’s possible that Malala Yousafzai and the example she set standing up to evil had anything to do with the creation of this character.

      In reply to #10 by obzen:

      Marvel Comics Introducing a Pakistani Girl Superhero – NYTimes.com

      There, fixed.

      Fixed how? Someone with religious beliefs can’t be a superhero. [Nightcrawler](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightcrawler_(comics), a popular character in the Marvel universe, is a devout Catholic. Would you be happier if he and Ms. Marvel (lame name) were super_villains_ instead? Or are you referring to the tired notion that there’s no such thing as a religious child? Yawn.

      In reply to #1 by IDLERACER:

      In reply to Ms. Amanat:

      “I do expect some negativity,” Ms. Amanat said, “not only from people who are anti-Muslim, but people who are Muslim.”

      I’ve got news. You are not only going to merely get “negativity” from Muslims, but probably a few death threats as well. They don’t like cartoons, period….

      She was wrong about negativity from people who are anti-Muslim though, wasn’t she, IDLERACER:

      I wonder if this character will just be sticking to the usual bank robbers and street thugs, or be using her powers to stop people from flying planes into buildings or strapping on suicide vests and blowing up train stations, busses, and pizza parlours. Probably not, as that would certainly involve the arrests of many of her relatives.

      From the article,

      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.”

      So, a conservative brother; I guess that sorta makes him a potential terrorist. Mom seems to have the usual worries moms have about their daughters. And Dad wants her to become a doctor. Probably so she can get access to anthrax or other chemical agents and bring the decadent West to its knees.

      Nope, no negativity here at all.

      It’s difficult to tell because of usernames, but have all the comments on this thread so far been from boys? You lot usually tend to have a different reaction to hot young women in spandex outfits running around getting sweaty. Has this one’s muslimness dampened y’all’s ardor?

      • In reply to #13 by Katy Cordeth:

        Fixed how? Someone with religious beliefs can’t be a superhero. Nightcrawler, a popular character in the Marvel universe, is a devout Catholic. Would you be happier if he and Ms. Marvel (lame name) were supervillains instead? Or are you referring to the tired notion that there’s no such thing as a religious child? Yawn.

        I’m tired of the religious fixation. That’s not the prime motive behind her creation. That is all. Who the F cares. apparently not Marvel, or Sana.

        “I kick ass for the Lord”. Anyone?

      • In reply to #13 by Katy Cordeth:

        So, a conservative brother; I guess that sorta makes him a potential terrorist. Mom seems to have the usual worries moms have about their daughters. And Dad wants her to become a doctor. Probably so she can get access to anthrax or other chemical agents and bring the decadent West to its knees.

        Nope, no negativity here at all.

        You know, I don’t know if they’ll make a script out of your fanfic, but I really don’t think that a company owned by Disney would go there. Besides, a Muslim superhero has already been done, by the same company even, before this latest attempt of headline grabbing.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_%28comics%29

        What I find sad here is that the media would make such a big deal out of a Muslim superhero, as if the thought of it is just unimaginable. Comic books are works of fantasy, there should not be any limit to fantasy. What Marvel is doing is the same as yelling “Look at me, I’m so cool & progressive, I’m putting people who we wouldn’t usually put in our comic in our comic now. Again! So give us kudos!”

        Well, unless they do anything significant with her, I’ll remain unimpressed.

        • In reply to #16 by adiroth:

          What Marvel is doing is the same as yelling “Look at me, I’m so cool & progressive, I’m putting people who we wouldn’t usually put in our comic in our comic now. Again! So give us kudos!”

          No! What they are doing is spotting untapped markets for their product, just as they did with teenagers, women, gays, all manner of ethnicities, libertarians, cetaceans….they’re quite shameless… (OK, Sir Delphis didn’t quite do it for cetaceans.)

          Sometimes capitalism gets it so right…

      • In reply to #13 by Katy Cordeth:

        It’s difficult to tell because of usernames, but have all the comments on this thread so far been from boys? You lot usually tend to have a different reaction to hot young women in spandex outfits running around getting sweaty. Has this one’s muslimness dampened y’all’s ardor?

        How bloody sexist. Well I never.

      • In reply to #13 by Katy Cordeth:

        Very cool, a strong female role model young Muslim girls can identify with. I wonder if it’s possible that Malala Yousafzai and the example she set standing up to evil had anything to do with the creation of this character

        According to some reviews, the Burka Avenger character (she’s a fighter for girls’ education in Pakistan against an evil, Taliban-looking chap) has some obvious parallels to Malala.

    • *In reply to #1 by IDLEACER

      They don’t like cartoons, period. Even if the Islamic character is portrayed in a sympathetic light. It is largely a completely humorless culture with no understanding of theater. It is simply unacceptable if a Muslim is shown as being anything other than pompous pious ass, and praying five times a day on a throw-rug.

      Apparently you have never spent time watching tv in a middle eastern or north African country. Egyptian and Lebanese tv has endless hours of side splitting comedy and riveting soap operas for family viewing at night. Kids watch cartoons for more hours than I even care to mention. You may be interested to know that the entire region has at such history of fables and story telling as tradition. Talented storytellers are exciting guests for any family. Walk along any street, alleyway or zenga and you’ll hear jokes, drama and laughter. Weddings are loud and boisterous with tons of food, dancing, fashion displays and social maneuvering.

      Where did you come up with the statements you wrote? what you described is true of a small, aggressive minority. The lifestyle you described is being actively rejected by most Muslims presently. Algeria and Egypt come to mind.

      A Muslim girl comic character who is goal oriented, stands up for positive ethical behavior and somehow forges her own path in this life while balancing progressive values with traditional customs of her society will be a role model that any feminist could work with. So says this American feminist.

  2. Muslim? Displaying her mouth and thighs? Blasphemy! It will give the Muslims another piece of trivia to go apoplectic over.

    Think of the Republican neighbour who would bellow “get off my lawn” and wave his cane. He just demanded lawn dancers.

    • In reply to #2 by Roedy:

      Muslim? Displaying her mouth and thighs? Blasphemy! It will give the Muslims another piece of trivia to go apoplectic over.

      Think of the Republican neighbour who would bellow “get off my lawn” and wave his cane. He just demanded lawn dancers.

      I never realised that Muslim women had thighs! Thanks for drawing my attention to the matter.

  3. I suspect that the character’s religious identity is just a gimmick they attach onto this character for the purpose of headline grabbing, which they’ve succeeded in doing. I don’t think Marvel have any intention of directly addressing the relevance of her religious identity. They sell comic books of people wielding super powers in spandex for goodness sake.

    Also, I wonder if Marvel have made any overtly Christian character. I wonder how that character would be received.

  4. I detect a fundamental flaw in this concept.

    This super hero will face no challenges whatsoever, because she can simply taylor reality to the requirements of her faith, whereas all previous such characters have had to use their super powers to defy and overcome reality; and therein lies the fun.

    And oh dear, there could be ructions. Is her dress mode acceptable? Shouldn’t her mask entirely cover her face? Why is her costume so colourful? Why isn’t she dressed completely in black? And that fist seems to me to be a tad too assertive for a female!

    I say, steady on now!

    • In reply to #7 by Stafford Gordon:

      I detect a fundamental flaw in this concept.

      This super hero will face no challenges whatsoever, because she can simply taylor reality to the requirements of her faith, whereas all previous such characters have had to use their super powers to defy and overcome reality; and therein lies the fun.

      A further flaw is that she’ll never measure up to the original superheroes – the 9/11 superheroes, allahu akbar.

        • In reply to #23 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #21 by godsbuster:

          A further flaw is that she’ll never measure up to the original superheroes – the 9/11 superheroes, allahu akbar.

          Good men! Warped by ideology…

          Agreed, and no less heroic than the kamikaze pilots of yore. Pity they were on the wrong side.

    • In reply to #9 by sycorax:

      Isn’t Islam ridiculous enough without adding to it?

      Its followers and defenders are constantly adding to it (see the expansive comments of our in-house islamist cheerleader on this page), this is merely another example.

      • In reply to #20 by godsbuster:

        In reply to #9 by sycorax:

        Isn’t Islam ridiculous enough without adding to it?

        Its followers and defenders are constantly adding to it (see the expansive comments of our in-house islamist cheerleader on this page), this is merely another example.

        Your friendly neighborhood in-house Islamist cheerleader says hi.

        Hi Godsbuster!

        Maybe someday you’ll understand that defending the victims of religion isn’t the same as championing the thing itself.

        Maybe.

        I live in hope.

        I look forward to reading your response.

        I know it won’t be addressed to me directly, but look forward to reading it anyway. :)

        Thinks: Has there ever been a passive-aggressive superhero?

  5. As Roedy says, the notion of ‘haram’ is what would sink this (under a pile of thrown stones).

    Unless Allah himself is doing it then using superpowers and changing shape is haram (because magic is haram) and she will be beheaded at the first available opportunity. Standing there and shouting “But I’m a muslim, just like you!” won’t cut it. Never has in the past.

    Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for…

    Yes, an ideal where women aren’t second class citizens, are free to wear the clothes they like (even tasteless spandex suits) and be seen in the company of men who aren’t their relatives without risking accusations of adultery and being stoned to death. The ideal that Captain Marvel represents – the ideal that Kamala seems to pine for – is that of not being muslim.

  6. In reply to #16 by adiroth:

    In reply to #13 by Katy Cordeth:

    So, a conservative brother; I guess that sorta makes him a potential terrorist. Mom seems to have the usual worries moms have about their daughters. And Dad wants her to become a doctor. Probably so she can get access to anthrax or other chemical agents and bring the West to its knees.

    Nope, no negativity here at all.

    You know, I don’t know if they’ll make a script out of your fanfic, but I really don’t think that a company owned by Disney would go there. Besides, a Muslim superhero has already been done, by the same company even, before this latest attempt of headline grabbing.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_%28comics%29

    What I find sad here is that the media would make such a big deal out of a Muslim superhero, as if the thought of it is just unimaginable. Comic books are works of fantasy, there should not be any limit to fantasy. What Marvel is doing is the same as yelling “Look at me, I’m so cool & progressive, I’m putting people who we wouldn’t usually put in our comic in our comic now. Again! So give us kudos!”

    Well, unless they do anything significant with her, I’ll remain unimpressed.

    I’m sorry you find it sad that the media would make such a big deal out of a female Muslim superhero. I wonder if Marvel faced a backlash when they introduced the character of [The Black Panther](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Panther_(comics), the first non-white (if we’re not counting blue or green) superhero, in 1966; or Northstar, the first gay one. Wikipedia doesn’t say.

    Were they accused of doing it just to be cool and progressive? You seem to know about these things. I don’t really see what’s wrong with being progressive. Comic books tend to have a younger readership; what’s so bad about trying to inculcate liberal ideas in their little, developing brains?

    I remember being told that the X-Men movie franchise is one big parable for gay rights, and when Superman fought the Ku Klux Klan in a comic book in the 1950s, it led to a huge drop in membership for that organisation, so they do seem to have a good track record fighting intolerance.

    Go Marvel, I say. Who cares what their motives are? If they’re doing good, they’re doing good.

  7. This is just weird and completely out of touch with the reality of what many women trapped in a Muslim culture have to go through every day of their lives. Comic book characters and stories usually require a lot of “suspension of disbelief” from their readers. But this is just akward, ridiculous, inane rubbish and a huge waste of time.

    Writers ought to know when to pull the page out of the typewriter and throw it in the paper basket…

  8. This is just brilliant. It is the perfect example of how popular culture can really contribute to changing the way people think of themselves. The fact that it is aimed at kids more than any is double plus good.

    This move is superbly corrosive to the worst of dogmatic thinking. For all kids destined to fall under the sway of their parents’ culture this will create more potential cultural space, more dilution of the oppression inflicted by religious fundamentalists, more confirmation of wider possibilities for children of moderates.

    Like it or not, to get us out of the jam of ultra-conservative, religious Islam, we must allow and encourage the growth of “Muslim” as a cultural term rather than just as the name of a follower of Islam. We need to see “Ashkenazy” Muslims. We need steps along the way to a release from tyranny, without that fatuous expectation of a single leap free of it. Few are that brave and those that are, tend to have reduced reproductive opportunities….

    Backing people up to a cliff and insisting they jump rather than take the slow winding path down, because all religion on the path is equally bad is specifically what is fatuous. To ignore, for ideological reasons, that the cover of a common collective name (eg Muslim) allows the growing religiously disenchanted to cultivate their disenchantment of a bullying culture more safely, is no longer politically savvy enough.

    Making things better rather than hoping for ideal is how to get things moving. This gets things moving because it will be hugely popular with kids and hugely unpopular with Imams. More importantly, where to next?

  9. I have been reading marvel comics since the 60′s, (gave up about 2000 -too expensive) even so,

    1) This is not going to work.

    2) Introducing a Muslim is so obviously for the sake of political correctness.

    3) This is going to de-value the name of Captain Marvel (used by 3 previous super heroes not two.)

    4) Been done before, See http://marvel.com/universe/Arabian_Knight_%28Abdul_Qamar%29

    Introduce a character called Mohammed and see the *hit hit the fan.

  10. Faster than a speeding stone … More powerful than a gallon of acid … Able to leap tall lashing rods in a single bound …

    (You Brits might not get this. Older American males will.)

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