We've talked a lot about the lack of female superheroes in the movies and television, and I've made my stance clear: I want to see them, but I also understand that the corporations making these decisions need to understand there's a demand for them. They believe that female superheroes do not sell, and they base that belief on not just movie tickets sold but also comic books moved. Female superheroes have a harder time keeping a book in print than white male superheroes.
So kudos to Marvel for jumping into diversity with both feet, introducing a new character who isn't just female but is also Muslim. They've slightly hedged their bet by making her take up an old identity - Ms. Marvel, the original name of the character now known as Captain Marvel - but otherwise this is one of the boldest moves for a mainstream comic publisher in years.
But get this: Ms. Marvel actually sounds like a cool character, one designed from the ground up to have an almost Peter Parker-like level of agita in her life. In an interview with the New York Times, where the new Ms. Marvel was announced, editor Sana Amanat had this to say:
“Her brother is extremely conservative,” 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 welcome respite.
What's really interesting is that the new Ms. Marvel title is poised to examine just how an outsider attempts to fit in. Kamala Khan is the name of the new Ms. Marvel, and her family is from Pakistan (I suspect she's a first generation American, but it's unclear from the Times article). She takes on the Ms. Marvel identity because as a brown skinned outsider she looks up to the very blonde, very capable Captain Marvel.
“Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for,” said G. Willow Wilson, who is writing the title. “She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.’ ”
Ms. Marvel is a shape-changer, something that I'm sure plays into this thematically. I love when a character is well-thought out in this way. We'll see how the book actually works out, but the premise and art have my dollar already.
Wilson is a woman who converted to Islam and who has been nominated for Eisners and whose novel Alif the Unseen was a New York Times Notable Book. The art on Ms. Marvel is being handled by Adrian Alphona, probably best known as the artist and co-creator of Runaways. It's a good team, and it's a team that will make this title accessible to young women, I believe.
So we talk a lot about the lack of diversity in superhero comics and movies. If you want to see this change, make sure you pre-order Ms. Marvel number one, which is coming out in February. Pre-ordering is important because it allows the publisher to understand there's a demand. If the book sucks, drop it, but by pre-ordering now you're telling Marvel you're interested in seeing female superheroes, and superheroes who aren't just white dudes.