Parents of every religion can appreciate Marvel Comics’ decision to bring back Ms. Marvel as a lead character beautifully dressed and styled, yet modest and super powerful as a teenage Muslim girl living in New Jersey.
The new Ms. Marvel, named Kamala Khan, is a 16-year-old daughter of Pakistani immigrants living in Jersey City. The Associated Press, which interviewed Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson, reports "This Ms. Marvel can grow and shrink her limbs and her body and ... ultimately, she'll be able to shape shift into other form."
The form parents can be happy to see this character shifting into is that of teen geek girl who is able to expand in ways that may not break the mold but at least morph it into something we want our daughters to be and sons to see.
For comic fans Thanksgiving came early with this one. I hardly know where to begin to thank Marvel for this gift.
First, as a native New Yorker who spent her teen years in New Jersey, I am thankful that “big hair” and Snookie, will no longer be the most prevalent representations of youth in the Garden State.
Not all teen girls are “mall rats” in Jersey thanks to Kamala Kahn. I intend to buy every issue and share them with my sons and all the kids I mentor here in Norfolk, Virginia.
Many of the kids I work with here are Muslims, and I have often seen them struggle to both share their identity and be seen as part of the culture around them. Marvel has taken a super powerful step toward inclusion and multicultural understanding about Muslim culture.
Parents everywhere can thank Wilson, artist Adrian Alphona and editor Sana Amanat for placing Khan in a social environment that according to the AP includes “learning to deal with superpowers, family expectations and adolescence.”
"I wanted Ms. Marvel to be true-to-life, something real people could relate to, particularly young women. High school was a very vivid time in my life, so I drew heavily on those experiences – impending adulthood, dealing with school, emotionally charged friendships that are such a huge part of being a teenager," Willow told the AP.
Of course, the thing parents should really thank Marvel for is choosing Alphona for this project because looking at her fashion sketchbook site we can see that she appreciates and has some background in covering runway shows from the artist’s perspective. Which translates into an ability to clothe female characters with grace, dignity, and style when given the opportunity.
Alphona did sketches of the runway from Toronto Fashion Week for Filler Magazine that show her connection with something beyond Spandex and thigh-high stiletto boots for empowering women.
True, Alphona has her fair share of nearly nude sketches on her website, but while she shows she can create the typical “sexy kitten” images so iconic to comic book females, she clearly possesses an eye for fashion and styling that comes through in the sketches of Kamala Kahn released this week by Marvel.
My guess would be that if Project Runway’s Nina Garcia were selecting an artist to dress a modest, yet gorgeous and inspiring teen wardrobe I think she too would cast her vote for Alphona.
In fact, I am going to predict that Ms. Marvel will inspire some fashion trends for teens that will get the parental seal of approval for real girl wardrobe choices.
Perhaps with the help of Ms. Marvel and her super friends in writing, art, and editing at Marvel, next Halloween we will see kids and celebrities forego dressing as quirky, Twerky Miley Cyrus and morph into something more Marvelous – Kamala Kahn.