Kamala Khan is a superstar now. Introduced only a year ago by Marvel, she’s become a bona fide figurehead for the publisher. A young Muslim girl in America who develops powers and uses them to try and help people, her story has caught on with a mainstream audience and turned the Ms Marvel series into a real, actual hit, especially among the growing digital readership.
What’s fascinating about the character, though, is how clearly she’s embedded into the tradition of superhero comics, and how you can draw a direct line from her back through Marvel’s history, to some of the company's most popular female superheroes. Kamala broke through at just the right moment in time, in just the right way, for the readership to embrace her, but she owes a debt to several characters that came before her.
Next Saturday at the Long Beach Comic Expo the first ever winner of the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity will be named, and today the organizers revealed an impressive roster of nominees that includes a tribute to the first Chinese-American superhero, a blaxploitation revival, and the most prominent Muslim superhero in North American comics.
Dynamite has announced a new big event series from Gail Simone and Sergio Davila, Swords of Sorrow. Crossing over between many of their female characters, the series will lead into a series of tie-in stories written by some of the most talented women in the business, including Marguerite Bennett, Leah Moore, Mairghread Scott, Emma Beeby, Mikki Kendal, Nancy Collins, and G. Willow Wilson.
Marvel promised a "forceful" announcement on ABC's daytime talk show The View today, and the entire world was ready for a Secret Wars/Star Wars crossover comic that would pit Jar-Jar Binks against Adam The X-Treme (or something), and then... nothing. There was no Star Wars announcement. There was no announcement of any kind; it got bumped off the show. Still, someone at Marvel has hopefully learned an important lesson about not using the word 'force' to promote things that don't involve Star Wars.
What Marvel did announce today was a new Secret Wars tie-in that is legitimately exciting in its own right, just sadly overshadowed by the Star Wars announcement that never was and the epic DC announcement that kicked off the day. The real announcement, unveiled through various outlets, is a new all-female Avengers book from writers G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett, and artist Jorge Molina, called A-Force.
Street artists in San Francisco are using Kamala Khan (aka Marvel's Ms. Marvel) to block out bus ads from the "American Freedom Defense Initiative" that compare Islam to Nazism. The art pasted over the ads features Kamala saying things like, "Calling all bigotry busters," and, "Free speech isn't a license to spread hate." The protest was organized by the group Bay Area Art Queers Unleashing Power, which runs the Facebook page where photos of the improved ads appeared, Street Cred - Advertising for the People.
The news of a Spider-Gwen series broke Friday at New York Comic-Con, but with a few details missing. Thanks to Marvel's Spider-Verse panel on Sunday we now have confirmation; the book will be ongoing, it will be called Spider-Gwen, and the Edge Of Spider-Verse #2 team of Jason LaTour, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi will indeed all return.
The same panel also confirmed an ongoing series for another spider-woman, Silk, a recently introduced character who was bitten by the same radioactive spider that gave Peter Parker his powers back in Amazing Fantasy #15. Silk will be written by Supernatural TV writer Robbie Thompson and illustrated by New Warriors cover artist Stacey Lee. And on the subject of books with female leads, earlier in the day at the Women of Marvel panel, Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson was announced as the new writer on the all-female X-Men series.
I was excited for Ms. Marvel from the moment it was announced. I reblogged it, retweeted it, called my mother about it, chatted it up at my local comic shop. But secretly, I was more than a little certain that it would suck in all the usual ways. Sure, the cover was splashy, and sure, I was hearing good things about G. Willow Wilson. But I was girded for — and expected — twenty or so lackluster issues before cancellation.
The first issue came out, and it was good. Really good. It was bright and fun and electric with personality in every way a comic can be, from its color palette to its ending splash. Still, though, I was unconvinced — fantastic first issues have given way to mediocrity before.
But the second issue was great. And the third. And the fourth. And with the fifth issue and the first arc completed, I feel that I can finally let out the breath I've been holding and say that Ms. Marvel is truly wonderful work.
James Baldwin once described America as a "country devoted to the death of the paradox." He was right, of course. We're more comfortable seeing things in extremes, in black and white. A person from one culture or background can be instantly labeled as an upstanding citizen, exemplifying everything good about "real America." Superman is from Kansas, not San Francisco.
But if you're from another background, you can be instantly labeled as something else entirely: lazy, entitled, a thug, "Un-American." To many, there are those who fit into a certain label based on where they grew up, what school they went to, what church they attend. To think otherwise, to consider that there is more to us than blanket, largely basely assumptions, isn't as easy. And for many, it's too uncomfortable. It's too much work.
Ms. Marvel #1 stands in stark contrast to that sentiment. Written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona, each major character introduced in this first issue is a celebration and exploration of the paradox. It is a book full of characters who remind you of people you know, or people you knew. It's a book that's unique, but nonetheless familiar. It is also, by almost any measure, one of the best first issues of a superhero comic in years. And, if we're being honest, it probably needed to be.
Next month Marvel will release the much anticipated Ms. Marvel #1, the new series from creators G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, and edited by Sana Amanat. It is a rarity in the industry: you can practically count on one hand the number of titles published at Marvel and DC combined that have starred a woman of color. Further, the new Ms. Marvel -- Kamala Khan -- is a Muslim Pakistani-American teenager, the first Muslim character to star in a monthly solo series at Marvel. As such, the title has received significant attention, and rightfully so; it's obviously early in the year, but it's no stretch to say that this may be the most important comic published in 2014.
And if not the most important, so far I'd say it's the most anticipated. Before the first issue has even hit stands, it has already received the type of media attention seldom afforded a super hero comic, and that type of attention breeds curiosity. With that in mind, Amanat has set up the Ms. Marvel tumblr, which gives people looking forward to the title a peek behind the curtain at the process of putting the book together, as well as explaining a few things you may have missed.
2014 promises to bring a flood of amazing work from a raft of talented cover artists, writers, web cartoonists, interior artists and mangaka. ComicsAlliance has looked at the new projects on the horizon and made a pick of 14 comic creators who we think will make an impact in 2014. Our hope is that this is just the tip of the iceberg, that there are 140 amazing creators on the cusp of creating something great in 2014 -- but these are our picks of the creators to keep an eye on.
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