When Marvel Comics announced that their newest superhero would be a Muslim teenager from New Jersey, the Pakistani-American girl Kamala Khan, the New York Times headline read like it could have come right out of the pages of the Daily Bugle: “Mighty, Muslim and Leaping Off the Page”! After only two issues, Ms. Marvel has indeed become quite mighty, garnering rave reviews from readers and critics and becoming a top-selling digital comic.
Written by G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel uses Kamala’s shapeshifting superpowers to explore ideas of identity, faith, and coming-of-age. It’s not the first comic book to feature a Muslim superhero, but it’s captured the attention of readers because Kamala’s story is both compelling and imminently relatable. But Kamala Khan is only half the Ms. Marvel story. Comics readers coming to the new Ms. Marvel may not know that there’s another groundbreaking female superhero on the Marvel roster. The success, starting last year, of Captain Marvel—Carol Danvers, who preceded Kamala in the Ms. Marvel role for more than 30 years—helped blaze the trail for Kamala. Together, Carol and Kamala—the old and new Ms. Marvel—have become powerful figures in a nascent, but growing, movement to make superhero comics more diverse and widely appealing.