A Muslim-American girl is the next Ms. Marvel!

Ms. Marvel is getting a makeover! The popular character, which made her debut in 1977, has been associated with the Avengers and X-Men. She was originally a blond-haired, blue-eyed female officer in the U.S. Air Force, who was caught in the explosion of a Kree device in the 1960s Marvel Super-Heroes comics. The energy exposure granted her superhuman abilities, including being able to fly, reflect bullets, and shoot energy from her hands.

Ms. Marvel has appeared in numerous comics over the years, including two stints in her own self-titled comic in the 1970s and late 2000s. Yet this year, she’s getting a major makeover. Ms. Marvel is now Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Muslim-American girl from Jersey City who faces pressure from her parents’ expectations and her life as a minority. This all changes when she is suddenly bestowed with superpowers, such as being able to grow and shrink different parts of her body, and eventually becoming a shape-shifter.

So, why the change? And what does it mean? According to series editor Sana Amanat, who is also a Muslim, the new Ms. Marvel “stemmed out of a desire to explore the Muslim-American diaspora from an authentic perspective.” She is a reflection of the changing world that we live in today, and ultimately seems to be a reflection of what it means to be growing up in America.

Yet there is more to this. Kamala’s ethnicity is a reflection of our growing acceptance of diversity: comic book characters are branching out from their traditionally white population. She is also a girl, the minority sex in the comic book universe. She faces the same pressures many girls face during their teen years. And she is not, in fact, portrayed as a big-chested, small-waist woman: her figure from the initial illustrations is, surprisingly, being much more like normal girls than her predecessors.

Her powers are even more telling: being able to shape-shift might be a reflection of the larger American dream. Through shape shifting, Kamala can become whatever and whomever she wants to be. That’s interesting, since girls today are facing more choice in their lives than ever before. Kamala’s opportunities are a reflection of what girls ultimately want, and what we here at Girl Museum strive to achieve: the right for girls to be who they want and do what they want, beautiful and empowered just by being themselves. So major props to Marvel. They might have finally gotten a female character right.

-Tiffany Piotti
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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