Amid the stress of a rising second wave of COVID-19, comedian ebook followers discovered one thing to have fun this September. Marvel Studios introduced the casting of its first on-screen Muslim superhero, Kamala Khan, the alter-ego of Ms. Marvel.
Very similar to Canadian teen actress Iman Vellani who was plucked for this function, Kamala has been a digital unknown outdoors of comedian fandom regardless of being a sensation since her sequence debut on the high of comedian ebook gross sales charts in 2014.
It ought to be no shock then that Marvel Studios determined to capitalize on this success and signed Kamala for her personal TV sequence on Disney+ for an anticipated debut in late 2021 or early 2022.
As a researcher who has examined Muslim superheroes in American comics, I discover Kamala to be essentially the most intriguing of all American Muslim superheroes. She has a capability to destabilize stereotypes of Muslims whereas reinforcing concepts about American exceptionalism. Within the fingers of various writers in varied comedian iterations, she has appeared as multi-dimensional and stereotype-breaking, but in addition as a one-dimensional determine that advances Islamophobic themes.
Muslim characters submit 9/11
It might appear that Marvel Studios is taking a giant danger spotlighting a Muslim character when we live in a time of rising anti-Muslim hatred within the West. However whereas there was a resurgence of Muslim superheroes in American comics after 9/11, a few of these representations reiterate stereotypes.
Muslim characters underwent a mini-makeover in fashionable tradition after 9/11. Characters emerged from being buffoonish villains to figures who gave off the looks of depth whereas concurrently regurgitating stereotypes. American research and ethnicity scholar Evelyn al Sultany coined the time period “simplified advanced illustration” to explain this method in her ebook, Arabs and Muslims within the Media: Race and Illustration After 9/11.
Actually, Muslim superheroes had been a factor earlier than 9/11. However after 9/11, a spate of Muslim superheroes emerged, together with characters just like the orientalized Sooraya Qadir (Mud), who appeared in New X-Males in 2002, Simon Baz, member of the Inexperienced Lantern Corps featured in Inexperienced Lantern, and Josiah X who first appeared in The Crew. That is fascinating to me since superheroes usually operate as patriotic symbols, and Muslims are considered the quintessential “different” as a result of Islam is normally framed as incompatible with the West.
After studying Sooraya Qadir’s debut, it turned apparent to me that comics discovered a brand new approach to sensationalize Muslim illustration.
Enter Kamala Khan
To me, Kamala gave the impression to be the uncommon glimpse of hope that existed on the opposite aspect of the rainbow if we simply characterised Muslims — who make up nearly one-quarter of the world’s inhabitants — as one thing extra nuanced. And he or she delivered on that entrance, notably in her early days.
Readers met her as a Pakistani American that spoke Urdu. This implies we noticed illustration of Muslims within the West escape the frequent stereotypical assumption that every one Muslims are Arabs and vice versa.
Later in Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13, written by the Arab American author, Saladin Ahmed, the only focus shifted away from Kamala Khan when an Arab American sidekick named Amulet was launched.
Profitable gross sales, recognition
In Ms. Marvel’s earlier volumes written by the Muslim author, and white Muslim convert, G. Willow Wilson, we noticed Kamala anointed along with her superhero mantle to the tune of Amir Khusro’s poetry. We noticed her juggle her schedule between battles and mehendis, and even obtained a glimpse of her great-great grandmother’s transfer from India to Pakistan throughout Partition.
Again then, I bear in mind comedian ebook retailer clerks telling me how fashionable Ms. Marvel was with prospects. The print assortment of the sequence offered half one million copies alone. As Wilson notes, the primary concern had had eight separate printings and its digital version turned Marvel’s best-selling digital comedian of all time. Its first quantity, launched in 2014, was ranked once more amongst the highest 5 in gross sales rankings in September 2020.
I bear in mind pondering that this Urdu-speaking Muslim powerhouse may very well be the beginning of a brand new sort of Muslim character. She was proof that creators didn’t have to recycle the tireless oppressed Muslim lady or terrorist Muslim male tropes for gross sales.
Introducing Islamophobic themes
However following the success of the Ms. Marvel sequence, Kamala appeared in Marvel’s Champions sequence a couple of workforce of teenage superheroes. Maybe Marvel meant to additional increase the recognition of the already-successful Ms. Marvel sequence by bringing in Mark Waid, a high-profile non-Muslim white author, who authored the favored comedian sequence (and award-winning graphic novel) Kingdom Come and others.
In Champions, some drained stereotypes surfaced. Within the third concern, the workforce flies to a fictional South Asian nation. There, they rescue hijabi Muslim women from violent males who conform to inventory villain Muslim stereotypes just like the terrorists seen in Hollywood motion pictures equivalent to True Lies.
Right here, Kamala is successfully used as a racist weapon towards brown males and is depicted to recommend proof of western superiority. Sadly sufficient, I used to be involved she may very well be used this fashion earlier than she truly was.
I used to be reminded that such tropes might exist merely due to implicit bias versus profitability.
Have a good time and watch
For now, we should always have fun the debut of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Muslim superhero. I’ve hope that the Disney+ sequence will do her justice as its showrunner is the humorist and author Bisha Okay. Ali, identified for incisive commentary.
Nevertheless, Marvel plans to maneuver Kamala finally to the silver display screen and there’s already speak of a Champions sort of superhero workforce sequence that includes Kamala.
If something of the likes of Kamala as a racist weapon to show western superiority is featured, I can’t say there will likely be a lot trigger for celebration.
Safiyya Hosein doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that might profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.