By Misbahuddin Mirza
I was eight years old, on my daily commute to school aboard the 8:40 AM local train whose steam locomotive merrily belched plumes of thick black smoke as it chugged kids like me and bored looking office workers to the close by twin city. But, this day was different. I had just discovered Kryptonite – my friend had just introduced me to my first comic book. In the following months and years, I would read gazillions of comics, and gradually transition into Enid Blyton and then into novels. I had to get my daily fix of comics.
While my parents spent countless nights worrying about the negative impact my extracurricular reading was having on my studies, I continued to live in my fantasy world of comics and story books -a world populated by Dennis the Menace, Beetle Bailey, Archie, Jughead, Richie Rich, Phantom, Mandrake, Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Blondie,Classics Illustrated Junior Fairy Tales, and countless other characters. Strangely though, in all those years, I never realized that all of those characters did not really have much if anything in common with me.
That is about to change now. My youngest son, my two year old grandson, and future grandchildren will, however, be able to tell a different story about their own childhoods – thanks to Marvel Comics new superhero, Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel (the title used earlier by Carol Danvers, Khan’s favorite hero). This is a great step in the right direction – one that will now allow Muslim kids to grow up in a more inclusive society, and hopefully increase their self-esteem.
For the last almost 50 years, there has been a sizeable young Muslim readership on the subcontinent, whose de-facto native language is English. The private schools they attend, do not allow the use of any other language in the classrooms, except, of course in language classes. So, I am hopeful that the Kamala Khan Superherocomicsseries will be a hit in other countries as well. With Islam predicted to have the second largest group of adherents in the US by the turn of this century, Marvel Comics’ inclusion of a Muslim Superhero is to be applauded; this is truly a trailblazer.
Muslim characters have appeared in comics earlier. In the 1990’s “Uncanny X-Men,” a North African Muslim girl’s character, M, is endowed with superhuman powers. In 2002’s “New X-Men”the Afghan girl ‘Dust,’ whose actual name is Sooraya Qadir, uses her mutant powers to turn herself into dust to punish the bad guys.
In 2012, DC’s Simon Baz, a Lebanese American Muslim had taken over the responsibility of Green Lantern. However, the character of Kamala Khan, as Ms. Marvelwill put this Muslim Superhero on acelestial pedestal.Kamala Khan is a polymorph, which allows her to elongate her limbs, and change her shape, at will.
The inspiration for the new superhero came from Marvel Comics editor Sana Amanat, during her discussions with Steve Wacker,her senior editor,about her own experiences growing up as a Muslim-American in the US.The series will be written by the highly creative novelist and multi-Eisner nominee G. Willow Wilson, who has entertained us earlier with her enjoyable works such as ‘Alif the Unseen.’The series will be illustrated by Adrian Alphona of “Runaways,” and “Uncanny X-Force” fame.
The new Ms. Marvel will be introduced in January 2014’s “All-New Marvel NOW! Point One” one-shot comic. The series is slated for a February start. Go Marvel!
Misbahuddin Mirza, MSPE, is a Senior Engineer with the Structures Division of the New York State Department of Transportation. He is also the Regional Quality Control Engineer for the Department’s New York City area. He has written for major US newspapers, and Indian publications. www.twocircles.net