By now most of the country has seen and raved at Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse. Between that, web warriors, and the comics themselves, people have fully embraced Miles Morales, the black webslinger in a black and red costume. Miles is one of the two most popular characters to come from a new age in comics, an age of diversity and change. The other standout star of this era is Ms. Marvel aka Kamala Khan, a young Muslim-American girl whose latent Inhuman Powers activate, and she becomes the hero of Jersey City. Kamala is Marvel’s first Muslim hero, and despite a slow start, she has become one of the most popular characters, starring in the new cartoon Marvel Rising, and even joining the Avengers for a moment. Just like Miles, Kamala has inspired people and shown them what they’ve always wanted to see: a hero who looks like them. I got to sit down with journalist Anisah Jabar, a Muslim-American woman who identifies so much with Kamala that she has actually become Ms. Marvel.
What inspired you to pour so much of yourself and your career in this character?
I think what inspires me about her character is how much I relate to her. I grew up Muslim American. My parents were just as strict as Kamala’s – I find it funny when I’m reading what she’s going through because I reflect and think back to when my parents treated me the same way growing up. Growing up in a protective household and also being reminded I looked different in high school relates almost exactly to what Kamala goes through in the comic.
In the comics, Kamala deals with her powers and her sense of identity almost immediately. Growing up in a world where super-heroes exist, she’s actually what you think the nerds of that world would be like. Her sense of self and self-worth as not only an ordinary human but also a Muslim-American girl growing up around mostly white people is in shambles, and actually plays a huge part in the development of her powers to begin with. Unlike Miles, whose story has nothing to do with race, or RiRi, whose origin has some base in black hero tropes, Kamala’s origin is completely respectful to her faith as well as her culture.
What led you to this project?
I spoke to my mentor who is a film director – he opened the acting and improv school I take classes at. I expressed that I would like to audition for the role of Kamala when she enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He explained from what he had heard that they would most likely look at actresses who are established in Bollywood. The fire immediately sparked in me. How could Kamala be played by some who isn’t from America!?!? He said why don’t you put something up on youtube. We live in a different world now. I was inspired in that moment to create my own comment based off the series. I reached out to a friend who cosplays Super Boy – her insta is @projectkr. I did my first Ms. Marvel photo shoot with her. That’s how Ms. Marvel NYC was born.
3 Breakfast must haves?
I LOVE breakfast!
If you were given complete creative control, how would you introduce Ms. Marvel into the MCU?
I would introduce Ms. Marvel in the next Avengers movie at the end of the movie similar to how they beeped Captain Marvel in the Infinity Wars. Or in a Young Avengers movie!
Thoughts on the new cartoon series that pairs her with Squirrel Girl and Spider-Gwen?
I LOVE it. Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors stole my heart. I’m pretty sure I cried a few times. Representation is so important. I can’t remember the last time or if I’ve ever seen an American Muslim lady as the main character in a cartoon. It warmed my heart.
What would you consider her theme song?
Unstoppable by Sia
For many African Americans such as myself, Miles Morales was a game changer in superhero representation, and, in my opinion, ushered in this new age. Judging from its status as a best seller Ms. Marvel has clearly had the same impact. Online we see a lot of people complain that characters like Miles, Khamila, and even Silk should be their own new heroes rather than taking up the mantle of classics. Do you think it hurts or helps representation for these characters?
I love the idea of these characters having mentors. In life, it’s important to have a mentor someone who you can trust to give you guidance and advice. We see this play out in Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse. It helps these characters tremendously. Miles and Kamala are kids. No kid can do it on there own – we all need leaders.
Do you think Ms. Marvel survived the Thanos snap?
Yes, I think she did.
Do you see yourself doing this with any other fictional characters?
So I actually love to sing. I’m new to musical theater, but I’ve fallen so hard for it. I can envision myself playing Pocahontas or Moana in a musical.
Do you realize how awesome you are?
This is humbling and a good reminder to take a pause, breathe and reflect on everything I’ve accomplished/ I AM doing. Thank you
Follow anisah @msmarvelnyc on Instagram