Kamala Khan is a superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, Khan is Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic book. Khan made her first appearance in Captain Marvel #14 (August 2013) before going on to star in the solo series Ms. Marvel, which debuted in February 2014.
Within the Marvel Universe, Khan is a teenage Pakistani American from Jersey City, New Jersey with shapeshifting abilities who discovers that she has Inhuman genes in the aftermath of the “Inhumanity” storyline and assumes the mantle of Ms. Marvel from her idolCarol Danvers after Danvers becomes Captain Marvel. Marvel’s announcement that a Muslim character would headline a comic book drew widespread attention, and the first volume of Ms. Marvel won the Hugo Award for best graphic story in 2015.
Iman Vellani is set to portray Khan in the Marvel Cinematic UniverseDisney+ series Ms. Marvel (2022) and the film The Marvels (2023). The character was voiced by Sandra Saad in the 2020 action-adventure video game Marvel’s Avengers.
In November 2013, Marvel Comics announced that Kamala Khan, a teenage American Muslim from Jersey City, New Jersey, would take over the comic book series Ms. Marvel beginning in February 2014. The series, written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Adrian Alphona, marked the first time a Muslim character headlined a book at Marvel Comics. However, Noelene Clark of the Los Angeles Times noted that Khan is not the first Muslim character in comic books, which include Simon Baz, Dust and M. The conception of Kamala Khan came about during a conversation between Marvel editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker. Amanat said, “I was telling him [Wacker] some crazy anecdote about my childhood, growing up as a Muslim American. He found it hilarious.” The pair then told Wilson about the concept and Wilson became eager to jump aboard the project. Amanat said that the series came from a “desire to explore the Muslim-American diaspora from an authentic perspective.”
Artist Jamie McKelvie based Khan’s design on his redesign of Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel and on Dave Cockrum‘s design of the original Ms. Marvel. Amanat requested that the design “reflected the Captain Marvel legacy, and also her story and her background.” Amanat stated that Khan’s costume was influenced by the shalwar kameez. They wanted the costume to represent her cultural identity, but did not want her to wear a hijab, because the majority of teenage Pakistani-American girls do not wear one. Amanat also stated that they wanted the character to look “less like a sex siren” to appeal to a more vocal female readership.
Marvel knew that they wanted a young Muslim girl, but stated that she could be from any place of origin and have any background. Wilson initially considered making her an Arab girl from Dearborn, Michigan but ultimately chose to create a Desi girl from Jersey City. Jersey City, which sits across the Hudson River from Manhattan, has been referred to as New York City’s “Sixth borough“. It therefore forms an important part of Khan’s identity and the narrative journey of her character since most of Marvel Comics’ stories are set in Manhattan. Wilson explains, “A huge aspect of Ms. Marvel is being a ‘second string hero’ in the ‘second string city’ and having to struggle out of the pathos and emotion that can give a person.”
The series not only explores Khan’s conflicts with supervillains but also explores conflicts with Khan’s home and religious duties. Wilson, a convert to Islam, said “This is not evangelism. It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith.” Wilson continued, “Her brother is extremely conservative, her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant, and her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.” Amanat added,
As much as Islam is a part of Kamala’s identity, this book isn’t preaching about religion or the Islamic faith in particular. It’s about what happens when you struggle with the labels imposed on you, and how that forms your sense of self. It’s a struggle we’ve all faced in one form or another, and isn’t just particular to Kamala because she’s Muslim. Her religion is just one aspect of the many ways she defines herself.
In the series, Khan takes the name Ms. Marvel from Carol Danvers, who now goes by the alias Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick revealed that Khan actually made a brief appearance in Captain Marvel #14 (August 2013) saying, “Kamala is in the background of a scene in Captain Marvel 14 … She is very deliberately placed in a position where she sees Carol protecting civilians from Yon-Rogg.” According to Wilson, Khan idolizes Carol so when Khan acquires superhuman abilities, she emulates Danvers. “Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for. She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different,'” Wilson explained. “Khan is a big comic book fan and after she discovers her superhuman power – being a polymorph and able to lengthen her arms and legs and change her shape – she takes on the name of Ms. Marvel,” Amanat elaborated. Khan is one of several characters who discover that they have Inhuman heritage following the “Inhumanity” storyline, in which the Terrigen Mists are released throughout the world and activate dormant Inhuman cells.
In the series’ first story arc, Khan faces off against Mr. Edison / the Inventor, an amalgam of man and bird. Wilson created the Inventor to be Khan’s first arch rival in order to mirror Khan’s own complexity. Wilson characterizes the Inventor, and the overall visual look of the opening story arc as “kooky and almost Miyazaki-esque at times”, owing to the art style of illustrator Adrian Alphona, which balances the drama of the threats which Khan faces with the humor of Alphona’s “tongue in cheek sight gags.” During the storyline, Khan also teams-up with the X-Man Wolverine against the Inventor. Because Wolverine is dealing with the loss of his healing factor during this time, Khan is placed in the position of having to shoulder much of the responsibilities, as Wilson felt this was a role reversal that would subvert reader expectations that Wolverine would take the lead in such a team-up.
At the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International, writer Dan Slott announced that Khan would team-up with Spider-Man beginning in The Amazing Spider-Man #7 (October 2014) during the “Spider-Verse” storyline. Slott characterized Khan “the closest character to classic Peter Parker,” explaining, “She’s a teenage superhero, juggling her life, making mistakes, trying to do everything right.”
Beginning in June 2015, Ms. Marvel tied into the “Secret Wars” crossover event with the “Last Days” storyline, which details Khan’s account of the end of the Marvel Universe. Wilson explained, “In the ‘Last Days’ story arc, Kamala has to grapple with the end of everything she knows, and discover what it means to be a hero when your whole world is on the line.” In the storyline, Khan rushes to deal with the threat in Manhattan. However, Wilson revealed, “She will face a very personal enemy as the chaos in Manhattan spills over into Jersey City, and she will be forced to make some very difficult choices. There will also be a very special guest appearance by a superhero Kamala—and the fans—have been waiting to meet for a long time.”
In March 2015, Marvel announced that Khan will join the Avengers in All-New All-Different AvengersFCBD (May 2015) by writer Mark Waid and artists Adam Kubert and Mahmud Asrar, which takes place in the aftermath of “Secret Wars”. A second volume of Ms. Marvel starring Khan by Wilson, Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa is also debuted following “Secret Wars” as part of Marvel’s All-New, All-Different Marvel initiative. Amanat said,
By the time this new launch comes around, it will have been almost two years since the premiere of Ms. Marvel—and boy, has Kamala Khan been through a lot since then. She’s been slowly coming into her own, dealing with the challenges of navigating adulthood and being a super hero. But her training is over now and it’s time for the big leagues; the question is can she handle it? … As much as Kamala has a right to be there—it’s still a bit of a culture shock. Dreaming of being an Avenger and then suddenly being one is a lot to take on for someone of her age. So, she’ll be a little awestruck, a little overly ambitious.
In March 2016, Marvel announced that Ms. Marvel would tie into the “Civil War II” storyline by releasing a promotional image illustrating a rift between Khan and Danvers. “While “Civil War II” may have initiated this rift, we’ve known for some time that Kamala would eventually need to separate herself from her idols. Her journey centers around self-discovery and identity, and a part of that exploration includes separating yourself from those you put on pedestals. The rift between Carol and Kamala doesn’t really have to do with right and wrong. It has to do with growing up and realizing that you perceive the world differently from even the ones you love,” Amanat elaborated.
In July, Marvel announced that Khan will join the Champions, a team of teenage superheroes who split off from the Avengers following the conclusion of “Civil War II”. The team, featured in a series by writer Mark Waid and artist Humberto Ramos, consists of Khan, Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Nova (Sam Alexander), Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Viv Vision, and a teenage version of Cyclops. Waid said, “The first three are the kids who quit the Avengers proper. That was an easy get. Those three, in and of themselves, form a nice little subteam. Their dynamic is great. They all show up in each other’s books, and even though they have their arguments and stress points, clearly they’re good together.”
In August, Khan made an appearance in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #10 by writers Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare. In the issue, Khan acts as a mentor to Moon Girl (Lunella Lafayette) who is also a young Inhuman that suddenly came into her powers. Amanat stated that Khan sees much of herself in Lafayette and by teaching her, Khan learns much about herself.
In November, Marvel announced that Khan will join a new incarnation of the Secret Warriors in a series by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Javier Garron that debuted in May 2017. The team, formed in the wake of the “Inhumans vs X-Men” storyline, also includes Quake, Karnak, Moon Girl, and Devil Dinosaur. Rosenberg stated that there is some conflict and friction amongst the team members explaining, “Ms. Marvel and Quake are really fighting for the soul of the team in a lot of ways, while Moon Girl will continue to really do her own thing. They will all be tested and challenged, they are superheroes after all, but they are going to do things their way.”
In March 2017, Marvel announced that Khan would team-up with Danvers in a one-shot issue of the limitedanthology series, Generations by Wilson and Paolo Villanelle. Wilson stated that the issue would explore Danvers’ and Khan’s mentor–student relationship, but “at its heart, [it] is about growing up, and a big part of growing up is discovering that your idols have feet of clay – and forgiving them for their flaws as you gain an adult understanding of your own.”
In December, Ms. Marvel began the “Teenage Wasteland” story arc, as part of the Marvel Legacy relaunch. Wilson said, “Since the events of ‘Civil War II’, there’s been friction between Kamala and her mentor, Captain Marvel. In this arc, we’re exploring how complicated legacies can be when they’re passed from generation to generation … She’s questioning a lot about herself and her mission. Her friends end up stepping into some very important—and unexpected—roles. So in a sense, the arc is really about a bunch of chronically under-estimated teenagers who pull together to fight evil.”
Ms. Marvel #31, the 50th issue of Ms. Marvel featuring Khan was released in June 2018. To mark the occasion, Marvel brought in additional collaborators for the issue including writers: G. Willow Wilson, Saladin Ahmed, Rainbow Rowell, and Hasan Minhaj; and artists: Nico Leon, Bob Quinn, Gustavo Duarte, and Elmo Bondoc.
Beginning in March 2019, Khan headlined a new series titled, The Magnificent Ms. Marvel, written by Ahmed and illustrated by Minkyu Jung. Wilson stated that she had been planning her departure from the series for over a year, stating that she originally anticipated that the series would only last for ten issues and was excited by the fact that she had written 60 issues. Ahmed said the new series will have much wider scope, “while still maintaining that intimate tone that people have loved about it.”
In July 2020, Marvel announced that Khan would star in an original graphic novel, published in conjunction with Scholastic and aimed at younger readers. Titled Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin, the book is written by author Nadia Shammas and illustrated by Nabi H. Ali. It was released on September 7, 2021.