Nothing so American as imagining a comic-book hero that could be stronger, faster, and more powerful than than you are — or than you’re allowed to be. From the NYTImes:
With most superheroes, when you take away the colorful costume, mask and cape, what you find underneath is a white man. But not always. In February, as part of a continuing effort to diversify its offerings, Marvel Comics will begin a series whose lead character, Kamala Khan, is a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City.
No exploding planet, death of a relative or irradiated spider led to Kamala’s creation. Her genesis began more mundanely, in a conversation between Sana Amanat and Steve Wacker, two editors at Marvel. “I was telling him some crazy anecdote about my childhood, growing up as a Muslim-American,” Ms. Amanat said. “He found it hilarious.” Ms. Amanat and Mr. Wacker noted the dearth of female superhero series and, even more so, of comics with cultural specificity….
Kamala, whose family is from Pakistan, has devotedly followed the career of the blond, blue-eyed Carol Danvers, who now goes by Captain Marvel, a name she inherited from a male hero. When Kamala discovers her powers, including the ability to change shape, she takes on the code name Ms. Marvel — what Carol called herself when she began her superhero career.
“Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for,” Ms. Wilson said. “She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different.’ ”
Ms. Amanat said, “It’s also sort of like when I was a little girl and wanted to be Tiffani-Amber Thiessen,” from “Saved by the Bell.”…
I hope like hell she sells a bajillion copies and becomes wealthy from the movie rights and helps to break down cultural walls and stereotypes that challenge us all.
if for no other reason then to celebrate our own diversity.
For a moment there, I thought John Cole had somehow gotten m_c to contribute a post.
ETA: Plus, I’ve read good things about Wilson’s Alif the Unseen. It’s been on my to-read list for a while.
You do the best threads, Anne Laurie, but I didn’t understand a word of that.
Hayko Cepkin – Paranoya
Well, all I can say is, it’s about time.
Having lived in Jersey City for five years, I always felt that wees guys were sadly ignored in the comix, ya know?
Nada – Ha! (Live)
I wonder how long newsmax is going to continue it’s Chris Christie is a jerk headlines?
Also, comics could be way more diverse, but it would be much nicer to see original characters created instead of taking a previously white and usually male character and making them either female and/or minority. The previous Captain Marvel was an African American woman and one time leader of the Avengers who was temporarily lost her powers and left the team. She wasn’t a female apprentice to a male archetype and took the name Captain Marvel because it made sense. Marvel has done this type of thing before and in the end, the characters don’t always last very long.
Yasmine Hamdan – Nediya
@Hal: Meh. Completely original characters sink even quicker under the water than legacy characters. “Unimportant.” “Who cares?”
Slap them with the name of a known character (Oh, say, Spiderman) and fans pay attention.
Actually, the first Captain Marvel was a male character and the original Ms. Marvel was a female spin-off from him. Then, that character, who was never particularly popular, was killed off. The second Captain Marvel (a black female) was introduced and given that name solely to preserve Marvel’s copyright in a name they won from Timely Comics (the Shazam people) in a lawsuit. That character was somewhat popular but never became more than a B-list character who never starred in her own book. Then, Marvel stripped the second Capt. Marvel of her name and gave it to a third character who was the original character’s son, while banishing the second character to comics limbo and foisting a succession of increasingly shitty names on her. Finally, the Son of Capt. Marvel character got killed off just in time for Ms. Marvel to decide that her name was too 70’s and that she should go by Capt. Marvel instead. Black Capt. Marvel is still in comics limbo, waiting for a decent writer to find her again and decide which of her four names should be used.
Which brings us to the present, when Marvel editorial has noticed that it has a name (Ms. Marvel) that is no longer attached to any active properties, so they brainstormed for a new Ms. Marvel character to introduce and decided to go with an apparently Westernized Pakistani Muslim. My suspicion is that Marvel editorial has a “Diversity Dartboard” they throw darts at when it is time to reboot an existing property. (Not that there’s anything wrong with diversity — I’m just not optimistic that Marvel can build a series around the travails of a teenaged, Muslim-American female superhero. Their last attempt — Dust of the X-Men — was basically “that girl who stood around in the back wearing a burqa.”)
1. This girl’s Ms. Marvel, not Captain Marvel.
2. There’s like a bajillion characters who have been named Captain Marvel in Marvel’s history because they want to make sure there’s always a Captain Marvel to keep the trademark out of DC’s hands, and they’re always bit players which is why the name keeps getting shuffled around.
Ms Marvel is a character whom Marvel has never been able to get a handle on and make into anything substantial. This is like her gajillionth incarnation.
And then there’s Pavitr Prabhakar, the Hindu Spider-man.
The Shazam! Captain Marvel was Fawcett Comics. When they folded following a lawsuit from DC, the title name lay dormant and eventually the copyright was snapped up by Marvel (which is why although DC has since published comics with that Captain Marvel in them, they cannot use his name as the title).
Timely Comics was the same company which eventually became Marvel, and never had a Captain Marvel character, either as Timely nor as another incarnation as Atlas, in pre-Marvel comics.
So, I only vaguely understand who comic superheroes are, and I found the idea of Capt. Marvel being female to be a surprise. So I went to Wikipedia to try to figure it out and as a result all I’m gonna say is comic universe continuities are really just completely ‘effed up.
The original Fawcett Captain Marvel (Billy Batson/SHAZAM!) was in its heyday the highest-selling comic of them all and purposefully mixed superheroics with a tongue-in-cheek sense of whimsy at the hands of C.C. Beck.
Incidentally, one of the long-time successful artists on the Captain Marvel, Jr. comic during the 40s was an African-American, Mac Raboy.
Yep, though keep in mind DC and Marvel are two completely different universes. Everytime a new writer or editor comes aboard something gets changes or retconned (retroactive continuity) so before you know it, no one knows what the hell is going on. Try reading the wikipedia pages for Power Girl and Wonder Girl if you’re ever bored and want to be further confused.
Even with the sketchiest of background on comic books or the intricacies of character histories, Scott Shaw!’s (the exclamation point is legally part of the name) Oddball Comics presentation is a hoot.
Here’s a tidbit.
@NotMax: Mac Raboy was not African American. Are you perhaps thinking of Matt Baker?
Blame the fourth double martini.
As a matter of fact, tide has gone out. Time to pour the fifth.
The “Captain Marvel” situation is effed up even by comic-book standards, because of the coexistence of the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel with the Marvel Captain Marvel, and the tangled legal history. And that’s even before you bring in Marvelman/Miracleman, who started life as another Captain Marvel knockoff in Britain, and has lawsuits all his own.
@Citizen Alan: well, what are the demographics of the marvel/DC consumer? Preteen and teen boys? Preteen and teen white boys? Big Bang Theory nerds? I don’t know, but that would affect attempts to diversify the superhero lineup. Don’t think previous attempts to broaden the buying demo have worked, except to keep the same people buying comics and graphic novels later in life.
@p.a.: Forty-year-old preteen and teen white boys, actually.
The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik
2nd Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau, is now going by ‘Spectrum’ and is featured in “Mighty Avengers”. Basically Luke Cage and a more street-level team (though considering their first opponent as a team was Shuma-Gorath, not dealing with street-level enemies) with the basic message of ‘We are All Avengers’. That’s the gist I got so far from the first few issues.
...now I try to be amused
Or Kyle Baker? (He was first published in the mid-1980s.)
@Hal: I don’t know why, but I find reading about the histories of comic book characters much more interesting than actually reading comic books. I think reading multiple decades of comics continuity from multiple creators, who were all trying to top what the previous creators had done or do something startlingly original with the character, compressed into a single wiki page is just a more intense shot of crazy.
Minor quibble, Kamala Khan is a very unlikely name, since Kamala (lotus) is a Hindu name and one of the many names of the goddess of wealth Lakshmi and Khan is obviously a Muslim name.
Another Holocene Human
@p.a.: Oh yeah, Dan Didio retconning away or killing off or merging or having raped every female character, gay character, Black character, non-WASP character, 1980s or 1990s character, etc, etc, had NOTHING to do with DC’s shrinking demographic.
If diversity sucks so much how come Marvel surpassed DC in sales and has stayed there for years?
DC decided to chase the “holy grail” of comics fans, wealthy white heterosexual male younger Boomers and GenXers who had money to blow on nostalgia. Well, look where they are today.
I ragequit DC a couple of years ago and haven’t looked back. Then MacDuffie died, so that was that.
Go, Marvel, go.
Another Holocene Human
PS: DC Comics’ comics division has been losing money for a decade straight. So there’s that. So much for the almighty white dollar. And the GREEN LANTERN movie _sucked.