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.I wonder if this is the kind of diversity Kelly Sue deConnick was saying she wanted to see when she was interviewed by USA Today last month? And not an Armenian, Portuguese, Columbian or Danish heroine anywhere. Some "diversity" alright.
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.
When they told G. Willow Wilson, an author, comic book writer and convert to Islam, about their idea, she was eager to come on board as the series’ writer. “Any time you do something like this, it is a bit of a risk,” Ms. Wilson said. “You’re trying to bring the audience on board and they are used to seeing something else in the pages of a comic book.”
Kamala will face struggles outside her own head, including conflicts close to home. “Her brother is extremely conservative,” Ms. Amanat said. “Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.” Next to those challenges, fighting supervillains may be a respite.It's clear that despite any claim she makes to the contrary, this series is going to be defined almost entirely by the lead's religious background, yet no chance they'll ever reference any verses from the Koran, not even these ones about women. Nor is there any chance Khan will ever offer any help to 9-11 Families, or try to prevent attacks by monsters like Nidal Hasan and Naser Abdo, or even use her power to defend targets of honor murders. And even then, Muslims might not be impressed either, because the lead character may not wear a hijab, for example. I have a hunch there's no chance we'd see a character like Northstar turn up, so long as he's still depicted as gay, because for many Muslims, that's an abomination.
The creative team is braced for all possible reactions. “I do expect some negativity,” Ms. Amanat said, “not only from people who are anti-Muslim, but people who are Muslim and might want the character portrayed in a particular light.”
But “this is not evangelism,” Ms. Wilson said. “It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith.” The series, Ms. Wilson said, would deal with how familial and religious edicts mesh with super-heroics, which can require rules to be broken.
Wilson is the same writer who attacked Holland for taking security steps to prevent terrorist attacks, spoke disrespectfully of apostates, among others, and even interviewed an Islamofascist from Egypt named Ali Gomaa, who himself wrote an anti-Israel screed in the WSJ.
The NYT goes on to say:
...the quest for cultural diversity in comics is not always successful. The market can be unwelcoming to new characters and attempts at inclusion can seem like tokenism when not handled well. Then there are the firestorms: In September at DC Comics, the writers of Batwoman, announced that they were leaving the series because of editorial interference, including an edict that would prohibit the lesbian title character from marrying. Dan DiDio, the co-publisher of DC Comics, said the decision was about keeping true to the mission of the Batman characters, who have sacrificed their self-interests for the greater good. They “shouldn’t have happy personal lives,” Mr. DiDio told fans at the Baltimore Comic-Con.The alleged quest for diversity is not successful, if at all, because it's become so predictable and selective. At this point, the protagonists will either be gay, as in the case of the new Batwoman, or in the case of the new teenage Ms. Marvel, Muslim, yet the former mindset is unlikely to turn up alongside the latter, lest it offend adherents of Islam.
In 2011, when Marvel announced that Miles Morales, a black Hispanic teenager, would take on the alter ego of Spider-Man as part of an alternative take on the character, there was an uproar by those who thought that Peter Parker, white and angst-ridden, had been replaced. (He wasn’t. Miles is part of a separate series that offers fresh takes on Marvel characters.)Oh, that's funny. After all these years, the Ultimate line's offerings are pretty stale.
The most important fan assessment, though, comes later and is easier to quantify. “Fans respond with their dollars,” said Axel Alonso, the editor in chief of Marvel Entertainment, who thinks Miles has helped bring new readers to comics. “When you see Spider-Man strip down his mask and he looks like you, you are more inspired to pick up that book.” The September issue of Miles’s series sold around 32,000 copies. The more traditional version sold around 80,000 copies, though Peter Parker is seemingly dead and Doctor Octopus is acting as Spider-Man.Does the NYT's writers realize those are laughably abysmal numbers for sales? As for that claim that a protagonist who looks like the reader will persuade them to read the book, that only tells more about Alonso, who must think minorities don't care about good writing. No wonder Ultimate Spider-Man sells so low, and regular Spidey isn't far behind.
The biggest error with stories like a Muslim Ms. Marvel is that they don't reflect reality where it helps. And it's pretty apparent that this new series will be nothing more than a political statement, which only makes it more worthless.