Ms. Marvel is one of the more recently created Marvel characters to make the jump from comic books to the MCU: where Iron Man and Thor were created in the 1960s, Kamala Khan made her debut in 2013, less than a decade ago.
With that in mind, you’re probably wondering… who is Ms, Marvel? Who is Kamala Khan? What does she have to do with Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel? What’s her origin story, what are her superpowers, and who are her biggest villains?
Who is Ms. Marvel?
Kamala Khan is a Muslim teenager living in New Jersey. She’s an aspiring artist, a YouTuber, and a huge fan of the Avengers – in particular Captain Marvel. In the new Disney+ series, Iman Vellani plays Kamala Khan/Ms Marvel in her first screen role.
She lives with her parents, Yusuf and Muneeba, and her older brother Amir; at school, her best friends are Bruno and Nakia, and the three have a slightly strained relationship with former-friend-turned-influencer Zoe Zimmer.
In a lot of ways, Kamala Khan is quite similar to the classic Spider-Man template: she’s a teenage superhero trying to keep her identity a secret, navigating two worlds as she tries to use her powers to help people while also dealing with normal day-to-day problems.
What is Ms. Marvel’s origin story?
In the comics, Kamala Khan is an Inhuman, which means she has a dormant alien gene. That gene, when activated, gives people superpowers – they’re a little bit like the X-Men, basically.
For the Disney+ television show, Marvel has changed Kamala’s origin story and superpowers a little bit. The Inhumans don’t really exist in the MCU – partially because of the poor critical response to the 2017 show that tried to introduce them, and partially because Disney’s recent acquisition of the X-Men during the Fox merger meant they didn’t need the Inhumans anymore.
As a result, Kamala Khan is no longer an Inhuman. Instead, she gets her powers from a special bangle, one that was once owned by her great grandmother. How the bangle gives Kamala her powers is one of the key mysteries driving the Disney+ series - it was revealed during the third episode that Kamala is part Djinn, which in the Marvel comics are an interdimensional group of aliens who inspired the Jinn from Islamic folklore.
What are Ms. Marvel’s superpowers?
In the comic books, Ms. Marvel’s powers are a type of shape-shifting (something of a metaphor, a visual representation of a teenager struggling to fit in). She can “embiggen” herself, which acts sort of like a cross between Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man and Mr Fantastic – one of the iconic Ms. Marvel images is Kamala reaching out to catch someone with a disproportionately huge hand. She’s also able to shapeshift to mimic different people and objects, and has the ability to heal herself after injury.
This has changed slightly for the television series. Kamala’s bangle gives her the ability to make “hard light” constructs – she can conjure glowing blue crystals, made of light but with substance. Sometimes, these constructs still take the form of big hands and suchlike, to try and maintain those iconic images.
What does Ms. Marvel have to do with Captain Marvel?
Before she got her own superpowers, Kamala Khan was a huge fan of Captain Marvel – so when she realises she has an opportunity to become a superhero herself, Kamala models herself on her biggest inspiration and becomes Ms. Marvel.
Iman Vellani, who plays Kamala Kahn in Ms. Marvel, is set to make the jump to the big screen and appear alongside Brie Larson in 2023 movie The Marvels. (That’s the new name for Captain Marvel 2 – the name was changed to reflect Kamala Khan’s involvement.)
Who is Ms. Marvel’s arch-enemy? Does she have a sidekick? Who is Red Dagger?
In her first comic book run, Ms. Marvel fought against the Inventor, a clone of Thomas Edison combined with cockatiel DNA. (That’s a type of parrot.)
Generally, though, Ms. Marvel doesn’t really have arch-enemies, with her stories often more character-based, tending to be about helping people day by day rather than saving the world. One character that is, arguably, closest to a villain for Ms. Marvel is Red Dagger – a sometimes friend, sometimes antagonist that Ms. Marvel disagrees with on how to approach superheroism. Aramis Knight (Into the Badlands) is set to play Kareem in the Disney+ Ms Marvel series, though it’s not clear if he’ll become Red Dagger in the television adaptation.
Otherwise, she’s teamed up a lot with characters like Squirrel Girl, Moon Girl, and Wolverine. Marvel is currently working on an animated series about Moon Girl (executive produced by Laurence Fishburne, a fan of the character since childhood), while a series that would’ve starred Milana Vayntrub as Squirrel Girl entered development in 2017, but has since been cancelled.
What’s the real-world publication history of the character?
The first Ms. Marvel comic was published in February 2014, with Kamala Khan having made a brief appearance in a Captain Marvel comic in August 2013. Both the character and the series were immediately popular, with the first collected edition of Ms. Marvel comics winning a Hugo award in 2015.
Kamala Khan, the first Muslim superhero to headline a Marvel comic book, was created in collaboration between editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie. Amanat and Wilson are both Muslims themselves, and a lot of Kamala’s characterisation was influenced by their experiences.
Have they ever tried to make a Ms. Marvel television show or film before?
Because of how immediately popular the Ms. Marvel comic books were, a television adaptation has been officially in development since 2018. The series entered more active development in mid-2019, after Captain Marvel had been released, and filming began in late 2020. The series was initially expected to arrive at the end of 2021, but was delayed until mid-2022.
It was also rumoured for a time that ABC (an American television channel owned by Disney) were working on a Ms. Marvel project even earlier than that, with screenwriter John Ridley believed to have started developing a Ms. Marvel series in 2015. Ultimately, the project Ridley was working on – which was never actually confirmed to be Ms. Marvel – was cancelled in 2019, when Marvel’s Television division was folded into the wider Marvel Studios production company.
Ms Marvel begins on Disney+ on Wednesday 8 June, with new episodes released weekly.