Ms. Marvel: Who is the Superhero Superfan?

A Noble Spirit Embiggens The Smallest Hero

Ms. Marvel:Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.

Ms. Marvel #2

A woman runs down an alley, chased by a gang that had attacked her. Pepper spray freed her, but now they’re gaining. She trips, and the lead pursuer raises a bat. A huge shadow covers them before something kicks him away. The woman looks up and sees a rapidly shrinking girl.

The girl’s arms stretch out to grab two gang members’ legs before recoiling, knocking them on their backs. The gang leader closes with the girl and punches her masked face. The outline of his arm is visible in her elastic skin before it snaps back, sending him flying into a wall with a broken arm. Ms. Marvel shakes her head to clear it and helps the woman stand.

Ms. Marvel is one of Marvel’s recent successes. She’s been an Avenger, led the Champions, and her series made our list of the Top 5 Superhero Gateways. So who is she? How did she get her powers? What is her connection to Captain Marvel? Let’s find out.

Marvelous Beginnings: Ms. Marvel’s Backstory

[Ms. Marvel is struggling with her powers, but spots someone drowning]
Kamala: [narrating] “There’s this ayah from the Quran that my father always quotes whenever he sees something bad on TV. A fire or flood or bombing. “Whoever kills one person, it is as if they have killed all of mankind. And whoever saves one person, it is as if they have saved all of mankind.
Ms. Marvel: EMBIGGEN! [grows giant-sized and dives into the water]
Kamala:When I was a kid, it always made me feel better.”

Ms. Marvel #2

Ms. Marvel debuted in Captain Marvel #14 in 2013. She was created by Sana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jamie McKelvie. Amanat, the child of Pakistani immigrants, drew on her life experiences growing up in New Jersey to give Ms. Marvel the same background.

Kamala Khan is a nerdy teenager who idolized superheroes, especially Captain Marvel. She was exposed to Terrigen Mist that activated her Inhuman ability to shapeshift. While figuring out her powers, Kamala unconsciously took Captain Marvel’s form and saved a drowning swimmer. The rescue inspired her to take up the Captain’s old identity and become Ms. Marvel.

The new hero fought many villains, including a terrorist called Kaboom, Inhuman supremacist Kamran, and The Inventor, a half-bird clone of Thomas Edison. Kamala finally met her idol shortly before the world was destroyed in the event Secret Wars and received her blessing to keep the identity.

Avenging Champion: Ms. Marvel’s History

Captain Marvel:Nice uniform. Not sure how I feel about the name. [Kamala stares at her] Are you… all right? You look a little stunned.
Kamala’s Narration:Be cool, be cool, be cool…
Ms. Marvel:I’m fine. I’m great actually. Totally not stunned.”
Kamala’s Narration:It almost works.” 
Ms. Marvel:EVERYTHING SUCKS EXCEPT FOR YOU!

Ms. Marvel #17

Ms. Marvel hit the big time once the Marvel Universe was restored. She joined the Avengers alongside fellow teenage superheroes Nova and Miles Morales

During the event Civil War II, Captain Marvel used another Inhuman to perform pre-crime arrests. One of Kamala’s friends was arrested and another was crippled in the crossfire. Her feelings about Captain Marvel were shattered, and she quit The Avengers.

She formed a team called The Champions with other teenage superheroes. The Champions believed that the adult heroes had mishandled superheroics and it fell to them to fix the problems, not an inaccurate view considering the boneheaded moves many heroes had made. The teenager’s leadership of The Champions helped her later repair her relationship with Captain Marvel.

Losing a fight during the event Outlawed plunged Kamala into a coma. Her injury caused the government to pass “Kamala’s Law” that banned anyone under 21 from being a superhero and created an enforcement agency called C.R.A.D.L.E. When she recovered, the furious hero led a rebellion against C.R.A.D.L.E. because they used her name for the law. She later exposed the higher-ups as supervillains.

Stretchy Superfan: Ms. Marvel’s Powers and Personality

Kamala:It’s like a villain museum in this bag! Shocker’s gloves. Adhesive X. Plant Man’s gun, and it’s the good Plant Man gun, too! The Animator he used against Sub-Mariner, not the Vege-Ray he used against Human Torch!
Coulson:You’re mistaken. That’s the Vege-Ray.
Kamala:No, it’s not! The Vege-Ray had a longer barrel. This is the one The Maggia made for him.
Coulson: [looks again] “Huh. You know, it might be the Animator…
Kamala:I lurk on every superhero fansite there is. I admin on two. I know my stuff.
Coulson: [begrudgingly impressed] “Clearly.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 3 #2

Ms. Marvel is a shapeshifter who specializes in stretching and altering her size. She can move faster by elongating her legs, harden her fists, and has a healing factor. To help control her power, she uses the word embiggen, which she swiped from The Simpsons. Amusingly, the character’s usage of the word helped get it added to Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Embiggening limbs is useful, but it isn’t her only trick. She can shrink for spy work, make herself paper-thin to get past locked doors, and transform into other people. Her body is also elastic, allowing her to endure big hits or use herself as a slingshot. Disney’s Ms. Marvel replaces those abilities with Green Lantern-esque constructs because they adapt to the screen without looking creepy.

Kamala was obsessed with superheroes before she became one. She can recite obscure trivia at the drop of a hat, ships several superhero couples, and wrote fanfiction about The Avengers even while she was a team member. Dig past her nerdy veneer, and you’ll find a modern day Peter Parker trying to please her traditional parents, live a normal life, and be a hero. Ms. Marvel is charismatic, clever, and has the best moral compass this side of Captain America.

The Actors Who Play Ms. Marvel

Kathreen Khavari – Avengers Assemble, Marvel Rising, Marvel’s Spider-Man
Akari Kito – Marvel Future Avengers
Sandra Saad – Spidey and his Amazing Friends
Iman Vellani – Ms. Marvel, The Marvels

Didya Get All That?

A superhero fan who joined her idols.

Image: Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. 

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