'Ms. Marvel' Disney Plus MCU Show: Powers, Comics, Cast for the Muslim Hero
The Marvel Cinematic Universe may have lost Spider-Man, but it’s primed to add another teen superhero with Ms. Marvel. At D23, Marvel Studios announced Ms. Marvel, a new live-action television series that will premiere on Disney+.
On Friday, on stage at D23 in Anaheim, California, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige revealed Ms. Marvel, along with two other new Disney+ shows She-Hulk and Moon Knight. Feige confirmed that Ms. Marvel will debut on the streaming service before entering the broader MCU.
“It is remarkably exciting for us,” Feige said. “You will meet her in her Disney+ series and you will see her in our films.”
(It’s also worth noting that Brie Larson, star of Captain Marvel, has previously expressed a desire to include Ms. Marvel in a sequel.)
This is big. Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, is one of the newer arrivals to the Marvel Universe. And she’s a groundbreaking character whose stories have been celebrated by readers since her debut not all that long ago in 2014.
For those who missed the Ms. Marvel train, here’s what you need to know to get up to speed on the MCU’s first Pakistani Muslim superhero, and exactly what her association is with Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel.
Who Is Kamala Khan? Muslim. Teenager. Fangirl. Inhuman.
Kamala Khan is an average New Jersey teenager. She lives with a strict immigrant family, struggles in school, has crushes, and spends her free time playing online role-playing games and reading fan fiction of her favorite superheroes. Her biggest idol is Carol Danvers, and when we first meet Kamala in the comics, she’s actually wearing a vintage Ms. Marvel hoodie from when Carol went by that identity.
All told, Kamala is pretty normal. But there’s one remarkable thing about her: She’s an Inhuman, a descendant of a race of alien-human hybrids. And one night, when she sneaks off to a party she’s not supposed to be at, a Terrigen bomb goes off across the river in Manhattan and the mist unlocks Kamala Khan’s Inhuman powers.
While hallucinating her idols — Captain America, Iron Man, and yes, Captain Marvel — Kamala wakes up with the power to alter her shape. When she finishes freaking out, she takes up Carol Danvers’ abandoned mantle of “Ms. Marvel” for her own and creates a new costume to save Jersey City from an immediate threat.
Thus begins the best and worst life she could have ever imagined, in some of the most exciting, fresh, yet gleefully old school “Marvel”-style comics since Spider-Man.
The brainchild of Marvel editor Sana Amanat, Ms. Marvel starred in her own best-selling series Ms. Marvel, written by G. Willow Wilson, which began in 2014 and ended this year. She currently stars in another solo comic book series, The Magnificent Ms. Marvel, written by Saladin Ahmed.
Ms. Marvel’s Powers: “Embiggen!”
Due to her nature as an Inhuman, exposure to Terrigen mist means her powers could have manifested in any number of ways. What she got in the Inhuman gene lottery was the ability to shapeshift, allowing Kamala to shrink or enlarge any part of herself including her whole body. She also has accelerated healing, though she needs to be in her normal state for that to kick in.
She’s not stretchy like Mr. Fantastic, but she has demonstrated flexible use of her abilities, including even mimicking inanimate objects and impersonating other people.
Her catchphrase, “Embiggen,” wasn’t her invention (it’s actually a Simpsons reference), but Ms. Marvel was referenced when the word was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary last year.
Ms. Marvel’s Friends, Allies, and Idols
Like Peter Parker, Ms. Marvel supports a robust cast of side characters of her own. Most important, she has her family, including her secular father Yusuf; overly-concerned mother Muneeba; and religiously devout brother Aamir.
Her best friend since childhood is Nakia, also a practicing Muslim. Her other closest friend and, for awhile, love interest, is Bruno, a child of working class Italian immigrants who settled in New Jersey.
When Kamala became Ms. Marvel, she lived out her wildest dream as a member of the Avengers. But when the events of Civil War II left her feeling disillusioned, Kamala left the Avengers and formed her own team, the Champions, alongside Miles Morales (Spider-Man), Viv Vision, Nova, Amadeus Cho (Totally Awesome Hulk), and a time-displaced Cyclops (long story).
In several issues of The Totally Awesome Hulk, Kamala joined the makeshift superhero team the Protectors, alongside other Asian-American heroes Jimmy Woo, Shang-Chi, Silk, and Amadeus.
Kamala looks up to more than Carol Danvers (aka, Captain Marvel), but Kamala learned in all the hard ways to never meet your idols. Though her first meeting with Carol (Ms. Marvel #17) was pretty much the stuff dreams are made of, her idol worship disintegrated during the events of Civil War II, when Kamala found herself at opposite ends with her personal hero.
Their relationship has since been repaired, and the two will team up together in a new series, Ms. Marvel Team-Up, which will hit stands in November.
It may seem crazy now, but not long ago there was a serious push for the Inhumans in the MCU. Generally understood as an ersatz for the X-Men, whose film rights belonged to Fox, Marvel was prepared to make Inhumans — a family of alien superbeings imagined by Jack Kirby in 1965 — the biggest thing in the world, with a film set for 2018. There had been an increased presence of Inhumans in the comics, and there were a bunch of Inhuman storylines on the ABC series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
But then, Inhumans downgraded into a television show on ABC that was swiftly canceled after its premiere in the fall of 2017. The Inhumans were never been heard from again in the MCU, and none of the Marvel films have ever acknowledged existence of the characters.
Fast forward to now, and Ms. Marvel’s Inhuman origin is a relic of Marvel’s ambitions for the Inhumans. It remains to be seen how much the Ms. Marvel television series will feature Kamala’s ties to the Inhumans, or even acknowledge them at all.
Casting Ms. Marvel
Due to the recency of the Ms. Marvel announcement, one can only presume casting is underway. Furthermore, the MCU has an established habit of plucking semi-obscure, on-the-rise actors to play its most important, younger roles. One can almost guarantee that that will be the case for Ms. Marvel.
And Ms. Marvel is a pretty tough nut to crack: As a Pakistani Muslim, the right representation from the right actor is crucial for a project as monumental as Ms. Marvel is bound to be. Furthermore, Kamala is an American teenager, so her actor will have to know, or at least embody, the dimensions of living as a young person of color in the western world.
Right now, one name who leaps out to me is Sophia Taylor Ali, a 23-year-old Pakistani-American actor born to a Muslim family with a number of television roles in her budding resume. Her biggest claim to fame is a recurring role on the ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy.
I’m not alone in this assessment, Reddit is pretty keen on her too.
Another strong potential for Ms. Marvel would be Linnea Berthelsen, a Danish-born, London-raised actor who is best known for her role as “Kali” in the second season of Netflix’s Stranger Things. Well-known geek artist BossLogic illustrated Berthelsen as Kamala Khan in 2018.
Of course, with the Ms. Marvel premiere likely years away, it may be too soon to even speculate over casting. By the time Marvel Studios gets around to finding its Kamala Khan, the best choice might be someone we hadn’t even heard of in 2019.
There is no confirmed premiere date Ms. Marvel on Disney+.