As the delightful Ms. Marvel series hits Disney+, many fans will be wondering which comics they can pick up to learn about New Jersey’s most famous hero. Since her debut in 2013, quickly followed by her debut solo series a year later, Kamala Khan has become a Marvel mainstay.
The Ms. Marvel title has been home to such incredible folks as Kamala co-creators G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, Saladin Ahmed, Minkyu Jung, and more. Recently, a new creative team took on the fantastic teen with writer Samira Ahmed becoming the first South Asian woman to write Ms. Marvel. Alongside Andres Genolet, Triona Farrell, and Joe Caramagna, the team crafted a wickedly fun and adventurous miniseries. To celebrate the collected edition’s upcoming release, Nerdist caught up with Ahmed to chat about the power of Kamala Khan, her love of the character, and the impact of the series.
Nerdist: This is your first comic, so what was it like to see those pages come back and your words come to life?
Samira Ahmed: It was truly amazing. I’ve always loved the cover process for my novels. There’s an artist and a designer who bring what’s in my brain to life. But with comics… Wow! I mean, the artwork was incredible. All the covers, the variants, everything was just so cool. And I love how collaborative it is, so completely different than writing a novel. And the artist, Andrés Genolet, just really brought some magic to the pages.
What was your relationship to Ms. Marvel before you wrote the comic?
When I first saw Ms. Marvel #1 I did one of those cartoon double takes. I was just like, “Woah, this looks cool and kind of badass.” And really it just had this super iconic feel. Just knowing that Ms. Marvel as a superhero was going to exist was not something I ever could’ve imagined. I was a kid in the ’80s and I did read some comics then but mostly like Archie Comics. For ’70s and ’80s kids, especially for girls, it was one of the gateway comics. I was really into Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman on TV too. So then to see Kamala and what Willow was doing, even now I’m not really able to capture in words how important and meaningful that was.
We don’t love superheroes because of their powers, you know? Or at least that’s not where the attraction comes from for me. To be a superhero is about making a choice, and that’s so clear through every arc that Kamala’s been in. It’s all about making those choices in difficult circumstances. And in that way, we’re drawn to them because they’re like us. Especially because I write for young adults, that’s what drew me to Kamala. She is so much like us. She’s a girl like all the other girls. She’s dealing with parental expectations that don’t meet her own expectations. She’s dealing with crushes. And like me, she loves to eat. So it was a slam dunk!
After discovering Kamala Khan for yourself, what was it like to see her become this cultural icon?
I remember the pictures when (Ms. Marvel co-creator and current exec on the TV series) Sana Amanat went to meet President Obama. It felt so overwhelming and just so cool. I was imagining how Sana must have felt at that moment. I know how I would have felt, I probably would have fainted. She, of course, had poise!
I consider Kamala sort of like the early Spidey days. There’s just something so endearing about that kind of hero and then the fact that she became this icon. It’s this character from a similar background as me and so many of our readers. It was just so cool to see because growing up in this country, if you’re non “normative” you’re going to face some troubles because of how majority culture often looks at you. But the things that are different about Kamala, she didn’t succeed in spite of those things, she succeeded in so many ways because of those things.
With such a deep connection and history with the character, I’m guessing that getting to write Ms. Marvel meant a lot. How has that experience been?
It’s wow, just wow. When my agent came to me and said, “Well, Marvel’s interested in talking to you about doing a Ms. Marvel run,” it was another one of those cartoon double take moments, just like when I saw the very first cover. Then I got to talk to my amazing editors. It’s one of those completely surreal experiences where I’m writing the script, and then getting the inks, then seeing the colors, we’re going back and forth on all the editing and then I see the brilliant lettering. And even while I’m doing it, it’s sort of like, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” It was almost like, “I really wish I could do this… but I am doing this. Oh my gosh, this is so surreal.”
Something I adored about this series was the multiversal adventure. How much fun was that to explore?
I love the concept of the multiverse. I’m actually writing a multiverse novel that’s not a superhero story. It’s amazing, the concept of the multiverse, and then all of a sudden there was this boom in multiverse stories. I was like, “Oh my god, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, this is amazing! Kamala’s getting her own Kamala-Verse!. And to me it does what comics sort of do in their best version of themselves, which is put this character into a completely wild and unknown situation. Have them be completely flummoxed. Have them sometimes make wrong choices. And then have them—especially with Kamala and the help of her friends—figure out what she should do. It just was so much fun.
I love how much Kamala loves eating, snacking, and just enjoying food. It feels so rare for a teen girl in the media. Why was that such an important thing for you?
I love it too. She’s unapologetic about it. I don’t ever want this character to be like, “Okay, I can only eat two carrots for lunch.” I wanted to make sure she was like, “Okay, yes. What is this Keema Paratha in the fridge? Yes! Let me get some mango lassi! Some chips!” I love that about her too. I love seeing a character eat on the page. It’s a huge part of our culture. I mean, you will never go into the house of a South Asian without them telling you, “You’ve got to eat something.” Every time I go home to visit my parents, my mom still sends me back to my house with food, even though I’m a full-on adult! And it’s a huge part of American culture too.
Have any of the reader responses to the story particularly moved you?
I did a talk at a neighborhood school about Ms. Marvel. I told them how comics are made. The age range was amazing. It was basically from three-year-old kids to 16-year-olds. There was a mom there with her four-year-old. The mom was wearing a Captain Marvel jacket and the little girl was wearing a Miles Morales t-shirt. So I signed her books and she was so excited! Then the mom saw me on the street a couple days later. She said, “I just have to tell you that my daughter is sleeping with the comics you signed like they’re a stuffed animal because she loves this character so much.”
The collected edition of Ms. Marvel: Beyond the Limit hits shelves on June 28, 2022.