Oh, My Pop Culture Islam: Ms. Marvel’s Respectful Portrayal of Religious Characters

Comics and religion don’t often mix, and that’s why it was so surprising when the new Ms. Marvel burst onto the scene and became such a smash hit. Kamala Khan (i.e., the current Ms. Marvel) and her Muslim family and friends provide a respectful, realistic portrayal of a family of faith that anyone from a religious background—especially one grounded in a strong family and ethnic tradition—can relate to. Of course such a story could have been written about any religious family, because the same thing could have come across if the Khans had been Greek Orthodox Christians like my family, or Polish Catholics, or Orthodox Jews, or Indian Hindus, etc. etc. But it’s extremely important that the series instead chooses to normalize a family of darker-skinned Muslims, as they have been such a persecuted group in the Western world lately. Realizing that a group different from your own is, in fact, simply human Just Like You is the first step in encouraging empathy and in changing attitudes, and Ms. Marvel does a great job with that. Now, I’m not Muslim, nor do I know an awful lot about Islam. I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian with a priest for a father, and I grew up hearing some very Islamophobic opinions from him. It took me a long time to get over that, but it wasn’t until reading Ms. Marvel that I realized that Orthodox Christians and Muslims might actually have a lot more in common than I thought. It’s also just lovely to have representation of a religious character in comics, in which faith is organically woven into the story without being preachy or just surface-level!

Note that I’ve only read through the latest trade paperback of the series (Volume 6, up to issue #12 of the current run). But Saika tells me these points still hold for the latest issues. Mild spoilers up to my current stopping point below!

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(via Marvel)

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Fanfiction Fridays: but do i want to know? by iswearitt

The [locker] door bursts open with a metallic clatter, and an innocuous piece of paper flutters to the ground. Kamala reaches down and snatches it up, eyes already burning with righteous anger.

“Don’t people get sick of sticking mean crap in your locker because you decided to wear hijab? It’s been over a year, I wish they’d get over it already,” Kamla says, unfolding the piece of paper and scanning it.

“Some people have nothing better to do,” Nakia replies, turning to empty her book bag into her locker. “It doesn’t bother me, you know.” It does, of course it does, but Nakia has always had a thick skin, so she doesn’t let it show.

Kamala lets out a strangled noise of death in response. “Nakia,” she whispers reverently. “Kiki. Read this. Please.”

Nakia faces Kamala, but her retort dies on her lips at the expression on Kamala’s face. It’s two-fifths mischief and three-fifths unrestrained glee, which is a combination that Nakia’s afraid of, at least when it comes to Kamala. She reaches out and takes the paper from Kamala’s outstretched hand carefully, like it’s dangerous.

If the look on Kamala’s face is any judge, it might as well be.

Nakia sighs and begins to read what appears to be a letter.

And stops abruptly, eyes going wide, face flushing with heat, gaze flickering between the letter and Kamala’s face. “What.”

Kamala nods, bouncing up and down in place. “Yes. Yes, it is. “

“This is–” Nakia can’t say it. She can’t say it aloud, but Kamala evidently can.

“It’s a love letter,” she says with relish. “From some mystery admirer to you.” Kamala grins again, shutting Nakia’s locker for her and grabbing her arm to drag Nakia down the hallway to the open door beyond. “This is going to require a sleepover.”

The Marvel Universe has been a bit of a mess lately thanks to yet another all-encompassing event, but even Civil War II hasn’t been enough to drag Ms. Marvel‘s quality down below “pure awesomeness”. And yet, despite its protagonist’s love of fanfiction, I don’t often find myself reading fanfiction set in her Jersey City-shaped corner of the Marvel Universe. After a (semi-)recent reveal in Kamala’s series, however, I found myself racing to AO3 to see what fanfic I could find supporting my new Ms. Marvel OTP.

Spoilers through issue #9 of Ms. Marvel below the jump.

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Kamala, Carol, and the Marvelous Meetup We’ve All Been Waiting For

ms marvel logoMarvel’s Secret Wars event is in full swing… in some comics. Due to publishing schedules, however, a few stragglers, identifiable from the “LAST DAYS OF” appended to their titles, are still putting out stories leading up to the grand collision of multiverses. These “Last Days” series generally follow their protagonist as they try to prevent the collision, or at least rescue or protect as many people as they can. They also try to wrap up whatever storyline was happening, because once they catch up to the Secret Wars event, that comic is essentially over. A new book with the same or a similar title may crop up in a month or two when the apocalyptic event has blown over, but creative teams will likely have changed, and it’s also generally bad form to leave readers hanging. Anyway, while most Last Days have come to a close, Ms. Marvel is still stuck in the midst of them, leaving Kamala bearing witness to a cataclysmic planet-to-planet collision while just trying to take care of Jersey City and protect her family. Don’t worry, though, there’s good news.

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Five Characters that Lady Geek Girl Wishes Were Pansexual

pansexual pride flagDecember 8th was Pansexual Pride Day and as a proud pansexual myself, I wanted to mark the occasion by talking about pansexuality in geekdom. Except… there isn’t much pansexual representation in geekdom, and I’ve already written about the few characters who have been identified as pansexual. Gay and lesbian characters are still barely represented in all of pop culture, and bisexual and transgender characters rarely, if ever, grace our sphere of geekdom. So while it’s not much of a surprise that other lesser known sexualities are not represented, it’s always nice to dream of a day when more queer characters will exist in our media. Today, I decided to pick five characters that I would love to see come out as pansexual. Just to clarify, these are characters I wish would end up being pansexual. This does not mean that I think they necessarily are pansexual or are presented as pansexual.

Without further ado, here, in no particular order, are five characters I wish were pansexual.

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Sexualized Saturdays: The Difference Between Sexy and Sexualized

Somewhere in the dark, shadowy, and very wide valley between “body positivity” and “objectification”, there’s a herd of lost, confused people stumbling about blindly and shouting that feminism is some contradictory bullshit. Lest those poor souls waste away down there, I think it’s time we illustrate just how big and treacherous and sexy that valley is.

Thanks to movements like Escher Girls and The Hawkeye Initiative, which bring attention to objectification through humor, the geek community is becoming more vocal about the problematic ways that women are depicted in certain comics, manga, and video games. The problem, of course, isn’t unique to illustrated or computer-generated media, but because artists aren’t limited by trifling little things like biology or the laws of physics, they can pull off fascinating maneuvers like the boob sleeve:

This bread dough I'm smuggling has developed sentience!

This bread dough I’m smuggling has developed sentience! (gif via knowyourmeme)

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On Identity & Origin Stories: Ms. Marvel #1

Ink: One week ago, Ms. Marvel (2014) #1 was released, after months of fanfare from comic news websites, blogs, major news outlets like HuffPo, NYT, and AJE, and, like, a whole bunch of people on Tumblr. Two days ago, Marvel announced that the issue had sold out its first print run, proving as popular as everyone said that it would be. Saika and I had the pleasure of reading it last week, and we want to share our feelings with you.

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A New Ms. Marvel: Selling Out?

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You probably heard back in November that a new character was taking on the moniker of “Ms. Marvel.” That character is one Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim superheroine from New Jersey, the creation of two artists/writers who are themselves Muslim (Sana Amanat and G. Willow Wilson). Kamala made her first appearance in Captain Marvel #14 back in August of last year and is a huge fan of Carol Danvers. In fact, according to Kelly Sue DeConnick, “she is very deliberately placed in a position where she sees Carol protecting civilians from Yon-Rogg.” When Kamala discovers her own powers, she chooses to adopt the Ms. Marvel title in honor of her idol.

300px-Ms._Marvel_Vol_3_1Kamala’s first 2014 appearance and her formal debut as Ms. Marvel was in All-New Marvel NOW! Point-One #1, a comic that served as an intro for a number of characters. She now headlines the third volume of Ms. Marvel, which will debut in February. So why am I talking about this? It’s not like she’s the first Muslim superhero on a major imprint, because we’ve had Simon Baz. She’s not even the first Muslim female superhero, if you count Dust, M St. Croix, Faiza Hussain, and others. Again, why am I talking about this?

Because she is so popular. Let me modulate that by saying that she’s popular among the set of people who read Captain Marvel comics, but Captain Marvel #17, in which she is featured, did completely sell out its initial run, inspiring hope for the success of Ms. Marvel Vol. 3. However, there’s a concern to be raised: Does Kamala Khan sell out issues because she’s a sellout? Put another way, is she really the counter to Islamophobia that Muaaz Khan of the Guardian claims her to be?

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