Marvel’s Jersey City Superhero Ready For Her Barrier-Breaking TV Debut

Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, hails from the Garden State. But the young superhero represents more than just New Jerseyans in the MCU.

Ms. Marvel
Iman Vellani stars as Kamala Khan in "Ms. Marvel" on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

With a full list of superheroes based in New York City, one of New Jersey’s own is ready for the spotlight.

Kamala Khan is set to make her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut when Ms. Marvel, titled after the character’s alias, premiers on Disney+ on Wednesday, June 8. The 16-year-old Khan hails from Jersey City, and her hometown plays a key part in the six-episode streaming series—if a creative advertisement on the New Jersey Turnpike is any indication, which shows Khan sitting atop a “Welcome to New Jersey” sign.

The young superhero represents more than just New Jerseyans, however. Khan, played by 19-year-old Pakistani-Canadian actress Iman Vellani, is the first Muslim superhero and the first character of South Asian descent to lead an MCU series or movie. Khan was also the first Muslim Marvel character to headline her own comic book.

“It’s not really the Brown girls from Jersey City who save the world,” Vellani’s Khan says in Ms. Marvel‘s official trailer, setting up the coming-of-age series.

Khan made her paneled-page debut in Captain Marvel #14 in August 2013. She was created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, and writer G. Willow Wilson—a Garden State native who chatted with New Jersey Monthly last year.

“I had classmates from all over the world,” Wilson, who grew up in Marlboro and converted to Islam at 21, said when explaining the influences behind her work. “I was one of the very few white kids who weren’t also the children of immigrants, and tons of my classmates were South Asian, East Asian—so to me, that’s what normal was.”

Wilson initially worried about hateful reactions when she was asked to create the female, Muslim hero. While Wilson’s concerns were ultimately proven right in corners of the internet, Ms. Marvel comics enjoyed incredible success, including over 50 issues and 10 compilations, such as Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal and Ms. Marvel Volume 9: Teenage Wasteland, winners of the Hugo and American Book awards, respectively.

Now, Khan’s small screen debut—created by head writer Bisha K. Ali and directed by a team led by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah—is here as Marvel continues to increase its representation efforts.

“I’m so glad that Marvel’s providing space for a character like Kamala to exist and to just take up space and tell a very specific story about a very specific girl,” Vellani, who is making her own, real-life screen acting debut, told CBC News.

Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel takes in the New York City skyline from the Jersey side of the Hudson River. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

Khan is also the most recently created character to star in their own MCU series or movie. Her Disney+ story will slightly vary from the one told in the comics.

While the live-action version is still about a young, Avengers-obsessed fangirl finding her way through typical teenage situations before becoming a hero herself, Khan and her powers and origins have been altered for television. In the comics, she can shift size and shape; her giant fists are a trademark in illustrated form. In the series, however, it appears that a magical bracelet will project some sort of cosmic energy, allowing Khan to throw oversized punches and move about Jersey City without stretching her own skin.

Unlike other MCU characters who were first introduced on Disney+, viewers know when they will see Khan next after Ms. Marvel wraps up on July 13. The series sets up the events of The Marvels movie in 2023, which stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. Khan’s costume in the Disney+ trailer is a clear homage to Captain Marvel’s.

Before Khan teams up with Danvers, however, she’ll have to come to terms with her role as a barrier-breaking, adolescent superhero. She’ll do so in Jersey City, making Ms. Marvel a must-watch in the Garden State.

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