Debunking Marvel Comics’ First Pakistani-American Born Muslim Female Superhero: Reading Religion, Race and Gender in Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)

  • Johannes A Smit University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Denzil Chetty University of South Africa
Keywords: Race, Religion, Gender, Contemporary comics, Social constructionism, Popular culture


Over the past decade, we have witnessed a comic book renaissance. The impact of this renaissance can be described as three-fold. First, we have seen comic books emerge as a compelling component of popular culture; second, as a “hybrid” form of texts and graphics, comic books have attained a new level of literary acceptance; and third, we have seen the advent of comic studies as an academic discipline in various higher education institutions. In addition, by drawing on myth and history, fantasy and reality, comic books have reproduced society’s values, ideals, prejudices, and aspirations, thereby producing various ideological contestations. It is within this context that Marvel Comics’ latest creation Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), portraying a first-generation American Muslim female teenager, born of Pakistani immigrants as the legendary Ms. Marvel – an American superhero – offers a unique opportunity to unpack the socio-cultural and political nuances embedded in comic books. Hence, by drawing on Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) as a case study, this paper seeks to provide a critique of the intersections between religion, race and gender in contemporary comic books. To do this, we employ “social constructionism” as an interpretive and analytical theoretical approach to a selection of scenes from the Ms. Marvel corpus. Our hypothesis is that the intersections between religion, race and gender as “played” out in Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) serve to foreground a socially constructed reality of religious (Islamic) bigotry; immigrant socio-cultural and political assimilation predispositions; and gender and power disparities embedded in both Muslim immigrant worldviews (internal) and American social ideals (external).