When Marvel Comics’ new “Ms. Marvel” series began, the title character, teenager Kamala Khan, had embarked upon the quest that all adolescents must eventually undertake: To discover and determine who she is and who she wants to be. With the first arc of the series complete, Kamala has made great strides in her quest for her own identity while undertaking a second quest — to protect her hometown of Jersey City from the forces of evil.
â€¨In the debut issue, by writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, Kamala was exposed to a cloud of Terrigen Mist released by the Inhuman King Black Bolt. That exposure activated her dormant Inhuman genetic heritage, transforming the high school student into a shape-shifting polymorph. This ability to become anyone gave Kamala a sense of purpose, inspiring her to take up the former mantle of her favorite superhero, Carol Danvers.
CBR News spoke with Wilson about the events of the inaugural “Ms. Marvel” arc and her plans for the series moving forward, which include the villainous Inventor declaring war on the new Ms. Marvel, a team-up with Wolverine, and encounters with the Inhumans.
CBR News: A lot happened to Kamala in this initial arc, but it seems one of the biggest things was that she’s finally discovered who she wants to be, and that appears to be a person who helps others.
G. Willow Wilson: Yeah, that’s right. She has that very paladin-esque personality type. I think that really comes through in some of the most recent issues where we really see where the rubber meets the road and she has to make some tough decisions about who she’s going to be and the sacrifices that will entail.
One of the things that resonated with me is her inner monologue, where she reveals that the lessons from her parents that really stuck with her were the ones about standing up for and helping others. If she hadn’t acquired super powers, might she have gone into public service like police work, teaching, medicine —
Possibly. Because she’s so young — she’s 16 — this is really about discovering what she wants out of life and who she’s going to become as an adult. So it’s as new, strange, scary and interesting for her to discover these things about herself as it is for us. She’s definitely developing that very service-oriented personality that would fit into one of those roles, though.
Discovering who she wants to be and forming a secret identity has put Kamala at odds with the rest of her family. It’s clear that they love her, but are they seeing her for the impulsive and good person she is? Or is their fear of what she might become influencing the way they interact with her?
I think, as in most families, her brother and her parents know her better than anyone else. At the same time though, they know what she’s capable of, and that scares them. They know she’s going to be a risk taker. They can sense that in her, and that frightens them on some level because you don’t like to think of your kids in that kind of situation. You don’t like to think that your child may ever be unsafe or may put themselves in some kind of situation where they’re at risk, even if you know it’s for the greater good or they have these wonderful talents that they’re using. That matters less to you as a parent. It’s more, “I’ve got to protect them! They shouldn’t be the ones that are putting themselves at risk. I have to put this barrier up so they’re always safe and protected and I know where they are.”
There’s a lot of parental anxiety there. I think everybody loves a hero, but you don’t necessarily want that hero in the family. [Laughs] Because that means taking on a lot.
A good example of that which immediately comes to mind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and the episode where her mom found out about her heroics.
Yep. [Laughs] I know exactly what scene you’re talking about. I think that’s totally on point.
This first arc also gave us a glimpse into the family of Kamala’s friend Bruno. We found out that he has a screw up brother named Vic, but because Vic’s actual name is Vittorio and he refers to their grandmother as Nonna I’m guessing that Bruno and Vic come from a traditional Italian family.
They do. They come from a sort of a very classic New Jersey Italian family. We’ll get a little more sense of their background.
I wanted to fill in the gaps with a lot of the supporting characters so we get the sense that this is not just a story about one person, happening in isolation. I wanted to give a sense of the diversity of the whole community; so that it’s not just broken down into some hackneyed category of immigrant versus everybody else, or white versus non-white. We see that there are subtle variations within all of those categories that cross those lines.
We also learn that Bruno is quite intelligent. He invented Super Snot, an Unstable Molecules-like polymer that Kamala used on her Ms. Marvel costume. Just how smart is Bruno? Is he comparable to, say, a young Peter Parker?
I think he’s probably up there. Bruno is an interesting character because he is super smart, but he comes from a working class background. He does not have access to a ton of fancy resources. I think there’s a Peter Parker parallel there for sure.
In many ways, for me, Bruno is one of the most fun characters to write because he’s full of these interesting quirks. He has this very laid back Jersey guy personality, but at the same time, he’s super smart. I haven’t quite decided what level of genius he might be. I don’t think he’s a Tony Stark-level inventor of craziness, but he definitely has a real knack and a drive for science. I think that’s going to prove very helpful to Kamala.
Bruno played a significant role in the initial story, but Nakkia, Kamala’s other close friend, seemed to disappear after a couple of issues. Will we see more of her in the second arc?
Yes, Nakkia will be coming back. I just got done writing what will be issue #8, where she plays a very significant role. I think it’s going to get tougher and tougher for Kamala because Nakkia is, of course, one of her good friends and she doesn’t yet know what’s happening. So that’s going to be a real sticking point.
Bruno now knows. He has the inside scoop on what’s happening to Kamala and what she’s becoming, but Nakkia does not. That’s going to be a real point of contention.
The first arc also showed us that Jersey City is plagued by its own super criminal menace in the form of the Inventor and his gang. Are the Inventor and Mr. Edison, the bird man we see at the end of issue #5, one and the same?
Yes, they are. I don’t want to say too much about that, but we will discover how all these things are linked. The Inventor is a really interesting character because there are a couple of twists with him. We’ve actually gotten the first one in that he is sort of this weird, giant bird amalgam. [Laughs] There’s another one that we’ll find out later. He’s more than meets the eye, and then he’s more than meets the eye again.
Is it too early to talk about the inspiration of the character?
No, we can talk about that. I’ll try to be measured in what I say.
What inspired the creation of the Inventor and his gang, then?
I really wanted Kamala’s first arch rival to mirror her own complexity and fit with the story. I wanted the character to be very unexpected and off the wall. I think there are a lot of elements in the series that are visually sort of kooky and almost Miyazaki-esque at times, thanks to Adrian Alphona’s amazing visual representation of the city and his tongue in cheek sight gags.
â€¨I really wanted to up the ante and have a character that was visually a lot of fun to look at, and very unexpected; where there was some humor at play, but they were also a real threat. That’s why the Inventor ended up the way that he did.
When I was rereading, I caught the G.M-Os cereal gag.
Yeah that was all Adrian’s. He put it in our 5-page story in the “All-New Marvel NOW!: Point One” book. I thought it was so funny, we had to bring that back. [Laughs] So I put them in the script next time. I was like, “Clearly she has to be eating G.M.-Os!” [Laughs]
In issue #6 and #7, the Inventor steps up his crusade against the new Ms. Marvel, and Kamala teams up with Wolverine. What was it like writing Logan? How did it feel bouncing him off of Kamala?
He really fit. We were talking about who we might have guest star in those issues, and I thought that I really wanted Wolverine. Number one, because it was symbolically appropriate, and number two, because I’ve wanted to write that character since I was about 10. [Laughs] So this is sort of a lifelong wish fulfillment thing for me.
â€¨We’re very used to seeing Wolverine in his own element, and in the next couple of issues we take him completely out of his element and put him in Kamala’s, which is very different. It was a lot of fun. We get to see an interesting side of Wolverine, and given what’s going on with him and his powers, it was a very interesting pairing and an interesting way to get Kamala to shoulder some of that responsibility. I think you would expect Wolverine to take the lead in that team-up, but because of what’s going on with Wolverine, Kamala ends up shouldering a lot of the responsibility.
Is there sort of a tragic element to the story, since Kamala has just discovered and is learning about her healing factor and Wolverine has lost his?
There completely is. It’s one of those interesting and fun things to write, where the reader knows more than some of the characters do, which is a lot of fun. When we’re going in, there are certain things about Wolverine’s situation that Kamala does not yet know, so it’s very poignant. It’s really cool. I don’t want to say too much about it, but I think fans of both characters will be pleased.
Kamala’s adventures with “Wolverine” unfold in “Ms. Marvel” #6-7, which are being drawn by Jake Wyatt. What does he bring to the book as an artist?
I looked at his work in some detail before we started writing and I was like, “This guy can do crazy, maze-like environments. So I’m going to put this whole thing in a sewer.” [Laughs] He can draw these Tetris-like environments, and he took them and ran with them. The result is really cool and a lot of fun to see it all kind of unfurl out on the page. I was really excited to work with Jake, and I’m glad he’s having this much fun.
Finally, Adrian Alphona returns for October’s Issue #8, where you tie into Kamala’s Inhuman heritage with a story that involves Lockjaw. That, of course, begs the questions of how much does Kamala know about the origin of her powers, how much does she know about the Inhumans, and what impact would discovering her “Inhumanity” have on her?
Kamala starts to find out more about what her background might be. She, like most people, does not know a whole lot of the details surrounding what the Inhumans are, what the Terrigen Bomb was, and how it affected her. She is going to start looking for her tribe, and that’s going to have consequences. We’ll definitely start to see that unfold.
So a girl who’s already spent so much time trying to discover who she is has a whole other element to get in touch with.
Yes. She’s got a whole other set of family problems that she doesn’t even know about yet. [Laughs]
It’s been such a fun ride for me, to watch this all unfold and to see the response of readers. I love the day after “Ms. Marvel” issues come out because I get all these tweets from people who catch Adrian’s hilarious sight gags, all of the pop culture references, and stuff like that. So it feels like such a fun community endeavor, and it’s really exciting to see it take off.