‘Good is Not a Thing You Are, it’s a Thing You Do’: An exploration of Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) as an authentic superhero who functions as a retaliation to Muslim stereotypes

Ahmad, Nyla (2019) ‘Good is Not a Thing You Are, it’s a Thing You Do’: An exploration of Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) as an authentic superhero who functions as a retaliation to Muslim stereotypes. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


In 2014, Marvel Comics published G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel #1. This comics issue was the first ever Superhero comic published with a Pakistani-American female, teenage superhero as the main protagonist. The incongruity of Kamala Khan in the medium and the genre highlights two core questions. Firstly, how Kamala Khan, as a character with unique identity markers, can be considered as an authentic superhero? Secondly, how does this characterisation exist in relation to existing representations and stereotypes of Muslims found in the genre, medium and wider Western context?
These are the two core questions I seek to answer in this thesis. To do so, I first explore the classifications of the medium of comics and the history of Islam and illustrated narratives. I follow this section by exploring the superhero genre, understanding Kamala Khan and the series in the multiple contexts it exists within. I posit that Kamala Khan is an authentic superhero and that her narrative is not ideologically opposed to teachings in Islam or the function of the medium or the genre. Instead Kamala Khan is a prime example of the superhero genre and builds upon a history of Islam and comics, and comics which aim to agitate a social change.
To answer the question of how Kamala Khan relates to existing stereotypes of Muslims in the Western world, I investigate three stereotypes specifically. I examine the historical basis for the view that all Muslims are anti-Western terrorists, the theological and historical foundations of the view that all Muslim women are veiled and oppressed. Lastly, I discuss the American stereotype that all Muslims are homogenised as Arab.
To contrast Kamala to these stereotypes, I provide an intersectional understanding of her identity markers, namely her race and gender. I present the character holistically and show that the cumulation of her characterisation, narrative and presentation disprove or debunk these stereotypes.
However, when the Ms. Marvel series is contrasted by other contemporary depictions of teenage, Muslim women in Western society, a glean of overt positivity and simplification is shown in how the series deals with the nuances surrounding female, Muslim identity. The series is didactic, and I believe it is so as to cater to a centred whiteness and to not interrogate the roots and nuances of the oppression of people of colour. Rather, the character of Kamala Khan shies away from these questions. I also believe the hesitation to present a form of Islam which could be seen as negative is needed for Kamala to fully conform to the standards of the superhero genre.
Lastly, I conclude my thesis by summarising my major points and discussing how the series has had a personal effect on my professional practice.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the electronic version of this thesis is not available for viewing.
Keywords: ms. marvel, comics, kamala khan, islam, muslims, marvel.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Spiro, Dr. Mia and Grove, Dr. Laurence
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Miss NM Ahmad
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-81374
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2020 15:25
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2020 15:25
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81374

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