The best selling graphic novel for the month of October was Ms. Marvel Vol. 1. It also ranked second in the New York Times Best Sellers list for graphic novels upon its debut. Considering the competition, that’s an impressive feat. The trade paperback was up against incredibly popular competition like Batman and Hawkeye, and popular new debuts like Moon Knight and Southern Bastards.
Looking at that competition helps reveal why it’s no surprise at all that Ms. Marvel is selling big. What every other book on the top ten list had in common was that they all had a lot in common. They are all series that feature a homogenous set of characters and that are largely told by creators from the same demographic. They are all comics that represent business as usual. Ms. Marvel is something entirely new.
There was excitement for this series well before it debuted. Networks picked up the story of Marvel's new comic featuring a young, Muslim girl in New Jersey and helped elevate the story to the public eye. No matter how the series turned out it was bound to receive attention for the simple fact that Kamala Kahn was very different from the boys club that dominates the superhero genre.
Kamala's reflection of diversity is an important factor in the comic's success. Marvel and DC Comics have both made efforts to include a broader spectrum of people within their comic books, but both publishers are still dominated by straight, white males. The success of Ms. Marvel reveals that there’s no reason for that specific group to remain the core demographic of superhero comics. It shows that readers are hungry for stories about different people with different experiences.
Perhaps more importantly it shows that readers also desire diversity amongst their creators. G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona bring a much needed sense of perspective to mainstream superhero comics. Wilson’s words and Alphona’s art are both confident and possess clear voices. Over the course of this first volume alone, they have revealed themselves to be significant talents, proof that women can make superhero comics every bit as well (if not better) than men. Wilson and Alphona, along with collaborators like Ian Herring, Jacob Wyatt, and Jamie McKelvie are telling one of the most exciting superhero stories on the stands every month.
The quality of the title is certainly enough to set it apart as being something special. The visual storytelling is experimentive but always clear and the plotting has created a fun, but emotionally impactful story. I teach a variety of high school classes in November about comics as different grades cover texts like Watchmen, Persepolis, and American Born Chinese. As part of the class they receive a recommended reading list which always includes one ongoing superhero comics. This year I selected Ms. Marvel to take that spot for every class. It’s just that good.
Perhaps the single best quality that Ms. Marvel possesses and the one which explains why this comic is in such heavy demand upon its initial release as a graphic novel are the ideas the story presents. There is a beautiful sequence in the second issue where Kamala Kahn explains her philosophy and why she chooses to become a hero. When presented with a terrifying situation, she chooses to run toward the danger and help people. Given the ability to help, she believes she must. It’s not complicated, but it is a difficult lesson to learn and a significant part of growing up. In a few panels, Wilson and Alphona craft a scene that invests readers in Ms. Marvel and the ideals (and idealism) she represents. Not since Steve Ditko drew Amazing Spider-Man has their been such a potent and well told superhero story of adolescence and the choice to become a responsible, moral person.
Ms. Marvel is the best selling graphic novel of October and the series doesn’t appear to be slowing down at all. Readers are interested in this wonderful, new character that has been brought to life by Wilson, Alphona, and their collaborators. Kamala Kahn isn’t just the focus of stories that are fun and pop off the page; she’s breaking through walls and showing the world that superheroes are for everybody.
It’s no surprise everybody wants to read about her adventures.