Stan Lee once said that "the Marvel Universe is the universe outside your window." It's a sentiment that Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel co-creator Sana Amanat is working to make reality.
Amanat, who is a director and editor at Marvel Comics, told Inquirer.net that while growing up, she didn't find characters who looked like her and while working on the Captain Marvel title featuring Carol Danvers as the superhero formerly known as Ms. Marvel, she found the opportunity to remedy that. Working with editor Stephen Wacker and writer G. Willow Wilson, Amanat created Kamala Khan, a Muslim Pakistani-American teenager who, upon exposure to the Terrigen Mists, becomes the size-shifting hero Ms. Marvel. The character got her own book in 2014 which has been both a commercial and critical hit as well as marking the first time a Muslim superhero has had their own title.
"It's been incredible," Amanat said. "She's grown so much in the last four years and the diversity of our fanbase alone is so impressive. They all love Ms. Marvel. It goes to show we have a really great story with great creators."
That diversity of fanbase comes at a time when more diverse heroes have been appearing in Marvel stories, including a female Thor (Jane Foster,) Asian-American Hulk (Amadeus Cho,) Hispanic Spider-Man (Miles Morales,) female Iron Man (Riri Williams,) and black Captain America (Sam Wilson.) Though even with these expansions to the Marvel universe, Amanat said there is still a long way to go to create a more inclusive roster of characters.
"We've accomplished quite a bit, but we have a ways to go," Amanat said. "We have to promote the diverse characters across the platforms in different formats. We are bringing in creators of different backgrounds to tell stories from a different point of view, particularly the minority characters."
Some of those stories be told in Marvel's new animated feature film entitled Marvel Heroes: Secret Warriors. The film, which will launch as a series of six four-minute digital shorts ahead of the full film coming to the screen in 2018, will feature some of the biggest up and coming heroes in the Marvel Universe -- including Ms. Marvel, Miss America, Squirrel Girl, and Quake. Amanat previously told Buzzfeed that the largely female roster will serve to give young women characters to look up to.
"I think it's incredibly important that we tell young women and young girls that they have this incredible power within themselves, and that they have heroes out there [who] ... they can look up to, especially in these times."
And it isn't just diversity of characters that Amanat is working on. She told Inquirer.net that she also wants to expand the diversity of comic creators as well.
"As we expand our audience, we want to bring in different creators," she said. "How about a disabled superhero, or one who is trans? What's that like? But we need the right voices. Our gates are open, but we need to do it right.
She went on to explain that one of the ways that diversity will happen is through people self-publishing their work, an avenue that is also continuing the creative cycle by inspiring the next generation of artists and creators.
"It's a great thing for us because it allows us to find the creators," Amanat said. "I hope that the fact there is more content means more people will find comic books. Celebrate the characters you love, write big, bombastic stories. It's a really interesting art form for any generation. We're not introducing it to the kids, to get them into visual storytelling."