The Most Important Female Character in the Marvel Universe


As a lifelong comic book fan, the proliferation of comics into mainstream society in films and television has been more than welcome. Obviously, it hasn’t come without some hiccups, but for the most part Marvel has been spectacular in bringing their world many of us grew up with to a much broader audience.

But I started thinking about Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe and what has gone right, and what has gone wrong. The idea of how Marvel has historically represented female characters is something that has always been a work in progress. However, it got me thinking about which female characters have been the most significant over the years.

This led me to the internet and some research on what other writers and blogs have done on the subject. Imagine my surprise when a search of “most important female Marvel characters” returned a litany of lists of “strongest female characters” and lots and lots of “sexiest female Marvel characters”.

This is beyond disappointing to me. Some of the most important characters in the MCU are female, and deserve recognition for that, and not just how some artist draws their cleavage. This is disheartening, especially when you consider just how many comic book readers are female, and how many more go to the movies.

With so many stories and characters in the Marvel Universe, it is easy to lose track of what exactly is going on. You have to really be a hardcore reader to keep up with all the new and ever-changing characters that are out there. Figuring in the connection between the comics, films and TV shows, this is a character that could be what puts the MCU and Marvel Television over the top in terms of broad appeal. This is all about Ms. Marvel.

Just to be clear, this is not about the Carol Danvers character set to launch in a solo MCU film in 2018. That in no way diminished the importance of Captain Marvel as a character. Having a female hero that kicks as much cosmic-scale booty as Danvers does is a great step forward for female heroes. In fact, a case could be made that she is one of the most powerful female characters of all time.

But in terms of importance and significance, the edge here goes to Kamala Khan. Khan first appears in Ms. Marvel #14 in 2013. Although a relatively new character, Khan’s arrival has been a huge positive for Marvel, as they have created a character with a much more broad appeal than most.

Khan gained her powers my exposure to the Terrigen mists. If you watch Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. you have some understanding how exposure to the mist by humans with Inhuman DNA mutates and brings out their latent super powers. Khan was one of these humans. Once she realized she had these powers, she took on the moniker of Ms. Marvel after her idol, Captain Marvel. You see Kahn is and was a hardcore comic book fan prior to being exposed to the Terrigen mists, even writing fan fiction. She was sort of like a huge NFL fan finally getting a chance to play for their favorite team.

However, the reason Khan is the center of this conversation isn’t only because of her powers. While Morphogenics, enhanced healing and bioluminescence are all cool, her significance extends well beyond that. Oh, but make no mistake, she is very much a hero, and understands how using her powers can help others.

Kahn is a teenager, and even before her powers manifest represents all comic book fans. The writers do a great job crafting Kahn as a member of a fandom, unabashed and proud. When Kahn first meets Spider-Man, she is starstruck, and becomes a full-on fangirl for the web-slinger.

Additionally as a teenager, as well as a girl, she reaches a demographic of fan that Thor and the Hulk could never hit, regardless of how many copies they sell. Teenage girls who love comics love Kahn. Perhaps the bigger point in this however, is that Kahn is a Muslim-American. Adding these multiple layers of diversity to such an empowered and likable character. You might not notice if you weren’t paying attention, but comic books haven’t always embraced the notion of diversity on any level. Kahn checks off all the boxes for what a perfect heroine should be.

Khan’s character represents what the world is. Colorful and diverse, and epitomizes youth and rabid fandom in all the best ways.

If I am Marvel, not only do I continue to have Kahn evolve and grow as a character in print, but I find a way to incorporate her into their television and movie channels as quickly and fully as possible.

For all the individual parts that Marvel has done right when dealing with diversity and their characters, it is always in pieces. Kahn brings together all the best parts of these and mashes them into a confident young hero that has embraced her diversity on all levels and is proud of it.

What young person dealing with feelings of isolation or being left out can’t rally to a character like Kahn?

So, in the final analysis, I encourage all of you to not only embrace Kahn as a character, but as a person. And be proud of who you are through her.

The fact that she is a butt-kicking, female, teenage, fangirl, Pakistani-American, Muslim hero with cool super powers and gobs of confidence makes her the perfect Marvel hero.

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