It’s not easy to introduce a new superhero to the storied Marvel Universe, much less get them to a similar status as Captain America, Spider-Man, and the rest. But that’s just what writer G. Willow Wilson accomplished last year when she created a new Ms. Marvel alongside artist Adrain Alphona.
Alias Kamala Khan, this new teenaged crime-fighter was mainstream comics’ first Muslim superhero, but there was nothing exotic about her. Kamala’s Pakistani family – all of whom have different ideas about religion and culture – was portrayed just as lovingly as Peter Parker’s Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Thanks to vibrant characterization and compelling storytelling, Kamala immediately became a critical and commercial hit. Rounding into year two, Wilson and the rest of the Ms. Marvel creative team steered Kamala straight into her first crossover event. This is a major test for any new Marvel superhero, but Kamala not only survived Secret Wars, she ended up on the Avengers.
Speaking of Avengers, Wilson also spent this year introducing the world to A-Force, the first all-female Avengers team. A-Force rose out of the ashes ofSecret Wars to inaugurate a new era of female superheroes, even as Wilson’s writing proved women Avengers suffered as much infighting as their male counterparts.
After Ms. Marvel’s successful launch last year, Wilson was approached by Avengers editor Daniel Ketchum about creating an all-female Avengers team. Wilson made sure to go beyond simply throwing every female Marvel superhero into a pot, making sure to include some personal favorites like the X-Men’s disco-powered Dazzler and Nico Minoru of the Runaways.
Like this year’s Ms. Marvel stories, A-Force started out knee-deep inSecret Wars. The story began in the alternate reality of Battleworld, a mash-up planet where the Marvel superheroes were hurled in between their universe’s destruction and recreation. Battleworld was divided into different principalities; A-Force came out of Arcadia, a city designed to resemble an Amazonian feminist paradise. But Wilson used Arcadia and the team itself to interrogate the very notion of feminine/masculine difference.
“I think the most interesting thing is not about how it changes but how it doesn’t change,” Wilson says. “I think any time you have a super team, whether it’s all men or all women or both, what you have are people with very unique strengths that aren’t always totally compatible. You see that in the way Tony Stark and Captain America butt heads in the Avengers. What’s cool about a book like this is we can show there’s not some essential gender difference that would make an all-female team completely different from all male team.
“You have the same combination of people vying for leadership, people having very different ideas about what direction it should take, and also about the uses of power. I think that’s a huge theme in superhero books across the board: When you have this massive power, how do you use it responsibly? When do you intervene? Those are the big questions. What I think is cool about doing it with an all-female team is seeing women in those positions, making those decisions. They are often as uniquely flawed and various as they would be if it were two men butting heads…”