Well, it would appear that today is all about relatively unknown actors being cast in big comic book roles. Following on from this morning’s news that Tom Sturridge has been tapped in the title role of Warner Bros\DC Comics and Netflix’s massive TV series adaptation of The Sandman, THR brings word that Marvel Studios has found its Ms. Marvel to lead the upcoming live-action Disney+ series.
According to the report, 18-year old newcomer Iman Vellani has been cast in the role of teenage superhero Kamala Khan. And I really mean “newcomer” as up until this morning Vellani didn’t even have an IMDB page (it’s there now but as barebones as can be). The actress confirmed the news on her personal Instagram account saying that she’s “Speechless and excited!”.
Debuting in Marvel Comics in November 2013, Kamala Khan was created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, and made history as the first Muslim character to ever get their own Marvel comic book. Amanat conceived the character originally when recalling an amusing story to Wacker about her own childhood growing up as a Muslim American. The duo told Wilson – also Muslim – about the story which prompted them to create the character of Khan as a “desire to explore the Muslim-American diaspora from an authentic perspective.”
A 16-year old Pakistani American teenager from New Jersey, Kamala discovers she’s an Inhuman during the “Inhumanity” story arc in which Terrigen Mists are released throughout the world, triggering the terrigenesis transformations in those who possess latent Inhuman genes. Already idolizing superhero Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, when Kamala develops polymorphic abilities (she can change her body’s shape on a molecular level), she adopts Danvers’ original hero codename Ms. Marvel as well as taking costume cues from her idol’s original design and becomes a hero herself.
Much of Ms. Marvel’s acclaimed storytelling is not just about her costumed crimefighting though, as her Pakistani American family and culture – so often at odds with the lifestyle of the average American teen – plays a huge role. To this end, Vellani is herself the daughter of Pakistani Muslim immigrants in Canada, so the casting is actually pretty spot on. Last year the actress also took part in a teenage-focused Toronto International Film Festival committee in which she focused on Hala, “a film centering on a Pakistani American teen pulled between her family and life in the West”.
Coincidentally, Hala is also a planet in the Marvel universe. Specifically, the homeworld of the Kree, the alien race so pivotal in the creation of Captain Marvel. How’s that for the universe tipping its hat?
The first volume of the Ms. Marvel comic was a gigantic success and won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. It would be the start of a meteoric rise in popularity for the character, taking part in major crossovers and also becoming a prominent member of the Champions superhero team. Most recently, Ms. Marvel was also the lead character in the Marvel’s Avengers video game where she was voiced by Sandra Saad.
As for the upcoming Disney+ series, we still don’t have a release date yet. What we do know is that screenwriter/standup comedienne Bisha K. Ali (Four Weddings and a Funeral) will be serving as showrunner. Marvel has also already lined up a string of talented directors to helm episodes, including Bad Boys For Life’s breakout duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah and two-time Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.
Last Updated: October 1, 2020