When Bisha K. Ali heard Marvel was going to be bringing Ms. Marvel into the MCU (Marvel Cinematis Universe) she knew it was something of which she wanted to be involved. Not only was she a Marvel fan a writer (Loki) she was also a longtime reader of the Ms. Marvel comic books.
The ‘Verse! Squad, Awards Radar’s superhero/sci-fi/podcast team sat down to speak with Ali. They had already been covering the series on their weekly podcast and were prepared to learn more about the talented woman behind Marvel’s coolest new superhero.
The conversation was covered topics from Ali’s own origin story from a video gamer and a storyteller to breaking into Hollywood, then onto joining Marvel, and incredibly to her role as Head Writer of Ms. Marvel. (Listen to the full interview below.)
“My relationship with the comics, I read them in they came out before I was ever a TV writer,” Ali explained. “I had a really immediate relationship with those comics, because the first time I’d read a comic book that featured someone was so many similarities to me personally. But also, treating them as a matter of course, her superhero and so to speak, was not necessarily as a result of her racial religious identity, but all other things created the fabric for who she is. and who her character is on a really basic fundamental level. I don’t feel like I’d seen that before that point. There’s also just the visual, the very visual reaction that you have when you open a comic book and you suddenly see someone be like, ‘Oh, I know that person!’ because they’re my neighbor or my cousin or my sister or me, that’s a very different experience that I haven’t had before. And so I’ve always had like this long standing relationship with it.”
At that time she never imagined that one day she would be telling Ms. Marvel’s (aka Kamala Khan) story herself as one of the youngest head writers for any Marvel series.
“I remember when I got the phone call – the exec called me up and she said, “So, I know you’ve got your flight booked for London, but can you make sure to return because we want you to come back and be the head writer on Ms. Marvel.’ And I was like, ‘Huh, what?’ I couldn’t believe it. I was really just in shock.” Ali recalled. “It was a very strange moment, a very quiet moment for me. And then just this internal silence for me.”
The main goal for Ali was to tell a great superhero story, which anyone who has watched the series know she succeeded at. While the reception has been incredible (98% on Rotten Tomatoes), it is still disheartening that some fans cannot see past what makes Kamala different as a character, to recognize all the similarities we have.
“When I hear people say like, I’m surprised by how relatable this character was. And when I know that they’re not talking about teenager they’re talking about her being Muslim and being Pakistani American because they’re overtly stating I’m surprised I’m able to relate so much. I’m like, part of me died. You guys, everyone here can relate to a raccoon that can talk and a tree that says one line and can emote. And yet, it’s so shocking to you that you can relate to someone who could be your neighbor!,” said Ali.
It is obvious that this world still needs a lot of work. Luckily there are series like Ms. Marvel that will hopefully open minds and hearts by looking past the surface level traits we possess. The series exposes people to cultures, homes, families, and experiences which fundamentally are still very much like their own if they take the time to see it. It also happens to be quite a kick-ass entertaining superhero tale at the same time.
Be sure to listen to the full interview with Ali – she was delightful. The ‘Verse! Squad (Bridget Brogan, Norma Felker, Lucas Longacre and Emilia Yu), cover a lot with Ali; the difference between Kamala’s powers in the comic books and on the series, working with the ever-charming and talented Iman Vellani, taking the series across the globe from from Jersey City to Pakistan, video games, and so much more. They close with our Furious 4 questions, a lightning round that presented Bisha with some very tough choices.
‘Ms. Marvel’ now streaming in its entirety on Disney+.