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Why Marvel Changing Kamala Khan's Powers Makes Sense

Ms. Marvel: Kamala Khan (2019) trade paperback

Some are upset that Marvel changed Kamala Khan's powers for the upcoming Disney+ television series. Her powers changed from stretching to energy constructs. Those people are wrong. They should be celebrating the power change and I'll tell you why.

The trailer for Ms. Marvel (2022) was released recently and it proves that Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel is going to be unlike any other Marvel Studios project before it. 

The live-action show is based on the comic book character created in 2014. She's the first Muslim character in Marvel Comics to headline her own comic book. She was created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie. 

The comic is ground-breaking and the first volume of Ms. Marvel won the Hugo Award for the best graphic story in 2015. Her character quickly developed a devoted following and she's been featured in video games, animated shows, and several action figures. She's awesome. 

Who is Kamala Khan?

In the comics, Kamala is a sixteen-year-old Desi girl from Jersey City. She's a quirky teenager who idolizes superheroes but especially loves Carol Danvers known by her superhero name Captain Marvel. Kamala possesses a latent gene from a group of cosmic beings called Inhumans. When exposed to a special mist known as Terrigen the Inhuman gene gives humans superpowers. In the 2013 "Infinity" comic book event the secret Inhuman city of Attilan was destroyed while floating over the Earth and a cloud of "Terrigen Mist" covered the city. It gave Kalama and several other people superpowers. 

In Kamala's case, it gives her the ability the shift and change the shape of her body at will. It not only allows her to stretch but can also make all or part of her grow larger or smaller. She can become a giant or small as an ant. She often uses her power to enlarge or "embiggen" (a clever Simpsons reference) her fists and feet to deliver a powerful punch or kick. Kalama can also change her appearance and body to look like someone else.

After getting superpowers she becomes a superhero and calls herself Ms. Marvel in honor of her hero. She even has a poignant moment where she transforms herself into a blonde white woman in the mistaken belief that she doesn't have the right "look" to be a superhero. Her powers are central to her transformation into a confident, but still dorky young woman and superhero.

What Are Kamala Khan's Powers in the Television Show?

In the upcoming series coming to Disney+, her powers are vastly different. Instead of changing her body Ms. Marvel creates constructs made of light similar to Green Lantern. She can use them to create radial blasts, kinetic pushes, shields, and discs she can step on. The show even features her signature giant "embiggened" fist.

The powers are completely different and a lot of comic book fans have been disappointed by it. Including myself. That is until I thought about it more closely.

Why Did Kamala Khan's Powers Change For the Show?

The first big change is the origin. A while back Marvel was pushing Inhumans hard. It was speculated that Marvel Comics was trying to pivot away from mutants since Fox owned the live-action movie rights to mutants. The rumor was that Marvel was hoping by getting rid of mutants would stifle the merchandising potential of any Fox projects.

So starting in season two of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. they introduced Inhumans and planned for a spin-off show and a big-screen movie in 2019. In the comics, they introduced the idea that the Terrigen Mist kills mutants and set out to kill off the characters in the comics. 

But Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios was never keen on the idea and canceled the movie in favor of a TV show. The result was the disastrously bad Inhumans show. That along with a bunch of other failures led Marvel to go 500 feet away from anything even close to Inhumans.

Now her powers seem to come from her bracelets which may be alien in origin. But why no stretching?

First, while stretching looks great in the comics it looks goofy in live-action. Ask anyone who's watched the Fantastic Four movies of the 90s and 2000s and they'll agree it looked silly. And that was the height of special effects technology of the time. Now imagine that on a television budget.

Even the co-creator G. Willow Wilson said she never intended the character to work on the big screen. "I think there're some characters who are very much set up for the big screen; they're very naturally sort of cinematic," Wilson told Polygon in 2019. "But with Ms. Marvel, we really weren’t interested in creating something that had very obvious film potential ... She’s got very comic-booky powers. God bless them trying to bring that to live-action; I don’t know how that’s going to work out in a way that doesn't look really creepy." She's right. It would look creepy.

Second, Marvel always tries to go with a unique look for its characters. While some characters have similar or identical powers they change the look to make them thematically different. For example, Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron has a blue light around him while Makkari in Eternals creates a sonic boom and is surrounded by cosmic energy whenever she runs. 

Take the Mandarin's ten rings. In the comics, the character has a set of rings he wears on his fingers. They changed them to rings around his wrists (bracelets really) to make him a visually different villain for the movie. So it makes sense that, with Mr. Fantastic coming they decided to change Kamala Khan's powers to make them different.

Third, it wouldn't be the first time a character in the comics would change for the movies. The most obvious example is Mantis, who first appears in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol II. She's vastly different from the comics. In the comics, Mantis is a master martial artist with incredibly powerful psychic abilities. She can take down superheroes like Captain America and Doctor Strange with ease. In the movies, she can sense emotions. That's it. So it's not unusual for Marvel to change the characters.

Fourth, Kamala Khan's powers are different even in the comics. DC Comics has Green Lantern and the Green Lantern Corp that create green energy constructs at will. Marvel Comics only has a few minor characters that have similar powers. Quasar has Quantum bands that pull energy from the Quantum universe to create objects. Doctor Spectrum is a character created for the Squadron Supreme which is a pastiche of prominent members of their rival Justice League. So Kamala having energy construct powers not only make her unique in the MCU it makes her unique in all of Marvel Comics. That's a huge honor.

The six-episode limited series Ms. Marvel premieres on Disney+ on June 8, 2022. So, I'm sorry we won't get the image of Ms. Marvel throwing a giant fist into a group of bad guys. But this is the best thing to happen to Kamala Khan. Taking away the goofy-looking stretching and giving her a unique look and power is just the right thing for the Desi from New Jersey. 

About the Author
Maurice Mitchell has been a passionate science-fiction fan of movies, television, books, and comics since age five. He and his twin brother Nigel created the site "The Geek Twins" to share that passion. Maurice has written and created infographics for sites like The Geek Twins and About.com. His work has been featured on sites like Business Insider, io9 Slashfilm and more.
Read more of his posts | Follow him on Twitter @Mauricem1972 

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