The hard-hitting, dimension-hopping heroine America Chavez burst onto the comics scene just over a decade ago, but her iconic design and powerful personality has made her beloved by fans. Despite her relatively short comic book history, America is a favorite of cosplayers and fan-artists alike thanks to her fashionable assortment of patriotic jackets and her status as one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe.
The big brass at Marvel Studios took notice of her popularity, and she recently debuted in the film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. With America stepping up to the big time, here’s a guide to what’s going on with the MCU’s newest star-spangled star.
Who is America Chavez (AKA Ms. America)?
A relatively new character, America Chavez has racked up over 150 comic appearances since her introduction in 2011. Calling herself Ms. America Chavez, she debuted in Vengeance #1 from writer Joe Casey and artist Nick Dragotta as the co-leader of the new Teen Brigade, a short-lived line-up that clashed with the Young Masters of Evil. Although her iconic look and some of her powers weren’t incorporated into the character until later, America is introduced as an iron-willed but charming powerhouse with a strong moral core.
The codename Ms. America – which she frequently drops in favor of just using her name – makes America actually a legacy character. The first Miss America, Joan Dale, was created by Elmer Wexler for Quality Comics (and later purchased by DC) in 1941. Dale was known as a member of the Freedom Fighters and the Justice Society of America, but she’d later enter DC lore in a different way; after retiring, she and her husband became the adoptive parents of Hippolyta Hall, a significant character in The Sandman. On the Marvel side, Ms. America was Madeline Joyce, a teenage Golden Age heroine created by writer Otto Binder and artist Al Gabriele for Timely Comics in the 1943. Joyce appeared regularly in All-Winners Comics, joining the All-Winners Squad alongside Captain America, Bucky, and Namor.
After Vengeance, America Chavez didn’t appear for more than a year, resurfacing as part of the line-up of the critically-acclaimed Young Avengers run from Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Mike Norton in 2013. That series saw America getting a redesign courtesy of McKelvie, ditching her low-cut tank top for a series of star-spangled jackets and hoodies that have become her trademark look. Her new design also often incorporates a different red, white, and blue aesthetic, with a single white star linking it more closely on the Puerto Rican flag.
Since then, America has only grown in prominence in the Marvel universe. Thanks to her super strength and her unique teleportation abilities, America is a major asset for any team line-up, leading to her joining up with the Ultimates and the West Coast Avengers. She’s next set to add another classic Marvel franchise to her belt, joining the Defenders alongside Loki, Blue Marvel, and Tigra in Defenders: Beyond starting in June.
Notably, America Chavez is one of Marvel’s highest profile queer characters. Her sexual orientation is first referred to in Young Avengers, but she later gains a serious girlfriend in Alloy, one of her teammates on the West Coast Avengers. The pair split up at the end of the 2021 miniseries America: Made in the USA after revelations about America’s true origins cause America to need time to heal on her own.
Wait, What’s Up With Her Origin?
America’s origin story was first detailed in the pages of Young Avengers #14 courtesy of Kieron Gillen and guest artist Christian Ward, but thanks to the magic of comic books the details of her childhood have since been overhauled.
In the Young Avengers version of her story, America hailed from a dimension outside of time and space called the Utopian Parallel. She was raised by two superhero 'Amerimoms,' Elena and Amalia Chavez, who heroically sacrificed themselves to protect their dimension. Hopping around the Marvel Multiverse, America eventually made her way to the main Marvel universe on Earth 616 and decided to stick around as the hero Ms. America.
The recent miniseries America: Made in the USA, however, retcons this origin, giving America a new backstory that is far more terrestrial. In the new version, the Utopian Parallel is no longer a separate dimension but rather an island where America’s mothers worked as scientists researching Edges Disease, a genetic condition that afflicted a number of young girls on the island including their daughters America and Catalina.
America began manifesting her powers when her disease went into remission, causing the facility’s benefactor Mr. Gales to attempt to gain control of the girls on the island to use their powers for personal gain. Elena and Amalia died attempting to escape with their daughters, and Catalina was captured by Mr. Gales. America drifted away across the ocean, developing amnesia from the traumatic experience. She eventually washed up on Jones Beach and was adopted by a family in Washington Heights, New York, coming to believe the multiversal version of the Utopian Parallel and her mothers’ deaths as a trauma response.
As with any retcon, this new origin story clashes with multiple storylines in her early appearances, so it remains to be seen how some of her history will be reconciled with her new backstory. Notably, America: Made in the USA gives America a home base of sorts in New York City, a central location for many of Marvel’s heroes. Her new Washington Heights family is also stated to be Puerto Rican, making America’s connection to the Puerto Rican community more direct.
What are America Chavez’s Powers?
America Chavez is often her team’s bruiser, but her powerset is more interesting than that. She does fill that role well thanks to her flight, super strength, super speed, and invulnerability. Though those powers aren’t without limit, she has exhibited phenomenal feats of strength and speed in the past, reacting faster than the speed of light and at one point even trading blows with Thanos.
Her signature power, however, is the ability to punch through reality, creating star-shaped portals that enable travel through the Marvel Multiverse. This power allows her to teleport herself and others from place to place or dimension to dimension. In her first solo series, America discovered that she could also use this ability to travel through time.
Crucially, America’s star-punching also gives her an intuitive sense of her current place in the Multiverse, allowing her to navigate through dimensions. That skill, along with her teleportation ability, will likely come into play in her first appearances in the MCU.
Who is America Chavez in the MCU?
America has a handful of non-comics appearances via Marvel’s animated series and video games, but she entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a big way with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. She’s among the multitude of heroes who appred in th Sam Raimi-directed sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange, portrayed by relative newcomer Xochitl Gomez (The Babysitter’s Club).
Spoilers ahead for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but America Chavez is the throughline to the entire film - find herself on the run through the Marvel Multiverse with a mysterious force chasing her in attempt to gain her multiversal-portaling power. After seeing one alt-reality Doctor Strange die by her side, she finds herself connecting with our Doctor Strange - who, along with the new Sorcerer Supreme Wong - attempts to help her. The duo go to Wanda Maximoff (AKA the Scarlet Witch) for help, but soon discover that she's the mysterious force chasing America across the Marvel Multiverse.
Over the course of the film we (and Doctor Strange) learn of America's MCU origins and by the end of the movie finds herself safe from Wanda's machinations, and actually enrolled in Wong's sorcerer school - which brings to mind the current Marvel Comics series Strange Academy.
What’s Next for America in the MCU?
Beyond Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel Studios has been mum as to America’s future in the MCU. As noted above, the changes to America’s backstory in America: Made in the USA give her a simplified origin and ties her more closely with New York City. It also greatly expands her supporting cast, introducing her adoptive Sanchez family and her estranged (and similarly powered) sister Catalina. That could provide an opening for America to get further development in a solo Disney Plus series.
Another path forward for the character could involve plans for one of her main team affiliations in the comics: the Young Avengers. Young Avengers characters have been introduced frequently in recent Marvel Studios projects, including Kate Bishop in Hawkeye, Eli Bradley (Patriot) in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch’s sons Billy (Wiccan) and Tommy (Speed) in WandaVision, Cassie Lang (Stature) in the Ant-Man films and Avengers: Endgame, and even a version of Kid Loki in Loki. Other young characters like Black Widow’s Yelena Belova, Hawkeye’s Echo, and Ironheart in the upcoming Black Panther sequel could provide Marvel with a wealth of potential characters to work into the property.