Iman Vellani joined the MCU as Kamala Khan in last year's Disney+ series Ms. Marvel. Now Vellani’s relationship with Kamala Khan is evolving, as the actress puts on her writer hat for Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1.
Now in the comics, Ms. Marvel has had an interesting year. Her recent death and revival were controversial for a variety of reasons. So it's been a sticky time for the character, but maybe that means it's the perfect time for a new voice behind her.
Can a superhero actor write a comic series about the character they play? How did Iman Vellani become a Marvel Comics writer, and what was her first issue like? Should more MCU actors join in the fun? Let’s examine these questions as we break down the latest chapter in Ms. Marvel’s story.
Iman Vellani’s fangirl cred
Like many of the people reading this article, Iman Vellani is a huge Marvel fan. Some of you might be rolling your eyes, because plenty of movie stars have claimed to be comic book fans, but Vellani is different. Ever since her casting as Kamala Khan was announced, there have been plenty of stories about her obsession with Marvel.
According to Ms. Marvel producer (and Kamala Khan co-creator) Sana Amanat, Vellani enthusiastically showed off her Avengers collection during her Zoom audition. “Me and Jenna Berger, my supervising producer, we were both in awe of her collection. Her room was just covered in Avengers paraphernalia, and she opened up a closet and it was more Avengers paraphernalia,” Amanat said in a Decider interview.
During a red carpet interview for the premiere of Ms. Marvel, Vellani revealed that she texted Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige to complain about the Earth designation the MCU was given in the 2022 film Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. “No, I mean, I’d like to say, the comics are 616. I don’t believe that the MCU is 616. As much as Kevin Feige can make us think that it’s 616, it is 199999,” Vellani said.
Kevin Feige isn’t the only person Vellani has nerdy debates with. During an interview on Late Night With Seth Myers, Vellani confessed that she uses an anonymous account to argue with Reddit users about Marvel.
In many ways, this proves that she was the perfect person to play Ms. Marvel. From the moment she was introduced, Kamala Khan has been portrayed as a fangirl, in awe of the superheroes that live in her world. Vellani and Kamala share that same sense of wonder, making it hard to see where Vellani ends and Kamala begins.
How Iman Vellani became a comic book writer
According to Sana Amanat, Vellani’s enthusiasm is a big part of how she became a Marvel Comics writer. During the Women of Marvel panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2023, Amanat recalled an on-set story about Vellani's writerly instincts. “Iman use to show up on set with a crazy book of ideas. It was kind of creepy and strange (laughs). We would sit in video village, which she was not supposed to do because she did not have a chair in Video Village, and she would run through ideas. She’s so smart and so talented. On the way down I said, 'Iman why aren’t you just writing? You should be writing a comic,'” Amanat recalled.
According to Amanat, Vellani’s initial response was disbelief. The young actress asked if anyone would actually let her write a comic. “We made it happen. I reached out to C.B. (Cebulski). I was like, 'Is this something that’s possible?' I think Sabir Pirzada has been helping through the process and helping her hone in on the millions of crazy ideas she has. She knows more than most people on Marvel Comics history. It’s insane.”
During an interview with Marvel.com, Vellani spoke about putting the book together. “ A lot of the scenes that we wrote for this comic, I had already written in my journal a long time ago. There were just things that I was pulling out and using, things from my own experience…because my life had changed so drastically in the last three years and so had Ms. Marvel's in the comics. So I wanted to incorporate a lot of what I learned throughout this entire process into her book,” Vellani said.
“The fan base is going to get to know me a lot better, not only as the person who plays Ms. Marvel, but a person who knows her very well and is a fan of these comics—and not just Ms. Marvel comics! All comics! We've been inspired by Sandman, Silver Surfer, a lot of the old X-Men books. There's so many different homages in this book. I'm just so honored that they're letting me do this in the first place. Yeah, it's wonderful,” Vellani continued.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant!
What happens in Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1?
Iman Vellani isn’t the first actor to write a comic book about a character they’ve played. Paul Dano, Danny DeVito, and Nicole Maines have recently written comics starring the Riddler, Penguin, and Dreamer. However, Vellani is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe star to write about her character in Marvel’s 616 universe. So how did the book turn out?
Prior to this limited series, Kamala Khan has been having a rough time. First, she was killed by the villain Rabin, then she was resurrected by the X-Men. After being revived, the X-Men told Kamala that she was a mutant – news she is still coming to terms with. Before she could process all of that, the evil organization Orchis attacked the X-Men’s Hellfire Gala and framed the mutants for a series of crimes against humanity.
Not only has Kamala learned she’s a mutant, but she’s learning this information during a period where mutants are being hunted and persecuted. Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1 picks up from here, as Kamala tries to deal with all of this change. The heroine finds herself torn between multiple worlds. Is she a teenage girl, a mutant, a hero, or just Kamala? How can she juggle all of these at once?
On top of all that, Kamala is on her first big mission for the X-Men. Because Kamala’s X-gene hasn’t been activated yet, Orchis is unable to track her. As a result, the X-Men have asked Kamala to go undercover at Orchis’ Empire State University program. Kamala recently went undercover at Oscorp to keep an eye on the former Green Goblin Norman Osborn, so being discreet is familiar territory to her.
The right writer for the job
Vellani and Pirzada did not have an easy task. On one level, the writing duo had to tell an entry level story, something that could work as a jumping on point. At the same time, they had to tie it in with Fall of X, the current storyline running through all the X-Men books. This was in addition to referencing Kamala’s recent death in Amazing Spider-Man. How do you manage all of that while still telling a compelling story that stands on its own?
Vellani and Pirzada pulled it off. By focusing on Kamala’s inner turmoil and personal struggles, the story felt personal and focused. It would have been easy to get lost in all the X-Men drama, but somehow this feels like the next chapter of Kamala’s story. Kamala’s anxiety over telling Bruno about her death and resurrection felt like it was as important as Orchis’ hunt for the X-Men. This is important in a Marvel Comic, where the heroes’ personal dramas have been the backbone for the universe since the days of Stan Lee.
Does this mean that more MCU stars should write comics? I think that’s the wrong question, because in this case we need to look at Iman Vellani as a fan rather than an actor. As a longtime fan of the Marvel Universe, Vellani knew how to tell a story. She knew the sensibilities of a Marvel Comic, the pacing, and the voice. It also helps that like Kamala, Vellani is a young Pakastani woman trying to make her way in the world. She was able to add a sense of authenticity to the story.
Over the years, there have been debates about fans writing comics. Some people feel fans are too attached to the characters and that a story will flourish if a professional writer is able to approach the material with some distance. I don’t think that’s always the case. The important thing about fans writing comics is the passion. When someone loves the characters and the universe they’re writing, it shines through the page. Vellani loves the Marvel Universe, and the book is better for it.
None of this is meant to take away from the contributions of her co-writer Sabir Pirzada, or the art team of Carlos Gomez and Adam Gorham. The entire team put together a fun book. I’ve had a lot to say about the bizarre way Marvel handled Kamala Khan’s death and return, but last week I wrote that if Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1 was a fun book, then the entire affair might be worth it. While I’m not quite ready to say that Marvel handled things the right way, I am pleased to say that Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant is a great book, and I hope Vellani has a bright future at Marvel Comics.
Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1 by Iman Vellani, Sabir Pirzada, Carlos Gomez, and Adam Gorham is now out and available to read.