Graphic by Shenuka Corea

Creator of Kamala Khan Speaks on Diversity in the Marvel Universe

Get to know Sana Amanat, the co-creator of the first Pakistani-American Muslim female Marvel superhero, Kamala Khan.

Apr 2, 2017

On March 9, Sana Amanat, the Director of Content and Character Development at Marvel, was invited to NYU Abu Dhabi as part of the Social Impact Leaders seminar hosted by the Office of Community Outreach, organized in collaboration with the Women’s Leadership Network, the Strip Club and the Muslim Students’ Association. Along with fellow editor Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, Amanat created the first Pakistani-American Muslim female superhero, Kamala Khan, who is the protagonist of the latest Ms. Marvel comic book.
In her speech, Amanat described the journey of the first Ms. Marvel character Carol Danvers, who debuted in the 1968 Marvel Super-Heroes number 13 as a member of the United States Air Force and later starred in the first Ms. Marvel in 1977, and the impact she had on female representation within the Marvel universe.
Amanat began her presentation by sharing her experience growing up as a misfit in a South Asian family in New Jersey without a female superhero to relate to. Struggling to fit in and find a place as a Muslim-American female, Amanat expressed the need for more diverse female superheroes. Amanat positions Kamala Khan as an important addition or counterpoint to the original blonde haired and blue eyed Ms. Marvel. Khan has now become a character that strongly resonates with teenagers from South Asian, East Asian and African-American backgrounds. While Danvers is a fighter pilot able to fly at a speed six times the speed of sound and release explosive blasts of energy through her fingertips, Khan’s role goes beyond superpowers, as she manifests a global subconscious desire for representation. Amanat expressed this desire as one that she now furthers through her work at Marvel — a publisher that, according to Amanat, has always told stories through metaphors.
Delving into Kamala Khan’s persona and characterisation, Amanat revealed that she strived to address several stereotypes surrounding South Asian Muslim girls with Khan’s first appearance in the 2013 Captain Marvel number 14 in August 2013. Here, Khan wears a red scarf and a bracelet with her name spelled out in Arabic script. She is brown-skinned and has shape shifting abilities.
To Amanat, stories are a powerful art form to reflect on gender representation and empowerment.The creation of a character like Khan allows for different people to connect and interact across cultural stereotypes. While Khan is a Pakistani-American Muslim girl from New Jersey, her story and ideals engage a broader global community.
Marvel now boasts 23 comics with central female protagonists, including She-Hulk and Black Widow, in response to the increasing need to represent half of our global population. Amanat left the audience with many answers and a few open-ended questions about the impact of art and storytelling in addressing gender inequality and religious stereotypes, issues that continue to pose challenges on a global and interpersonal level.
Archita Arun is Creative Editor. Email her at
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