Samira Ahmed Talks about Writing ‘Ms. Marvel: Beyond the Limit’

Ms. Marvel has a new comic series out! In the five-issue Beyond the Limit, Kamala must deal with unexpected multiverse shenanigans as she visits her cousin Razia in Chicago. Writing her in this series is author Samira Ahmed, who is the first Desi Muslim to write Ms. Marvel!

We were fortunate enough to speak with Samira Ahmed for The Nerds of Color, covering her own fandom of Kamala Khan, what writing her means to her, and how our young hero might be changed by her new adventure.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. Setup spoilers for Ms. Marvel: Beyond the Limit follow:

Thank you so much for speaking with us today Samira! First of all, how are you doing?

I’m doing great! Today Ms. Marvel: Beyond the Limit is officially in comic book shops right now. And I was so lucky that I got to visit a couple in Chicago and it was just so much fun to see her finally, so I’m doing great. Thank you, Swara. You can tell I’m very excited to finally I was just so excited when I got to go to the comic book shop and pick it up and hold it, my God.

Amazing! So I just want to ask just generally, what does Kamala Khan mean to you personally as a South Asian and Muslim woman and why do you think she resonates so much with fans generally?

So I remember when I first saw G. Willow Wilson’s very first cover, for the number one, and I guess I must have seen it online like on social media or somewhere for the first time and I was like, not only is it so iconic, everyone who is a Ms. Marvel fan immediately knows what I’m talking about. It was so iconic and it kind of gave me goosebumps because when I was a kid. I mean, I love superheroes. Like all kids, I was a kid. I was like one of the early immigrants. My family came in 1972. And in the ’70s there really were not any superheroes of color around especially not any South Asians or any Muslims. And when I was a kid I read like Archie and Wonder Woman. I loved watching cartoons that were only on Saturday morning. I love superheroes but there was nothing like that at Marvel and so when Willow and Sana Amanat came out with Kamala, I was like, just blown away and I was just so excited for like all the young kids out there who are going to get to see just a little bit of themselves a hero because I write novels for kids young adult fiction in middle grade, and I’m just one of those people who believe so strongly that every child should be able to see themselves as a hero on the page. That means so much to me. And it means so much to me now to be a part of this incredibly iconic character that that Willow and Saladin have written and I think the reason so many people love, Kamala is because she’s really a pretty new superhero, but I feel like she has such this devoted and awesome following and I think the reason people are is because she’s a regular teen, she’s like a girl like all the other girls, but she has a family that she loves. Sometimes she doesn’t always get along with them. Sometimes she sneaks out of the house when her parents say she can’t go to a party and she really wants to she has a crush on her best friend and then doesn’t but sort of secretly does it. Oh, it’s so awkward. She’s got loyal friends who are always at her side but also will tell her the truth. You know? They don’t shy away from saying like, like, “I don’t think this is cool.” Or, you know, “Maybe you should look at things in a different way.”

That’s especially Nakia.

Yes! And I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that that character trait from her is going to continue in this miniseries. I think just the fact that Kamala is like this regular girl who happens to have a very extraordinary job is part of what people really love about her. It’s what I love about her. She’s quippy and funny and has like, also kind of cringeworthy moments like any team does. And it’s like, God, “Why do I have a zit right now?” or, “While I’m in the middle of trying to save the world?” I just love those human things about her. That’s what makes her human qualities are what makes her such a cool superhero.

Absolutely. And I just got to say to finally have an actual South Asian Muslim writing her mainly in the comics is so great to see. What’s that like for you to essentially be the first, particularly with her being Pakistani and you being Indian?

I mean, honestly, it’s a pretty incredible feeling. I feel so grateful that I can do this. During Willow’s series they actually talked about this a little bit when she goes to visit Pakistan. Yes, I’m Indian, I was born in India, but half my family is in Pakistan. Because at partition, half my family went to Pakistan and then my grandmother and grandfather’s part of the family stayed in India, but some of their first cousins and siblings went there to Pakistan. And the thing that’s unbelievable is how they didn’t get to see each other basically. These families were divided. So to be able to have this nod to my family in there too was so important to me. And my cousins are all texting me and like with pictures of their kids picking up like issue number one, and they’re just, it’s just such a joyful experience. I mean, I’m just so so grateful that I was able to do this, and just, I mean, I don’t know it’s hard to really say how much it really needs to be put it into words. But it’s those goosebumps that I had the first time I saw Willow’s very first issue, which are just with me all the time. Like what now that I’m getting to write it like when I went to the comic book shop to see and I was like, That’s my game, like right there. And I get to, I’m signing copies for people and I don’t know, it’s just it’s pretty amazing.

That’s absolutely wonderful. And it’s so evident just from you talking about it, even besides your exact words. Thank you. And thank you for sharing the history of your family. So, you’re usually like a novel author. What was it like transitioning to comic scripting from the novel pros you usually write with and how did you work with the artists on the book?

So writing a novel versus writing a comic script, even like a five-issue miniseries is obviously very, very, very different. But I worked with two great editors, Lauren Bisom, and Caitlin O’Connor, who really gave me kind of the one-on-one and were there to answer all my questions. And it required some studying on my part, but luckily, I’m a nerd so I love to study. And one of the things I really love about novels is dialogue. That’s like one of my favorite thing to write. And so, because I love that was actually that was kind of like my bridge that went from my novel writing to scriptwriting, because the dialogue is obviously critical. But what I really learned and I’m learning still because I think when you’re writing, whether you’re writing novels or writing scripts for comics, it’s always a learning process with every new one. What I’m learning still is just what that relationship is between the word that you’re going to have on the page versus the images versus the SFX and how those are integrated. And working with Andrés Genolet has been super cool because it is truly mind-blowing to write a script and describe these actions and then and then send it to an artist and have him then first send the layouts of the pencils and then the inks and then go “Whoa! How did he go into my mind and put this on the page?” And then when we got Triona’s colors. I love the vibrancy of these colors, and they’re, they’re so fantastic. And Joe’s lettering, I love the SFX so much. I was just telling my editor I was like I feel like I want more SFX because it’s just so cool looking on the page.

So it was really cool to have this collaborative process with Andrés and with my editors going back and forth on and really for me, just like understanding like, okay these are how panels get on the page and this is what a page turn should look like. And when you move from panel to panel how bodies can shift or like how angles shift, and even what I’m looking at a scene and I’m like, Wait, should that tree be there and then here in the next panel, because obviously want to have the continuity, working through the page. And across the entire book. So that was really a cool learning process. And it was Andrés and I, along with our editors are going back and forth on email through all of these and he’s just, he’s been wonderful to work with. So i it’s a much more collaborative process than writing a novel, which is great for me because sometimes writing a novel can be very solitary. And writing a comic book isn’t and that’s really fun about it.

It’s a fun group effort where everyone is invested in the same end goal and that must feel really great. So Beyond The Limit starts with Kamala reminiscing about her adventures so far as Ms. Marvel. Without giving too much away, why do you think now is the time for that? How did you go about crafting the story with Marvel editorial?

So it’s been a little while since we’ve seen Kamala since February since Saladin’s series. So there’s been a bit of a break, but I know the stalwart Kamala fans are ready for her to come back. But I’m hoping to also bring in new Ms. Marvel fans. So many things have happened to Ms. Marvel in a relatively short period of time, right? It’s like she lived an entire giant lifetime in these few years that she’s been on the scene. And sometimes when so many things are happening to us, we need a little break. Even superheroes need to have a little vacation once in a while. So wanted to start off with her being able to just take a deep breath and have a couple of moments of reflection a little bit because sometimes when life is coming at you fast you don’t get a chance to reflect. And I just think as Kamala is developing, you know more and more into sort of her superheroness that also superheroes have to think a little bit about what’s happened to them and where they’re going. Visiting her cousin in Chicago kind of gave her this little chance to do that. And I also think it was a great way to be able to introduce new readers to all of the things that have happened to her but also it’s great for longtime fans to be able to like kind of reminisce a little bit, and have those little tiny bits of nostalgia in this first issue now that we’re heading back to her like. “Oh, yeah, right, when she became a Champion, and then her suit went berserk, and then she was, abducted by aliens!” And there have been so many things that have happened to her. So it’s nice to be able to have this issue in this artwork that could do you don’t want over those things and then kind of kick her off into a new adventure.

So to weigh in on this new adventure, again, without giving too much away. How will Kamala be challenged and potentially change over the course of the Beyond The Limit storyline?

Well, in this first issue, people are aware that there’s going to be a there’s a little multiverse, hinted this first issue. I love a multiverse story. If you love multiverse, writing for Marvel is a very awesome place to be. I did a little bit of a call back to Willow’s series when Bruno discovers really what’s happening to Kamala’s powers when she embiggens, and that was an important feed for me for this issue, but also for this entire arc. So that’s a little hint of what might come and this beautiful multiverse panel that Andrés drew, is also a little hint of what might be what lies ahead for Ms. Marvel. I think she’s going to be asking some questions, which I love because I think teens are naturally curious people and so is Kamala, and I think it’s going to be a fun place for her to go and I hope her fans do as well.

I’m very excited to read it! Samira Ahmed, thank you so so much for joining The Nerds of Color today and can’t wait for everyone to read the rest of this series!

Thank you so much Swara, it’s great to meet you!

Ms. Marvel: Beyond The Limit is available wherever you buy comics.