Iman Vellani Discusses ‘Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant’ and Why the Character is so Timeless 

Iman Vellani, who additionally stars as Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel, is making her Marvel Comics debut with Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant. The limited series will be four issues and the first one will be on sale tomorrow, August 30.

KAMALA KHAN IS BACK…AND SHE’S AN X-MAN! That’s right – the good news is that fresh off her world-saving death, Kamala has been brought back via Krakoan Resurrection Technology! What a way to learn she’s a mutant! The bad news is her debut at the Hellfire Gala didn’t go exactly as planned, and now all of mutantkind are being hunted worldwide! Into this world of hate and fear, Kamala has a secret mission to pull off for the X-Men, all the while struggling to acclimate to this new part of her identity!

While speaking over Zoom, we talked about the writing process, why this experience is such a full circle moment for her, which issue she’s most excited to share, wanting to highlight what she loves about the character, drawing inspiration from herself, her love for the X-Men, and much more. Keep reading for our full conversation!

Courtesy of Marvel

I am a huge fan of you and your work. I think it is so amazing to see all the love and praise you’ve been receiving and it is well deserved. I really appreciate your time today.
Iman Vellani: Thank you! I’m so excited to be talking about this. It’s been such like — honestly, it hasn’t been that long, but I really just needed to get it off my chest, you know, a lot of excitement’s building up.

Of course! So, this is actually my first comic book interview ever and I’m beyond excited that it’s with you. I can’t wait to run to the store and get a copy of my own.
Woah! I’m honored. Thank you so much.

First, I really want to ask you about the writing process. I think that’s always fascinating to hear about. Did it make you consider or want to write more in the future or anything like that? What did you learn and what was it like for you overall? I imagine it was incredible to do.
Yeah, it was scary. I never considered myself the best English student in general and I had a very black-and-white understanding as to what writing is. It’s like, finding the right words and putting them in the right order, and very quickly, I realized that it really matters if you have a good story to start with after my meetings with Marvel editorial and working with Sabir, my co-writer, who’s so good at kind of taking all the 50,000 ideas I have and finding something cohesive that we could follow and then chase. So, it’s been a real learning opportunity as a whole and I don’t know if I want to do it again, it’s a lot of work, but I’m putting all my cards on the table on this one. So, yeah, it’s been kind of awesome.

Does it feel surreal to say, that you were working with Marvel editorial?
Yes, it’s like my favorite thing to say, editorial, you know? Yeah, it’s weird. It’s a weird transition being a fan and then being a part of the thing that you’re a fan of. I wanna do the character justice, not just for the audience, but for me too because G. Willow Wilson, Sana, and all the amazing past Ms. Marvel writers have paved such a beautiful path that I just want to follow and I wanna bring everything that I loved about those comics into what I’m writing, so hopefully people will see the homage.

I actually want to go off of that because I am a fan of everything I cover, as you can probably tell, so I know how much passion goes into your work when you are a fan. How did that affect the entire experience for you, whether it was surreal moments or Easter eggs that you put in?
Oh yeah, there’s so many Easter eggs. It’s not even things people might find, it’s like the most obscure things out of my own life that only me and maybe my friends and family will understand. But it’s so liberating to be able to like, “Hey, can you put this in here,” because anything goes as long as the artist can draw it. It’s so freeing. I mean, I’ve always been very fascinated by the comic book process in general. I remember listening to a lot of comics-related podcasts.

Courtesy of Marvel

Women of Marvel was a big one and Sana was the host of that, and I was absorbing as much information as possible but seeing it firsthand is so magical. I write words, then talented people draw those words, and then other talented people color those drawings of my words, and then suddenly, it gets printed and we have a story. I mean, not oversimplify the process but that’s pretty much it and it’s so surreal seeing my last name on the cover. I can’t even begin to imagine it on a comic book shelf at my local store.

Have you gotten to see the final version at all, whether it was just some comic strips or the actual comic book and if you did, how did you feel?
Yeah, I got the PDF like last week and I was literally jumping up and down, freaking out. I don’t know why, it’s just — I mean, I do know why, it’s so crazy. I collect comics and I’m buddies with the guy who runs my local comic shop and he’s been my biggest cheerleader, his name is Andre and he’s so enthusiastic about me doing this whole thing. We have very wonderful chats about all things comics and just knowing that I’ll buy the one that I wrote from the same person who sold me my very first comic, my very first Ms. Marvel comic, it’s the most incredible full circle moment ever. I’m so happy that I have that relationship with my shop and I really do encourage other people to kind of purchase their books from their local shops, and keep them running and up in business. It’s just a very pleasant environment to be in a comic book store, as intimidating as it might feel at first, it’s really wonderful, and yeah, I’m excited for the response.

We have four issues in this limited series and I’m curious, is there one that you’re most excited for fans to read or that you want to see them respond to, whether it’s because of the story or something that happens? Is there any sort of tease you could give as to why that comic stands out?
Yes, it’s number three. The art is crazy and so, we have two artists and I think I can say that half of — Kamala has been dealing with a lot of things mentally after being resurrected on Krakoa, so we do spend a lot of time in Kamala’s mind and in her dreamland, and exploring how this whole process of being resurrected, having this new label has affected her psyche. Issue three kind of doesn’t exactly take place in reality, so it’s been really cool to kind of just write whatever I can imagine because the possibilities are endless when you’re dealing with outside of reality. Our artist, Adam Gorham, has just exceeded all expectations, it’s beautiful. It’s a good-looking book, so I’m very excited for that one.

I’m very excited for that one and I feel like that’s a good storyline or theme to have, like dealing with the aftermath and really getting inside of her head. I think that’s a powerful thing to do and include in a comic book as well.
Exactly, we didn’t want to jump straight into, “Okay, she has a mission. She’s fighting with the X-men now.” It’s a big deal that she’s a mutant now. We don’t want to gloss over that at all and there is a time jump from Hellfire Gala to our series, so what’s Kamala been doing in that time? What’s she been dealing with? How does a 16-year-old cope with all these insane changes in her life? Who is in her surroundings that can help her kind of cope? So, it’s been a lot of fun kind of including our supporting characters, Bruno is a big part of the story, and just watching her kind of acclimate to this new life that she’s been given, literally, and the new colors that she wears.

Courtesy of Marvel

And so, yeah, I think she’s kind of realizing — she comes into this whole thing being a little naive to the magnitude of discrimination that mutants face. It’s been a lot of fun to kind of watch Kamala deal with all of this because she is a privileged mutant since a lot of people don’t know that she’s a mutant yet and she has a life above ground. There’s some tension between her and the mutants, there’s some tension between her and the real world, so there’s a lot going on.

What does it mean to kind of be with Kamala for this new chapter? You now have a hand in her canon Marvel comics story — I know, I know, I feel I should be highlighting and bolding that, right?
Yeah, it’s powerful.

I also feel like you are gonna be such an inspiration to young girls because I know when I was growing up, comics and Marvel in general were not a girl’s thing, it was a boy’s thing. Now, thankfully, that has changed. So doing this, having a hand in the comics is just amazing to see. What is it like to be doing this next chapter with such a beloved character and knowing a lot of young women are gonna be looking up to you like, “Wow, look what she did!”
I mean, I’m so honored that they even let me do this in the first place. Obviously, I have no experience, but I think my passion for the character kind of bled outside of the screen and Sana Amanat is also the reason that this is all happening. I don’t know what she said to Marvel editorial and their whole team to let me do this. I still don’t know what she said, but here I am and I’ve already written four issues. So, I’m so eternally grateful for her because she’s like my biggest mentor and I look up to her so much. She was the woman in comics for me growing up, and I thought she had the coolest job ever and I just wanted to do what she did.

So being here now, it is very surreal and I mean, it is impossible to also please everyone. I have a lot of my own biases into the story being a fan, but I stand behind the story that Sabir and I wrote, and I think it’s a great representation for what Ms. Marvel stands for, what sets her apart from other superheroes, why she’s such a timeless character. She’s dealing with a lot of the same issues that kids for generations are gonna deal with and I really wanted to use this opportunity to kind of highlight everything that I love about her comics and her abilities as a hero. I think it’s all displayed in some form or another in the book, so hopefully, fans will still be able to resonate with this book as much as they do with Willow’s run and with Saladin’s run. There’s a lot of expectations, but I try not to think about it because I’m really happy with the product.

Did you draw personal inspiration from anywhere, whether it was an experience that you went through or something you really resonated with in relation to the character that you wanted to highlight more in the comics?
Yeah, it’s like literally all me. When we were dealing with story stuff, I knew I wanted to kind of deal with the psychological effects of what having just a label does to you because Kamala has always been a mutant, her genes haven’t changed. It’s just the fact that she knows now, she knows that she’s a mutant and just having that label has changed everything, her perspective on herself, the world’s perspective on her, and that was very similar to what happened with me when my entire life changed. And so, I was kind of drawing a lot of inspiration for how I dealt with it, the type of therapy I had to do and just like, how do you get comfortable with such massive changes in your life at such a young age? I think I dealt with it in a really healthy way and I had a very wonderful support system around me, and I kind of just honed in on that and used it in the book, and I think it works really well for the journey Kamala is kind of going on as well.

Courtesy of Marvel

I wanna give you a fun creative question next. If you could live as a character from any comic book for a day and act out or live a certain adventure, which would you pick and why?
Okay, I think I know my answer. Galactus, because like, how does one devour a planet and what do you feel after that? How satiated are you after devouring a planet? That’s my question. And he’s never full, he always wants more, you know? I just wanna understand, I wanna be in his shoes for a hot minute and understand him. Yeah, that might be my answer.

I love how you literally had that ready. It’s not even like, ‘I just want to live the adventure,’ it’s that I have my questions ready.
I have a lot of questions that need answering, yeah.

Last question before I let you go, if you could team up with any of the X-Men, who would you want to, why, and what would you wanna do?
Okay, it’s different for every medium. So, X-Men ‘90s, it would be probably Jubilee and Rogue. Then, if we’re talking Grant Morrison’s New X-Men era, I’m a big Emma Frost fan. I wanna also be as fashion-forward as she is. I want like really impractical costumes and to stand next to her and look so slay. So that or Wolverine, I feel like I would just watch him do all the work for me. It’s different with every era, but I think all of the women in X-Men are just so, so cool. I think they’re also written way better than the men are sometimes, so yeah, I love all the characters honestly.

Honestly, we can pick a different character every day, every year. That’s fair.
Yeah, keep my options open. Exactly.

Thank you so much again for doing this. I really appreciate it and it was just a pleasure to speak with you. Congratulations on everything.
Thank you so much. You’re so fun.

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