It was clear from the trailers that Disney Plus’ Ms. Marvel would make a few deviations from the comics, mostly in his superpowers. But it’s Kamala Khan’s origin story where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is likely to make the biggest changes.
On paper, the story of how Ms. Marvel got her powers is just plain bizarre. And when you zoom out to the level of companies fighting over Marvel Comics’ intellectual property rights, things get even weirder. So here’s why we’re definitely not going to see Kamala’s original backstory on her TV show – and why no one is really surprised.
[Ed. note: This piece contains mild spoilers for the first two episodes of Ms. Marvel on Disney Plus.]
In its second episode, Ms. Marvel makes it clear that the origin of Kamala’s bracelet – a family heirloom from her great-grandmother – will be a central mystery of the series. It may be a few episodes before we learn more about its mysterious ancestor and the nature of this gem that grants power over hard-light constructs.
This mystery might lead a person to see how Kamala got her powers in the comics.
How did Ms. Marvel get her powers in the comics?
In her comic book debut in 2014, Kamala discovered she was the descendant of an Inhuman when her superpowers were awakened by exposure to a cloud of Terrigen Mist created by the Terrigen Bomb. This phrase might cause a person to wonder, “What does this mean? And why? Why is it… like, like this.”
Step into this time machine with me, the reader, back to 2011. This was the first time Marvel Studios seemed to be developing an Inhumans project for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Who the hell are the Inhumans? They are a group of Marvel Comics characters originally introduced in The Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Created after the X-Men and before the Eternals, they fall somewhere between the two concepts. Like the Eternals, they are a human race that was genetically altered in the past by extraterrestrial forces and lived on Earth in secret. But where the Eternals were nearly all-powerful and immortal, the Inhumans were driven to live in secret by a superstitious, violent, and more populous ancient humanity.
In a way analogous to but much less relevant to the X-Men, the Inhumans were hated and feared. And in 2011, Marvel Comics was on high alert for anything analogous to the X-Men.
Yeah, we’re gonna talk about 20th Century Fox’s X-Men deal
By 2010, the X-Men movie franchise, based on an exclusive X-Men movie license purchased at a bargain price after Marvel’s bankruptcy in the 1990s, was an established revenue stream for 20th Century Fox. . And the notorious head of Marvel Entertainment, conservative billionaire Ike Perlmutter, was reportedly disappointed by the idea that Marvel Comics was still publishing what he saw as de facto advertisements for a rival company. That is to say: the X-Men comics.
Editorially, Marvel Comics has taken a low-key mandate to put the X-Men on the back burner in favor of cooking a different pot. The Inhumans had been going for it, and in the 2010s, Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios would try to make them come true.
For Marvel Studios, that meant producing the MCU’s biggest flop, Inhumans the TV show, then quickly dropping the whole concept except for a brief reference in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. For Marvel Comics, that meant finding a way to create more modern, relatable Inhuman characters. The problem was that, in Marvel Comics canon, the process of unlocking an Inhuman’s superpowers was, unlike the X-Men, very deliberate: Inhumans were ritually exposed to a mutagenic substance called “Terrigen Mist”. You couldn’t just have a bunch of random humans wake up as Inhumans the way a teenager might wake up and discover their mutant powers.
And so, at the 2013 crossover event Infinite, Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans, detonated the “Terrigen Bomb”, releasing masses upon masses of Terrigen Mist clouds into Earth’s atmosphere. Why did he blow it up? Well, he was fighting Thanos and – look, it doesn’t really matter; the important thing is that wherever the clouds drifted, wherever they touched a person with traces of Inhuman DNA (i.e. whose ancestors once had babies with an Inhuman), there encased these people in fat cocoons of goop and activated their latent inhuman abilities.
And that’s how Kamala Khan got her powers in the comics. She was walking him home from a party she shouldn’t have gone to, Terrigen Mist came in, she got cocooned, and she came out of a stretchy, shapeshifting superhuman. Kamala’s instant success, from an editorial perspective, was an outlier. Most of the superpowered new characters – or Nuhumans – that Marvel created with the Terrigen Mists storyline didn’t make a big splash (although Lunella Lafayette, the super-smart star of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosauris another Nuhuman that will soon have its own show).
And, needless to say, the Inhumans never became as popular as the X-Men.
Is Kamala an Inhuman in the Disney Plus series?
It’s not clear.
Since the failure of Inhumans on ABC, the characters were dropped by the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. The actors who played them have moved on to other projects, and the Terrigen bombshell is definitely not a thing. And so Ms. Marvel shuns any type of cocoon or supernatural weather event in favor of a family legacy and a chilling generational silence surrounding Kamala’s great-grandmother.
So far, the show seems to tie Kamala’s powers to her family in a way they just aren’t in the comics. Of course, in the comics, her family fought against the partition of India, and her great-grandmother had a bracelet she hid the family’s money in during their trip, which was passed down from mother as a girl in Kamala. But it’s not magic, it’s just meaningful. And Kamala’s comic book abilities are technically derived from her genetics, but on such an ancient level that it’s pure coincidence.
A connection to Kamala’s great-grandmother could still lead to a “Kamala is from a race of superhumans” revelation – but with the reduced state of Inhumans in the MCU these days, it seems more likely. whether it’s a brand-new origin story, perhaps even completely disconnected from other Marvel properties. If something cosmic is going on, there are other, more central types of non-human people that Kamala’s great-grandmother might have been.
Perhaps she’s an Eternal, a property similar to the Inhumans that actually interests the current architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or maybe Kamala’s great-grandmother was a member of the Kree, the alien race that featured heavily in Captain Marvel’s MCU origin. This would both bring Kamala’s MCU origin closer to Carol’s current one in Marvel Comics and give her a direct connection to Carol before her appearance in Wondersthe next sequel to Captain Marvel.
We won’t know for sure until Ms. Marvel reveals more of his take on Kamala’s origin story.