#CSS19 Sneak Peek: Adrienne Resha’s “‘Part of Something…Bigger’: Clark Kent, Peter Parker, and Kamala Khan

As we get closer to the Comics Studies Society “Comics/Politics” Conference next month at Ryerson University in Toronto, we are going to be featuring some sneak peeks of some presentations taking place at the conference. Here is a peek at Grad Student Caucus Vice President Adrienne Resha’s presentation:

We’re just a few weeks away from the 2nd Annual CSS Conference!

At this summer’s conference, COMICS/POLITICS, I’m presenting a paper titled “‘Part of Something… Bigger’: Clark Kent, Peter Parker, and Kamala Khan” on a panel titled “Marginalized Representation and the American Superhero.” I am privileged to be presenting with my co-panelists Erika Chung and Safiyya Hosein (GSC Secretary-Treasurer). In advance of the conference, I wanted to share my proposal and a sneak peek of my presentation.

My paper is kind of a mash-up between my master’s thesis, “The ‘Embiggening’: Marvel’s Muslim Ms. Marvel and American Myth” (abstract), and my CSS18 paper/presentation, “The Blue Age of Comic Books,” which is explicitly referenced in the proposal below.

In the second issue of the digital bestseller Ms. Marvel (2014-2015), the not-yet eponymous character, Kamala Khan, asks, “Could it be that what just happened to me is part of something… more?” Although Kamala’s question is more immediately concerned with the fact that she just emerged from a cocoon, it is also one that co-creator and writer G. Willow Wilson poses to the reader: could it be that this Pakistani-, Muslim American teenaged girl is part of something… bigger? In many ways, Kamala Khan was the first (or, sometimes, most—as in most popular) of her kind, but she is not exceptional as what some might term a “diverse” superhero character. She is exceptional as a superhero character.

Like Clark Kent’s Superman and Peter Parker’s Spider-Man before her, Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel embodies so much of what it means to be an American superhero and, by extension, an American citizen, particularly an American citizen of immigrant descent. Understanding superheroes to be exceptional, super-citizens, this paper argues that Kamala Khan is emblematic of the Blue Age of superhero comic books because her origin story synthesizes and adapts Golden and Silver Age origin conventions in a Millennial context, for Generation Y (or, as the series names it, Generation Why). Wilson, artist Adrian Alphona, and editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker’s creation is only as exceptional as any other American, and that is what makes her so super, what makes her a hero. I’m pretty sure that last line was the result of having watched this Captain Marvel (2019) trailer about a hundred times.

My title slide has the title of my paper, “‘Part of Something… Bigger’: Clark Kent, Peter Parker, and Kamala Khan,” which is from Ms. Marvel (2014-2015) #2 by G. Willow Wilson. My name, university, and Twitter handle will appear on this first slide and every subsequent slide, and the final slide will include a contact email. The artwork, part of the cover of Ms. Marvel (2015-2019) #1 by Cliff Chiang, used for the background on this slide is credited in the bottom left hand corner. Art will be credited to the artist wherever it appears.

My presentation is on Thursday (full program). You’ll find me there, at the Graduate Student Caucus meeting on Friday or my workshop with Osvaldo Oyola on Saturday (if you’ve registered!) for sure. Otherwise, in Toronto or not, check my Twitter or the GSC’s: I’ll be live tweeting!

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