Ms. Marvel: All Four of Them

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become so successful they keep taking chances with lesser-known properties. Of course, before his movies became so popular, Iron Man wasn’t exactly in the public eye unless you happened to read comics. Now, after the success of the virtually unknown Moon Knight, Marvel’s next Disney+ series is due to start soon, bringing Ms. Marvel to the screen. With the recent interest in the character, some people know that Kamala Khan isn’t the first heroine to use the codename. But what a lot of people don’t know is that she’s not the second, or even the third. Before the series debuts, it’s time for a crash course in Ms. Marvels.

The original heroine to use the name was Carol Susan Jane Danvers. She started off as an officer in the United States Air Force, assigned to a high security project where she met Dr. Walter Lawson. Lawson was a false identity created by the Kree warrior Mar-Vell, known on Earth as Captain Marvel. Injured when an alien device exploded, she eventually recovered and gained powers, becoming Ms. Marvel, working alongside Captain Marvel, and eventually joining the Avengers. She left the team under very controversial circumstances in a story that involved a being from another dimension, mind-control, and what was arguably rape. That story was a rare failure by a team of talented creators. Carol later returned to Earth, keeping her distance from her former team. She was ambushed by Rogue, whose uncontrollable power stripped Carol of her abilities and sent her into a coma that Professor X worked long and hard to reverse. Estranged from the Avengers, Carol was with the X-Men when the team ended up in space, drawn into a conflict between the Shiar Empire and the Brood. The Brood experimented on Carol, and she gained new powers, becoming known as Binary. She stayed in space for a time, working with the pirates and occasional freedom fighters known as the Starjammers. Her powers fluctuated over the years, and she returned to Earth and the Avengers, taking the name Warbird. It was revealed during this time she shared a secret with fellow Avenger Iron Man: she was an alcoholic. Recovering, with help from her friends, she went back to her Ms. Marvel codename. Later, Carol later took the name Captain Marvel, honoring the original hero who was long dead of cancer.  Carol Danvers has gone from a female sidekick to one of the most powerful defenders of Earth. She has appeared in many comics, several cartoons, video games, and, of course, in the MCU. While her powers have changed in scope over time, Carol’s base abilities have always included flight, strength, invulnerability, and energy projection. As Binary, she could survive unprotected in outer space and travel faster than light. She gained better control of her powers and added energy absorption to her arsenal. Two lesser-known abilities that seem to come and go (likely depending on the writer) include a danger sense and the so far inexplicable ability to absorb magic as well as more conventional energies. At least for a time, she was immune to toxins and poisons. Carol is accomplished at using her powers in combat, an adept pilot of fighter jets and starships, and skilled in hand-to-hand combat, having trained first with the Air Force and later under the legendary Captain America.

The second character to use the Ms. Marvel name is a very obscure heroine who couldn’t catch a break, over and over again. Sharon Ventura met Ben Grimm, better known as the Thing, during one of his separations from the Fantastic Four. He was a member of the Unlimited Class Wrestling Foundation, an entertainment group that upped the showmanship of pro wrestling with superpowered contenders. Unknown to Ben, behind the scenes lurked the shadowy Power Broker, who gave people superpowers for a price. Sharon signed on and competed in the league for a time, wearing a red, blue, and yellow costume and taking the then-unused name of Ms. Marvel. Dr. Malus, the Power Broker, kept the fact that his treatments had addictive properties a secret. Sharon battled his control, rebelling and was taken prisoner. It has been implied she was sexually abused during this time, and she developed a pathological hatred of men for a time after the captivity. Alongside Captain America, she helped bring down the Power Broker. Later, she joined the Fantastic Four. In an accident paralleling that team’s origin, she was exposed to cosmic rays and mutated into what resembled a female version of the Thing, often called She-Thing. Her powers and abilities shifted over time, as did her allegiance, and she worked for Doctor Doom for a time. Later, she was embroiled in the Skrull Secret Invasion, and impersonated by one of the alien shapeshifters. After some time on the Raft for her criminal activities, Sharon regained her human appearance and went back to specialized wrestling. Sharon’s superpowered career always involved enhanced strength, durability, and endurance, the precise levels of which varied over time and by what form she was in. Sharon is a skilled hand-to-hand fighter, and her varied career has led her to acquiring other skills, including scuba diving, skydiving, mountain climbing, motorcycle driving, and skiing. She’s a great deal smarter than most think, leading them to underestimate her. Aside from the comics, Sharon appeared in one video game.

Karla Sofen was a villain before she gained her powers. Growing up the child of a butler in Beverly Hills, she swore to escape her poor lifestyle, and got herself through college, eventually becoming a psychiatrist and psychologist both. She had no morals, convinced some of her patients to kill themselves, and manipulated the lives of others. Later, she tricked the obscure villain Moonstone into rejecting the alien gem that gave him his powers. In addition to his powers, she took his name, becoming a much more powerful and ruthless Moonstone than he had been. She battled the Hulk and later joined various versions of the Masters of Evil. When many of Earth’s heroes disappeared for a time, she went along with Baron Zemo’s plan to infiltrate what was left of the hero world, a new version of the Masters of Evil operating as the notionally heroic Thunderbolts, taking the name Meteorite. Later, some of the team reformed and actually became heroes, but not Karla. The Avenger Hawkeye joined the team, trying to encourage them to go straight, and Moonstone had a brief but torrid affair with the archer. Moonstone betrayed the trust of anyone foolish enough to give it to her time and again, working with various villain groups, using her powers, keen mind, and psychological training to make sure she always came out on top. When Norman Osborne assembled a team of “Dark Avengers,” she took the role of Ms. Marvel for a time. When that group eventually failed, she went back to her Moonstone identity and continued her selfish and manipulative ways. No matter what’s going on, she can be counted on to look out for herself, and will do anything to come out on top of any situation. Moonstone can fly, has enhanced strength and invulnerability, can turn intangible, and project various forms of energy ranging from blinding light to beams that can cut steel plates. Her speed, stamina, and reflexes are well into the metahuman range, and she can heal from most injuries given time. She lacks the discipline to become a hand-to-hand fighter, more of a brawler with her powers. Dr. Sofen has a brilliant mind, is a skilled psychiatrist, and is utterly ruthless in her manipulations to get whatever she happens to want at the time. As slick as she is, she has been outmaneuvered by those more skilled than she is, which usually produces a homicidal rage. Outside of the comics, she has appeared in a few comics and video games.

Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American who a lot of things lined up for just right in both the real world and the Marvel Universe. In the real world, several Marvel writers talked about the Muslim experience in America, and wanted to explore it in story form. Carol Danvers had taken the mantle of Captain Marvel, freeing up the Ms. Marvel name, and eventually, over several discussions, the character of Kamala emerged. Different from other characters in many ways, Kamala is a “brown girl” as the writers describe her, a Muslim-American, from Jersey City instead of the superhero-rich New York, and has a much more modest costume and believable body type. Also in the real world, Marvel was in tense negotiations with Fox to regain the rights to the X-Men characters, among others. For a while, most new Marvel characters were mutants, but during this period, many of those developing powers were described as descendants of the Inhumans, a hidden race with strange and variable powers. So, Kamala Khan was one of many in the Marvel Universe who were exposed to the Inhumans’ Terrigen Mists during the Infinity storyline. She developed powers, and created an identity for herself based on her idol, Captain Marvel. After a rocky start, carefully figuring out her powers, Ms. Marvel became the hero of Jersey City. Her bubbly personality and upbeat manner have endeared her to many, and even helped her maintain a good working relationship with the police early on. A teen in high school, she lives at home and spent most of her early career hiding her abilities and heroic career from her parents. Ms. Marvel has teamed up with several heroes, including her idol Captain Marvel, the Avengers, and a team of younger heroes called the Champions. Her Inhuman genome gave her several powers, mostly based around changing her body. She can grow to giant size, elongate or enlarge parts of her body, and turn paper thin. She can mimic other people’s appearances, but does so rarely and it is apparently difficult for her. She can shrink to tiny size, although not as small as those using Pym particles like the various Ant-Man and Wasp characters. If she pushes her powers too hard, she gets exhausted and has to eat large quantiles of food. Kamala also has a healing factor which lets her recover from injury quickly, but not quite as swiftly as Wolverine. She has appeared in many comics, a few cartoons, and will soon appear in live action, initially in her own Disney+ series and then in Captain Marvel 2: The Marvels in the MCU movie franchise.