Ms. Marvel Co-Creator Explains Her Involvement With The Show And Crafting A Story That Feels Specific [Interview]

The character of Kamala Khan is kind of a big deal. If you haven't realized it by now, then you will very, very soon when "Ms. Marvel" comes to Disney+ tomorrow. Comic fans have looked forward to this live-action adaptation ever since the teenage superhero first graced the comics in 2013, and more casual fans will no doubt be drawn to her sweet and wholesome coming-of-age story featured heavily throughout the show's first couple of episodes. Obviously, Kamala's status as Marvel's first Muslim superhero immediately separates her from the haze of overwhelmingly white heroes who have preceded her. But even beyond the show's sense of stylistic flair and street-level scale, perhaps the biggest difference comes from the fact that the character's co-creator has been so involved with the show from the very beginning.

Sana Amanat is credited as a producer and a writer ("based on the character by") on "Ms. Marvel," implicitly adding her endorsement to the MCU's adaptation of the popular character. With so many expectations riding on the shoulders of lead actor Iman Vellani and the creative team as a whole, it shouldn't be terribly surprising that fans reacted quite strongly to such a major change regarding Kamala's powers. But rest assured Amanat has heard these complaints and had very good reasons for this particular approach to the character.

In our recent Zoom conversation, I asked Amanat about just how involved she was with the show, whether this project had ever been envisioned as another animated series, and the idea of telling a specific story in order to appeal to a wide-ranging audience.

'It's funny because it's out of the norm'

Despite how much the MCU owes to its source material, it doesn't always seem like they've had the comics creators involved with their movies or their shows as much as you have been with "Ms. Marvel." What was different this time around? How involved were you in shaping the overall direction of the show?

Yeah, it's funny because it's out of the norm. I think the difference is, I had been at the company for a long time, and I was a full-time employee. I'd been doing some development work already. So I think the transition sort of made sense. But, of course, because the character's so personal to me, I think that it was one of those things where we had to make sure that we were going to be able to adapt it properly.

I joined a little bit after the writers' room was ending, and I had met with them previously. I had given some thoughts and feedback. But I had thought I was just going to consult on the project here and there. I didn't really think I would be brought on as a full-time Marvel producer. And now I'm an executive producer on the series.

So it's kind of wild, because it kind of just happened. It worked out that way. Kevin [Feige] called me and was like, "Actually, you've got to come full-time and do this. If it's not this project, we'll put you on something else, but you should do this project." Of course, I was happy to do it. What I love also was, I love collaborations. I think the best stories come out when you're working with other people. I'm not precious about an idea that I had worked on. I think it's all about amplifying and elevating. I think you do that best when you're saying yes and doing the next thing. And I think we're able to do that with this show. It's an honor to be part of it, to continue to be a part of it.

'It was always going to be live-action'

I'm sure you've been asked this question a million times by now, so I won't rehash it.

The powers.

Her power set. Yep [laughs], you already know.

[Laughs] Yeah.

Sort of related to that, but were there ever any discussions, even in the preliminary stages, of maybe doing an animated show, to maybe take advantage of her unique power set? Or was it always live-action?

Well, it was always going to be live-action for this show. I mean, we have done animated with Kamala, which are things I have worked on. We did a "Marvel Rising" animated series, where Kamala and some of the female characters were a part of it. She's also on "Spidey and His Amazing Friends." She's a special guest star. She's one of Spidey's friends. It's a preschool show. It's super cute. It's so fun. So it exists, it's out there in the world. And so for us, we're like, "We're going to try something else for live-action, and link it to larger stories in the MCU," which I think is working quite well.

What I find neat is that, even though it is live-action, it feels like a comic book come to life, thanks to all the animated effects and all that. I'm curious: All of Kamala's drawings, and daydreams, and fantasies that we see, whose artwork is that? Whose work are we seeing up there?

Oh, that's so great. We have a few different artists, actually, that we've worked with across the series. So it's a combination of people. The opening is from a vendor named Framestore. The artist at Framestore there — he's a big, big comic book fan, and also just a big Ms. Marvel fan — did the opening treatment and helped us find that style. But we also feature art from other artists like Shehzil Malik, and Hatecopy. We're trying to bring in different artists across the season to just kind of round out her world. But we also have some really fun animation vendors who've brought their own style to it. It's a little bit of a mix of a few different folks.

'A specific experience that applies to different kinds of people'

It does seem as if the first two episodes are sort of setting up Kamala's powers as being ingrained in her culture, having roots in her culture. Was that the intention that the creative team was going for, or is there a little more to that than we know at this point?

Yeah. I mean, there definitely is a little bit more to that, for sure. But I think, yes, inherently it is going to be linked to her past, her identity, her family, really more than anything else, and exploring that is going to be a part of the show. But I think it's going to be a little bit more than just, "What is she, and what are the source of her powers?" That's going to be something that we'll have you guys figure out as you watch the show [laughs].

Watching the first two episodes, I couldn't help but think of that saying about how the more specific you go with the story, the more universal it feels. Was that ever brought up during the production of the show? How did that play into this?

Oh, yeah, of course. I mean, I think specificity is incredibly important because honestly, if we just tried to do it with a wide brush of like, "Let's try to cover all of the bases, and check all the boxes, and try to make a character for everyone," it would just be very dull and confusing. I think there's something very lovely and specific about Kamala's tension with her mother, and that her mother doesn't really understand. There's a cultural disconnect there, but it's also just purely a story about mother and daughter, and how sometimes they do misunderstand each other. Whether it's that she's Pakistani, and she was born in Pakistan and Kamala wasn't, or it's because, just simply, she's just a different human being and is very protective of her daughter. I think that in itself is a great way of just showing a specific experience that applies to different kinds of people.

"Ms. Marvel" premieres on Disney+ on June 8, 2022.