Meet Kamala Khan, a Jersey City teenager who hangs out with her friends, gets in trouble with her parents…and on occasion, saves the world.
The story of Ms. Marvel’s success is something of a superhero journey in of itself. Debuting in 2014, the series, written by G. Willow Wilson with art by Adrian Alphona (Runaways, Uncanny X-Force) was the brainchild of Wilson, Alphona, Marvel editor Stephen Wacker and Marvel Director of Content and Character Development Sana Amanat. As the company’s first Muslim American superhero — and a female one, at that — Kamala represented a new level in what Marvel had previously achieved with the wave of books presented under their Marvel NOW! initiative: popular series that focused on telling the humanity-based stories of characters like Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, Thor, and Black Widow. While comic fans and readers around the world responded with critical acclaim, the book shot to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, becoming Marvel’s best selling digital comic of 2014 and garnering a 2014 Eisner nomination.
Today, Kamala’s journey reaches another milestone as GraphicAudio releases Ms. Marvel: No Normal, the first five issues of the series as collected in the first trade. This isn’t Marvel’s first time collaborating with GraphicAudio — the company has previously adapted from Marvel’s prose novels. But Kamala’s story marks the first time that GraphicAudio has adapted a character straight from the pages of a comic book.
“The challenge here was conveying the comic visuals into a strictly audio form without the use of a third-person narrator,” said Jeff Reingold, Marvel’s Manager of Licensed Publishing. “They do an unbelievably lifelike and seamless job.”
Lifelike and seamless would be an understatement for anyone listening to Ms. Marvel: No Normal. Through a full cinematic experience, readers are not only transported to the world of Kalama’s adventures. They’re drawn into the story through the background noise of Jersey City, the sound effects of everything from cash registers to garbage trucks and of course, the voices and reactions of Kamala and her friends. And with the absence of a narrator to guide you through the story, there’s no divide between the story and the reader.
“I can tell anyone who’s a fan of the original graphic novel that we put our full resources and creative energies into bringing Kamala’s story to life,” said GraphicAudio Creative Director Richard Rohan, who helped adapt Ms. Marvel: No Normal. “We incorporated as many elements you see on the comic page into the audio entertainment experience.”
GraphicAudio’s adaptation is a method of storytelling that might be new, but it’s one that is important to the way we consume media, especially as comics themselves move into an age filled with digital advancements. “Somehow, you become part of the story when it’s only audio — the characters talking in your ear, revealing their thoughts, laser blasts heard whizzing by your head,” Reingold told EW. “There are so many dimensions to Marvel’s incredible stories, and GraphicAudio allows fans and general enthusiasts to explore a fresh and unique perspective.”
And that perspective is hugely important. A large reason as to why most of us latch onto characters after seeing them come alive on the big screen is due to the fact that an actor brings the words and art of a character to life, while CGI, sound effects, and real-world scenery allow us to lose ourselves in the worlds that we’ve previously only seen in our heads. Superhero books are imaginative, and we want to be immersed in the world that we’re reading about. Not only that, we want to connect with the character we’ve fallen in love with. From its inception, Ms. Marvel became a game changer and a staple in the Marvel universe and the fact that GraphicAudio has chosen Kamala to debut this project speaks volumes about a character who has been likened to this generation’s Peter Parker: a hero with a story that feels universal enough for anyone to relate to it, despite your race, religion, or age.
“When Jeff at Marvel presented the idea to us, it was a testament to the character and her creators that everybody at GraphicAudio that read Ms. Marvel said, ‘We have to do this. Imagine how Ms. Marvel would come to life in GraphicAudio’s A Movie in Your Mind Format,'” added GraphicAudio Vice President Anji Cornette. “It’s amazing how so many people with diverse backgrounds identify with Kamala Khan, including those like myself who have a South Asian-American experience.”
Ms. Marvel: No Normal is representative of Marvel’s desire to push itself with big ideas. But the road to bringing a beloved and significant character to the page or screen is often a long and tedious process, and expanding the landscape creatively in this way is a long-overdue step that will hopefully influence more of these kind of projects down the road, with more significant characters that are still looking to find their voice.
Or, as Reingold puts it, “You’re lounging by the pool, on the train to work, road trippin’ with the family … now you have GraphicAudio to transport you into the Marvel Universe, side-by-side with Ant-Man as he takes down a robber at the local bodega, in the middle of the chaos that allows seems to follow Rocket Raccoon and Groot … and who wouldn’t want to be hanging with Kamala Khan?!”