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Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel

January 31, 2017

For years, I’ve known that graphic novels were a huge gap in my education. As a culture consumer, and as a librarian. I’ve had library-life opportunities to fix that: there were graphic novel courses offered at Pratt. And my friend and mentor, Ellyssa, really got me thinking about the ways libraries could find and develop great programs around comics, cosplay and gaming.

And still, I hovered on the periphery, dabbling at best. Watching Marvel movies happily, and enjoying others’ ComicCon cosplay, even though I missed a lot of the nuances and references my more superhero-savvy friends were picking up on. Read a few issues of Sandman, read a few issues of Fables. Poked around in comics starring various Avengers.

I did have fun asking people for recommendations, and for where to start. Just because of the variety of enthusiastic answers.

I wanted my entry into comics to have strong and central women characters being awesome, and the same snappy dialogue I liked from Marvel movies. I was wary, hoping that my foray into comics wouldn’t be crushed under the weight of the mythic storyline arcs that came before.

I don’t remember which I read first: Squirrel Girl or Ms. Marvel.

And I don’t remember exactly which of the many friends who recommended both was the tipping point that led to me picking up my first issues.

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It was probably Lisa or Keri. Possibly both. Thank you, both of you. And thank you to the other friends, and librarians, who have suggested that I read these comics. Very good idea.

Squirrel Girl is Doreen Green, a girl who is also a squirrel. And also a college student. And also a fangirl of the Avengers. There are Twitter feeds in her comics, you guys! Twitter feeds!

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Need I say more?

Which brings us to Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. She’s a teenage girl in Jersey City, living an ordinary life of high school and strict parents, when a mysterious mist gives her superpowers. She’s also a Muslim.

From pretty much the start, Kamala uses her powers as Ms. Marvel to do what’s right. I’m impressed with the moral wrangles she goes through as she tries to use her powers and balance her normal-person obligations against superhero calling, and the way she approaches saving the day as an act of saving people.

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Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel may each be capable of some amazing, powerful day-saving and butt-kicking, but they’re not working alone. I could devote a whole appreciation post to Kamala’s family, or to Squirrel Girl’s college friends, superpowered and otherwise.

Getting to know Doreen and Kamala in the ordinary times between day-saving adventures has also been great fun, seeing them balance school and crime-fighting, trying to keep their identities secret except for a chosen few inner circle.

And getting to know Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl opened up the possibility of looking for other comics to enjoy.

But more on that, in a future post.

 

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