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How MS. MARVEL, G. Willow Wilson, and Her Fans Gave Me Hope

How MS. MARVEL, G. Willow Wilson, and Her Fans Gave Me Hope

One thing I got to do this year that didn’t suck was attend my very first San Diego Comic-Con. If you’ve never been, the whole thing is so massive and impressive that it almost doesn’t feel possible they pull it off every year. Hundreds of thousands of people cram into one small area of the city, to visit an untold number of companies doing an infinite number of things, all in the name of fun and entertainment.

Everywhere I went, everyone was in a pleasant mood. In five days of being down at the Convention Center I didn’t see a single person get shoved or yelled at by someone sick of waiting in line, nor did I witness anyone having a meltdown over being stuck in a crowd. Even the exhausted seemed content to sit on the ground with smiles on their faces. There was a feeling of camaraderie, like a bunch of friends had showed up for the best party of the year. It’s really a remarkable celebration full of joy; Comic-Con itself is a testament to what we can do when we come together, and I was a tiny part of it.

ms-marvel-cosplayThis was the only SDCC cosplayer whose photo I asked to take.

And I was miserable. I’m never happy when I feel like I don’t know exactly what to do, and since it was my first time there I had everything to learn. My problems were made worse by the feeling that everyone else was an old pro at navigating this massive event, and I was the new student that had transferred in the middle of the year. A comedy of errors quickly seemed to be conspiring against me gaining any confidence too. Some mistakes were my own fault, some were out of my control, but I felt lost in what seemed like the happiest place on Earth.

I got there on Wednesday, and by Saturday afternoon I was toast, figuratively and somewhat literally, since it was also incredibly muggy. I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to hit the reset button and start over, or to just turn the whole thing off. Fortunately I had made plans to see an old friend from college that night, one of my favorite people that I hadn’t seen in many years: my friend Willow. You might know her better as G. Willow Wilson, the writer behind the comic book Ms. Marvel.


Willow and I went to Boston University together where we were in the same theater group. If you think her use of the word “embiggens” in Ms. Marvel is a perfect Simpsons reference, you should have seen the calendar prop the two of us made that included “Smarch.”

She was an invited speaker at Comic-Con, participating in a number of panels, and we met up on Saturday before one of them. Our reunion hug and dinner-making plans were interrupted by a very excited young man and woman who said they were huge fans of hers. They apologized to me, but I was never happier in my life to be interrupted. Here was my friend who had created something people love, and here were real people who loved her for it. I was just as excited for them to meet her as they were.


She went in to her panel and I went off to write a story for Nerdist, but I made it back before it was over. Willow is one of the most thoughtful and intelligent people I have ever met, and I sat there with a big dumb grin on my face listening to her answer questions. All of the frustration and self-doubt I had been feeling disappeared. I was just happy to see my friend.

And then I saw something even better.

When the panel wrapped up I walked over to Willow so we could leave for dinner, but I had to wait. There were two young girls waiting to meet her. I didn’t want to intrude on this very personal moment for them, as they were obviously big fans meeting someone that meant a lot to them, but it was a small room. The first girl was over the moon with excitement. She loved Ms. Marvel so much and thought Willow was the best. This was pure joy personified, and she was bubbling over with it.

The second, shorter girl looked much different. She was shaking and could barely muster the courage to walk up to Willow (which is like being afraid of a warm pillow). But she finally did, with tears in her eyes.

I don’t remember anything she said. I just remember the look on her face. She wasn’t meeting a comic book writer, she was meeting a hero. Here, in this room, I was watching a young girl meet a Muslim female comic book writer, and it felt like the most hopeful thing I had ever seen. There were no barriers between them, with no limitations on what someone can aspire to be. The cynical world didn’t exist at this moment.

Here was my friend, someone I love and admire, someone I know is a genuinely good person, and she had made something so beautiful and wonderful, in a medium that often treats women as something less than whole, that she had become a real-life superhero to this young lady. That girl is growing up in a world where a Muslim woman can write a comic book with a young Muslim girl as its hero. For all of the darkness and awfulness of this year, that’s a bridge that will open up a path to any number of places that young lady hopes to go in life.

No surprise, my whole weekend turned around that night, and I suddenly felt great about everything. As Willow and I walked the streets of San Diego more and more people came up to her, to tell her how much they loved the comic and what it meant to them. It’s easy to see why if you’ve read Ms. Marvel. Kamala Khan is a loving, optimistic, and hopeful young lady, who deals with self-doubt and questions of what it means to be a good person, the same as any of us that struggle with trying to be better people. And it offers us all a look at what it means to be a young Muslim American at a difficult time in this country’s history to be one. It is a beacon of empathy and understanding when the world seems to be in short supply of both.

I tried to describe to my friend why seeing her fans had made me so happy and hopeful, but it’s something Willow herself wrote in the pages of Ms. Marvel that explains what I was trying to say so much better than I can.

“Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.”

My friend G. Willow Wilson is a good person, and this thing she has made has brought so much actual good to the world.

Not even 2016 can take that away from me.


What was the best thing you saw or experienced in 2016? Help us end this year on a positive note by sharing the stories that gave you hope.

Featured Image: Marvel

Photos: Michael Walsh

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