‘Ms. Marvel’: Star Iman Vellani on Iron Man and Her Comfort Comics
"Ms. Marvel and this lightning bolt, it just represents so much to so many people."
In case you haven’t heard, Iman Vellani loves Marvel. Like, a lot. Vellani loves Marvel more than the average human being, which honestly makes her the perfect person to portray Kamala Khan — also a self-proclaimed Avenger superfan — in Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel. When it comes to the movies, comics, TV shows, and everything in-between, Vellani knows her stuff.
So, what’s it like to now be in this world? Talking to Marvel.com, Vellani explains that she feels like she’s “cosplaying on a large scale” stepping into Kamala’s shoes. But also, she doesn’t necessarily want to take ownership of the character in full, considering how beloved and relatable she is.
“I think that’s the wide appeal of the character, very similar to Spider-Man,” Vellani explains. “Anyone can be under the mask. Ms. Marvel and this lightning bolt, it just represents so much to so many people. Everyone can see themselves in her, so I just feel like I'm sharing her with the fans. Watch myself on-screen, I’m able to disconnect because it feels like I’m reading a Ms. Marvel comic and watching my friends.”
Once upon a time, Vellani was just a fan herself but after discovering 2008’s Iron Man all that changed.
“I think all of this started because I had a crush on Robert Downey, Jr.,” she recalls with a laugh. “The movie's so good. Jon Favreau is such a wonderful director. I think when I was like 11 or 12 my Marvel obsession just heightened to the max, and I fully became obsessed with Iron Man and anything to do with Iron Man.”
Now, she’s seen the movie countless times, calling it her “comfort movie,” and doesn’t plan to stop watching it anytime soon.
“Whenever I was sad, I'd watch it. Whenever I was happy, I'd watch it. The first thing I did when I got cast was watch the movie. Every big moment in my life also includes Iron Man. Because I have that attachment to it, it means a lot to me even though you know, it's not like the greatest movie ever created, but to me it is.”
Growing up, Vellani’s high school was right across from a comic book shop, and this newfound fixation on Iron Man on-screen led her to discover more about the character in the pages. “I read all the Invincible Iron Man comics I could get my hands on. That obsession snowballed into where I am now,” she continues.
Another character she loves is, without question, Ms. Marvel — and especially the times Kamala teams up with Tony Stark (something, yes, Vellani is sad cannot happen on-screen in the MCU).
“The 2016 run where Kamala is an Avenger, and she's fighting alongside Iron Man, and Iron Man's helping her with her physics homework and gets her gyros and fries, and they eat them together. He helps her when her dad gets sick in the comics. Their relationship is very, very wholesome.”
And just like Vellani has Iron Man as a comfort movie, she also has comfort comics — aka, things she returns to again and again to read. Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon is one she reads “a lot,” but that’s not all.
“The 50th anniversary of Silver Surfer during the Infinity Gauntlet run, I love it for some reason,” she explains. “I think it's so well-written, and a lot of the Silver Surfer comics really hit home for me, it was such a philosophical thing of like, we live in Zenn-La, this utopian planet where everything is available at the touch of our fingers. And here is Norrin Radd, Silver Surfer, like, but I didn't earn it. How do I earn this? Where’s my purpose in life? I thought that was cool.”
So now where does Vellani go from here in the MCU? She knows, but she’s not telling. “I love keeping the secrets. I know so much right now, and it's the greatest power ever.”
Considering she spent so much of her life as a huge fan and now she’s part of the actual universe, a part of her is a little sad that she can’t experience things for the first time in a theater alongside a cheering crowd. However, for Vellani, the tradeoff of knowing all the secrets is so much better.
“I was that kid who just wanted to know every possible theory and every possible spoiler because it made me feel more knowledgeable. And now I actually do know those things, and it's a good feeling.”
MS. MARVEL IS NOW STREAMING EXCLUSIVELY ON DISNEY+.
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