‘Ms. Marvel’: Ryan Penagos Talks Hosting AvengerCon, Kamala Khan, and More
No, he sadly did not get to keep his AvengerCon t-shirt.
You might see a familiar face in the crowd at AvengerCon, and no, it’s not the dozens of different Captain America cosplayers. In the first episode of Marvel Studios Ms. Marvel, Marvel’s very own host, Ryan Penagos, makes an appearance as the host of the Captain Marvel costume contest — the same one that Kamala Khan enters hoping to win first prize.
Penagos, who has been with Marvel for almost two decades and currently hosts Marvel’s podcasts This Week In Marvel and Pull List, along with dozens of other appearances across Marvel Entertainment videos and interviews, was thrilled to get the call to join the series. Having watched Kamala’s journey from the very beginning in-house at Marvel, to now making her jump to the silver screen was a surreal experience for him, especially since he’s playing a role in the series that he actually does in real life at conventions. Talk about art imitating life!
Ahead of the release of Ms. Marvel, Marvel.com chatted with Penagos all about Kamala, joining the series, and how his role at AvengerCon is bringing him some newfound “dad cred.”
MARVEL.COM: Obviously, you work at Marvel and more than likely know the character of Ms. Marvel backward and forwards. What has been your exposure to the character? Have you read every Ms. Marvel comic and appearance?
Ryan Penagos: Oh, totally. I’ve been at Marvel for almost 16 years, so I remember early discussions that the Marvel Comics crew — Sana Amanat, Steve Wacker, and others — had about bringing Kamala Khan into comics. And then the enthusiasm and excitement internally around what G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and folks were cooking up. AND THOSE JAMIE McKELVIE COVERS AND DESIGNS. Everyone was excited, but no one KNEW the reactions and reception to Ms. Marvel. It was really cool. I’m pretty sure Sana — who’s now Executive Producer on the series for Disney+ — was on Late Night with Seth Meyers because of Ms. Marvel! (Also, because Sana rules.)
As for the comics, ohhh yes. I’ve been reading every comic we put out — plus lots of older issues — since I started at Marvel in 2006, but from launching our ongoing podcast series This Week in Marvel and Marvel’s Pull List, I’ve made it a point to read every single comic we release, every week. It’s a great privilege, as I get to see the full scope of what Marvel Comics is about from behind the scenes and as a fan. I’ve read everything Kamala has popped up in, from her own series; big crossovers; All-New, All-Different Avengers, Champions, Marvel Rising, and more. You know, I’m something of a Kamala Khan fan, myself.
MARVEL.COM: Do you have a favorite Ms. Marvel comic and/or appearance?
Ryan Penagos: How dare you. That’s so tough! I’d probably just look to that first Ms. Marvel run, those first 19 issues. Seeing Kamala come into her powers and abilities, find her place within the Marvel Universe, and build relationships of all kinds. Willow’s knack for story and dialogue and drama and action is spot-on and Adrian’s art through the majority of the issues is fun and weird and full of life and surprises and so perfectly captures the relatability of Kamala — in spite of all the wild stuff she goes through. It’s really as good as it gets.
Bonus points to Champions by Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos & crew. Stellar teen team stuff with Ms. Marvel at the forefront.
MARVEL.COM: How did you get involved with Ms. Marvel, the series?
Ryan Penagos: Sana texted me early in 2021 and was essentially like, “Hey nerd, wanna come basically do exactly what you do at conventions, but instead do it in front of cameras and be a part of the MCU?” After I double-checked to make sure it wasn’t some prank from a friend, I played it totally cool and said, “Yes yes yes yes”
There was a role in the first episode for a stage host of a cosplay competition at AvengerCon and, as I’ve been told, Kevin Feige thought it would be fun to have me come in and do the part. It’s something I’ve done at dozens of conventions over the years, so while my Marvel fan brain says, “NO WAY IS IT TRUE,” it makes total sense!
MARVEL.COM: What was it like playing a fictionalized version of yourself?
Ryan Penagos: KINDA SUPER WEIRD TBH. But the amazing filmmakers let me suggest a line and play around a tiny bit, so that was fun. And, like, reading lines and getting dressed in a trailer are not the usual things I do before heading into a convention! It was so dang cool.
MARVEL.COM: AvengerCon looks amazing in the episode — what was it like actually being there in person
Ryan Penagos: AWESOME. I was only there for a few days, but I spent a lot of time when I wasn’t being filmed just walking around and looking at the incredible detail the production team put into the set. It’s bigger than you may imagine, especially vertically! That Giant-Man was, indeed, quite giant! I’ve been on many Marvel Studios sets, and I’m always gobsmacked by how much love and care is put into everything.
MARVEL.COM: Do you have a favorite thing or moment from your time at AvengerCon?
Ryan Penagos: It’s really lots of behind-the-scenes stuff, really. Talking a bit to star Iman Vellani, and Matt Lintz who plays Bruno was cool, and thinking about how this is just the start for them! When I first moseyed over to where Sana was sitting during filming and seeing this amazing woman I’ve known for years completely rocking it, fully in on bringing to life on screen something she helped create for comics. She’s an inspiration!
And talking to Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, the directors of the episode, was a blast. They’re FULL of energy and excitement and ideas. Watching them collaborate and toss out ideas, work on the fly, adjust and keep thinking of ways to make the show cooler and better alongside everyone else was fantastic. And HUGE shout-out and appreciation for Benita Allen, the First Assistant Director, of the episode. She had such a great command of the huge gaggle of folks in that AvengerCon scene. I’d never really experienced film-making from this POV before, for this length of time, and I came away with so much respect and appreciation for everyone involved, especially Benita.
MARVEL.COM: Did you get to keep your stylish AvengerCon t-shirt?
Ryan Penagos: NO. Believe me, I asked. I should probably text Sana and see what I can do. Or just buy some of our officially-licensed Ms. Marvel AvengerCon merch. You’re right, I should have taken the tee with me.
MARVEL.COM: During the Captain Marvel costume contest, you’re on stage when Kamala starts using her powers for the first time. What was it like filming that scene, and being part of the crowd’s reaction?
Ryan Penagos: It’s surreal. Because there are aspects of the scene that we don’t see since they’ll be added in by the amazing Marvel Studios Visual Effects team later on. But the way it was explained to us in the script and by the filmmakers, it was easy to imagine it and react to what was going on. I also didn’t fully grasp how crucial that scene was at the time when we were doing it. I knew it was key, but I was really just trying not to be a full bumbling fool the whole time, so it’s a tiny bit of a blur.
MARVEL.COM: Newcomer Iman Vellani is already proving to be a Marvel powerhouse. Did you talk to her at all about her experience filming so far, or offer any Marvel insider tips?
Ryan Penagos: I did get to talk to her a little bit. Sana introduced us and said something sweet about what I do at Marvel. Iman was great, juggling doing schoolwork, studying her lines and the scene, reading some Marvel comics, and if my memory is right, drawing Spider-Man.
MARVEL.COM: What are you most excited for viewers to see in Ms. Marvel?
Ryan Penagos: Kamala Khan. I’m excited for the world at large, the greater MCU fandom, to become huge superfans of Ms. Marvel. I’ve heard many folks describe Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel as a Peter Parker/Spider-Man for a new generation, and it’s so spot-on. I’m excited for viewers to see Kamala’s family, friends, culture, and story and see just how relatable it all is, no matter where they’re from.
Also, of course, I’m excited for them to see me, the next great MCU star. Jokes aside, I can’t wait for my almost 3-year-old daughter to see me in a show with one of her favorite characters. (She LOVES Ms. Marvel from “Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends.”) Huge dad cred for the rest of my life!
MS. MARVEL IS NOW STREAMING EXCLUSIVELY ON DISNEY+.
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