11/06/2013 AT 01:00 PM EST
Look under the costume of Marvel Comics' latest superhero and you might get a big surprise.
Kamala Khan is a teenage Muslim girl with Pakistani parents who lives in New Jersey, a multicultural and modern reimagining of a heroine for the comic-book company that brought to the world the likes of Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk and Captain America, the New York Times
The Khan character, 16, reflects the comic-book company's desire to capture a diverse new audience, updating the heroine image with a protagonist who explores what it's like to be a teenager, to deal with a foreign-born family living in a different culture, and to navigate her superpowers, which include shape-shifting her arms, legs and body, the U.K.'s The Telegraph
"I wanted Ms. Marvel to be true-to-life, something real people could relate to, particularly young women," says the comic's writer, G. Willow Wilson. "High school was a very vivid time in my life, so I drew heavily on those experiences – impending adulthood, dealing with school, emotionally charged friendships that are such a huge part of being a teenager."
"It's for all the geek girls out there and everybody else who's ever looked at life from the fringe," Wilson said.