Here at ComicsVerse, we believe that comics can save lives. Take it from our CEO, Justin Alba, who said, “At a time when I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere when I didn’t feel like I had a family or community, I had X-Men, and they were my family.” Comics have been a safe space for so many of us. Because of this, we want to highlight just how much comics have truly saved our lives. This episode focuses on Anika. Comics helped her find her place in the world and accept who she is.

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How (X-Men) Comics Saved My Life: An Open Letter from the CEO of ComicsVerse

Anika: It was early in kindergarten when I started to become extremely self-conscious about my skin color. I was a five-year-old, still oblivious about the big bad world, but I realized that I didn’t belong. I still remember that day in school, when everybody was served pepperoni pizza, and I was served peanut butter and jelly. I was beyond frustrated because I hated peanut butter and jelly, and the pepperoni pizza smelled so good.

Anika: Because I grew up in a Bangladeshi household, I wasn’t allowed to eat pork for religious reasons. My friends,
Victoria and Amela, had beautiful blonde hair and white skin. When I looked at them, I thought, “Wow. They’re like life-sized Barbie dolls.” I wanted to be one of them. So, I started hanging out with them more often. As I started spending more time with them, I realized that there were more things that were different about us.

Anika: Soon, a new stream of questions had begun: Why do they get to celebrate Christmas and I celebrate Eid? How am I the only one with weird food rules?

Anika: Then, 9/11 happened.

Anika: At a very young age, I learned that evil exists, and superheroes aren’t always there to save us. I remember images of dead bodies covered in blood circulate everywhere. Now that I think of it, it was too graphic for a five-year-old.

Anika: I was made fun of for having the same last name as Saddam Hussein. My parents were racially profiled right in front of my eyes. It got to a point where my family decided that going back to Bangladesh would be the best choice. Then, 13 years later, I came back to New York when I was ready for college.

Anika: When I first found out about Ms. Marvel, I was excited because finally, a mainstream superhero who was Muslim, not a terrorist, someone who is sweet, relatable, a comic nerd, just like us, and also someone who struggles to accept herself. Her initial struggles with self-acceptance reminded me of my five-year-old self.

Anika: A quote of her that really resonates with me is:

“I’m not here to be a watered-down version of some other hero…I’m here to be the best version of Kamala.”

Anika: That quote really inspired me because it helped me realize that I don’t want to be anybody other than a stronger version of myself. I don’t want to change my color or my values to be a powerful figure to the world.

Anika: However, the struggle of having a cultural identity crisis still exists. Often times, I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. In America, I’m obviously not considered an American for my color and my culture beliefs. When I go to Bangladesh, I’m treated like this American celebrity, and often times criticized for having an Americanized and liberal views and opinions.

Anika: So, when I read MS. MARVEL #12, I found comfort in knowing that Kamala goes through the same struggle as I do, because she tells her grandmother, when she goes to Karachi, “In Pakistan, I feel I’m too American, and in America, I feel too Pakistani.”

Anika: There are times when I do miss being in Bangladesh. Obviously, I’ve spent almost my entire life there. The definition of home seems ambiguous to me. Is it the place that you go back to at the end of the day? Or is it the place that you’ve known the longest?

Anika: I came to America for independence, for greater opportunities, but it came at the cost of never being with my family again, never feeling home again. I found solace in reading TRINITY #4, where Wonder Woman thinks she’s back in her hometown, but she’s really not. She realizes how much she misses being around the people that she grew up with, but as much as she misses being the Amazon princess, the world needs her, and she’s got to do what she’s got to do.

Anika: So, the lessons that I can draw from comics is, first of all: you need to accept yourself in order to be the best at what you do, but self-acceptance is not a one-time thing where you say, “Oh, I accept myself,” and that’s it. It’s an ongoing struggle that you have with yourself, and you need to constantly remind yourself that you’re not here to be anybody else. You’re here to be the best version of you. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to have your own unique set of values. It doesn’t make you weird. It makes you totally normal.

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