Will Kahhori in ‘What If…?’ Have the Same Fate as Harley Quinn?

Here's hoping. Some of our favorite comic book characters began life in television and film.
Kahhori What If Season Two

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series, where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry examines the news surrounding Kahhori, Marvel’s new Mowhawk superhero set to be introduced in What If…? season two.

While we wait for What If…? season two’s premiere date, Marvel Studios did announce an exciting new development regarding what worlds and characters we’ll soon discover within the multiverse. Via their website, Marvel introduced its audience to Kahhori, “a young Mohawk woman on a quest to discover her power.” In her timeline, the Tesseract (aka the Space Stone) did not crashland in Norway but in the sovereign Haudenosaunee Confederacy before American colonization.

While Ryan Little assembled the script for Kahhori’s What If…? episode, he apparently worked on it in collaboration with Mowhak Nation historian Doug George and language expert Cecelia King. The episode will feature the Mowhawk language, including traditional music, and celebrate the Akwesasne region, which is currently known as upstate New York.

In the press release, George expresses his enthusiasm for Kahhori’s episode and what she could offer Marvel’s massive audience:

It tells a remarkable story from a Native-Mohawk perspective which is truly unique and historical, and will give the viewers a new, challenging and entertaining perspective on this land’s first peoples. The story is dramatic, the characters fully realized, and the action sequences are breathtaking. The episode is exceptional in another sense–it is done with the complete cooperation of the Mohawk people from dialogue to adornment.

The MCU’s fourth phase offered several wild swings over the last few years, but maybe its mightiest was the animated anthology series. Throughout What If…?‘s nine episodes, we encountered significantly altered versions of our favorite characters. Storylines that asked what could have been if Yondu kidnapped T’Challa instead of Peter Quill or Captain Carter got the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers. The later superhero even found her way into live-action through Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Briefly.

Kahhori is not the first new character introduced in the MCU. Obviously, there have been hundreds of them, and most of you probably couldn’t name them. Other characters like Agent Coulson and Darcy Lewis gained such affection that they were carried over into the comic books.

The same could easily happen for Kahhori. Honestly, we should always be a little excited when these cross-pollinations occur. They represent a visionary injection, and they’re crucial for sustaining these decades-long narratives.

Considering how the more popular movies infect the source material, some might suffer an initial grumbling pang. Too often, it feels like the comics bow to the films rather than the other way around. One must overcome such insecurity and acknowledge how this sensation is nothing new. Comics have always been modified by their adaptations, going all the way back to Jimmy Olsen’s first proper appearance in the 1940s radio program, The Adventures of Superman. That show, by the way, is also where Kryptonite originated. Can you imagine the Superman mythology without either of those two? No way. No, thank you.

Today, Harley Quinn might be one of the most beloved characters in comics, movies, and TV. Her origin rests in Batman: The Animated Series. Creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini dropped her into their “Joker’s Favor” episode as little more than a walk-on, but the design and performance captured their imagination. They kept bringing her back, and now her popularity rivals that of the Clown Prince of Crime himself.

Even Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, owes her existence to TV. While the character made it to the comics first, she only did so because Batman television producer William Dozier begged DC’s editor-in-chief Julius Schwartz and artist Carmine Infantino to create a new sidekick for the show’s third season, which was on the brink of not being picked up. Batgirl got Batman another year on television and quickly became an essential resident of Gotham City.

Bebop and Rocksteady! Krang! Metalhead! Most of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ supporting cast came from cartoons or toys.

The Turtles as we know them today would not behave or be as successful without their cartoon variations. The Mirage Studios comics from Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird are exceptional, but their turtles are not obsessed with pizza, nor do they idolize surfer-speak. The shows and films sharpened their personalities, creating the icons that will likely continue long after everyone reading this article dies.

Every time we get a new Ninja Turtles series or film, like the upcoming Mutant Mayhem animated movie, fans get a little twitchy. These are precious characters, and we love them dearly, but they survive and thrive through multiple revamps. Each new take on the Turtles brings something new to their canon. The stuff that works sticks. The stuff that doesn’t falls away.

Superhero universes are a massive soup of ideas. They persist because creators numbering in the thousands contribute to their stories. Publishers constantly resetting the status quo creates an illusion that nothing changes with these characters, but that’s false. The change merely occurs at a profoundly slow rate.

An intense wave floods the internet when news drops, like Kahhori’s What If…? introduction. Everyone has an opinion and must express it. There’s an immediacy to the conversation because it’s new, and as something new, it’s regarded as important. However, we should never forget that the new is bloody temporary.

So, relax. You’re not the franchise’s guardian. The work policies themselves. Kryptonite will stick around while Adam X the X-Treme X-Man will not (please look him up if you have no idea who I’m talking about).

New creators, new voices, new perspectives. Our stories require them.

Brad Gullickson: Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)