Iman Vellani, the breakout star of the new Marvel Cinematic Universe film “The Marvels,” says Long Island legend Billy Joel was the inspiration for her recent debut as a comics writer.
“Yes, I am obsessed with ‘River of Dreams.’ It’s one of my favorite albums, my favorite song,” Vellani, who reprises her role as Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel from last year’s Disney+ streaming series “Ms. Marvel,” explained on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” early Thursday. The 21-year-old Marvel Comics superfan said that when assigned to help script the current miniseries “Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant” with television screenwriter Sabir Pirzada, she channeled Joel’s lyrics into extended dream sequences across the four issues.
Joel’s song “very much explores … stream-of-consciousness and dealing with our inner demons and finding yourself,” the Pakistani Canadian Khan said. “And I think that’s a lot of what Kamala’s journey is in my book,” in which the teen Muslim superhero from New Jersey learns that her shape-shifting abilities in the comics — a different power than her onscreen character’s — originated from another source than Kamala believed.
“How she perceives herself has shifted,” Khan said. “So, yeah, we literally put her in her own dreams and she has to fight off her fear and doubts.”
The young actor additionally expressed a personal wish regarding Hicksville-raised Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Joel: “I hope he serenades me one day with that song!”
Joel’s representative did not respond to a Newsday request for comment.
In a TikTok video on Aug. 30, when the first issue came out, Khan had said briefly, “The whole comic book thing came to me in a dream” after “listening to Billy Joel's ‘River of Dreams.’”
Titled “The River of Dreams” on the 1993 album “River of Dreams” but given as simply “River of Dreams” on the lyrics page of Joel’s official website, the song talks metaphorically of “walking in my sleep / From the mountains of faith / To a river so deep / I must be looking for something / Something sacred I lost.” Despite the river’s daunting immensity, the narrator wades in, ultimately to “end in the ocean,” with whatever meaning one may derive from that.
Vellani has praised Joel before, telling the magazine Esquire Middle East, in an interview early last year when she was just 19, that, “My top favorite people in the entire world are Robert Downey Jr., Billy Joel and [Marvel Studios head] Kevin Feige.”