April 6-7, 2024
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not all Infinity Gauntlets and multiverse team-ups, Supa-Fans. Sometimes the best stories don’t need to decide the fate of the universe, and the latest streaming series to come from the world’s largest and most successful superhero franchise proves just that.
Featuring the return of Alaqua Cox’s Maya Lopez and Vincent D’Onofrio’s intimidating crime lord Wilson Fisk, Echo marks a distinctly different style of streaming series from those previously released on Disney+. With a darker, more grounded, and violent approach reminiscent of Daredevil and the other Marvel street-level shows that once began on Netflix, Echo is not only one of the most exciting shows to emerge from the MCU’s main continuity, but it is also the first entry in a new initiative dubbed Marvel Spotlight.
Ahead of Echo’s highly anticipated Disney+ debut on January 10, 2024, we caught up with executive producers Brad Winderbaum and Richie Palmer to talk about Echo’s place in the wider cinematic universe and what fans can expect from the series.
“Marvel Spotlight is a way for us to tell the audience that you can come in and watch this series as a standalone,” Winderbaum explains. As an MCU veteran who first served as an assistant on 2008’s Iron Man and has quickly risen through the ranks, he currently serves as Marvel’s Head of Streaming, Television and Animation.
“You can watch Maya’s journey in this show on its own terms without, you know, expecting Captain America to show up or without knowing anything about the Infinity Stones. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t live in the same world as those characters. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t potential for these characters to grow and pop up in unexpected places, but this series as a Marvel Spotlight can be enjoyed alone and on its own terms.”
Taking its name from the comic anthology first introduced in 1971 under Stan Lee’s tenure as Marvel president and publisher, the Marvel Spotlight label was a try-out book that was responsible to introducing readers to a number of now-classic Marvel characters including Werewolf By Night, Ghost Rider, and Jessica Drew’s Spider-Woman.
Similarly, Winderbaum’s co-producer Palmer hopes the label will allow Marvel to introduce viewers to some of Marvel’s more obscure catalogue of characters.
“We wanted to take a character from the comics,” Palmer explains, “that was a little bit more obscure and literally put them in the spotlight and along the way, this show has evolved into a violent and gritty and more grounded show.
“Tonally, the show has ended up very different than any of our other of the streaming series that we’ve released so far. So, with all of that, we just wanted to say that this is a character that was a little more obscure in the comics, and we’re excited to introduce the world to them.”
Yet while viewers may not necessarily need to be familiar with Echo’s backstory to enjoy her own solo series, Maya Cox’s relationship with a certain blind-lawyer-turned-vigilante also sets some exciting groundwork for those keen to see Charlie Cox’s return as The Man Without Fear.
First appearing in the 1999 Daredevil run from David Mack and Joe Quesada, Maya Cox’s Echo is in many ways a dark reflection of Matt Murdock himself, an orphan who is deaf with extraordinary abilities who is adopted and honed into a living weapon by Wilson Fisk’s Kingpin.
“I think with Maya Lopez,” Palmer explains, “she was introduced in a very dark and violent era of Daredevil comics, and we wanted to honor that, and we wanted to make sure that it felt like its own thing.”
Winderbaum adds: “I would say that the criminal underworld of New York Is always going to be bound to Maya and her and her story, and that brings in not just Wilson Fisk, but also characters like Daredevil. But to bring her back to Oklahoma, which was the origin for her life but also for this moment that severed her from her roots, is really exciting and emotional to watch.”
Those roots to which Winderbaum refers are the deep connections Maya’s character has to the Native American people of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. With the first issue of the original Marvel Spotlight comic responsible for introducing readers to the company’s first Native American superhero, Red Wolf, it is fitting that the Indigenous aspects of Maya’s character also takes centre stage in the first television series released under the banner.
“Along the way, we knew we had to tell the story authentically,” Palmer explains. “We had a few writers in the room from different tribal affiliations, and we wanted to make it culturally specific and consistent. We had some writers in the room that were from the Choctaw Nation, and they had very personal stories that they wanted to bring to the table.
“So, we went and met with the Choctaw Nation Chief [Gary] Batton and his team and they created such an open dialogue with us that we talked to them anytime we were writing scenes. We talked to them and when we were in production, they came and they flew out and were with us while we were shooting, we had people from the Choctaw Nation with us throughout all that, and then even in post-production.
“If there was ever any questions, you were just a phone call or a text away from, you know, the chief historians of Choctaw culture. It was quite amazing and is probably the reason that we were so successful in telling a story that’s going to feel so authentic.”
Following on from her breakout performance in 2021’s Hawkeye series, Alaqua Cox’s uncompromising Maya Lopez is a truly worthy addition the pantheon of Marvel characters and provides an exciting first-step in the new Marvel Spotlight label. With all five episodes arriving on Disney+ on January 10, 2024, get ready for one of Marvel’s grittiest and most violent stories yet.
Lead image: Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios’ ‘Echo’, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick