Marvel 616 administrators Alison Brie and Gillian Jacobs discuss concerning the new Disney Plus Doc collection
Marvels 616, the new Disney + documentary anthology that takes you into the history of the House of Ideas, has achieved a superheroic feat by reuniting itself Community occupation Alison Brie and Gillian Jacobs, who staged remarkable installments of the first season. Jacobs' "Higher, Further, Faster" episode explores the story of the artists and creators at Marvel, a seemingly insurmountable task that Jacobs brings to life with humor, wit and brevity. "Spotlight," Brie's episode, is sonically very different and focuses on a middle-class high school in Florida performing a Marvel play as part of their free-to-produce Spotlight program. It's incredibly adorable as Brie acts as a fly-on-the-wall while production is ongoing while immersing herself in the lives of the teenage stars.
We jumped on a zoom with Brie and Jacobs along with Marvel's 616 Executive Producer Jason Stermanto talk about how their episodes were brought to life, how high their fandom was before (and after), and how much everyone loves Kamala Khan themselves, Ms. Marvel.
What was your level of Marvel fandom before you made the documentaries and what was it after?
ALISON BRIE: I would say for myself, minimally before, probably more in the Marvel cinematic universe. And a much bigger (appreciation) after that, but deeper because, as you may have seen, my episode really deals very closely with two Marvel characters. So I learned less about every corner of the Marvel Universe and just had a deeper appreciation for the characters in Marvel, especially Kamala Khan and Doreen Green, Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel, and the impact they have on people.
GILLIAN JACOBS: Like Sana, I loved the X-Men animation series on my episode in the 90s. I remember watching and loving this and watching movies, but I wasn't a knowledgeable comic book person. I think I got away because I'd read infinitely more comics than I got into the process and really had a love of it and learned about paging and layout and everything that goes into making a comic. And so I would say that I got away with a much greater appreciation and understanding.
Image via Disney +
Impressive. That's a tough job making an episode literally about the history of the Marvel Comics. How was it?
JACOBS: I read a book about the history of Marvel as a company. I phoned various women and conducted preliminary interviews. They said, "Oh, you should talk to this person." And just very simple googling to learn the different ages of comics as an industry. I didn't know about it and was grateful for the people I was allowed to interview who could inform me and then I also tried to do as much research as possible in advance so I could ask them intelligently, coherent questions. But yes, there was a lot to do, the entire history of an industry.
You did a great job. Jason, why did you go to these fabulous filmmakers and how was that process for you?
JASON STERMAN: I mean, it was interesting. When we were putting together the dream list of who we would go to for filmmakers, knowing that each of these films would be a unique and bespoke film, we split it up and looked at some of the traditional doc filmmakers, people we either admired have or have worked with in this area. But we also saw the opportunity to consider both Marvel and both as a theme, where people can find different connection points to look for new voices, and I think people like Alison, who directed an episode of Glow and Gillian, who Has made several documentaries in the past. It was a way of saying, "Is this a playground you'd like to play in?" And what we really wanted to do is have that kind of support system that we created for the format but really just let people be creative and work with it. So it's a great opportunity to bring new people into the documentation format.
And did you give them the premise of each episode or was that something they discovered along the way?
STERMAN: It was completely different and it depended on what we had done on the development side. One of the things we knew from working with Dan Silver, who is now at Disney +, but one of the people who co-created that idea for the show when he was at Marvel was he had worked with Gillian on their documentary She'd done for ESPN. When he bonded and we started talking, he really learned what was important to Gillian and one of the things Gillian really enjoys doing is researching stories from women. There was a natural connection point there where we could say, "Okay, we'll explore this further." Alison and one of my partners, Brian McGinn, were friends. And it was as simple as investigating the idea of whether or not Alison had a story to tell in the high school theater room. We had learned about the Spotlight program through Marvel, and Marvel did a great job connecting the dots for us and clearing us up so we could film it. And we identified Brandon High School and Alison really took her from there.
BRIE: Yeah, for me the concept was already prepackaged. It was a bit like, "This is this program, this is this high school that is playing these pieces. What do you think?" And it was more about overcoming any initial fears or insecurities that might affect my lack of knowledge of Marvel or my lack of documentary experience and really taking it to a basic level: "I feel connected to what this story means ? " could be? "And I absolutely did. I mean, I was very involved in my high school theater program. I have a thing for theater students and I was so excited to see what Marvel would be like in that context. So it was just this great baseline and it was really like jumping into the unknown.
JACOBS: The first documentary I made with Dan Silver was about a computer scientist in the 1940s and 50s. I've written articles and interviewed women from other industries, so I was curious to see what kind of story exists in the world of comics. And I found this rich story of women in comics in the early decades of the medium that I wasn't aware of. I felt like there was continuity between what I had worked on in the past and that and then it was really fun to expand that to include conversations with women who worked there over the last few decades and in the past have today.
It grew from there. I basically had to learn about the whole history of comics and then find the women who worked specifically at Marvel who were willing to talk to us and get together with them. The most fun was bringing women back together who had worked there in the 80s and 90s and who might not have all been in the same room for a while. With Anne Nocenti, June Bregman and Louise Simonson all hanging out in an apartment, I was just watching the three of them meet again, which was really special.
Image via Marvel Comics
Both installments are largely about Ms. Marvel. Did this character speak to you? What was that process like when you found out about her and would you return with a Disney + show en route to Ms. Marvel's future?
JACOBS: I discovered Kamala Khan while working on my episode, and that was one of those comics that it was work to read the comic in, but I probably read more than I actually needed because I enjoyed it so much have. Juliet Eisner, who was my producer on that episode, and I both really fell in love with Kamala Khan in the comic. And I know something like that, if I was a teenager or younger I would read Ms. Marvel and love this character and be so happy that I could play her, not that I could play her, but that there is a piece for students and now an entire television series she'll be on. I love this comic so I get the chance to speak to (Writer) G. Willow Wilson and (Marvel Exec) Sana who really were the driving force behind Kamala Khan's been so exciting and I can't wait to see them Watch series.
BRIE: I share the excitement. Kamala Khan is an incredible character. I found out about her while researching the Spotlight program and reading Ms. Marvel's play. And then I saw Gillian's episode because I think hers was the first one made. I need to learn more about her there. And then it must have been a real treat to see in real time what impact this character has on an actual student and the surrounding students who were also involved in this piece.
Jason, are you always surprised at how many permutations can develop out of this character and how people react to them in every form?
STERMAN: It's incredible. I think it was at New York Comic Con that I was where they showed the first footage for the Avengers video game that came out, and it showed Kamala Khan, there was that attraction to the character and I think we did were really, really lucky enough to spend time with Sana Amanat who created the character and G. Willow, the original people. And you can see where that DNA is coming from, but I think it was really, really rewarding to see her play out as a character in real time.
All episodes of Marvels 616 will be available on Disney + on Friday.
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Drew Taylor is the Associate Editor for Collider. He has contributed in the past to Vulture, Vanity Fair, New York Daily News, the Playlist, Moviefone, MTV and SYFY. He is also the author of "The Art of Onward" (Chronicle Books, 2020).
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