Marvel’s 616, streaming on Disney+ on Friday, is a totally exciting look at the long and varied history of Marvel. To honor that legacy, each episode of the first season is a self-contained documentary exploring one aspect of Marvel lore, and each one is totally different from the next. But the most unique (and, unsurprisingly, funniest) installments is directed by Paul Scheer, who also appears in the episode, as he goes on a quest to find the weirdest, most outrageous characters in the entire Marvel universe.
He settles on Brute Force, a little-known group of robotically enhanced animals who fight crime and fight for the environment. He talks to the creators about where the characters came from and proposes his own renovation, via a high-concept new animated series. If you’re looking for a Marvel’s 616 episode to start with, it’s a good one.
We got the chance to talk to talk to Scheer about where the idea for the show came from, how it was developed, and what his thoughts are on the upcoming Marvel-themed area of Disney California Adventure, Avengers Campus (he’s an outspoken Disney Parks fan). We were also joined by Sarah Amos, executive producer of the series, who shares her insight as well.
Collider: Paul, talk me through the process of getting involved in the series, and what your pitch was because this one is very different from the others, obviously.
PAUL SCHEER: Yeah, No, absolutely. My ties with Marvel run deep. Not only was I a villain in Astonishing Ant-Man #4, I was hitting on Steve’s daughter, I also have written a handful of Marvel comic books. And I am just a fan of Marvel, it’s in my DNA. And when Sarah was coming up with this idea of telling these stories from the Marvel comic book world, it really triggered me in a way that I was like, “Oh wow, I would love to be a part of this.” And, what I loved about being involved in this series was it was a bunch of conversations. It wasn’t just like pitch, we want it, we don’t want it. It was like, “Look, I’m thinking about this.” “Oh, if you’re thinking about this, what about this?” And we built together and that’s very much my experience in the Marvel comic book world, working with an editor, telling a story, how are we going to tell that story, what are we going to do?
And very much like creating a comic book, the initial idea becomes a different thing and it morphs and it grows. And so the documentary that you see is very different than the idea that I originally landed on with this group. And the original idea was I just want to let the audience in on the conversations that I have with Marvel fans, where we sit around and we talk about those books that no one’s talking about, that no one is racing to put into a Disney+ show or make into a Disney+ movie, but they are the ones that affected us. And that’s how the first day of shooting was sitting down with people like Reggie Hudlin, who took Black Panther and imbued it with his own take, and Gerry Duggan, who has taken Deadpool in a different direction, and there’s multiple Deadpools out there. And Donny Cates, who is an amazing newer writer to Marvel, who I think has put his fingerprints on so much stuff. Cosmic Ghost Rider being one of these characters that I actually then took over after he left that series.
And to me, it was that I wanted people to hear the passion and the love that we have for these other characters, the ones that you don’t know about, because for every Iron Man, for every Spider-Man, for every Black Panther, there’s a Guardians of the Galaxy. Right now, most people know Guardians of the Galaxy. When it was announced, people were like, “Wait, what’s that? Who’s that?” And I think Marvel does a great job of unearthing characters and knowing just when to pop them into the world, and we see this time and time again, all these characters are becoming big.
Now everyone knows that there’s a tree and a raccoon. So if there’s a tree and a raccoon that can save the universe, there must be something else. There’s 80 years of history, so let’s dig in. And that’s how the idea started to morph. Well, maybe I need to get behind one of these ideas, because look, to make it in Hollywood, I’m an actor, I’m a writer, a director. I got to align myself, I mean, I’m running out of characters. It all just built slowly but surely, but that’s how it came to be.
Was the discovery of Brute Force an organic part of this process, or was that a teed up for you beforehand?
SCHEER: It was a little bit half-and-half. I will say it in the sense that it’s very hard to show research in a documentary, right? I could sit there and narrate for you, but I really wanted to get people in a room together and talk about it. And I knew Brute Force, and I love these characters, but didn’t know really anything about Brute Force. And when we were looking at the footage from the beginning of this, we were like, “All right, well, what should we chase? What are the characters that have the most potential to be given a deeper dive?” And there was so many on the table, but Brute Force, because I had had some experience with them and a connection to them I was like, “That’s what I really want to get to the bottom of,” because on the surface, it’s insane. It’s animals that are vehicles, like what went on here?
And that, to me, it was like, I need to get to the bottom of this. So yeah that’s how we picked it. And I mean, look, I wish I could do this series about all of these characters, because there’s such a wealth of fun characters that could be rebooted reborn. Look, I talked about this morning, Microbe, an X-Men who communicates with viruses. What better time to bring back Microbe? I mean, let’s get him in here.
AMOS: Now is the time.
Yeah. How about Street Poet Ray.
SCHEER: Oh Street Poet Ray, come on.
AMOS: That’s my boy.
Sarah, when you found out that this was about Brute Force, were there any guardrails, like “Do not bring up Brute Force, just do anybody else,” or what was that process like on your side of things?
AMOS: I will say the whole process for this series, not just with Paul, but with all of our directors has been really collaborative. There’s a whole team of us that have been producing these at Marvel. A bunch of folks all helped mold this series and would work with our partners at Supper Club to bring in directors, and then figure out what’s the thing they cared about, what’s the angle they want to explore? What’s maybe some nugget of an idea that we had on our side that we could throw at them and be like, “Hey, take this and figure it out”? And then when they would come back as much as possible, we tried to run with everything. I think the beauty of Marvel is that we so embrace possibility and we respect our creators and the creative freedom that we can give them.
And we didn’t want to stop doing that with this series. It very much was a, “Hey yeah, if this is what you want to go explore, let’s explore it.” And for episodes like Paul’s, and frankly, a bunch of them, sometimes they went in very different directions than we initially thought they would. And we just went with it because we trusted our directors, we trusted Supper Club, and then we’d get into the edit and we discover new gems and incredible ways to approach a story that maybe initially we hadn’t even thought of as being an angle to take. We’re just really proud to have a series that we think celebrates the fandom of Marvel, but also is a cool entry point for more casual fans. And you don’t have to love Marvel to actually connect with this series. There are storylines and there are characters that really go so far beyond that core superhero fan base.
SCHEER: And I’ll even go one step further and say that there are probably a lot of people out there that only know Marvel through the movies and the shows. And this is a great way to get them into the books, because right now we’re at this amazing point in digital technology where you can fire up the Marvel app and have access to the 80-year history. I mean, if I had that when I was a kid, I would have lost my mind, because it’s like you hear about books and you had to go to the store and find it, or hope that they release it, or go through those bins. For me to have that, I love that idea. I’ve gotten into comics more and more because of the accessibility of getting into comics. And so, yeah I just think that’s a really cool thing to maybe hopefully pull people over and be like “You know that this is all based on a 80-year history of amazing stories that will be as fantastical as anything you’ve seen on the big screen or on TV.”
Well, I’m good friends with Carlye Wisel, and I heard you on her podcast. In my last minute I wanted to ask, what are your thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, and how excited are you for Avengers Campus?
SCHEER: Well, look, I’m a huge Disney nerd, I love it all. I love that we have Batuu, the Star Wars world and I love that now Marvel is getting its due at the parks. And I have to say the ride I’m looking forward to the most is the Spider-Man ride. I hear there’s something about gimbals and you’re flipping around and flying around.
I love Mission Breakout. I’m a big fan of Tower of Terror. I love the Twilight Zone version of it. I will say unequivocally, the version in Disneyland was not up to snuff. It’s not like the Walt Disney World, or I should say the Hollywood Studios, I know it as MGM Studios, version. So yeah, why not reinvent it? It revolutionized that ride. It made it so much fun, the technology in it is great. So thumbs up on that and also thumbs up whenever I get to see more Benicio del Toro… I mean, you can’t beat that. If you got Benicio in it, it’s already an A+ ride.
All episodes of Marvel’s 616 are currently available on Disney+.
Taika Waititi is returning to direct the Marvel sequel, which will feature Christian Bale as an unknown villain.
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