We’re going to be waiting for almost a year to find out what happened to the Marvel Cinematic Universe following Thanos’s snap, but for those craving the brand’s particular take on character-oriented superhero fun, a new franchise just launched courtesy of Disney XD. “Marvel Rising: Initiation” features a majority-female line-up with a story that begins with the wrongfully accused Ghost-Spider defying the authorities, and fellow heroes Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel taking it upon themselves to bring her to justice.
Debuting initially as six shorts, now streaming on YouTube, “Initiation” will be followed up by “Secret Warriors,” a feature-length adventure this fall featuring the same characters, voiced by Dove Cameron, Milana Vayntrub, Kathreen Khavari, Chloe Bennet, Kim Raver, Kamil McFadden, and Steven Weber, among others.
Both the shorts and the feature were scripted by comic book and animation writer Mairghread Scott, whose previous credits include the animated “Guardians of the Galaxy” series, as well as writing “Batgirl” and “Green Arrow” for DC Comics.
Scott got on the phone with IndieWire to explain how this project came together, as well as why this was the right time for it. As she explained, Scott was just coming back from maternity leave when the opportunity to pitch Marvel with ideas for a story featuring these characters. [Disclaimer: Scott and I met previously about 10 years ago through the Los Angeles theater community.]
Scott’s idea was to focus on Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel, bringing them together for, essentially, a buddy cop adventure that would spotlight the friendship between the two characters, focusing on them as “best friends and how they were going to make their mark in a big city.”
Added Scott, “I just thought was really nice to have them be real friends. They fight and they argue and it’s not always perfect, but your friends who you really respect, I feel like that’s how it is.”
Of particular interest to some fans is the fact that Squirrel Girl plays a central role in the series, as the character has become something of an underground hit in recent years. (Check out Ryan North’s hilarious “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” comics, if you’re at all doubtful.)
In an era of superheroic doom and gloom, Squirrel Girl — whose official powers include superhuman agility and strength, plus the ability to communicate with squirrels, and whose unofficial powers include an incredibly positive and happy personality — makes for a delightful choice.
“She’s completely unapologetic,” Scott said of Squirrel Girl’s appeal. “She’s got superpowers and they may not be the exact same superpowers as everyone else, but she doesn’t care. She makes them work for her.”
Scott also admired Squirrel Girl’s “unbridled enthusiasm coupled with complete self confidence. She’s not stupid. She knows that other people look down on her, but she tried really hard to say that, you know, to realize the value in something to bring to the table. She’s not going to let people make her hide her light under a bushel.”
And in general, Scott noted that there is plenty of evidence which indicates that there is real interest in more female-led stories like this.
“I think what it all comes down to is the hunger,” Scott said. “Katniss Everdeen, Rey from ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Black Panther,’ Diana from ‘Wonder Woman’ — there’s a real hunger out there to see more female heroes and there’s a market for it. It just makes sense to start to try and offer things that appeal to that market.”
Check out the first of the “Marvel Rising: Initiation” shorts below, and head to YouTube to watch the rest. The feature-length follow-up, “Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors,” will premiere on Disney Channel this fall.