Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios' Echo, releasing on Hulu and Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2023. All Rights Reserved.

Marvel’s ‘Spotlight Era’ Has Me Intrigued

Marvel is trying new things with its “Spotlight” banner. And while some are complaining about it, I’m excited to see an era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe where new characters get their time to shine.

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Brad Winderbaum, the head of streaming for Marvel, spoke with about the future of the MCU and Marvel characters. One element of this strategy stuck out to me. This Spotlight idea comes from what was, essentially, the Netflix era (or at least that’s my interpretation of it) and, according to Winderbaum, “gives us a platform to bring more grounded, character-driven stories to the screen, and in the case of Echo, focusing on street-level stakes over larger MCU continuity. Just like comics fans didn’t need to read ‘Avengers’ or ‘Fantastic Four’ to enjoy a ‘Ghost Rider’ Spotlight comic, our audience doesn’t need to have seen other Marvel series to understand what’s happening in Maya’s story.”

The idea behind Spotlight is to basically help those who feel too overwhelmed by the Marvel canon, letting them have a break from stories they may not want to dive into if they don’t need to in order to understand the larger story. So while Echo will kick off the Marvel Spotlight aspect of this plan, she won’t necessarily play into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe—so the casual fan won’t have to worry about rushing through her story and possibly not appreciating its context before the next big movie. Sort of like Marvel’s Netflix shows.

Projects under the Spotlight banner will have a new theme from composer and Werewolf by Night director Michael Giacchino, and will highlight characters we love in live action with standalone stories.

It’s what I want for my heroes, but Echo shouldn’t have been the first example

This is pretty much what I wanted out of the Disney+ era from the jump. I wanted the shows to be focused on characters and let them have grounded stories that may or may not connect to a larger universe, but still let those characters live in the larger MCU canon. While Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) was in Hawkeye, she isn’t a character who will end up in something like Guardians of the Galaxy, but she could show up in Daredevil stories or even Spider-Man stories. Letting her have a Spotlight series for herself gives fans a chance to know her outside of the bigger, main character arcs and that’s nice.

Echo being the first example is maybe where it gets tricky since she was part of Hawkeye. Moon Knight could have benefited from being a Marvel Spotlight series, and Werewolf By Night could’ve been a Spotlight project instead of a “special presentation.” Echo being the first to kick it off needs more explanation, but hopefully it will start a more character-driven era of Marvel projects on Disney+.

I hope that this idea doesn’t mean that we will see a lack of characterization across platforms. As I have often pointed out, my biggest gripe with the Disney+ and Marvel movie crossovers has been with characters like Wanda Maximoff, who went through an emotional journey on WandaVision only for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to completely negate it.

Having a Spotlight series to give characters their own space without forcing it to tie into anything larger means that we can focus on the character and why we love them—and that’s exciting, especially for comic fans who have been missing the deeper dives into some of our faves.

(featured image: Disney+)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.