Marvel Rising is one of Disney's newest franchises with the comic book giant, and so far, it's been well received. The franchise began with Marvel Rising: Initiation, a series of animated shorts that introduced fans to a cast of relatively unknown characters (although devoted fans of Marvel Comics will obviously be familiar with them). Last month, the first full-length animated film was released, Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, which sees Squirrel Girl, Ms Marvel, Inferno, Patriot, America Chavez and other teen heroes teaming up to deal with an Inhuman threat.
The film was well received as an introduction to a new superhero team, aimed primarily at younger viewers. It's clear that this is not something created for adult fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although many grown-ups will still get a kick out of it (especially as it brings some characters to life that haven't yet made it to the big screen). Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors was also praised for its diversity, with Kamala Khan (Ms Marvel) in the lead, and a cast that sees a balance of genders and ethnicities working together so that young viewers can (hopefully) see themselves represented in the Marvel universe. At New York Comic Con, some of the voice cast of the film and the Executive Producers sat down to talk about how the franchise puts inclusivity front and center, and how they hope to tackle concepts like toxic masculinity for their young viewers.
Related: Marvel Rising Secret Warriors Review
Diversity In The Marvel Rising Universe
Kathreen Khavari, the voice of Ms Marvel, talked about how happy she was to see a Pakistani hero in the animated Marvel universe, especially as Muslim and Pakistani characters are still too much of a rarity on screen:
It feels really special that I get to help be a part of that team, especially to play Ms Marvel and to have these diverse female characters and people of color... for me it's very important to help shape young minds to see the world a little bit differently than how they've been seeing it so far in media.
I think everyone is hungry to see all these girls and the diversity. Again, I mean, Ms Marvel is a Muslim, Pakistani girl from New Jersey, that's not a common thing that you see at all, whether it's an animation or not. I think people will appreciate the direction that our programming is going in, especially because I think it's one of the most important things for the next generation, for the youth. I think when you start to see diversity as something to be celebrated instead of something to be feared or judged, that's the direction that society needs to go in. And I think that it's done well in Marvel Rising.
Of course while many are thrilled about the extent of the diversity in the franchise, Executive Producer Cort Lane also wanted to make it clear that this isn't just about diversity for the sake of it. It's primarily about showing young fans a world that they can recognize:
We always believed that the Marvel Universe is about relatable characters that live in the real world, the world outside your window, and that includes all kinds of people. That being said, obviously we had an intent that it would be nice to have diversity, a variety kinds of diversity in the program, but we didn't want to be prescriptive. We don't want to check boxes.
Secret Warriors And A New Kind Of Masculinity
Another topic that came up was that of toxic masculinity, and both Tyler Posey (the voice of Inferno) and Kamil McFadden (the voice of Patriot) spoke about the hopes that their versions of these great Marvel characters would help young boys realize that they can be vulnerable, and that even male superheroes can look up to girls and women.
Posey: Those are some really important impactful messages for young kids. It doesn't shove it down their throats. It's very straightforward and natural and organic. But also the dudes, the little kids watching the show can be like, those girls are f**king cool and girls have a really interesting way of looking at life and... guys are, always kind of macho and we need to drop that sh*t. And I think they can learn a lot from these girls.
Even though [Dante] is kind of a hothead, he's really vulnerable. And I think that kids, guys, dudes, little boys can take something from that and be like, you know, it's okay to be vulnerable... And so that's kind of what Dante embodies, you know, he's a hothead because that's kind of who he is because of his past. He's also vulnerable and he's okay with that, you know, he's becoming okay with that. And so that you see that grow and a lot of little boys can take something from that.
McFadden: I feel like the way marvel has handled my character as far as his masculinity is, it ties into the theme of female empowerment. ...Taking orders from Quake, you know, that's his partner, but he knows that she is the lead on the team. So, um, I think just the way he talks to any of the characters... and the way that they interact, I think that is the insight into how comfortable he is with his masculinity and just being okay with not taking the lead.
I think that's important for young kids to see like a project like this with huge female empowerment for young boys especially. I'm seeing these strong female leads and not being intimidated by it and realizing that you can, like, your role model can be a strong female, you know, there's nothing wrong with that.
The Future Of Inclusivity And Marvel Rising
Disney has big plans for Marvel Rising, with new animations centering on Ghost-Spider (aka Spider-Gwen) and Ironheart, and it seems that the future is bright - and very diverse - for this corner of the Marvel Universe. Of course, while diversity is clearly at the heart of what Marvel is doing here, it still takes a back seat to the key stories of these characters. Marvel Rising is all about young heroes banding together, learning to navigate their new abilities as well as their civilian lives, and learning the kinds of lessons that kids can relate to. The upcoming additions to the Marvel Rising universe may tick the boxes for diversity, but they also fit the story and suit the target audience, and that's the most important thing.
The diverse cast of Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors also helps new fans grow up with a range of heroes, something that should please those fans who believe that future adaptations should stay true to the comic books in terms of race, gender, and sexuality. As more kid-oriented projects like Marvel Rising raise the profile of newer, more diverse characters, future live action projects can find a bigger audience with these same superheroes - creating a comic book universe that is inclusive and true to canon. And of course, kids can grow up watching heroes that look like them, that represent as many kids as possible, and show everyone that they might not have powers, but they can still feel powerful watching a superhero like themselves.
Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors was released Sept 30th on Disney XD.