“Marvel’s 616” is a docuseries about several weird, yet intriguing, aspects of Marvel Comics’ history. The stories are told through the fascinating perspectives of people involved in various situations, such as the Japanese Spider-Man show, cosplaying and the history of women’s relevance in working on Marvel’s comics.
Each avenue explores leads to captivating stories of Marvel’s deep history, introspective takes and a genuine passion showing why fans love its universe in such drastically different ways.
Of the eight episodes, the most captivating topics are the Japanese Spider-Man show, the history and influence of Marvel’s toys and the “Marvel Method” for writing comic stories.
Japanese Spider-Man’s episode is easily the highlight of the series. The show is Japan’s take on Spider-Man, giving him crazy gadgets like a giant robot and fighting creatures from Japanese mythology. Different people working on the show reveal their experiences, including Marvel supervisor Gene Pelc, Spider-Man’s main actor, Shinji Tôdô,and stunt coordinator, Osamu Kaneda. Tôdô reminisces on different aspects of the show he found groundbreaking at the time, such as women showing vulnerability in a time when most Japanese dramas did no such thing.
Spider-Man’s suit actor, Hirofumi Koga, mentions the intense filming schedule causing him problems on set while performing stunts. He describes the dangers such as climbing up buildings with nothing but a thin wire or running across explosives because he’d forget their placement.
Stories like these give the show a legendary status regardless of the initial opposition it faced. Despite the show hardly resembling Marvel’s character, footage and interviews reveal why Marvel allowed the show to run. Stan Lee found the adaptation to be culturally appropriate for Japan and loved the stunt work used instead of CGI. With this approval and related toy sales doing well, Marvel executives decided to let the show run as long as it stayed within Japan.
With the show’s short run in the ’70s, the episode is able to focus on several aspects of it and get deep into the details without feeling overwhelming. Other episodes fail at this because of the desire to tackle wider subjects like women in the comic industry, which makes the episode feel less focused.
Striking many fans’ nostalgia is the toy-centric episode, going over the history of Toybiz, Hasbro and Funko’s evolving styles in their products. The process of how each toy is made and the love put into them is gripping as they’re shown going from a 2D drawing, to 3D modeling on computers, to the first prototype being hand painted to nail the artistic representation of the comics accurately. Watching certain action figures be displayed sparked my joy, reminding me of action figures I haven’t seen since I was a kid falling in love with everything Marvel.
Their history also showed the ways outside sources can influence the comics themselves. It’s interesting to see how certain comic events occurred because of a toy company making deals with Marvel. Without merchandising, the documentary shows some classic characters and crossovers that may have never happened otherwise. It even suggests certain cartoon shows may have been approved because of the possibility to make several different toys throughout the series. It’s weird to be shown how much media can be affected by these outside elements.
Long time comic writer Dan Slott describes the “Marvel Method” for writing in all its conceptual struggles. It includes the nerve-wracking issue of setting up stories in the comics much like writing a script for a show. Whoever the artist is produces sketches based on these, which may be wildly different than the writers imagined, adding to the anxiety of the work.
Shannon Ballesteros continues this idea as one of the many editors. Despite a team of creators working together to tell a story, there’s always the uncertainty that fans will hate a story meant to change the pace of a character, such as the death of Spider-Man. It’s cool to see the humans behind these stories and understand where they were coming from, even if the final product may not have been well received by many.
“Marvel’s 616” covers several parts of Marvel’s fandom and inner workings in more or less comprehensive chunks. It takes the time to explain why certain segments are handled the way they are and how they’re changing to be more diverse and inclusive. Fans should enjoy the series for the most part, as they gain a better understanding of the functions in their favorite fandom even acknowledging the weird and obscure corners along the way.
Contact Caleb Barbachem at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.