Podcasts
Published November 21, 2023

Read Echo’s Full 'Women of Marvel' Podcast Episode

From Kingpin’s pawn to a host of the Phoenix Force! This episode of the ‘Women of Marvel’ podcast dives into the comics history of Maya Lopez, AKA Echo.

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

[MUSIC PLAYING]

REBECCA ROANHORSE: She's sort of grounded. She doesn't have any superpowers until, of course, she gets the Phoenix power. She's more of a fighter. She has to rely on her skills rather than some sort of magic to become who she is. And I just found all of that intriguing.

MELISSA FLORES: She's given up the Phoenix Force, which was this incredibly volatile, powerful entity that she no longer is. And now she's just Echo. And when you lose something like that, who do you feel like you really are?

PREETI CHHIBBER: Welcome to Women of Marvel. I'm writer Preeti Chhibber.

ELLIE PYLE: And I'm editor Ellie Pyle. And I am so sad that this is our last episode of the season.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Aww, tears.

ELLIE PYLE: We started our season with Jean Grey, the most powerful and well-known host of the Phoenix Force, that cosmic force born of the universe that takes human hosts. And today, we are rounding out the season with the most recent host of the Phoenix, Maya Lopez, AKA Echo.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Echo is a deaf Cheyenne Latina warrior with photographic reflexes that make her incredibly skilled at any physical pursuit, from playing the piano to all sorts of combat fighting styles. And before we move on, we should talk about what that means.

ELLIE PYLE: Yeah. Basically, it means that Echo can perfectly imitate any physical movement after seeing it one time. It makes her extremely good at any kind of combat and even really good at things like playing the piano.

PREETI CHHIBBER: That would be so helpful. I could have saved a ton of time on every single activity my mother signed me up for when I was a child, whether it was piano, trombone, soccer, ballet, tap, jazz. The list goes on.

ELLIE PYLE: The list does go on and on and on. Some of those I did not last long at at all. So I agree. I agree.

PREETI CHHIBBER: [LAUGHS]

ELLIE PYLE: It would have been very helpful to do everything right the second time. Well, to help us get even further into Echo's powers and strengths, we have a resident Echo superfan here. One of our officemates at Marvel, Brigita Przybylski loves Echo.

[PIANO RUN]

Hi, Brigita, Please tell our listeners what you do.

BRIGITA PRZYBYLSKI: Yes. Hi. My name is Brigita and I work as a coordinator on our Marvel HQ team, where we create children's content for our YouTube channel.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Please note that I do want to have extensive examples of what that means because it sounds so cute.

ELLIE PYLE: The motion comics are super fun.

PREETI CHHIBBER: But today, we are here to talk about Echo, of course. So, what I want to know is what are your top reasons for loving Echo?

BRIGITA PRZYBYLSKI: So my favorite character is Maya Lopez, AKA Echo, played by Alaqua Cox in the MCU. I mainly know Echo through the MCU, compared to the comics. So, when I watched Marvel Studios' Hawkeye on Disney+, I instantly loved her character, even though she was an antagonist as the leader of the Tracksuit Mafia, chasing after Hawkeye and Kate. But I was genuinely rooting for her.

And watching Hawkeye and seeing Echo on screen was the first time that I could see myself as a female superhero. Oftentimes, I feel like women are portrayed through the male gaze that sexualize and objectify them. But with Echo, she's a badass strong woman.

And as an audience member, instead of feeling like I was forced to pay attention to what she wears or how she looks or any romantic relationships with male characters, I was focused on who she is as a person and how powerful she is. And a lot of that is due to her costume design of a leather jacket and combat boots, with her hair pulled back in a braid - overall just looking super cool - as well as through learning about her backstory.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah. There's something so-- I loved the portrayal of Echo on the series. She was, like you said, so cool and strong. And getting to watch her in those fight scenes was awesome. There was just something so compelling about how the actress played it simultaneously strong, but there was so much vulnerability there, too, and that you just identified with it.

BRIGITA PRZYBYLSKI: Yeah. And talking about those aspects of Echo and her backstory, I especially loved her backstory scenes that would flash back to when she was a child in the TV show. And you would see young Maya fighting and how people would underestimate her, but she just knew that she was really strong. And that definitely shows through.

Echo's character gives representation to a lot of underrepresented identities. She's Native American and deaf, which aren't seen much in media. And specifically, in the MCU, she's also an amputee.

And I have always felt that it's extremely important to let everyone's voices be heard and stories be told and to help amplify the voices of others. So characters like Echo in the TV show Hawkeye and the comics help to introduce other people to these different identities and show that representation in media.

ELLIE PYLE: I also love, with Echo, specifically, how those identities integrate. And you can see how they inform each other and tie into her power set with the fact that she studies everyone so closely through the lip reading, also tying into the fact that she can then pick up fighting styles and things like that from them and using ASL, all of that, which I always love seeing on screen. Because I actually studied ASL as one of my languages in high school.

PREETI CHHIBBER: That's so cool.

ELLIE PYLE: And I remember so little of it, as we often do of high school languages that we studied. But it's always a nice chance to practice when I see it represented on screen to see how much I can still understand and that sort of thing.

BRIGITA PRZYBYLSKI: And something going off of that, in episode five of the TV show, there's this scene where Hawkeye is talking to Maya and telling her that he is Ronin. And they frame it where there's a lot of close-up shots on Hawkeye's mouth and on Maya's eyes.

So she's lip reading and trying to figure out what he's saying. But the subtitles that the show has don't show everything that he's saying. So we're kind of placed in Maya's shoes and get to experience some of what she experiences every day through that scene.

PREETI CHHIBBER: This is all so wonderful. I love hearing-- I mean, I always love hearing why people love the characters they love. But this was delightful. Thank you so much for coming by.

BRIGITA PRZYBYLSKI: Definitely. Thank you so much.

[PIANO RUN]

PREETI CHHIBBER: And to all our listeners, if you haven't already seen it, make sure you go watch Marvel Studios' Hawkeye on Disney+.

ELLIE PYLE: One of the coolest things about Echo is, actually, something that she has in common with a few other of our women heroes. The person that raised her, her adoptive family, is a villain.

PREETI CHHIBBER: When Echo was nine, her father was killed by his partner in crime, the Kingpin. The Kingpin, AKA Wilson Fisk, then became her adoptive guardian, and Echo joined the club with characters like Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, and Nebula and Gamora, who were raised by villains before growing up to be heroes.

ELLIE PYLE: Writer Rebecca Roanhorse has added to Echo's story multiple times now in Phoenix Song: Echo in 2021 and several Marvel's Voices books. She has been able to explore both Maya's chosen family and ancestral lines. So she is the perfect person to help us understand Maya's idea of family.

[MUSIC PLAYS]

 

REBECCA ROANHORSE: Hi, everyone. I'm Rebecca Roanhorse. I am a writer of speculative fiction-- novels, short stories, and, of course, Marvel comics. I am the author of Phoenix Song: Echo, as well as a number of other one-shots, including a She-Hulk, a Moon Knight, and a Werewolf By Night.

ELLIE PYLE: So, as you mentioned, we're talking about Echo today. What was your initial feeling about taking on Echo in her first-ever solo series?

REBECCA ROANHORSE: Oh, gosh, well, I was pretty honored. I had written a one-shot with her for a heritage anthology. And so when Sarah, the editor, came to me and asked if I wanted to do this series for Phoenix, I was like, “what do we have to do to make this happen?” Our schedules took a while to match up, but I was very, very excited for the opportunity to tell her story and to really bring her to the forefront in a way I don't think she had been before.

ELLIE PYLE: So as you mentioned, you've written several Echo stories now. But how did you research her in the first place to get to know this character the first time you were writing her?

REBECCA ROANHORSE: I read a lot of Daredevil, where she makes her first appearance. So I read her whole storyline in Daredevil. And then I went back, and I read everything I could that was tangentially related to her, that had any other Indigenous or native superheroes in the Marvel Universe. So I really just tried to find where she was in the larger universe and ground her in that.

ELLIE PYLE: So you mentioned that Echo is especially close to your heart. What is it that you love so much about her?

REBECCA ROANHORSE: Oh. Well, A) I think she's probably the first Native American superhero that I was aware of. I know there's a few others, obviously, but she was the one that was most on my radar. And I loved her story in Daredevil. I thought she was very interesting, very intriguing, this relationship she had with Kingpin-- all the betrayal and the drama and all that interesting stuff.

And of course, she is deaf. And she's a badass fighter. So it's all the things that I wanted to see in a superhero. She's sort of grounded. She doesn't have any superpowers until, of course, she gets the Phoenix power. She's more of a fighter. She has to rely on her skills rather than some sort of magic to become who she is. And I just found all of that intriguing.

ELLIE PYLE: So you have written about both Maya's chosen family and her ancestral line. Let's talk about the chosen family first. Tell us about what the Res means to her.

REBECCA ROANHORSE: Oh, sure. So, there was, back in the initial Echo run-- David Mack is her creator, both the writer and the artist-- he did this wonderful, almost psychedelic storyline where she goes on a vision quest to find out who she really is. And she meets Wolverine. And there's a lot of stuff going on. I don't want to spoil it, so everyone should go read it if they haven't read it. But that's where I got the idea of the Res.

And we wanted to keep it, sort of, all nations because she doesn't really have a tribal affiliation in the comics. So, we wanted something that, like you said, was more chosen family, or found family, than ancestral line so that there would be two different ways that family could be created.

But in that original David Mack run, she did meet an elder who helped her go on this vision quest. And so, I wanted to integrate that into the story. And so that's really where the found family, where the Res, the idea of this comes from.

ELLIE PYLE: And her ancestral line is central to your Phoenix Song book. Can you walk us through that series and what role Maya's family and ancestors play in it?

REBECCA ROANHORSE: Yeah! So, I wanted a way to integrate this idea of ancestral knowledge and ancestral power into the Phoenix story so that it felt, sort of, grounded in Indigenous values and Indigenous worldview. And so I was thinking, “well, how do I do that?” And, of course, we're in the Marvel universe, so let's do a little time traveling. So that's what we did.

She meets a character named River, who is able to bring her back through time through her ancestral line. So she meets not only her mother but a great grandmother and a great great great great grandmother. And you start to see everything that makes her who she is. And that, more than a cosmic power or, even, an inherent superpower, is what's going to let her find her place and who she is and create a center for her to draw from to defeat her enemies.

ELLIE PYLE: You mentioned that she doesn't have powers until she becomes a host for the Phoenix. And that's a huge change for her. How did you approach keeping her who she is and building out her character with this massive shift?

REBECCA ROANHORSE: So, I'm going to try not to spoil the comic too much, but I might spoil it a bit. So, when she gets the Phoenix power, she gets it without any instruction, without any sort of basis to what it is or how to use it. And it manifests itself purely as rage.

And so, she's going around, burning everything down, destroying even the things that she cares about, and is really struggling with how this power fits into her life. Because all she sees is the destructive side of it. And so I think that felt fair. I felt like that was right.

And of course, there's a bit of metaphor in there, right, for the power that we all have, especially marginalized women, and how you might bring that to the fore and how you take rage and you turn it into something that can create, as well as destroy. And so that just felt like the way that I wanted to take her.

And of course, once she realizes through her ancestral journey that the Phoenix power is more than just rage, it's more than just fire, more than just destruction, she becomes something bigger and more powerful. But she has to go on that journey first.

ELLIE PYLE: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned her deafness. How does that come into play in comics which are, in some ways, a quiet medium to begin with? How do you go about demonstrating that in a character on the page?

REBECCA ROANHORSE: It's a little bit of a challenge. I am not deaf, but I worked with deaf consultants. Anytime I've written Echo, I've tried to work with a deaf writer who understands how to approach this on the page, what makes sense, what doesn't.

I try to be very careful about-- she's a lip reader-- I try to be very careful about which direction she's facing, how she's interacting with the characters. I want you to be aware of all of that and not forget. Because I think it would be very easy to just have her talking and not facing someone or have her understanding someone who's talking behind her back, that sort of thing. So I really tried to be cognizant of those issues.

And we got to have her speak a little sign language in this version of Phoenix Song, which I was super excited about. I learned from a Choctaw friend of mine that there were, sort of,  a sign language of the Plains that a lot of the Indigenous folks used way before European conquest and everything. And I thought, well, wouldn't that be cool to integrate that in to American Sign Language?

And so we, of course, took a little liberties. It is a comic. But I was just excited to be able to show that representation on the page and play with that a little bit.

ELLIE PYLE: That's awesome. Thank you so much for coming to talk to us today. Where can people find you and your work on the internet if you want to be found?

REBECCA ROANHORSE: You can find me at rebeccaroanhorse.com. I definitely want to be found. And on Instagram @rebeccaroanhorse.

ELLIE PYLE: Awesome. Thank you so much.

REBECCA ROANHORSE: Thank you.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

 

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ELLIE PYLE: I love what Rebecca said about taking Maya's deafness into account when writing, always making sure that she's facing people directly so that she can read their lips. When I was working on the Marvel's Voices Echo Infinity Comic, that was something that editor MR Daniel and I really kept an eye out for, too.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah. And we got to talk to the writer of that Infinity Comic, Melissa Flores.

MELISSA FLORES: Hi. I'm Melissa Flores. I am a writer. And currently, right now, I'm writing Echo for Marvel Infinity, which I'm really excited about.

PREETI CHHIBBER: What was your initial feeling about taking on the Echo story?

MELISSA FLORES: Honestly, terrified, because she's such an important character to me. I had recently worked on a project. And my lead writer was a Kiowa Native American. And through him, I learned so much about the Native American community. And so taking on the story of Echo, and being Latina myself, and knowing that she was half Cherokee, I felt an immense responsibility to tell a story that spoke to her heritage but also spoke to the character.

I've always really loved the characters. I love the fact that this is a disabled character. And she's just so freaking badass. So to be able to take this character and craft a miniseries around her in this-- smaller little chunks, it was a little scary. But honestly, I was really excited, too, because that felt like an honor.

ELLIE PYLE: So I was lucky that I got to be part of the editorial process on this comic. So I've read all of it. But for those who haven't had a chance to read it yet, what are they missing? What would you like them to know about this story-- without too many spoilers?

MELISSA FLORES: So one of the things I really love doing as a writer is taking inspiration from the stories that came before me. And so for this one, specifically, when I first learned I was going to be writing for Echo, I was familiar with the character, but I really wanted to reread everything that had come recently for her.

And one of the stories that I read for her was Echo: Phoenix Song. And it was just a beautifully told story that spoke to her heritage. And there was a character in there called River who she really connected with. And I always wanted to do a little more with him.

And I figured that he was-- going back to the Res and trying to help out River, who was a romantic interest and isn't now, was a really good way to bring Echo back into a story that was really about herself and what she had left behind and what she chooses to lose as she moves forward with her role as a superhero. Because we're seeing her at a really interesting time in that she's given up the Phoenix Force, which was this incredibly volatile, powerful entity that she no longer is.

And now she's just Echo. And when you lose something like that, who do you feel like you really are? You feel you have to rediscover yourself. And you do that by connecting with the people who, maybe, knew you or loved you in different ways. And so that was, kind of, the way I went into the story.

So yeah, that's where she is when you start the story. She's in New York. And she's feeling a little bit lonely and feeling-- questioning, really, her identity and who she is and where she's from. And then she gets a call from River's friend, who says River's in trouble and needs her help. And so, she goes back to the Res. And that's where we start.

PREETI CHHIBBER: So in this episode-- and you touched on this a little bit, but I'd like to dive deeper into it-- we talk a lot about Maya's family, both her chosen family and her ancestral line. Can you talk a little bit more about the Res and what that is to her and how some of those pieces, whether it's her family or that ancestral line, play into your series?

MELISSA FLORES: Absolutely. So, the Res is - it's unique to Marvel - it is a reservation for Native Americans who have lost their heritage. And so, it is open to any tribe. And I thought that was really interesting. And Echo, who lost her mother at a very young age and also lost her father at a very young age, her sense of self really came from Kingpin and living on the streets of New York.

So when she actually goes to the Res again, that's where she connects with her half Cherokee side but, also, her Indigenous side, overall. And I felt like that was important to the character. Because as much as New York is her home, there's so much more to who she is than just the person that was shaped by Kingpin.

And River, I felt, was such an important character to that. Because it was through River and his special powers - which, spoiler alert, if you haven't read Phoenix Song - he can actually take you back to see your ancestors. And she was able to connect with her ancestors in a very unique and interesting way.

And for me, I'm not Native American. I'm Mexican American. So, I don't feel like that's my story to tell. But I definitely really connected with that story and how she is searching for a sense of self. And so, I wanted to show how far she had come.

And to do that, I introduced a new character called Ruth, who is also searching for her identity and comes to the Res. And it is through her and through River that Echo, or Maya, is forced to confront that maybe she's not as sure in who she is as she thought she was. And she's not sure what the right way to move forward is.

And I really wanted their journeys, all three of them, to parallel each other and have them, each one of them, take a look at their childhood identities and how they were forged and how losing their parents at such a young age, each and every one of them, has changed who they think they should be. And when they all collide together, it just becomes a little bit of a toxic soup but in a really fun way-- well, I hope it's fun.

PREETI CHHIBBER: [LAUGHS]

MELISSA FLORES: Let's talk about our childhood trauma. It's really fun, you guys.

PREETI CHHIBBER: So fun. That's why we do it, right?

ELLIE PYLE: That's what makes good stories. That's what makes good stories.

PREETI CHHIBBER: It's true.

ELLIE PYLE: So this was, I believe, your first time writing an Infinity Comic--

MELISSA FLORES: Yes.

ELLIE PYLE: --in this vertical format. I'm curious if there were interesting challenges, either in that or in how you approached a character with the kind of powers and abilities that Echo has?

MELISSA FLORES: Yeah. It was interesting to me because I write in terms of pages. And then to be like, OK, no, it's just 30 panels, no matter what. I found, in the first draft, I was still writing pages. I was like 1, 2, 3, 4. And then I'm like, wait, no. I can't do that. Because then I'm thinking about page turn and layout.

And none of that really feels ‘up to me’ when I'm doing a scroll. It should be up to the artist. I should just be giving them opportunities to do something cool. I had to rejigger my brain a little bit and just try to find ways to describe a panel that wasn't horizontal but vertical, if that makes sense.

Because they have, maybe-- they have so much more space if they go long than if they go short. So I don't want to ask them to create a big war scene where there's 1,000 people, and they're going to have to figure out how to turn that into a vertical thing.

And so I played with dimension, and I played with height a lot. Especially in New York, I really liked the idea of the skyscrapers and how you start with her doing a leap of faith in New York. And then you see something similar in another setting.

I really wanted to try and do everything I could to leave everything up to the artist and just give opportunities for them to meld what they wanted, to change what they wanted to, but really keep the scenes tight if I could so that they had a choice as to what they wanted to do for it. And then what was the second part of the question?

PREETI CHHIBBER: [LAUGHS]

ELLIE PYLE: You're right. It was, technically, two separate questions. The second part of the question was just thinking about Echo as a character and how you approached writing her unique power set but, also, considerations about her abilities.

MELISSA FLORES: The most obvious one is that she's a lip reader. She's deaf. And so I had to constantly-- I think you caught me a couple times, Ellie, where you had to be like, “she has to always be looking at what they're saying.”

So you can't have somebody whispering in her ear for dramatic effect because she's not going to hear what they're saying. So you have to always be really careful about where her staging is so she could always read somebody's lips.

And obviously, with any book, you have to write as if somebody doesn't know the character. So you had to be really careful about how the character is introduced and how their powers are. So you have to try and make it very clear without going super exposition-y.

But I really love this idea that anything she sees, she can mimic. And so I really leaned into that. I had her fighting a character that uses magic. And she doesn't have magic. So where are the limits for her in terms of-- she can mimic what they're doing, but that doesn't mean dark magic is going to come out of her fingers.

So it became an interesting challenge to me to keep them on even footing, even level, and still keep the journey emotionally charged but also keep her physical limitations in check and, also, her powers in check. Because they're just so unique and interesting, especially compared to the villain, who is a magic user, and taking advantage of that magic in a way that Echo might have not seen before.

PREETI CHHIBBER: So Melissa, can you tell us what you're working on next? And where can people find you on the internet if you want to be found?

MELISSA FLORES: Well, my next title, I kind of died when I saw it in my inbox. I am so lucky that I get to be writing Spider-Gwen, a print mini-series that is coming in a few weeks. And I am having an utter blast with it. It's so much fun.

It's Gwen in her home dimension, being very uncomfortable the entire time and having to go on tour and finally deal with the Mary Janes and their constant disappointment in her. And just, I'm so thankful and excited for the opportunity because she's just such an amazing character. And I've loved her ever since that first run.

I am very happy and lucky to work on some amazing projects. And if you want to hear more about them @Misty_Flores on Instagram. And I swear, you can find me anywhere else around that.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Well, awesome. Thank you so much for coming to talk to us about Echo. We loved having you here. And I hope you get to come back.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

 

ELLIE PYLE: As you may know, we are all lucky enough to get more Echo stories in a couple of months when Marvel Studios' Echo comes out on Disney+. We spoke with director Sydney Freeland about making the show and letting Maya shine in her own solo series.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

 

SYDNEY FREELAND: My name is Sydney Freeland. I am the director and executive producer on Echo.

PREETI CHHIBBER: So how much did you know about Echo before joining the MCU? Did you have to do a lot of research and comics reading?

SYDNEY FREELAND: Yeah. First of all, I grew up reading Marvel comics. But that being said, I would lying if I said I knew who the character was. I want to say I knew who she was, but I didn't know her backstory or that kind of context.

So as soon as I even remotely got word about the project, the first thing I did was buy her first intro issues and read through her storyline and delved into the backstory that's in the comic books. And I was going very deep into the weeds on what her backstory could be. But that was, really, the first jumping-off point for me was just reading all the comics with her and just familiarizing myself with her character and her backstory.

ELLIE PYLE: So we're talking a lot about Maya's family in this episode-- her chosen family, her ancestral line. Can you talk about that and how these played into your series, with Kingpin as her father figure and her matrilineal ancestors?

SYDNEY FREELAND: Yeah. So one of the big things that we're going to explore in this series is the definition of family. What does it mean to have family, whether they're biological, whether they're not? What is unconditional family versus conditional family?

We're going to-- when we come into the series, we're going to learn that Maya has two families. She's got a family in Oklahoma. She's got a family in New York. And those two things are at odds with each other.

And she's going to have a-- she's going to come into the series very clearly knowing who her family is, where her allegiances lie, who are the people that are her true family members, that truly care for her. And then, over the course of the series, we're going to challenge her entire worldview. But she's going to have to make a choice by the end of which family, indeed, is the one she has to go with.

PREETI CHHIBBER: So in some of the conversations we've had for this episode with our comics creators, they talk a lot about how they take Maya's deafness into account while writing and drawing, like making sure she's facing other characters so she can read the lips and things like that. Can you talk about how you incorporated Maya's deafness into the series, both on set and on screen?

SYDNEY FREELAND: Yeah. So first of all, representation is very important to us. And the first thing that I did when I got on board was I started taking ASL lessons. I think I just wanted to familiarize myself and have some fundamental understanding of deaf perspective, deaf experience. I'm not deaf myself.

But on top of that, we had a deaf representation throughout the entire production-- in front of the camera, behind the camera. We have Alaqua Cox, who's deaf in real life. We have Katarina Ziervogel, who plays her mother, Taloa, who's also deaf. And we also had deaf writers in the room. We also had deaf consultants on set.

But on top of that, in addition to myself, all of my department heads, we would all take, in some cases weekly or bi-weekly, ASL classes to familiarize ourselves. And I think there were a lot of positive consequences from that. And I think the biggest thing was it actually dictated our entire visual style for the show.

So for example, one of the things that we learned is that when you're signing, you're signing, kind of-- you're here, or you're here.

ELLIE PYLE: For folks who are listening, it was either, kind of, under your chin, in front of your chest, or to the side of your face.

SYDNEY FREELAND: But my takeaway in all of the learning stuff and seeing how we could apply stuff to the actual visual style was it's almost like the signing is the text. And your face is the subtext. So when we're speaking to each other-- let's say you asked me if I was hungry, and I was like, no! The text is no. But the subtext is like, “well, Sydney's got something in her bonnet. She's got a bee in her bonnet or something.”

But what we found out is that the face is the subtext. So you need both the signing and the face to get the full deaf representation of what's being communicated emotionally. And so what happened is that we would frame our shots-- like, this became a close-up.

PREETI CHHIBBER: To describe to listeners, we have a much wider shot of Sydney.

SYDNEY FREELAND: Yeah, whereas a traditional close-up, you might cut someone on their forehead and see the bottom of their chin filling up the frame. But our close-up would be the top of your head all the way down to, sort of, your rib area. And so that became a close-up in our show.

But that also meant, because it's a close-up for Maya Lopez, that doesn't mean Vincent D'Onofrio gets special treatment or Cody Lightning gets special treatment or Devery Jacobs gets special treatment, and they get a closer shot. No, everything catered to Maya and Alaqua. And so that was one example of how the deaf experience, deaf perspective, influenced our entire visual style for the show.

ELLIE PYLE: That's so cool. I took three years of sign language in high school and what you were saying about the text versus the subtext makes total sense. And we also would talk about the facial expressions being part of the grammar of the language. So that makes total sense with how that then influenced the entire look of the show.

SYDNEY FREELAND: Yeah. It actually ended up being a really great thing.

ELLIE PYLE: So you mentioned representation earlier. And when this episode of the podcast comes out, it will be Native American Heritage Month. And Echo is the first series from Marvel Studios starring an Indigenous character. Can you talk about what it was like to lead the story, knowing how huge that is?

SYDNEY FREELAND: Oh, yeah, knowing that this is Marvel's first Native character and I would have the chance to put my fingerprints on this project was exhilarating, terrifying, daunting. And I think when I first pitched on the project to Kevin, I distinctly mentioned this thing of growing up reading comic books and then, also, going to powwows.

Those are two very normal events in my life. But those two things never overlapped together. And so, to have this project and to have the opportunity to have those two things, it was this really great, surreal kind of experience of my inner child just screaming with delight.

Because you think about these things when you're growing up and you're a kid. And to have the actual opportunity to put these-- to breathe life into this and to bring it to a big screen or, in this case, the small screen, it was absolutely a dream come true.

PREETI CHHIBBER: That is so wonderful to hear. I can't wait to see the series. And, of course, we're a little ways out. It's not going to be out till January. So we have a little bit over a month to go. But what can you tease for us? What can listeners look forward to seeing on Disney+?

SYDNEY FREELAND: Well, with Echo, people will see a Marvel show that is unlike any other MCU show to date. It's darker. It's grittier. It's edgier. But it also has a ton of heart. And I think one of the things I'm most proud of is the amazing performances that Alaqua Cox has in this series. I think she-- she's a wonderful human being, and she's a phenomenal actress.

And I think-- I couldn't even imagine what it must be like for her to go from Hawkeye, where she was-- I believe she was on set a total of six days. That represented her entire filmmaking experience up to that point. And to go from that to being number one on the call sheet for a 90-day shoot on a Marvel television show, I can't imagine what that must have been like for her.

But she just met every challenge with open arms. And she leaned into every scene. And I'm most excited for audiences to just get to meet Alaqua, meet Maya Lopez. And just, hopefully, they feel the way I do after watching her performances. Because she gave some absolutely beautiful ones.

ELLIE PYLE: That's awesome. So if people want to follow you and know more about what you're doing in the future, where can they find you on social media if you want to be found?

SYDNEY FREELAND: Yeah, I'm on Instagram and, kind of, on Facebook. Yeah, Instagram, Facebook-- I maybe check it once a month.

PREETI CHHIBBER: That's the way to do it.

ELLIE PYLE: Yeah, there you go.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Well, thank you so much. This was so wonderful. We can't wait to see the series on Disney+ in January.

SYDNEY FREELAND: Awesome. Thanks, all.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

PREETI CHHIBBER: We'll have all the episodes in January. But if you need more of Maya Lopez between now and then, Robyn has some suggestions.

[PIANO RUN]

ELLIE PYLE: Hi, Robyn. Welcome back for our very last reading list of the season. These have been such good lists that you've made for us. What have you got today?

ROBYN BELT: I know! We are at the end of our journey with these Marvel Unlimited reading lists. And we're wrapping things up with none other than Echo, Maya Lopez, possessor of the Phoenix Force, a Ronin, an Avenger, a very dynamic character with a lot of history to unpack. So we'll just get right into it.

I recommend for this reading guide starting in chronology because it hits some of the major beats of her canon. But I'm going to introduce two entry-point runs right at the tail end of the list. So if you're a new reader and you just want to familiarize yourself with those, perfectly fine to jump in right there.

But if you want to start at the very beginning, our list starts from the 1998 Daredevil series, specifically, issue 51. And we're going to continue through issue 55. So this is a contained arc that is told in beautiful collage format-- I mean, really visionary, incredible stuff that you might not see in a comic book, or expect to see in a comic book.

This is the story of Echo from her birth to her relationship with Kingpin to her present with Daredevil, touching on the full range of her polymath abilities. And I just absolutely love this one. So, a lot of the visual language that introduced the character in Daredevil 1998, issue 9, is brought back into issue 51 through 55 to give readers the full backstory of Echo. Because up until this point, she was a bit of an enigma.

Maya is a highly artistic and creative character. And I love that this collage arc really pulls in a lot of references from art history and pulls together Maya's story through diary entries, through collaged art-- very cool.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah, it's beautiful. It's one of those that if you can get it in print and hold it in your hands to look at, it's 100% worth it.

ELLIE PYLE: Yeah, David Mack's style is really, really cool.

ROBYN BELT: Absolutely. And if you're a fan of this, then you'll turn to Alias, Jessica Jones series-- not on Marvel Unlimited, but if you like the David Mack style, definitely check out that one, as well. Next, we talk about Echo as Ronin, a very mysterious renegade character with their own agendas. We are looking at New Avengers, issue 11, from 2004.

Maya was the first character to don this specific Ronin uniform. And after she took on the stint, other characters were like, “oh, wow, that's really cool.” You have anonymity, and the Ronin could be anyone-- virtually anyone.

What I love is that her reveal in issue 13 defied expectations. The uniform of the Ronin is so deliberately neutral and anonymous that I think readers were expecting to see a male character.

ELLIE & PREETI: Mmhmm.
ROBYN BELT: It was Echo.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Nope! [LAUGHS]

ROBYN BELT: Nope. Psych. Yep, it was our girl, Echo. So, I really appreciate this story for her because it's breaking away from her time as Kingpin's pawn and trying out a new identity that's wholly her own. Following it up with a one-shot, self-contained annual that I really love Daredevil Annual, issue 1 from 2016. I don't think it gets any cooler than Vanesa R. Del Rey's art and Mat Lopes's colors. This is an artistic collaboration you don't want to miss.

And this is a really cool issue because it's a sonic attack by Klaw. So readers who are familiar with Black Panther will know Ulysses Klaue as a baddie who's had his fingers in Wakanda.

It's so interesting that, as a deaf character, there are so many strengths that Echo can play to. So the fact that everyone else is deeply impacted by this-- and Echo alone, with Daredevil, are the heroes to rise to the occasion-- it's very cool and highly recommend if you want a good, self-contained story.

We follow this up with Phoenix Song: Echo from 2021. So, this is one of those entry-point series. If you don't want to go through the full history, you can start here. So, if you didn't know, Echo hosted the Phoenix Force.

So this is a great creative team. It's Luca Maresca on art. This series follows on the heels of the Enter the Phoenix arc. So that was an Avengers 2018. Specifically, Avengers 44 is when Echo became embodied by the Phoenix Force.

So there was a huge trial with all of the Avengers. Echo was, actually, not the last one standing, but she was the worthiest. She was the one chosen to carry on the mantle and to carry this extraordinary cosmic power.

So this is a good one. It's Echo returning home to a place that she calls the Res. So this is a return to home where Echo is grappling with these new abilities, trying to recenter who she is.

And there's even a new friend/interest thrown into the mix. And she's going up against the Adversary. So that's a very strange ancestral, spiritual kind of enemy that is threatening to wipe out Echo's entire lineage. So the stakes have never been higher. That's a good run.

ELLIE PYLE: And we, actually, follow up pretty directly on that in the Marvel's Voices Echo Infinity Comic, which I know you're going to talk about in a moment, but we may as well talk about here.

PREETI CHHIBBER: [LAUGHS]

ELLIE PYLE: Because it follows up pretty directly.

ROBYN BELT: It is. It's a great tie-in. And yes, Ellie has worked on it directly with editor MR Daniel. So check out Marvel's Voices Echo Infinity Comic. It is exclusively on the Marvel Unlimited app. And this arc takes place in issue 64 to 69.

So Maya again returns to the Res. She now has to help River this time. So, River is a character that was introduced in the Phoenix Song limited series. There is another, sort of, entity that is coming into the mix here who is actually a woman named Ruth.

She is not all that she appears to be. She is trying to exploit River's powers to travel and to see the past. And Maya, River, Ruth are all trapped in this, what would you call it? It's a spiritual realm. It's a parallel realm.

ELLIE PYLE: It's a mental landscape, I would say, kind of a memoryscape, in some ways. Beautifully rendered by artist Kyle Charles. And this arc is written by Melissa Flores, who we spoke to earlier in this episode.

ROBYN BELT: And another great one on our list is Marvel's Voices Indigenous Voices. This is a one-shot from 2020 in the Marvel's Voices lineup. So this is writer Rebecca Roanhorse teaming up with artist Weshoyot Alvitre. This is an off-world Echo story guest starring Loki-- again, surprise.

So after she is hit up and pestered by so many people from her past, Echo decides to accept a mission from, quote unquote, "Captain Marvel" to help a female Badoon settlement that has a really bad, big, powerful bully. Captain Marvel is actually Loki-- surprise, surprise.

ELLIE PYLE: [GASPS]

ROBYN BELT: And I love this story. It's a really beautiful internal journey for Echo. And when she's on this Badoon settlement, she's able to draw parallels and comparisons to the Res and the role that that has played in her life, as well as that community. So gorgeous story and fantastic creative team, as well.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Yeah we got to speak to Rebecca Roanhorse, also, earlier in this episode.

ELLIE PYLE: And particularly talking about the Res and what it means to Echo.

ROBYN BELT: And there you have it, our Marvel Unlimited reading guide for Echo, Maya Lopez.

PREETI CHHIBBER: If you were not taking notes, all of these issues will be available in our show notes. Thank you so much, Robyn, as always, for this entire season of lists you gave us.

ROBYN BELT: Thank you, both. I'm just so excited to share. And I hope our Marvel Unlimited readers just dive right in.

[PIANO RUN]

PREETI CHHIBBER: Ellie, this is wild. That's it. That's it for our season. It went by too fast.

ELLIE PYLE: I know. But I have had so much fun with you this season, Preeti.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Thank you so much for joining us on this new journey for the Women of Marvel podcast. It's been an absolute blast.

PREETI CHHIBBER: We really have had the absolute best time doing this. Make sure you follow Women of Marvel on Instagram and Marvel Entertainment on all socials to find out what we're up to next.

ELLIE PYLE: Until then, Women of Marvel is produced by Isabel Robertson, Zachary Goldberg, Ellie Pyle, and Preeti Chhibber.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Special thanks to our correspondents this season, Faith D'Isa and Robyn Belt.

ELLIE PYLE: And special thanks to our magical audio mixer, Rye Dorsey, who helped out a ton this season.

PREETI CHHIBBER: Our senior manager of audio development is Brad Barton. Production manager is Emily Godfrey. And our executive producer is Jill DeBoff.

ELLIE PYLE: You can listen to the whole season and whatever's coming up in the future wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Ellie Pyle.

PREETI CHHIBBER: I'm Preeti Chhibber.

ELLIE PYLE: And this is Marvel--

PREETI CHHIBBER: --your universe.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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