The ‘Women of Marvel’ Guide to Echo
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!
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From Kingpin’s pawn to one of the most powerful beings in the cosmos! Once the host of the Phoenix Force, Maya Lopez, AKA Echo, is a Deaf Cheyenne-Latin American warrior with photographic reflex abilities. Able to mimic the fighting skills of her combatants, Lopez is a versatile vigilante and now a bona fide super hero!
In the twelfth episode of this season of the Women of Marvel podcast, our hosts Ellie Pyle and Preeti Chhibber explore how Echo grew from a former pawn of Kingpin to a champion of her family and communities. Joining them are Sydney Freeland, the director and executive producer for Marvel Studios’ Echo, and writers Rebecca Roanhorse (PHOENIX SONG: ECHO) and Melissa Flores (MARVEL’S VOICES: ECHO INFINITY COMIC).
Listen to Echo’s full Women of Marvel spotlight, then catch our episode highlights below!
INSIDE MARVEL STUDIOS’ ECHO
In the podcast episode, Ellie and Preeti covered a lot about Echo’s family—both her chosen family and her ancestral line. Sydney Freeland confirmed that the first season of Marvel Studios’ Echo will further explore Maya’s connections.
“So, one of the big things that we’re going to explore in this series is the definition of family,” Freeland revealed. “What does it mean to have family, whether they’re biological, whether they’re not? What is unconditional family versus conditional family? 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, as a hearing member of the Echo team, Freeland’s work on the series was defined by the Deaf experience—from her actors to her crew.
“First of all, representation is very important to us,” Freeland said. “And the first thing that I did when I got on board was I started taking ASL [American Sign Language] lessons. I think I just wanted to familiarize myself and have some fundamental understanding of Deaf perspective, Deaf experience. 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.”
Freeland also confirmed that Echo will have a tone unlike any other entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“[Echo] is 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’s a wonderful human being, and she’s a phenomenal actress. I couldn’t even imagine what it must be like for her to go from [Marvel Studios’] 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.”
ECHO: HOST OF THE PHOENIX FORCE
Comics writer and novelist Rebecca Roanhorse also stopped by to talk to Ellie and Preeti about the 2021 series she penned, PHOENIX SONG: ECHO.
“So, when [Maya] 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,” Roanhorse said.
“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, 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.”
Roanhorse also grounded the series on “The Rez,” Maya’s ancestral home and a Reservation of collective Indigenous nations.
“We wanted to keep [The Rez] sort of, all nations because [Maya] doesn’t really have a tribal affiliation in the comics. So, we wanted something that was more chosen family, or found family, so that there would be two different ways that family could be created,” Roanhorse explained. “I wanted a way to integrate this idea of ancestral knowledge and ancestral power into the Phoenix story so that it felt 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.”
MARVEL’S VOICES: ECHO
MARVEL’S VOICES: ECHO writer Melissa Flores also offered insight on Maya Lopez’s life post-Phoenix Force.
“One of the things I really love doing as a writer is taking inspiration from the stories that came before me,” said Flores. “And so for this [story], 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 going back to The Rez 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 about herself and what she had left behind and what she chooses to lose as she moves forward with her role as a super hero. 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.”
“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,” Flores continued. “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.”
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