The director for Marvel Studios' Echo has defended the decision to alter the anti-hero's origins story for her standalone TV series.
Speaking to TechRadar ahead of Echo's release, Sydney Freeland revealed the backstory of Maya Lopez – the Disney Plus show's protagonist – was altered from that of her comic book counterpart. It was a decision that, according to Freeland, was taken "in order to be more authentic" to Indigenous people in the US.
In the comics, Lopez is a Native American who originally hails from the Cheyenne Nation. The character's heritage has become somewhat murky since her initial December 1999 debut in Marvel literature, though, with Lopez's background also featuring elements of the Blackfeet Nation and other Indigenous tribes.
To that end, Freeland and the Marvel Phase 5 series' creative team opted to rework Lopez's origins story for her Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) miniseries. Indeed, in the TV show, it's revealed that Lopez is of Choctaw Nation descent, rather than Cheyenne and/or Blackfoot. However, Freeland – who is a Navajo native – insists the decision to alter Lopez's backstory was made in order to show the differences between individual Native American tribes, which have been incorrectly viewed as one and the same throughout the centuries.
No bad deed goes unpunished. Art by @NickyBarkla.All episodes of Marvel Studios’ #Echo are streaming January 9 on @DisneyPlus & @Hulu.Set your Disney+ profile to TV-MA to stream. pic.twitter.com/DlBTqs3HGJJanuary 4, 2024
"When I became aware of Maya, I read through her first appearances in the Daredevil comic book series," Freeland said. "And it was interesting to see this beautifully illustrated literature show her as Cheyenne and Blackfeet. As I developed the series alongside my colleagues at Marvel, and we started doing more research, we found that there was a lot of Native American iconography that had been picked because they're cool images.
"Being Indigenous myself, I could look at each visual symbol or image and say 'Oh, that's Inuit' and 'That's Ancestral Pueblos' and 'Here is Six Nations from Upstate New York'. There was no rhyme or reason to their use or being lumped together [to represent Indigenous people]. In order to be more authentic to the story and the character of Lopez, we leaned into the specificity of her being from one tribe only. To give her a fresh start, and given we had Choctaw writers in the writers room, that meant she became Choctaw instead of Blackfeet or Cheyenne."
Echo is the first of three confirmed Marvel TV shows set to debut on Disney Plus – it'll also be available on Hulu in the US – in 2024. Outside of its authentic portrayal of Indigenous people, culture, and traditions, it also marks a series of firsts for Marvel, with Echo being the first MCU TV show to be R-rated, to release on two of the world's best streaming services simultaneously, and to fall under the new Marvel Spotlights banner.
For more exclusive Echo coverage, find out how Freeland responded to fans comparing the forthcoming show to hit crime shows, including Breaking Bad, and ultraviolent movie series like John Wick.
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As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.
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