- The series aims to show the true stories of kids doing amazing things in the world everyday
- The show focuses on people who saw problems they could solve with their own skills
In 2017, a Marvel executive’s son noticed that he didn’t often see kids recognised for their good deeds out in the world, which led him to ask, “What if kids could be super heroes?”
The question inspired Marvel and Disney+ to join in a quest to find kids who are super heroes in real life and document their work in “Marvel’s Hero Project.”
“There are so many untold stories of people doing something amazing in the world every day. And the fact that we got to focus on 20 of them, tell their stories, and bring them to a larger audience is an absolute honour,” said Stephen Wacker, Head of Content, Marvel New Media. “They were already heroes.”
According to Wacker, “When Marvel writers and artists like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Marvel Universe, they tried to show Marvel as an extension of the world outside your window; Marvel super heroes didn’t live in made-up cities.”
Ms Marvel, or Kamala Khan, a shapeshifting super hero — and Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic book — is from Jersey City, said Wacker. “Spider-Man is straight from Queens.”
To tell the stories of real-life super heroes, Wacker needed help finding them. Marvel New Media executive producer Liza Wyles and the show production team spent two months searching, making sure kids of all types from all areas of the country were represented. They found some kids who were already in the news or on TED Talks. Others were six pages deep in a Google search, said Wyles.
Of the stories selected from dozens of possible choices, Wyles said their team was drawn to kids who didn’t see themselves as being remarkable but, instead, saw a problem they could solve with their own skills.
“They weren’t just doing it for their Instagram account, and they didn’t wait for someone to give them permission or to quite be old enough to achieve the thing,” said Wyles. “They went for it.”
As if immortalising their great deeds in a docuseries for all the world to see wasn’t enough, at the end of each episode, Marvel surprises each kid with their own comic book, in which the kid is the super hero.
Chicago native Jahkil Jackson is the fastest kid he knows, which is very important for the work he does. Along with his aunt, Jahkil helps homeless people in his community by providing them with “blessing bags
“One fun challenge was translating each kid’s real-life work or attribute into a super power that was also visual,” said Wyles, adding that sometimes a super power is as subtle as a glow. Other times it’s as iconic and visually interesting as a piece of armour. “We tried to use traits that the kids would enjoy having, like sound waves or flight, she said.”
For example, in the story “Make way for Jakhil, the quickest kid around!” Jakhil’s mission was to deliver bags filled with needed supplies to the homeless community in Chicago. “Giving him super speed was something we knew we had to do,” said Wyles.
Similarly, during their research, the team learned that Braden Baker’s dog, Chewy, ate his hearing aids. So in the comic book story, “Battlin’ Braden,” a cute pup named Chewy accompanies Braden as he delivers hearing aids to those who can’t afford them.
“But it’s not all about super powers,” said Wacker.
“It’s about the person behind the mask. So it’s not Spider-Man you care about, it’s Peter Parker. It’s not Ms Marvel you care about, it’s Kamala. And that’s where this project was very similar,” said Wacker. “This really felt like a project that Marvel had to do because we were telling the stories of these kids and focusing on the person behind the mask.”
“There are no limits,” said Wyles, who hopes the stories empower kids to make a difference on their own for something they care about.
Wacker’s favorite part of every episode is when a friend or family member reads a letter and the kids learn they were selected to be a hero.
“You can see the look on the faces of so many of the kids that it might be the first time that they’ve ever thought that someone sees them as a hero,” said Wacker. “I’d love people to realise that there are heroes walking among us every day and doing something heroic is not as difficult as you might think.”
Since being featured in the docuseries, some of the kids have become friends in real life. They attended get togethers and started chat groups around the causes they care about to do even more good around the world.
“It’s like watching the Avengers come together,” said Wacker, a lifelong Marvel fan, who has great respect for the next generation. “I’m super jealous of these kids. I should have done more good things in my life, so I could be part of Hero Project.”
All episodes of “Marvel’s Hero Project” are currently streaming on Disney+.