How Marvel Navigates Its Behind-the-Scenes Drama Becoming Public

How Marvel Navigates Its Behind-the-Scenes Drama Becoming Public

No matter how you feel about whether or not Marvel’s star is waning at present, few can deny the reality that it is still one of the biggest studios in Hollywood. But with that presence comes the very real fact that everything about it is news—especially when it’s mess.

Marvel found itself once again in this specific flavor of news this week when the Hollywood Reporter broke the news that X-Men ‘97 head writer Beau DeMayo had been allegedly fired by the studio, just a week before the continuation of the legendary X-Men: The Animated Series was set to hit Disney+. While further details about DeMayo’s departure are still vague, the news was enough to see X-Men ‘97 trend across social media—for all the wrong reasons, just as Marvel was preparing to screen the premiere of the series to fans and critics.

But that kind of Marvel story has become more and more commonplace the more titanic the studio has grown—before DeMayo’s departure, there was the news about Marvel’s realignment of its TV plans, in particular Daredevil: Born Again, and it feels like every other week there’s a new story about the uncertain future of the studio as it tries to chase the highs of the Infinity Saga. Now to Marvel’s fans, news of hirings and firings and project realignments is just as debatable as a trailer breakdown or their favorite characters. So how does Marvel itself approach that level of publicity?

“As a storyteller, you’ve got to be careful of pulling back the curtain too much,” Brad Winderbaum, Marvel’s head of TV, animation, and streaming—and co-producer on X-Men ‘97, told io9 over video chat. “I grew up in Marvel—I’ve been working with Kevin [Feige] for 17 years now, and we very rarely [used to] show behind-the-scenes before we released a film. That was just it, so that people could meet the project where it’s at. Does the thing speak to you emotionally? Does it try to move you on its own terms? The goal is to try to kind of limit the external factors so that you can enjoy it as it stands, as it was made. But we are popular and this is part of that.”

Whether it wants to be or not, Marvel finds itself as much at the center of culture war debates—as X-Men ‘97 did with the news that returning shapeshifting mutant Morph would be non-binary in the new series—as it does legitimate news about its behind-the-scenes comings and goings and future plans as an incredibly influential studio in the industry. Sometimes, those disparate strands of discussion intermingle, as has been the case in the recent days since DeMayo’s departure. “This has to come, you know, these stories—behind the scenes drama, playing into a cultural narrative,” Winderbaum continued. “All I can say is that we had an incredible creative team on X-Men ‘97, and we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. A 60-year legacy in the comics, the original creators of the show—Larry Houston, Julia Lewald, Eric Lewald came back as consultants, we have incredible directors like Jake Castorena leading the charge.”

“Beau had real passion and respect for these characters. But like everything, it takes a village; every time you make one of these projects it’s controlled chaos. You’re just trying to keep your mind focused on that guiding light, and that is just to fulfill the the vision of the thing you’re trying to make, and do it as best you can. I just hope that people—and this isn’t just X-Men ‘97, it’s for all projects we make—can, at the end of the day, sit down on your couch… and you can meet the show where it’s at, on its own terms.”

X-Men ‘97 begins streaming on Disney+ on March 20. Stay tuned to io9 for more from our conversation with Winderbaum next week!


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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