Marvel’s Hero Project premieres on Disney Plus today, and Hidden Remote has the story behind Marvel’s reality series showcasing real-life heroes.
Not all heroes wear capes—and that’s what Marvel’s Hero Project is reminding us of. Marvel’s new Disney Plus series features children who are heroes in their own communities, and surprises them by making them superheroes in their own comic books.
It’s a heartwarming show, and Hidden Remote spoke to executive producer Liza Wyles to talk about why Marvel ventured into reality TV, and why the series is important to the brand.
We also connected with one of the featured young heroes, 10-year-old Elijah from Roanoke Rapids, NC, to discuss his work to prevent child abuse and what it meant to see himself as a Marvel superhero.
The Marvel’s Hero Project premiere is now available on Disney Plus; new episodes will follow every Friday, and the comic books featured in each episode will be readable on Marvel Unlimited and through Marvel’s Digital Comic Store for free.
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Hidden Remote: What makes Hero Project important for people to watch?
Liza Wyles: Telling stories about people doing great things in the world…we are recognizing their greatness. And we are turning these real-life people into heroes that are part of the Marvel Universe, so it’s something that no one else can do
Marvel has had this long 80-year history of creating powerful stories about everyday people who find ways to do good in the world, and we are doing that with real-life young people in a way that no other entity can.
HR: What were you looking for in each episode? What made these kids heroes to you?
LW: One of the main things that we were making sure we found in these wonderful, wonderful people was that they were doing it altruistically—because they wanted to, not for any other reasons. No notoriety or any kind of credit. They just felt like it was the right thing to be doing, to be working towards making these positive changes.
And the second just as equally [important] piece of criteria, if you want to call it that, is they were doing it locally in their own communities. Really wanting to make the change that others can see where they live.
HR: Marvel’s Hero Project also has a comic book for each episode, and making a comic is no small task. How did you integrate the comic book process into the TV show process?
LW: It did pose some interesting production challenges [with] the time it takes to film with your subject and put the story together post-production. So it did add an interesting layer, in that we at Marvel—the comic book editors who worked on these books and the creative team, the writers and the artists—we were learning about these kids while the production team was in the field filming.
We would try to see early footage of the kids, because it was very important to us that the kids recognized themselves in their comic book, that the likenesses were accurate. And we also then had a very crunched timeline to get these books printed, because we wanted them to be there for the kids when we filmed their surprise ending, where they didn’t know what was about to happen and then they’re presented with a few surprises—one of them being their own comic book.
HR: What are you hoping TV viewers take away from Hero Project?
LW: People being really galvanized by watching young people put the effort in, and seeing the results of making positive changes in the community. But I also think there’s a perspective for the adults in the lives of these young people.
When you hear some of these ideas these particular kids have in the show, they sound very big and fantastical, but the parents kind of took a beat and said maybe this is possible. So I think beyond the recognition that anything is possible, it’s supporting those that have the big ideas and the big dreams. Being part of the change with them and lending them your support. When you hear a good idea, go with it, see what’s possible.
We managed to present a cross-section of our whole country. These kids are from all over—all different states, all different socio-economic backgrounds, all different personal backgrounds—and that’s the real beauty of the show. Every episode achieves the same goal, we recognize the kid who’s doing something wonderful in the world, but that kid is different every time and their work is different every time. You get to see 20 different shades of superheroes and I think that’s a pretty cool thing.
Hidden Remote: Elijah, what inspired you to be active in your community and to work toward preventing child abuse? Why is that your cause?
Elijah: It all started with a friend who in the worst way was abused…As I got older, I learned more about the power in marching. Learned about people like Angela Davis and Martin Luther King, Jr. who really marched for what they believed in. And I also learned about people like John Lewis; he was a college student when he started to march.
So it kind of planted a seed in me that said you can march and you can fight to prevent child abuse. It all started from there, and a lot of it came from the support. The amount of support I have really also told me to keep going, keep driving, keep pushing, because in my eyes you get support if you’re doing something great. I really thought I was making a change.
HR: What are some of the things you’ve worked or are working on in your hometown?
Elijah: Right now I am working hard on trying to create a pediatric safe room for young people. You normally have to wait for hours at a time in a grim, dark hospital room and that just didn’t really sit right in [my] heart, because these kids have already been through a traumatic experience, why add to the situation?
So I’m working very hard to create a very fun and uplifting inviting room for children to have the opportunity to decompress and relax, where they can also just be kids for a minute out of this kind of abuse. I started a GoFundMe to raise money so that we can help decorate it.
I’m also working on my third Child Abuse Awareness March. That’s going to be on March 7th and we’re also selling T-shirts where $2 of your purchase will go to the GoFundMe for the pediatric safe room.
And of course we have the Marvel’s Hero Project series, which I’m also really, really excited about—not only to help share my story but also to see the others. A lot of phenomenal kids are doing and so I’m overall really, really excited about what’s going on right now.
HR: What did it mean to you, to combine your work with your love of comics and see yourself as a Marvel superhero in Hero Project?
Elijah: I was overwhelmed with emotion. It was like every positive emotion you could think of all balled up in one, and I was so speechless that I could barely talk. I’m still a little speechless now because it hasn’t totally set in, I guess. It was a really, really crazy day for me and the amount of surprise was a lot. A lot of happiness and excitement.
I’m honored to be considered a Marvel hero by such amazing people who do such amazing work. I don’t believe Marvel’s Hero Project was made to give fame or glory to the kid [featured]; I think it was made to inspire and build up our next generation of fighters and inventors and athletes. Our next generation of marchers.
HR: Is there anything you want to say to people before the series debuts on Disney Plus? What do you want to leave them with?
Elijah: Children do have a voice. I think oftentimes, people want to make decisions for children and people want to make laws on how to protect children. But how do you really protect children, how do you understand children if you don’t hear the children’s voices?
And so I want people, especially young people, to know that you do have a voice. That you can make a change and you can make a difference, and that all you need is a little bit of support. So parents, community, be there to support our young people. They do have a voice and they are capable of being anything.
When one falls, we all fall, but when one rises, we all rise. Our children will be the generation that rises.
Marvel’s Hero Project is now streaming exclusively on Disney Plus.