Still stuck for something to watch? How about something Marvel-related?

New to Disney+ is the documentary series, Marvel 616. The eight-part series, which arrived on the Disney streaming service on Friday, tells a varied collection of stories related to Marvel Comics.

The series is called Marvel 616 in reference to the 616 universe – i.e. the primary universe that Spidey, Iron Man, the Hulk etc reside in. The 616 part takes its name from the year/month that Fantastic Four #1 was published (June 1961), which is regarded as the birth of Marvel Comics as we know it today.

As you have probably guessed from that little bit of explanation, this docu-series is aimed at Marvel Comics and the stories and ideas that have been born from the comic book company. It is not about the movies, but is instead a showcase of how far-reaching Marvel is as a brand, and how it influences and inspires people.

Across the eight episodes, Marvel 616 looks at cosplay, comic book creators, representation, toys, and even some of the obscure characters that have been produced by the company. The episodes are far-reaching, with the first episode detailing the lesser-known Japanese 1970s Spider-Man show, while the final episode focuses on a group of high school students putting on a Marvel play.

Image: ©Disney/Marvel Entertainment
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Each episode runs between 50 minutes to an hour, is very different to the one that came before, and takes the viewer on a journey of discovery. Collectively, the series is kind of like a Marvel jukebox, which someone has set to random to provide an eclectic playlist.

Yet despite the different topics that are covered, two very important themes run through all eight episodes. One of the themes is the series’ focus on content creators – be that way back during the early days of the company, or now in the modern era through cosplay and toy manufacturers.

This is a series which shows how Marvel has become a self-perpetuating brand with so many different people now driving its success. Some of these people are at the forefront of story-making today, while others are potentially waiting in the wings to take the company forward in the future.

And this neatly takes me onto the second theme of the series, which is the way in which the Marvel 616 Universe inspires so many people. With each episode the series demonstrates how a character or a storyline has impacted someone else, and helped them to either be a better person, or a better content creator.

As a long-running comic book fan, who has read Marvel books for almost 30 years, I know just how inspiring the stories can be. I’ve known this ever since I picked up my first comic back in ‘91, but it is great to see how the characters continue to inspire people today.

A great example of this comes in the final episode, when one of the high school students taking part in a Marvel play comments, “Before I got into this class, I never thought I would be somewhere on a stage, actually saying something. I don’t know – it’s a big deal to me, because I used… I still am a little bit insecure.” Hearing this student say this, and knowing that comic book characters are the reason she is stepping outside of her comfort zone and onto a stage, is truly fantastic.

Image: ©Disney/Marvel Entertainment
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It’s fair to say I adored this series. My only criticism is that eight episodes wasn’t enough and I want more!

Will there be more? I guess that depends on the response to this initial series, but I hope so. This is a universe filled with over 8,000 characters, so I am sure there are plenty more stories to tell.

My favourite two episodes of this run were Episode 2: Higher, Further, Faster, which looked at the contribution female writers have made to the comic book industry, and Episode 3: Amazing Artisans, which looked at how two Spanish artists have shaped some of Marvel’s recent break-out stars. These episodes demonstrate how Marvel continues to develop and expand, moving beyond the company’s origins, and moving outside of borders to tell new and engaging tales.

Image: ©Disney/Marvel Entertainment
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When I started reading comics at the beginning of the 1990s, barely anyone I knew was familiar with Marvel characters, let alone read comics. Often it felt as if I was the only person interested in the Marvel Universe, and I longed for others to see just how incredible these stories were.

Thanks to the release of the big budget movies, pretty much everyone in the world knows Marvel and this is of course fantastic. But this docu-series shows there is still so much more to Marvel than the films – there are creators, fans, and a stream of ideas that continue to entertain and energize for generations to come.

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