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WonderCon 2016: The Psychology of the Marvel TV Universe – Panel Coverage and Audio

Please note that The Arkham Sessions podcast, hosted by Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Brian Ward, is syndicated each week on Fanboy Comics.

On Friday afternoon, many WonderCon attendees packed one of the conference rooms in the West Hall to listen to television writers discuss the Marvel shows they are working on with moderator Brian Ward (The Arkham Sessions). Four Marvel shows were represented – D.J. Doyle (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Jose Molina (Agent Carter), Lindsey Allen (Agent Carter), Christos Gage (Daredevil), and Scott Reynolds (Jessica Jones) – while Dr. Andrea Letamendi (The Arkham Sessions) provided her psychological expertise to explore the dramatic psyche of each central character.

Ward began the hour by asking each writer to describe their experience and process in their respective writers’ room. Doyle started by telling the packed audience that the writers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. look for what’s fun and cool as a starting point to answering the question “What is their way into the story?” of their characters. Molina and Allen, who both write for Agent Carter, said they began by looking at Peggy’s emotional loss for season one and now they are looking at what to do next after she has said goodbye. Molina added that they tried to dive in from a psychological standpoint, because these are characters that have been broken by war. Gage, writing for Daredevil, stated he had 50 years of tradition to cull from; hence, he was able to cement the character’s background and fill in gaps that exists in the superhero’s history. Jessisca Jones writer Reynolds revealed that two of the eight writers knew the comics going in. He felt they had an easier time developing the character, because they knew they were going be edgy and character-driven.


Since all of these shows are within the same universe and the “incident” is part of their origin story, Ward pointed out that the characters were familiar with tragedy from a young age. Dr. Letamendi, who learned about recovery from working with returning veterans, revealed that the veterans experienced multiple episodes of tragedy or recurring loss, but had also experienced post-traumatic growth. She asked, what will each character’s response and experience be? For Daredevil and Jessica Jones, they shun it, and for the latter, she carries a lot of self-doubt. For Dr. Letamendi, she appreciates that the characters are flawed and not totally recovered. Molina mentioned the power of survivor’s guilt as a motivating factor. In the instance of Peggy, her self-prophecy came true when she let her walls come down. Dr. Letamendi stressed that it is important that the characters have a support system of individuals or, at minimum, one person with which they develop a bond. For example, Gage said that Stick walked away from Matt because while Stick wanted a ruthless killer to emerge from Matt’s training, Matt was looking for a surrogate father. Matt eventually bonds with Karen and Foggy.

Villains were brought up during the hour.  Per Doyle, in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Grant Ward was groomed to become a villain, because he did not have the support system and he was basically the wrong person in the wrong situation. In Daredevil, Wilson Fisk genuinely believed he was doing the right thing for the city until the end of season one. Kilgrave, played by David Tennant in Jessica Jones, was considered the ultimate monster according to Reynolds. Episode 8 “What Would Jessica Do?” was the only opportunity for Kilgrave to find love with Jessica, because she didn’t fall under Kilgrave’s control. Doyle said he thought it was great when Kilgrave and Jessica played house. Molina said that, as writers, they try to create the worst situations for their characters to have to deal with in order to create a better story.


Dr. Letamendi specifically brought up Karen Page from Daredevil as a unique character, because she had dealt with a traumatic event, and, as a result, she placed herself in dangerous situations. She added that Karen is developing into an interesting character that feeds off that danger. Doyle said Karen was interesting, especially given that she is a normal human, not affected by the incident.

As the panel began to wrap up, panelists made some closing remarks. Gage stated that people with disabilities were able to identify with Matt Murdock’s Daredevil character, and Molina said that there is hope for these flawed Marvel superheroes; they will come through the other side of tragedy.


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Image credits: Panel photographs taken by Michele Brittany.  Marvel TV publicity photo from Google Images.

Michele Brittany, Fanbase Press Contributor



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