The smartest person in the Marvel Universe is finally roller skating her way onto television. Lunella Lafayette, better known as Moon Girl, made her comic debut in 2015. And her story is action-packed and inspiring for fans of all ages. In the comics, she’s a 9-year-old inventor with a secret laboratory. She accidentally ends up with Devil Dinosaur, a T-rex from another dimension. They share a special mental link and become found family. The unlikely duo combine their brains and brawn to fight against some seriously evil foes. Of course, they run into Marvel faves like Bruce Banner, Ironheart, and more along the way. Now, that same energy is exploding onto our TV screens in a colorful, heartfelt, and downright delightful animated series. Prepare your hearts for Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.
In the series, Lunella is aged up to 13-years-old; however, she’s still a Lower East Side girl who loves skates and science. She uses the latter, along with nifty gadgets, to thwart enemies all while caring for her new dino friend. This hero dons her heart on her sleeve and expresses moments of vulnerability and fear. We cannot relate to being a genius hero, but we all understand those feelings. And, thankfully, her bright and futuristic costume is still largely the same. One thing that has changed (for the better) is her support system. While we meet Lunella’s parents in the comics, we don’t know much about her extended family. And, Lunella is an outcast at school who doesn’t have any friends… that is, until she meets Devil Dinosaur.
However, in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Lunella lives with extended family, a common practice in Black (and other non-white) communities. It’s an aspect of the series that made actor Gary Anthony Williams, who portrays Lunella’s grandfather Pops, want to join this project. He grew up living close to extended family and appreciated Lunella’s home dynamics, particularly how she has multiple people to lean on during difficult years of her life. “I was always around my grandmother,” he tells Nerdist. “It wasn’t just once every, ‘Oh, it’s Thanksgiving, let’s go see grandma.’ No, every week we saw grandma. We watched TV with her, we hung around her, I went fishing with her… so that’s what drew me [into this show], the joy of being a part of a family, being a part of a community, and the type of family where everyone’s together.”
Libe Barer, who portrays Lunella’s bestie and human sidekick Casey, echoes this sentiment of family. In many ways, friends are found family, and that’s what happens with Lunella and Casey in the series. Barer fell in love with her character’s dialogue and personality, both of which are vastly different from Lunella. But, she really knew she’d made the right choice to join this world because of her real-life camaraderie Diamond White, the actress behind our adorable titular hero. COVID kept the duo apart but not even distance (and a pandemic) could stop their natural chemistry.
“We recorded in separate booths and [the producers] encouraged us to improv,” she revealed to us. “They were like, ‘Let it be messy and weird.’ …And that, a lot of that made it into the cut. We recorded a lot of the first season in the depths of the lockdown. So I was in my closet in New York while Diamond was in hers in LA but we were Zooming together and reading together, which was such a gift.”
That certainly shines through Lunella and Casey’s connection onscreen. Their bond is an affirmation that 1) girls, especially those from marginalized communities, need each other and 2) every superhero needs a safe space to be normal.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur’s themes of friendship, family, discovery, and science all come together in its upbeat and decidedly bright packaging. The show’s creator Laurence Fishburne (you may have heard of him) and his fellow executive producer Steve Loter worked together to combine their childhood loves and art inspirations to craft something wholly unique. “When we met, we really had a similar kind of idea and vision and vibe about what it should be,” said Fishburne. “[Steve] started describing what the animation style could possibly be like, drawing from several different influences. And we talked about the comic books that we loved and growing up in New York.”
Loter further details their templates for Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, adding, “Instead of pulling one influence like, ‘Oh, yeah, we love Andy Warhol’s silk screening from New York City. We love Basquiat, we love graffiti art, we love [Jack] Kirby in Marvel Comics and the Kirby Krackle that he would put in his comic panels,’ we said, ‘Let’s put them all together. Let’s see what they look like all combined into one.’ …And it worked because New York has that kind of energy. It’s not one single thing, it’s a hundred things at once.”
The city is indeed a character in the series, providing a setting full of dualities. We witness the camaraderie of Lunella’s community and her fierce desire to protect it. But who (or what) is she fighting against? Well, we will meet a variety of foes in this series. But there’s one in particular who will give the young genius major woes: The Beyonder. Fishburne voices the character and hints at what’s to come with this villain. “He is interdimensional,” says Fishburne. “He is a traditional trickster, thematically. And he pops in and out from somewhere beyond the galaxy to learn about humans from Lunella and to test her. He’s kind of a weird kind of thorn in her side. His powers match her intellect.”
Thankfully, Lunella is not facing this trickster alone. With her friend Casey, her family, a massive red dino, and her keen intelligence, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur can take on anything. It’s time for Moon Girl Magic to shine.