SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for Marvel’s “Runaways” comic book series.
Marvel Comics’ “Runaways” has been touted as one of the most underrated contemporary products in the history of the publisher. A cult classic that still resonates today, many deem it a highly recommended and emotionally volatile coming-of-age comic that subverts the concepts of vulnerable teenagers struggling with their identity (gender and sexual), the loyalty dynamic between families and friends, and the overall trope of what it means to be a hero. With a movie adaptation stuck in development hell for years, the project has finally found new life — on television — at Hulu in the hands of “Gossip Girl” creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage who know all too well what it takes to bring teen angst to television.
News of this live-action adaptation has been met with huge excitement in the geek world with the fan-favorite property ready to stretch its underdog legs to a wider audience that’s now much more familiar with Marvel across its staple mediums — from film to television and, of course, print. Its uniqueness definitely made “Runaways” seem ahead of its time as it brought a pre-“Saga” Brian K. Vaughan together with artist Adrian Alphona in 2003, channeling the former’s momentum from Vertigo’s “Y: The Last Man.” What ensued was a story that connected with young souls — lost, wandering and aiming to find hope, purpose and a place in a cruel, dark world after seeing the villainous nature of their parents. This rocks the kids to the core and places them on a rollercoaster of emotions with their parents now adversaries.
Originally conceived as part of Marvel’s short-lived Tsunami imprint to lure manga admirers, the title drew rave acclaim with “Wizard Magazine” calling the series “one of the best original concepts from Marvel in 30 years” when it debuted. Despite Tsunami folding, the book eventually found its way into the mainstream 616, going through several incarnations while also boasting Joss Whedon as a writer in its tenure. All of these factors contributed to its growing following as “Runaways” consistently defied expectations as the little engine (or comic book) that could. While this hasn’t translated fully into sales over the years to keep the solo book(s) afloat, they managed to hold their little nook in the spotlight when needed, appearing in big events such as “Civil War,” “Secret Invasion” and most recently, “Secret Wars.” Rest assured that when they hit your television, it’ll be one angsty, twist-laden ride so to prime you for what’s to come, here’s a look at who we think would fit the cast (and keep an eye out for the “Gossip Girl” alumni).
10. Nico Minoru: Brenda Song
Song easily shook her Disney tag via appearances in “The Social Network” as well as on television in “Scandal,” “New Girl” and “Robot Chicken” over the last couple years. What these performances showed, apart from her growth from teen star to young adult, was her range and surprising intensity, which is exactly what will be needed to embody Nico. Especially given how quickly and shockingly she finds herself shunted into a role of leadership — all due to some pretty heavy and turbulent betrayals in the team’s journey. Briefly known as Sister Grimm, the character ends up steeped in some of the darkest arcs in “Runaways” due to her familial ties to magic and it’s this mysticism and supernatural arena that allows Song the room to own the complexities tethered to Nico. Another advantage is that she looks much younger than she is (28) and those familiar with the role she portrayed in the 2012 indie-flick “First Kiss” would agree with us that she has what it takes to endure the responsibility of being the witch that tries to keep “Runaways” intact.
9. Karolina Dean: Taylor Momsen
We know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t just a vanity casting based on the actress’ stint on “Gossip Girl.” Karolina, who ends up adopting the identity of Lucy in the Sky, is a very connective character and in a nutshell, the team’s most emo member. If you’ve listened to her band, The Pretty Reckless, then you’d have an idea why Momsen fits this character. Karolina struggles with her alien heritage, her sexuality and is also offered up in an arranged marriage as a peace treaty — so if that doesn’t take an emotional toll on a youngster, we don’t know what will. Momsen’s 23 and also remarkably resembles her comic counterpart which allows us to picture her as Karolina with the leather jacket, the mascara and that overall punk disposition that screams ‘outsider.’ Ironically, her music usually references the concept of the other and with quite an intriguing crossroads lingering with Nico, “Runaways” deserves someone both strong and experienced while still being fresh and possessing enormous personality to draw empathy from the audience. She evolves over the course of the book from victim to an actual voice of change and Momsen is seasoned enough to bring this transition to life.
8. Molly Hayes: Mackenzie Foy
Foy gave one of the most engrossing performances in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” and at the tender age of 15 she’s our pick to breathe life into the baby of the group. Don’t get it twisted, however, because Molly ends up being one of the most powerful (literally and figuratively) characters on tap, forging very strong relationships with the entire team. Many have pointed to her as the compass of “Runaways” due to this fact, as she delicately balances her youthful innocence and naiveté with an inspirational strength that reminds us of when we wanted to be doe-eyed anarchists who ignored our shortcomings as we dreamt of changing the world for the better. The manner in which she transforms into this hero and leader, arguably the loudest voice on the team, is amazingly fleshed out in the books — further convincing us that Foy’s the ideal pick to traverse Molly’s emotional spectrum. She shifts from a doubtful kid that doesn’t believe how parents could turn on their own so easily to someone who finds herself suddenly removing shards of cynicism to guide those in need. She has to toughen up quickly as the story progresses and comic fans would delightfully recall her throwing down with the likes of the X-Men as an example of how badass and adult she tries to carry about herself. She’s their answer to a certain Lady Mormont. Quite the firecracker.
7. Gertrude Yorkes: Valerie Tian
Gert’s one of the team’s most introverted and introspective characters, constantly churning out her philosophy on how the world should work, much to the annoyance of everyone else. However, she finds her true north in having Nico as her best friend, though a love triangle eventually erodes their relationship. Valerie Tian is most noted for her time in “Juno” and over the course of her career she’s taken on more than a few versatile roles. That is precisely what is needed for the plot that unfolds with a certain debonair called Chase Stein, one which severely impacts the entire dynamic of the group later on. We’re not sure if her dinosaur, Old Lace, will factor in the series given potentially budget constraints, but Tian is a great fit to fill one of the more dramatic elements of the group. There’s no real power set attributed to her bar her brain, making it easy to see conflict brewing with her as the perceived weakest member of the squad. Without saying too much about her, if you think “Runaways” will be short on poetic tragedies, guess again because Gert’s fate has major implications down the line.
6. Chase Stein: Thomas Mann
Mann absolutely killed it last year in 2015’s “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl” with profound ease; emotive, witty and endearing. After a much more drastic gear up in “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” we think that at 24 he’s a good match to stir the love triangle previously mentioned involving Nico and Gert. It may be a long shot getting him on television given how his film career has taken off (here’s looking at you “Kong: Skull Island”) but it would be cool seeing him assume that defiant, free and reckless spirit represented in the books. Mann showed his rebel chops in 2012’s “Project X” but maintained a certain aura, a special charm and an innocence that you couldn’t help but love. After seeing him in a few other restrained roles, it’d be nice to have him cut loose as the wildcard of “Runaways” — from discovering his lineage as the son of mad scientists to an arc that changes the entire course of the team via broken romances and, of course, a death. Chase gets explored in depth in the comic to places readers never imagined the book would go, and taking all these into account, there’s only one Mann for the job.
5. Klara Prast: Ruby Barnhill
12 year-old Barnhill showed wisdom and poise beyond her years in Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG.” She also displayed the warmth needed for Klara Prast, who is basically the Poison Ivy of “Runaways.” With intersecting threads of child marriage and sexual abuse, Klara finds herself entwined in a lot of real-world issues that tug hard on our heartstrings. Her sisterly relationship with Molly as well as having to mature very quickly as a girl displaced in time all convey a lot about her personal struggles which we can all relate to at some point. She really helps frame the coming-of-age context of the story with an extra layer of being an outsider from the past cleverly measured in. Adjusting from the 20th to 21st century, battling with a mutant heritage and moving from a self-assured and confident young lass to one that’s dazed and confused in the newest of worlds should be a walk in the park for Barnhill.
4. Alex Wilder: Tyler James Williams
“Everybody Hates Chris” and “The Walking Dead” are good enough on your resume to play one of the most duplicitous characters in the last 15 years of comics. Alex Wilder grows from a likeable character and more so, leader, to such a despot that, well, you really have to read to believe. Williams, tried and tested, can definitely switch it up and wear these two faces of hero and villain. With a wealth of television experience at just 23, Williams is a veteran who should be a shoo-in for the position. Alex’s struggle with relationships, his craving for parental approval and how he uses his gifts as a prodigy all provide a rigid dichotomy between light and darkness which torments the young mastermind. So yeah, Williams is our number one pick for this as we can see him playing the rest of the group like a fiddle. In fact, Wilder comes off sympathetic at times a la The Governor, and the actor’s pedigree is exactly what’s needed for this kind of conniving scheme. Also, one big trait Alex possesses is ego, and Williams has a personality that you can love and hate at the same time. Not to mention, he has a smirk that reeks of a certain something coming before the fall. That something being…
3. The Pride/Wilders: Lance Reddick and Angela Bassett
The Pride are the parents of the “Runaways” and are charged with making a quota of sacrifices over a certain time period to some really nasty higher powers in order to gain access to the promised land. When the kids witness the murder of a young girl, the book is kickstarted to life with the Wilders taking villainous lead in hunting the panicked and fleeing youngsters. Alex ends up duping his friends to try to aid his parents as well as Nico’s but while he remains low-key in his traitor role, his parents are most vociferous and pose a huge presence throughout. Intimidating and ruthless to say the least. So why not Lance Reddick from “Fringe” as Geoffrey and Angela Bassett as his wife, Catherine? The latter deserves another chance to redeem herself to geeks outside of “Olympus Has Fallen” and “London Has Fallen.” She was the first to bring Amanda Waller live to the big screen in 2011’s “Green Lantern” and she’s also an Academy Award nominee, so when it comes to big bads, we think these two are a safe bet to deal with those pesky, meddling kids.
2. Victor Mancha: Diego Boneta
He’s one of the new-age heartthrobs with a swath of roles under his belt such as “90210,” “Scream Queens” and “Pretty Little Liars.” As a Mexican, he also fits Victor’s heritage nicely. Revealed to be the son of Ultron, he was planted to destroy the Avengers but eventually landed on the heroic side of life with Nico’s team, getting closer to her in the process. He also aids in stemming the threat of events such as “Civil War” towards his posse. While the series may not wander that grand in term of villains and scope, Victor remains a great foil perched in mystery to keep fans at the edge of their distrustful seats. Maybe the producers can tie him to Ultron — ormaybe not — but that overall feel of not knowing what’s bubbling under his chiseled surface is reason enough to have him rival Chase, romance Nico and throw several spokes in the wheels of the young heroes.
1. Xavin: Keke Palmer
A super-skrull in training, Xavin really bends the rules regarding gender in “Runaways.” Xavin first appeared in the form of a Black male but changed into a Black female due to her feelings for Karolina, which turned out to be a pretty big driving point later on in the team’s history. Xavin’s rash and intimidating personality is matched by her beauty, which makes sense given her heritage as Skrull royalty. Due to her constant gender switching, the journey wasn’t the smoothest but she proved highly loyal to the group which reverberated big time in “Secret Invasion.” At 23, Palmer has the looks and the talent to stand side by side with Momsen as Karolina, though we hope both the casting and on-screen coupling can skirt the controversy all too prevalent regarding both these days. That said, it’s tough to translate this to screen without the associated controversy because that’s exactly what the book did. Paint the unconventional, highlight the taboo and detail the stuff we tolerate but tend to shy away from. Palmer has shown potential on “90210” and “Scream Queens” so it should be a simple segue and one that is sure to make headlines in pop-culture.
No release date has been announced for Marvel’s “Runaways,” but stay tuned to CBR for more.
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