EXCLUSIVE: Noelle Stevenson Revives Marvel's "Runaways" During "Secret Wars"

When you're an adolescent, overbearing parents and teachers can seem like agents of evil. If you're a teen in the Marvel Universe, there is a distinct possibility that the authority figures keeping you down are literally supervillains. Writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Adrian Alphona perfectly demonstrated this premise with their 2003 series "Runaways", which introduced a team of all-new teen heroes and followed them as they went on the run from their supervillain parents.

The members of the Runaways became fan favorite characters upon their introduction and have starred in multiple volumes of their own self-titled series as well as being featured in books like "Avengers Arena" and "Avengers Undercover." Yet there hasn't been a "Runaways" series at Marvel since 2009 -- though that's about to change.

This May, the Marvel Universe as we know it will be no more with the onset of "Secret Wars." The event finds the remnants of the multiverse assembled into one patchwork planet called Battleworld, but that doesn't mean the rebellious spirit of young heroes like the Runaways will be gone. This June, writer Noelle Stevenson ("Lumberjanes") and artist Sanford Greene ("Uncanny Avengers") will introduce a new incarnation of Marvel's defiant band of teen heroes with a new "Runaways" series set on Battleworld. CBR News spoke with Stevenson exclusively about the daunting task of taking over the beloved team, the circumstances that bring the new Runaways together and the villainous figure they'll be fighting to bring down.

CBR News: Your "Runaways" series reimagines the title characters as citizens of Battleworld, but I understand that unlike other "Secret Wars" books, this series won't focus on a specific Battleworld domain. It starts off in the planet's capital city -- what can you tell us about this city?

Noelle Stevenson: Well, I'm not supposed to reveal too much yet! I think I can say that most of these characters I'm working with have been brought here from all over Battleworld -- the best and brightest of their domains -- so there's a real mashup of cultures, if you will. I'll leave it there for now.

Against this backdrop, you'll be introducing readers to your title characters. What can you tell us about them and the domains they hail from? Are these characters new takes on classic Runaways members, completely new creations or new takes on other established Marvel teens?

Most of the characters are established Marvel teens, but you'll find them a little different here. Although characters from many different teams will be represented here, this team is entirely its own, new thing and they'll all be called upon to play a role in it that they probably haven't before. I've been referring to them informally as The Breakfast Club, because they're a group who wouldn't necessarily choose to hang out with each other under normal circumstances -- and actually outright hate each other in a few cases -- but end up having to work together to survive and find out that they have more in common than they thought.

You and artist Sanford Greene bring these new Runaways together to attend a school. What kind of school is it?

Much like some other schools for, ahem, gifted youngsters, this school is bringing in exceptional kids from all over and grooming them to be future leaders and fighters. Unlike some of those other schools, though, this school has nefarious uses for the perfect generation it's molding. A lot of emphasis is placed on being the strongest and coming out on top no matter what, and aggression, competition, ruthlessness and obedience are prized, so some of these kids are pretty messed up by that. Most of them are really intense because they've been fighting for some vaguely-defined top honor for their entire lives and view a lot of their peers as obstacles to that end -- something the core cast will have to reevaluate and work to overcome.

What has it been like designing this world and its inhabitants with Sanford? He's an artist whose characters always seem to exude energy and attitude.

Sanford has an amazing style that's so energetic and full of life and movement, which is really important when telling a story about a bunch of rough and rowdy punk teens! I'm really excited to be working with him.

Brian K Vaughan's "Runaways"kicked off with a sinister revelation about the protagonists' families, but your "Runaways" begins with the discovery that the headmaster of the school the characters attend is in fact a super villain. What made you want to go this route instead of the characters having a super villain parents?

Well, the original idea was always about this corrupt organization that's growing a whole generation of kids completely entrenched in this agenda and dogma and propaganda, who'll be completely devoted to the cause, and having them rebel against that. They'll figure out that the worldview that they've bought into their entire lives isn't actually right or good, despite what they thought -- basically looking around and saying, "Are we baddies?" It's different from finding out your parents are villains, but at its core it's not so different. It's reevaluating how you were raised and the people who raised you and deciding what it actually is you want for yourself outside of that.

What can you offer up about the villainous headmaster? Is this a new character?

I can't tell you too much about that right now! Suffice it to say, the main villain is going to have a... pretty unusual presence in the story.

We've talked about the set-up to your new "Runaways" series; now let's talk about the action! How much fun are you having with them running across the different domains of Battleworld? It seems like the setting allows you the chance to have fun with a wide variety of genres.

For sure! These kids are gonna have their asses handed to them in a lot of ways, that's for sure. I'm really looking forward to testing their strength as individuals and as a team against a variety of really compelling backdrops and dangerous environments -- not the least of which is their own school.

You made your Marvel debut with your story in this month's "Thor Annual" and now you're being given a shot at doing an original take on one of Marvel's fan favorite franchises, the Runaways. How does it feel?

It's fun and exciting and terrifying all at once -- it's an incredible honor to be able to contribute to this thread of cultural mythology that I've grown up with and plays such a huge part in so many people's lives. Of course I want to do right by everyone who cares about these characters, but there's also a pretty big desire to reinvent. Don't expect a straight-up rehash of "Runaways" -- this is its own thing. "Runaways" was exciting because it was something brand-new and fresh, and I'm hoping to be able to bend the rules in my own way of what a Marvel superhero story can be.

Finally, your work on the recent "Thor Annual" and this series means some new readers are discovering your work. For those readers who are curious about your other books and want to try some of them what do you recommend?

Well, my first every completed comic story, "NIMONA," is available online in its entirety and in May it will be available in print from HarperCollins as a YA graphic novel. My other series, "Lumberjanes," is an ongoing from BOOM! Studios with its first trade due out in April. There are a few other projects on their way from me that I can't talk about yet, so if you want to stay up to date on those you can follow me on Tumblr or Twitter.

Marvel's new "Runaways" series arrives in June.

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