After years and years of development, abandoned film scripts and more than a few canceled ongoing comic series, the long-awaited moment has arrived: “Runaways” is making a major comeback in the form of a television series. A live-action adaptation of the fan-favorite/bordering-on-iconic Marvel comic just got ordered to series by Hulu, where it will become the latest in a long line of streaming Marvel Television series.
Of course “Runaways” marks a change in how Marvel Television has previously operated; instead of arriving on Netflix like “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage,” the teen-centric superhero series will stream on Hulu. But defying expectations and doing its own thing is what “Runaways” is all about, and has been since it debuted in 2003.
Initially an underdog series from two lesser-known creators launched as part of a long forgotten initiative, “Runaways” grew from a surprise hit into one of the most enduring new concepts launched by Marvel in the past decade. Even though it’s somehow been seven years since the last “Runaways” ongoing ended, the series — with its totally original characters, fresh concept and ahead of its time art — has become one of the titles new readers turn to when they want to peek inside the Marvel Universe. The characters still resonate all these years later, and they’re about to be introduced to a much wider audience.
If you’re new to the cult classic series and wonder what all the fuss is about, we’ve prepped a “Runaways” primer for fans both old and new.
6. “Runaways”: Origin
There’s one word that’s integral to this book’s origin that many people probably don’t know: Tsunami. That was the name of the manga-influenced imprint that Marvel launched in January 2003 in an attempt to draw in new readers. Issues of these series would be collected in pocket-size digests, similar to manga. The line gave series to a number of established characters (Mystique, Emma Frost, Namor, Human Torch, Venom, the Inhumans), new characters in series with recognizable titles (“Sentinel,” “New Mutants”) — and then there was “Runaways.”
Unlike the other series, “Runaways” starred totally new characters (who you’ll read more about in a bit) in a drastically different setting (Los Angeles as opposed to Marvel’s Manhattan). Instead of going with a familiar name, legacy or characters, the series used its high concept to hook readers: what if you found out your parents were super villains?
The series also didn’t have familiar creators behind it. Sure, Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona are A-listers nowadays thanks to their work on “Saga” and “Ms. Marvel,” respectively, but “Runaways” served as their introduction to many, many readers. Prior to this teen Marvel series, Vaughan was most known for a run on “Swamp Thing” and an arc of “Batman.” His groundbreaking series “Y: The Last Man” launched at Vertigo just under a year before “Runaways” started. And “Runaways” was Alphona’s comic debut; in fact, “Runaways” comes so early in Alphona’s comic career that you literally see his style evolve quite rapidly throughout his four-year run on the title.
When it launched in July 2003, “Runaways” seemed like the unlikely pic for “breakout hit,” but it was. The Tsunami initiative folded after just a year (“Runaways” would still bear the Tsunami branding for the duration of it’s first 18-issue-long volume), and the book starring the totally new characters from relatively unknown creators was the only one to get a second ongoing (and, even later than that, a third). The odds were stacked against the series, but readers became invested in these new heroes — and, no surprise, Vaughan and Alphona made for a spectacular team.
5. Meet The Runaways
“Runaways” resonated because of its rich premise, yes, but the series also put exciting and relatable teenagers right at the forefront of its unfolding drama. The original cast included:
- Nico Minoru: The daughter of wizards, Nico Minoru’s goth style immediately set her apart from plenty other teen heroes. She commanded the Staff of One, which is summoned forth when her own blood is spilled. The Staff allows Nico to cast powerful spells, but she can only use a spell once and then it’s rendered unusable.
- Chase Stein: The aggressively immature slacker son of two mad scientists, Chase has no problem sharing his sometimes offensive and unpopular opinions. But he puts his parents’ inventions, like his flame-throwing Fistigons and the amphibious vehicle the Leapfrog, to good use fighting crime with his peers.
- Molly Hayes: The youngest of the Runaways, Molly is a mutant with the gift of super strength. However, using her strength tires her out quickly, meaning that she has to take power naps in order to recharge. Due to her age, Molly held out hope that her parents were secretly good much longer than the rest.
- Karolina Dean:The daughter of two big name actors, Karolina only discivers that she’s an alien after learning of her parents’ evil plot to destroy the world. And Karolina’s a glittery, neon-colored rainbow extraterrestrial, too, complete with the power of flight and energy blasts.
- Gertrude Yorkes: Like Chase, Gert’s a normal human with innate powers to speak of — except her parents were time travelers. And, yes, they left her with a pet velociraptor from the future, who Gert calls Old Lace and shares an empathic link with.
- Alex Wilder: Alex’s parents were crime bosses whose territory included all of Los Angeles. With human parents, Alex’s special skills included his naturally gifted intelligence.
But the group would grow larger than these initial six Runaways (okay, seven if you count Old Lace — and you should always include raptors from the 87th century).
4. Meet The New Runaways
The cast of “Runaways” remained consisted for all of volume one, which ran for 18 issues from 2003 to 2004. This batch of issues told the complete story of the Runaways’ battle against their supervillain parents and their plot to sell off the Earth to a group of Elder Gods called the Gibborim. Vaughan and Alphona returned for a second “Runaways” volume in the spring of 2005, and added a few new members to the team.
- Victor Mancha: Victor kept the “parents are supervillains” trend alive when he discovered that his father was actually Ultron, a killer robot and one of the Avengers’ deadliest enemies. An artificially created cyborg, Victor can control electricity and can easily communicate with machines and artificial intelligence.
- Xavin: A shapeshifting Skrull, Xavin originally came across the Runaways as an adversary. Xavin’s parents had arranged a marriage between the young Skrull and their daughter, Karolina. The initial tension fell away as Karolina and Xavin fell in love. Xavin then joined the team for a number of missions, and played a large role during the “Secret Invasion” arc.
These stories brought the team into conflict with other disenfranchised young superheroes and saw them make a number of major, spoilery sacrifices. When Vaughan and Alphona’s lengthy tenure on the book ended in 2007, superstar creator Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Astonishing X-Men”) signed on for a storyarc along with artist Michael Ryan. They introduced another Runaway to the ranks:
- Klara Prast: A mutant with the ability to manipulate plant life, Klara was born in 1895 and met the Runaways when they traveled back in time to the year 1907. The team rescued her from her abusive, middle-aged husband that her parents had given her away to and brought her forward in time to the present.
Whedon and Ryan’s run on the book suffered from extensive delays; only six issues were released in a year’s time. But the series didn’t end with the conclusion of volume two in 2008.
3. The Later Runs
Following the end of the second volume in 2008, Marvel immediately relaunched the series with a new volume and creative team. The third “Runaways” #1 arrived in October 2008 and came from writer Terry Moore (“Strangers in Paradise”) and artist Humberto Ramos (“Amazing Spider-Man”). Moore’s run pit the team against the alien Light Brigade, members of Karolina’s Majesdane race.
Moore handed the book over to a new creative team for one final arc in 2009. Writer Kathryn Immonen took over, and current superstar artist Sara Pichelli (“Spider-Man”) provided art. Two creators actually have the distinction of working on all three volumes of “Runaways.” Artist Takeshi Miyazawa, who currently illustrates “Ms. Marvel” with “Runaways” co-creator Alphona, illustrated arcs in all three volumes. And colorist Christina Strain provided a through line for the series, having joined the creative team halfway through volume one and staying through to the end of volume three.
With the end of 2009 came the end of the “Runaways'” run — a surprisingly long one, considering how the series began just six years earlier. Even though the team hasn’t had an ongoing series in seven years, they’ve still kept busy.
2. Where Are They Now?
The team made two more appearances as a unified group following the end of their ongoing in 2008. In early 2012 they teamed up with Wolverine’s son to tie up a lose end from their parents’ criminal reign in “Daken: Dark Wolverine” #16-19. Just a few months later they appeared in a two-part story in “Avengers Academy” (#27-28).
Nico and Chase got kidnapped by the villain Arcade and placed on a deserted island called Murderworld. In “Avengers Arena,” they competed in a “Hunger Games” style duel to the death with other teens; Chase temporarily gained the alien powers of the Darkhawk armor and Nico lost an arm. Their storyline continued into the pages of “Avengers Undercover.” Additionally, Alex Wilder was last seen in “Undercover.”
Victor joined Hank Pym’s team of all-robot Avengers in the series “Avengers A.I.” There he became close with his “brother,” fellow Ultron creation the Vision. Those bonds proved to be strong, as Victor has recently appeared in issues of “The Vision” where the Runaway has been accepted as a member of the synthezoid Avenger’s family.
An alternate reality version of Molly Hayes appeared under the codename Bruiser in last year’s “Secret Wars” tie-in “Runaways” limited series. Molly was the only member of the Runaways to appear in this alternate take on the team. “Secret Wars” also launched “A-Force,” which prominently featured Nico. That title has continued into the main Marvel universe, and it currently documents Nico’s post-Runaways journey.
Other characters, though, have been missing for quite some time. Gert and Xavin haven’t appeared in a comic since the end of the “Runaways” ongoings years ago, and Klara Prast last had a significant role in the team’s 2012 “Avengers Academy” appearance.
1. What Do The Runaways Bring To The MCU?
The Runaways bring two major things to Marvel’s TV offerings: youth and diversity. So far, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe — including television and film — has centered around adults. Assuming that Hulu’s “Runaways” will also be a part of this shared universe, the series will help broaden the age range of characters depicted therein. We still don’t know how teens have reacted to living in a world now populated by superheroes. We got our first glimpse of it in “Captain America: Civil War” with the introduction of a high school-age Spider-Man, and Spidey’s 2017 solo movie will be the first teen-centric installment in the MCU. “Runaways” will add to that on the small screen, as will Freeform’s also in-development “Cloak and Dagger” series.
And like “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which also boasts an incredibly diverse cast, “Runaways” will provide the MCU with more diverse superheroes. The Runaways feature heroes from different backgrounds (the Mexican American Victor, Japanese American Nico and African American Alex) as well as LGBT members (Karolina is a lesbian and Xavin is genderfluid). There’s even diversity in the way these kids dress (how many goth superheroes have you seen?) and also their body types (like Gert). And then there’s just the basic gender breakdown of the team. Generally team books either have 1-3 women or it’s an all women team. “Runaways” has always been one of the rare superhero books where the team skews female while not being all female. “Runaways” could do a lot of good work when it comes to pushing the traditional superhero genre further into the 21st century.
We’re definitely still a ways away from “Runaways” arriving on Hulu, This is potentially a show unlike any other Marvel has ever produced, with a young, diverse cast and a totally original/serious-yet-irreverent premise. We just want to see Karolina light up the screen and Old Lace come to life, hopefully sooner rather than later.
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