WARNING: The following article contains potential major spoilers for Marvel's Runaways, now available on Hulu.
Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s The Runaways is Marvel Comics cult classic. Now, Hulu has adapted the comic, about a group of teenagers who discover their parents are supervillains, as a television drama. The three-episode series premiere is available now, but there’s a lot to take in, not the least of which is the New Age movement called the Church of Gibborim.
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The Gibborim are one of the most important and mysterious factions in the Runaways comics, and it seems like they’ll be make the journey from page to screen along with the titular teens and their parents. So, who are they? We’ll need to go all the way back to the beginning of the Marvel Universe to answer that.
First, let’s start off with what we know from the show. The Church of Gibborim is run by Leslie Dean, the mother of Karolina Dean, who leveraged the fading celebrity of her husband, a once-successful teen actor to lend the organization some credibility. A tome titled Book of Gibborim is used in worship services. All of that is already a massive departure from the comics, in which the very existence of the Gibborim is a tightly kept secret. And for good reason.
See, the Gibborim aren’t people. They’re Elder Gods – massive, ancient creatures who have somehow managed to survive millennia in hiding and avoided a mass culling of their kind. The Elder Gods were formed by the Demiurge, Earth’s biosphere. Billions of years ago, the Demiurge seeded Earth with life, which gave rise to the Elder Gods, creatures of immense cosmic power that include the likes of Chthon, Gaea, Hyppus, Issus, Oshtur and Set. Things were idyllic for a while, but it didn’t last. Set was the first god to commit murder, consuming the centaurian Hyppus and transforming into a degenerate demon. Other gods followed suit, and a massacre ensued.
Gaea sought to protect the life teeming in Earth’s oceans, so she and the Demiurge produced an offspring: Atum. Atum immediately set about slaying the Elder Gods, siphoning away their lifeforce as he did so. In time, he became the Demogorge. Chthon and Set were the only demons left standing (and Oshtur had long ago departed Earth to explore the universe). The demonic duo was able to trick the Demogorge into slaying lifeless replicas of themselves while they slipped away to an alternate dimension. It was long believed that all the demonic Elder Gods had been slain by the Domogorge – until the Gibborim surfaced. The Gibborim want to return Earth to its ancient, chaotic ways. They aim to do that by way of the Pride.
In 1985, the Gibborim summoned six couples, then just fledgling criminals, and made them a deal they couldn’t refuse: If they sacrifice one girl annually for 25 years, the Gibborim would enhance their powers and then, at the conclusion of their service, choose six of the 12 adults to live with them on the newly reformed Earth – a “paradise.” The other six would perish with the rest of humanity. The Gibborim’s powers are fueled by the yearly sacrifice, called the Rite of Blood, and then the subsequent Rite of Thunder, in which the soul of the sacrifice is offered up to the creatures.
The Gibborim are powerful, but not infinitely so. They can teleport people to their lair on occasion, as well as dispel certain forms of magic. They can also produce magic flames hot enough to wholly incinerate a person in a matter of seconds. They’ve also claimed they can raise the dead, but they’ve never gone through with it. So, they’re not all-powerful. The fact that they’re hiding seems to indicate that they’re afraid of something, whether that be the return of Atum and the Demogorge or the tightly-woven network of superheroes policing the Earth at any given time. Whatever the reason, they keep their dark work in the shadows -- until the Runaways shine a light on their sinister plans.
How the Gibborim fit into Leslie Dean's New Age religion and the ambitions of the Pride on Marvel's Runaways isn't clear just yet. But there are still seven episodes to go in the first season.
Streaming now on Hulu, Marvel's Runaways stars Rhenzy Feliz as Alex Wilder, Lyrica Okano as Nico Minoru, Virginia Gardner as Karolina Dean, Ariela Barer as Gert Yorkes, Gregg Sulkin as Chase Stein, and Allegra Acosta as Molly Hernandez.\