For all intents and purposes, Runaways is one of the best Marvel Comics of the ’00s. Featuring a seemingly dissimilar group of kids and banded together through the revelation that their parents were villains, as a whole, the series truly shined. An on-screen film or TV series has been rumored for some time, with plans for a Runaways movie eventually giving way to the Hulu exclusive TV series that debuted with three episodes on November 21, 2017. The debut of the series is a huge win for fans, but so far in the early going there are a number of significant changes from the sacred comic book text. Expecting a one to one translation of any comic on to the big screen is typically a false hope. The best you can expect is an adaptation true to the spirit of the original.
With Hulu’s Runaways, many familiar elements remain intact due to excellent casting across the board. Nonetheless, there are several major plot points that have been changed, shifted, and altered in ways that range from confusing to off-putting for fans of the comics. Below you’ll find the fifteen biggest changes between the Runaways comics and TV show, and what it means for the television version moving forward.
15. RUNAWAYS HIGH
In their comic book origins, the Runaways are really only connected because their parents are part of the ostensibly charitable (and really evil) Pride. While this remains true in Hulu’s adaptation, the Runaways TV series exponentially expands the drama by sending all of the kids to the same high school. This move brings Runaways closer to John Hughes nostalgia, but also removes the chance for the Runaways to get know each other to the degree required in the comics.
After all, at Runaways high school, the main characters are not only wandering the same hallways handing out flyers to one another (ok, that’s just Gert), but they’re literally all in the same class. At the end of the day, this is an extreme level of convenience and coincidence layered on top of the narrative.
14. MOLLY HERNANDEZ
In Vaughan and Alphona’s Runaways, 11-year old Molly Hayes (aka Princess Powerful, aka Bruiser) is the heart and soul of the team. In Hulu’s version, Molly sees the greatest changes to her character, being renamed Molly Hernandez, and most importantly, living with Gert and the Yorkes after her parents were killed.
Molly was always going to be the hardest Runaway to pull off, almost entirely due to the fact that Hulu’s MCU addition can’t include her mutant heritage. Rather than Inhuman their way out of the contractual rights mess (at least so far), Runaways simply offed Molly’s parents and moved her in with a separate unit of the Pride. This is a big gap in Runaways TV appeal, and while we hope Molly herself is as playful and heroic, the anti-mutant experiences driving her parents added meaningful layers to the Pride.
13. GEOFFREY WILDER IS… A GOOD DAD
In Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s opening 2003 Runaways #1, the Wilders are the first family we meet, and they are introduced in conflict. Without much provocation, father Geoffrey Wilder threatens Alex’s beloved gaming privileges, chalking up the removal to tough love. It’s an entirely believable exchange, and very quickly supports the Runaways hook: “Everyone thinks their parents are evil, but what if they actually are?”
In Hulu’s Runaways, Papa Wilder is far more sympathetic. He genuinely reaches out to Alex as he continues to suffer from depression, and attempts to connect. Later in episode two, he offers to teach Alex about the old man’s “game back in the day” after sensing sparks with Nico. Geoffrey is also extremely conflicted about the Pride’s murderous ritual. There’s no denying this is a multi-layered character, but Hulu has taken a far more generous view of the man to date.
The single biggest narrative change of them all comes in the form of a lost Minoru sister named Amy. As it turns out, in the TV version of Runaways, Nico had a sister who was seemingly the heart and soul of the friend group. Her death or disappearance has led to the disintegration of the runaways friendships, and has had a major impact on Mama Minoru.
Except here’s the twist: Amy does not exist in the initial Runaways comic book run. The addition of an extreme shared tragedy manifests as a layer of angst and longing that is simply not a part of the original narrative. Honestly, it’s unclear what exactly Amy’s addition to the story will add to Runaways, but it’s definitely shaping a different tone.
11. VICTOR STEIN, MCU GENIUS
The Steins of the Runaways comic are certainly technical geniuses, but much like all members of the Pride, they fly more under the radar in the broader context of the Marvel Universe. This is not the case with Hulu’s Runaways, as Victor Stein is a renowned genius in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Given his reputation and the selection of magazine profiles we see, it’s not a stretch to say a nearly unrecognizable James Marsters (Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is in Tony Stark and Hank Pym’s echelon.
In another change, Chase tells us it’s Victor obsessed with time travel, not the Yorkes. We soon see Victor hasn’t perfected his time travel, and is trying to cover for the frustrating gaps in his isolated intellect. Given Marsters strong performance so far, we can understand the shift, but taking away time travel from the Yorkes alters the characters entirely.
10. CHURCH OF GIBORRIM
Perhaps the biggest reveal of the Runaways comic is the existence and involvement of the giant Gibborim, near omnipotent creatures who promise the Pride paradise for wiping out life on Earth. Apart from adding a layer of myth and supernatural to the comic, the Gibborim also provide Adrian Alphona an opportunity to flex his most creative and engaging art of the series.
Hulu’s Runaways takes a surprising approach to the Gibborim, placing the fantastic beasts wide out in the open of the MCU. Karolina Dean’s mother is the leader of the well-known, cultish Church of Gibborim, a group we see driving around with labeled white vans in the show’s opening number. It’s frankly a huge change that pushes the Gibborim from near unbelievable fantasy to organized religion at the center of Karolina’s life.
9. THE DEAN’S SECRET ALIEN
Leslie Dean, the head of the Church of Gibborim, quickly becomes one of the most fascinating members of Runaways TV Pride, surpassing her largely peripheral role in the comics. One of the most interesting developments comes midway through “Reunion” episode one, when Karolina visits an alien-like being (in an Easter Egg filled breathing apparatus) she keeps in a secret room in her office.
We later learn that Frank Dean, Leslie’s husband and Karolina’s dad, is unaware of the Easter Egg alien mask, despite an apparent desperation (or recognition) on the part of the hospice patient. Leslie and Frank’s marital gap – they seem more like partners than stranded alien spouses – is yet another change from the original, building the characters relationship into a more complex arrangement.
8. CHASE IS SMRT
Chase Stein is at once complicated and completely predictable, and it’s part of what makes the would-be “jock” such a great addition to the Runaways. Our introduction to Chase in the comics highlights him constantly referring to Alex as “bro” (a clean five years before this was commonplace). He’s also the team’s lawbreaker in-chief, bringing a secret renegade hideout and in-depth knowledge of untraceable white vans to the early escapades.
The TV series interpretation of Chase is quick to remove the character from “jock” stereotypes, showcasing an extreme technical knowledge, penchant for invention, and literal fisticuffs heroism in the face of Karolina’s sexual assault. Chase is still capable of the funniest moments (such as him calling out Molly only to realize basically everyone likes Molly), but he’s already structured like a more typical movie protagonist.
7. YOUNG LOVE
A number of romances develop relatively quickly in the 2003 to 2004 18-issue Runaways, but they’re also instigated by high adrenaline adventures of a group of teens literally on the run. Due to the changes of moving all the characters to the same school, and giving more depth to their history together, Hulu’s Runaways begins with romantic entanglements already firmly established. In episode one alone, Alex professes that he misses Nico, Chase stares longingly at Karolina, and Gert’s clearly head over heels for Chase.
The early infatuation towards Chase is particularly damaging to the beautiful relationship Gert develops with the unlikely partner in the comics. Whereas the comic version of Gert and Chase subverts our expectations of what a teenage relationship looks like, Hulu’s Runaways features the classic “nerdy girl” stood up by a “jock” stereotype. It’s a cliched interpretation of an excellently crafted combo.
Rumor has it if you pile enough ’80s nostalgia synths into a single episode of TV a leprechaun listening to Depeche Mode will grant you three wishes (and all of them lead to the success of Stranger Things). From the soundtrack to the ambiance to the immense teenage angst, Runaways first episode, “Reunion,” is deliberately touching a sadness nerve that simply isn’t present in the comic book version.
As Kurt Cobain told us all, “teenage angst has paid off well,” so it’s not a shocker that Runaways would tap into the John Hughes vein so prevalent in pop culture today. For all its drama and teen dreams, the comics never feel quite so overtly Dashboard Confessional. The vibe of the pilot does mellow as the character interactions develop and become more humorous.
5. THE PRIDE
While the focus of Runaways is on the kids, The Pride bring some of the more familiar thrills of comic book universes to the forefront of the series. The six sets of parents bring Kingpins, sorcerers, aliens, mutants, time travelers, and technical geniuses to the evil cabal.
Already we’ve seen Hulu change the structure of the Pride. Most notably, the Hayes (or Hernandez) are KO’d, and Frank Dean has no idea what his wife is a part of. Likewise, the time traveler’s stuck in our time angle has been removed from the Yorkes, who appear to be more familiar genetic engineers (with, you know, a dinosaur in the house). All in all, you can see why the writers made the changes they did, but it’s a clear reminder of how much more fun the comics are allowed to be.
4. STABBITY STAB STABS
In Runaways #1, Alex and the kids sneak into one of the Wilder’s secret passageways only to find their parents holding some sort of cultish religious ceremony. While this aligns with the TV series’ approach, that opening issue ends with the kids witnessing Geoffrey Wilder stabbing a teenage girl in the heart.
The TV premiere diminishes the shock value of this moment by never actually showing the parents committing murder. Yes, their actions are clearly creepy, and yes, they definitely did something to a young, unwilling girl. But as we all learn in elementary school, there’s a big difference between watching your dad stab someone in the heart and watching a girl get dropped into a shiny box. The change here is that Runaways #1 gives the group an irrefutable reason to run.
3. PARENT ALLIANCES
In the original Marvel Comics run, the parents-by-day, Los Angeles ruling supervillains by night members of the Pride don’t expand on their interpersonal alliances until deeper into the story. In episode two, “Rewind,” Hulu’s Runaways shows what the villainous parents are up to before the Pride meeting. While this is a strategically cool way to stretch the parents out as characters, it also adds a number of elements that highlight the limitations of the MCU’s Pride.
For starters, the comic alliances reveal the Deans (alien conquerors) and Hayes (brotherhood of evil mutants) are plotting together to overthrow the rest of the Pride and take the rewards for themselves. Instead of these rights-blockaded options, we instead see the (possibly) abused Mrs. Stein making plans with a secret affair within the Pride.
2. PRIDE OF THE NERDS
In an appropriately Lost-ian maneuver, one of Vaughan and Alphona’s coolest narrative tricks is based on an online MMORPG we see Alex Wilder playing in issue one of year one on Runaways. The seeming throwaway group makes a surprise return in year two, only to see the group deeply fleshed out and adversarial to the Runaways. Not only do the characters make a fantastically unexpected return, but their presence leads to one of the most emotionally resonant moments in the entire series.
There are other ways of getting there certainly, but so far in the TV series, Alex has no such online friend group, and the series even makes a point of showing he has literally zero friends to play with online in the absence of the core Runaways.
1. LUCY IN THE SKY
Oh, Karolina, what have they done to you. In defense of Hulu Runaways heavy-handed approach to the shiniest runaway, Karolina Dean is assuredly the slowest burning character developed in the comics. It isn’t until deep into Vaughn and Alphona’s second season on the series that Karolina really comes into her own, beginning to understand who she is and seeking peace for her alien civilization through marriage with a Skrull (comics!).
On the other hand, turning Karolina into a “happy on the outside” hyper religious cliche is strange. Giving the one-time alias “Lucy in the Sky” literal drugs (perhaps LSD) to discover her powers and then setting her up for gang rape (only to be saved by Chase) is downright negligence. What does this scene do to develop Karolina’s character? It’s admittedly early, but it’s hard to imagine a proper defense.
Are you loving or hating Runaways so far? Let us know in the comments!
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