[This post contains minor SPOILERS for the Runaways comic.]
No, they’re not Joan Jett and Lita Ford’s all-female rock and roll band personified in the 2010 film The Runaways. They’re not your everyday costume-wearing superheroes either. As newcomers to comic will discover quickly, the Runaways are just a gaggle of ordinary teenagers – who happen to be gifted with superhuman and occult powers. They’re also the latest Marvel comic book optioned for TV - by streaming service Hulu.
The premise of Runaways is ingenious in its simplicity: six ordinary kids discover that their parents are actually part of an occult-based criminal consortium called The Pride. The teens bands together, harnessing their ingenuity, freshly uncovered powers, and mystical abilities to try to take down their folks and atone for their families’ misdeeds. Talk about the ultimate teenage fantasy.
Who Are the Runaways?
Conceived and executed by writer Bryan K. Vaughan (Under the Dome) and artist Adrian Alphona (Ms. Marvel), the Runaways began life in 2003 under the Tsunami imprint – Marvel’s attempt to draw in a new audience and pull in crossover Manga readers. Vaughan and Alphona left the series during its second run, and Avengers maestro Joss Whedon took up scripting duties. The series initially ran from April 2003 until August 2004, resuming in February 2005 until November 2009, when the title was cancelled. Marvel put the team back together in 2015 for a four-issue Secret Wars miniseries, but only one original member of the team partook in the Battleworld madness.
Theoretically, the Runaways could be considered an early Millennial superhero team. Comprised of a diverse group of individuals, the team represents the broad swath of American culture, including various ethnicities and sexualities. At one point, the even team operated with only a sole male member – which is a far cry from traditional female tokenism of most superhero collectives. In general, the loose band eschews or openly mocks superhero tropes such as capes, costumes, team names, and catchphrases, preferring to fight in street clothes and under their own names – aside from a brief period where they used code names to avoid their deadly parental units.
While they operate outside of traditional comic book crime-fighter tropes, the Runaways do live within the Marvel Universe. The X-Men, Captain America, and Iron Man, among others, have crossed into the teenybopper superheroes' world. They also played a role in the first Civil War event. While the lineup for the forthcoming Hulu series has yet to be established, former and current later members include Ultron’s cyborg son Victor Mancha, Skrull shape-shifter Xavin, and plant manipulator Klara Prast.
In all likelihood, the pilot will at least begin with the core Runaways group:
Alex Wilder – Alex is the son of Pride members Geoffrey and Catherine Wilder. Despite his father’s unsubtle distaste for them, the younger Wilder is an avid superhero buff. He also dwells in a world filled with MMO games and aspires to be a video game designer himself, at least until the fateful day he and his young cohorts spy on their parents. One of the team’s de facto leaders, he is often distant and brooding, worried about growing too attached in their unpredictable world. He also spends much of his time deciphering an arcane Gibborim manual known as the Abstract.
- Powers – While Alex has no superhuman abilities, he is gifted with a brilliant strategic mind. His computer skills also made him a great asset to the team, and his sharp mind allowed him to translate The Pride’s tome and determine their future plans.
Nico Minoru – Daughter of Robert and Tina Minoru, Nico was generally unaware of her parents’ black magic habits. After uncovering her mystical relations, she quickly finds a magical aptitude within herself. For a time, she dubbed herself Sister Grimm. Despite her Goth look, Nico often tries to be a normalizing factor within the group and has been known to lead the Runaways.
- Powers – Nico was born with innate magical abilities, also known as blood magic. With the aid of the Staff of One, she’s able to conjure magical effects, float, and levitate/fly. She’s also capable of magic-based telekinesis and teleportation.
Karolina Dean – The child of two actors in Hollywood, Karolina grew up as normal as a tinsel town childhood allowed. When the Runaways go on the lamb, she is shocked to learn that her parents are aliens from the planet Majesdane. Briefly going by the nickname Lucy in the Sky, her true abilities begin to manifest after she removes an alien metal band from her wrist that masqueraded as an allergy bracelet. Eventually, Karolina comes to terms with her extraterrestrial origins and also (awkwardly) comes out to her teammates as a lesbian.
- Powers – Her alien origins allow her to absorb solar energy and manipulate it. In her natural form, she appears as a luminescent, rainbow-colored being. She’s also capable of flight, can fire solar energy beams, erect force fields, withstand heat, and has extra-human strength.
Chase Stein – His conception led The Pride to abandon their infighting and will their “new world” to their offspring. Chase himself was a major disappointment to his brilliant if crooked inventor parents due to his athleticism and scientific ineptitude. As a result, his father often beat and belittled him. As the only team member with a driver’s license, he provides the team with wheels (a van) and a sanctuary in the form of The Hostel, a mansion which collapsed into an abandoned mine during an earthquake. Nicknamed Talkback due to Gertrude Yorkes' sarcastic quip, Chase displays a loyalty and selflessness which endears him to the crew in spite of his stubborn attitude.
- Powers – Like Alex, Chase has no superhuman or magical capabilities. However, his parents’ inventiveness rubbed off on him, in a manner of speaking. After discovering The Pride’s dirty little secret, he raided his folks’ house, swiping a legit pair of X-ray specs and the "Fistigons" – enhanced gauntlets which shoot fire (and later electricity and missiles).
Gertrude Yorkes – Most of the Runaways lived in general ignorance of their parents’ misdeeds, but Gertrude initially suspected malfeasance due to the dubious disappearance of her potbelly pig Orwell. She keeps her hair perpetually purple, holds a left-wing perspective, and is blessed (or cursed) with an acerbic wit. Gert's sharp tongue is only outweighed by her strong moral compass, even suggesting the teens report their parents to the authorities. For a time, she also went by the nickname of Arsenic.
- Powers – Gertrude is bereft of superpowers. On the other hand, she does have a rather impressive companion – a telepathically linked deinonychus (raptor-like dinosaur) named Old Lace, which her parents acquired while traveling into the distant future.
Molly Hayes – The youngest Runaway at age 11, Molly never witnessed The Pride perform their brutal ritual, so often forgets that her parents are evil. She also tends to get left out of group decision-making processes. Still, her youth made her the only member of the clique who felt genuinely thrilled at becoming a superhero. While the others skipped the comic book clichés, Molly embraced the concept, naming herself Princes Powerful (before Chase renamed her Bruiser) and designing a makeshift costume from sheets and old clothing. As a mutant, she’s also a big fan of X-Men crooner Dazzler and wants to marry Wolverine.
- Powers – Despite being the youngest teammate, Molly is also one of the strongest. Born of two telepathic mutants, she has a degree of invulnerability and exhibits an occasional bioluminescence which causes her eyes and aura to glow pink.
Who Are The Pride?
Originally, The Pride came together thanks to the efforts of three pre-human titans known as the Gibborim. Left in a weakened state, the giants sought the aid of six couples, whom they termed a ‘Pride,’ to regain control of the world and restart their “one, serene utopia.” The six couples, made up of minor sorcerers, time travelers, aliens, mutants, and petty criminals, were offered enhanced abilities in exchange for their help. In addition, the six most worthy would rule over the reborn Earth, while the rest of humanity (including the other half-dozen Pride members) would be extinguished.
Initially, the infighting between the groups was fierce. Everything changed, however, when Janet Stein found out she was expecting. The group put aside their differences (for the most part) for the sake of their children, allotting the six ruling positions to their offspring. Each year, the six couples gather at the Wilder manse for the ceremonial sacrifice of an innocent. Once their progeny discovers their nefarious schemes – or at least the most murderous bits – The Pride does everything in their power to hunt down and capture their wayward progeny, even framing them for murder.
The Pride consists of:
The Wilders – Geoffrey and Catherine Wilder were a pair of minor thieves before being inducted into The Pride. They now run a vast criminal empire spanning Los Angeles.
The Yorkes – Dale and Stacey Yorkes scour the timelines in search of fantastic artifacts from history to sell. Their 4-D time portal allows them to hop back and forth throughout history. They even ordered a telepathically-linked dinosaur for their daughter at one point.
The Deans – Originally from a world called Majesdane, Frank and Leslie Dean fit right into tinsel town by becoming soap opera actors. Their primary revenue, though, comes from dealing weapons to the Skrulls and other alien species.
The Steins – Inventors who once impressed Tony Stark himself, Victor and Janet Stein created weaponized gloves known as “Fistigons,” multi-spectral goggles, and an amphibious/hopping rocket transport ship named the Leapfrog. They’re also master counterfeiters.
The Hayes – Gene and Alice Hayes are both telepathic mutants who work in the medical field (doctor and speech therapist, respectively). As human intolerance fed their hatred of non-mutants, the Gibborim tempted them into The Pride.
The Minorus – Dark wizards who play at being middle-class squares, Robert and Tina Minoru possess ancient magical tomes and the incredibly powerful Staff of One.
What Should We Expect from Hulu’s Runaways?
Runaways may have been designed to draw in an up-and-coming audience, but its renowned creators whipped up an action-packed, emotionally charged adventure with mass-appeal. However, since its core focus is on teenagers, the stories often include subtext dealing with issues like maturation, life in a changing (superpowered) body, and, of course, romantic entanglements (which adults certainly never deal with).
In spite of the reported grasp at YA demographics, the comic explores deep themes and offers up sharp, relatable characters. The true challenge with Runaways is successfully blending the angsty teen elements with the disturbing supernatural moments. While the comic wasn’t usually too graphic, it didn’t shy away from rough situations when they fit the story. Themes like human sacrifice, occult rituals, drugs, criminal overlords, and filicidal parents took the comic into some dark places, and that was just the first issue.
Basing a series on a gaggle of adolescents makes the show a natural fit into the coming-of-age drama category - but aside from their youngest member Molly, most of the protagonists are already pushing adulthood. The dialogue and feel of the comics may skew towards the young adult crowd at times as well, but Hulu would be wise to aim for a broader audience. As easy as it would be to slap together some teenybopper melodrama with superheroes, including some raw, Defenders-like elements and maintaining the crisp characterization would give the new show range and style - something Marvel's other streaming shows have in droves. With the right tweaking, a Runaways program could wind up as an intriguing amalgam of Stranger Things and Daredevil.
Fortunately, showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are well-versed in the nuances of merging high school drama with very adult situations from their work on Gossip Girl. Hulu’s plans for the show may not be entirely solidified, but it would also be great if the teen superheroes interact with Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger series due to their prior connections. And while guests from the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are unlikely, the writers could elude to other comic ‘celebs’ who've dealt with the team in past such as Spider-Man or add fun Easter eggs and connections to other Marvel TV Universe fare (like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
It will be interesting to see what Marvel’s first Hulu-based venture, and their teen superhero team will look like. What do you think Hulu should do with their new juvenile anti-delinquents?
Stay tuned for more news and updates about Marvel’s Runaways on Hulu.