After years stuck in development hell as a film, Marvel’s Runaways has finally come to life on TV thanks to Hulu. With the first three episodes all released in one go, viewers are able to get a strong idea of the show before it switches to a weekly schedule. So far, critics have mostly praised the series for its blend of sci-fi and fantasy with a coming-of-age story. It’s also been remarkably faithful to the comics while still forging its own path.
The Runaways have grown and shifted over the years, with multiple titles and an ever-changing roster in the comics. The series, however, mostly focuses on the first volume of the series by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona that was released in 2003. Interestingly, the initial 18 issues debuted under Marvel’s short-lived Tsunami imprint that was aimed at younger audiences and manga readers. It’s not only what shaped the art style, but likely why the series involves advanced tech, magic, and a dinosaur.
The series grew from a cult favorite to a legitimate hit, with it being revived in 2005 and the team becoming a staple of the Marvel Universe since then. With Vaughan serving as a consulting producer on Runaways, it’s no wonder the show is faithful to the comics. Still, some changes had to be made for the comic’s adaptation as an MCU TV show.
Given how important the teen heroes are to the story that bears their name, it’s fitting that they undergo the fewest changes. It’s in the reason they grow apart and come back together, however, that one of the biggest alterations occurs. In the comics, each of the Runaways are an only child. The addition of Nico’s deceased sister Amy, though, adds a compelling reason for there to be tension between the kids. It also complicates Nico’s home life and fuels her interest in Wicca. While the story smacks a little too much of the depressed-teen-turns-goth trope, we know this is more than a phase for Nico. As for her look, she’s dead-on from the comics and soon has her first encounter with the Staff of One, which she’ll eventually wield.
Alex Wilder is incredibly faithful to the comics, down to the t-shirt he wears in the pilot. In the comics, he becomes the de facto leader of the group and mostly keeps them together. Here, that’s turned into Alex being who brings the friends back together after two years apart. He’s also a genius in both strategy and logic, something we don’t really see in the three episodes so far. Instead, he’s presented more as a geek who’s nevertheless cool under pressure. The results are roughly the same, especially given the kids don’t immediately run off on their own after seeing what their parents have done.
Like Alex, Gert Yorkes is pretty pitch-perfect when it comes to her adaptation. Her look is strikingly similar to the comics and her personality matches as well. She even gains her partner Old Lace, a velociraptor whom she shares a psychic connection with. The one big change to Gert’s life is actually Molly’s one major deviation from the comics.
On the page, Molly Hayes is the daughter of two mutants who are also in the Pride. Rather than confront the issue that Marvel can’t use mutants, however, the Hayes—changed to the Hernandezes in the show—are sacrificed for the on-going mystery of the series. It’s a big change, but allows Gert and Molly to connect on a new level while prolonging the mystery of the youngest Runaway’s powers. Even better, but this sisterly connection was originally intended for the characters by Vaughan, who instead drew Molly to Chase in a similar manner.
Chase Stein is most familiar thanks to his x-ray goggles and Fistigons, the former of which he gains in episode 3 and the latter of which he’s designing in the pilot. In the comics, it’s hinted that Chase has wasted intellectual potential, but he’s mostly shown to be a goofy jock. The show changes this by making him a genius inventor himself, whereas the Fistigons in the comics are made by his father. We also haven’t seen as much of his humorous side, but the additional shading has so far been a fitting addition.
In terms of look and personality, Karolina is ripped straight from the pages of Runaways. Her powers also seem to be intact, as we see her light up in dazzling shades during a party scene. In the comics, she can manipulate light and fly, and we’ve been told the full extent of Karolina's powers will factor into Runaways. One big question, however, is whether Karolina is still an alien.
Showrunner Josh Schwartz recently claimed that the Runaways’ parents won't have superpowers and stated that the genre elements of the comic wouldn’t factor into the grounded show as much. Despite the fact that we’ve already seen evil cults, super-powers, magic, and dinosaurs, this statement doesn’t make much sense. It does, however, draw into question whether the Deans are aliens like in the comics.
Part of the Majesdanian race, Karolina’s abilities are suppressed by a medical alert bracelet she’s worn her whole life. In Runaways, this is changed to a Church of Gibborim bracelet. The effect is the same and there’s no reason to believe Karolina isn’t an alien other than Schwartz’s recent words. But the small shift in jewelry for Karolina marks one of the biggest changes from the comics.