Since their debut, the teenage team known as The Runaways have been a hit with comic fans thanks to a youthful focus and clever conceit: what if you found out your parents were supervillains? By subverting the wish fulfillment angle of young kids following in their superhero parents' footsteps, the comics presents a darker take on the usual coming-of-age formula.
In the years since, the comic has regularly been floated as a potential movie or Netflix series, with Joss Whedon and James Gunn seemingly interesting in helping bring it to life. Last year, however, Marvel announced the title would finally be making the jump to live action as a new series on Hulu. In doing so, they're not only expanding their media reach, but making sure ABC and Netflix don’t become crowded with Marvel content. But with an ever-expanding cinematic universe that already can’t incorporate elements from TV, will Runaways be part of the current MCU? Better yet, should it?
It’s All Connected
What started as a tag at the end of Iron Man in 2008 eventually proved to be the starting point for a vast, interlocking mythology of films. Following the culmination of a number of solo movies, The Avengers made cinema history by properly launching a shared universe and redesigning the way blockbuster films were conceived. Following the hit movie, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was launched on ABC, and the multimedia nature of the MCU was taken to a new level.
Since then, Marvel has continued putting out team-ups and solo films on the big screen, as well as various TV shows on ABC and Netflix. But while the series occasionally connect to one another or nod to the movies, the films haven’t returned the favor. More and more, it’s becoming clear that coordinating an ever-growing roster of TV shows and movies around a shared mythology is a near-impossible task, and with at least three more series from Marvel TV on the horizon, that task will become even more challenging.
In the next year of so, Marvel will add The Defenders and The Punisher to Netflix while also giving a number of their existing series new seasons, and ABC will be adding Inhumans and possibly Damage Control. Meanwhile, Freeform will get Cloak & Dagger while Hulu will have Runaways. Between new and returning content, the TV side of things will far outweigh the movie side in terms of story and lore to keep up with. An over-reliance on connecting to the films arguably hurt SHIELD in its early days, and the struggling ratings of the show (along with the short-lived Agent Carter) prove that the movies don't necessarily drive audiences to spin-off shows.
The Netflix series care even less about tying in with the movies, with characters mostly referring to the Avengers euphemistically (i.e. "the big green guy") and Avengers Tower itself clearly missing from the New York City skyline. All things considered, the TV shows have rarely benefited from the films on any level, and the movies not only seem uninterested in referencing the series, but logistically hamstrung from doing so. With the prospect of a rich series like Runaways being adapted to TV, an over-adherence to film lore could seriously hinder the show from bringing some of its best arcs to life and crossing over with other teen heroes like the Young Avengers. While SHIELD may always exist in the shadow of the Avengers, Runaways has an opportunity to forge its own path.
A Universe All Their Own
In the lore of the Runaways, their parents compose the supervillain crime syndicate known as the Pride. Controlling all of Los Angeles’ underworld, the Pride are notorious enough to draw the respect of villains like Wilson Fisk and Norman Osborn. As such, there needs to be a certain gravitas behind them and a real sense that they’re powerful players. SHIELD requires a healthy suspension of disbelief already, as their regular battles with enhanced individuals and the explosion of Inhumans has seemingly gone unnoticed by the Avengers (never mind the fact that the Avengers still don't know Coulson is alive).
Each new show Marvel creates that is ostensibly linked to the films not only prevents a number of characters from crossing over, but makes it that much more unbelievable when the show attempts to alter the status quo in some significant way. By severing ties to the films, Runaways would have mostly free reign to bring in new characters from the comics and shake things up in the world without having to worry about the Avengers of even SHIELD.
The members of the Pride and Runaways are a mix of aliens, time travelers, mutants, mad scientists, mob bosses, and magicians. The fun of involving them and their children is exploring all the paths these various skills and powers can take. If things have to stay connected to the films, however, can time travel be used to change things? Can magic be employed without Doctor Strange feasibly showing up? Will SHIELD need to show up to stop a growing mob threat in LA? And the whole mutant question is one that still remains a mystery. Though the characters could be changed to Inhumans, that then begs the question of whether things would have to be connected to SHIELD and Inhumans. Eventually, the whole thing will get so messy that fans will be angered, audiences will be confused, and Marvel won’t have done themselves any favors.
DC has proven that separate TV and movie universes can co-exist in peace. While the fun of a shared universe is enticing, the gap between Marvel Studios (which answers directly to Disney) and Marvel TV (which is still under the thumb of Marvel Entertainment) has only made connective tissue between the TV shows and movies thinner. Even the tie-in comics are mostly fluff. It’s time Marvel began separating their various properties across different mediums, so the stories can live and breathe on their own. Perhaps someday in the future, a giant Secret Wars-style reboot can bring everything together in the right way. For now, the best thing that could happen to Runaways is if it wasn’t bound to the MCU.
Do you think Runaways should be connected to the MCU? Let us know in the comments.