It’s like ‘X-Men,’ with an unexpectedly sinister twist.
I’m not going to lie; I was tempted to write, “‘Runaways’ is just ‘X-Men’ with a fresh coat of paint.” But let me elaborate. If you like Fox’s X-Men stuff, or if you like any of Marvel’s television and film offerings, the odds are good you’re going to be excited about “Runaways” coming to Hulu, even if you don’t know anything about it. But just in case you’re not excited (yet), here’s a non-nerds guide to the fan-favorite comic.
Marvel’s already got “Daredevil,” “Luke Cage,” “Jessica Jones” and “Iron Fist” on Netflix, and with “Runaways,” it will have a show on Hulu. Hulu is going all-in, recently doing away with their free tier and getting a whole lot of cash from Time Warner. So news that they’re getting a Marvel show to compete with Netflix’s shouldn’t come as a surprise. The odds are good we can expect similar announcements from Hulu and Marvel in the not-too-distant future.
But before we get too deep into this, let me address TV/movie crossovers. “Runaways” won’t interact with Marvel movies in any meaningful way. Marvel wants to tell everyone all their shows are connected to each other, and to the movies, but they’re not—basically because the guy who runs Marvel’s comic and television wing is a jerk. (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” for example, has not crossed over with any of the Netflix shows. “Cloak and Dagger” has interacted with the “Runaways” comic, but it’s not likely those two shows will crossover.)
OK, so all that aside, let’s talk “Runaways.”
Following the end of the “X-Men” animated series on Fox in 1997, the X-Men comics nose-dived in quality. It would be years before they would recover, and during those dark years, Marvel decided to try something different.
That something different was “Runaways,” a comic that borrowed X-Men’s core concept—outsiders with extraordinary abilities swear to protect the world that hates and fears them—and put a unique spin on it.
With that spin, they addressed one of the biggest problems in comics, which is that characters all grow up and get old with the readers (like the X-Men, who, by the time of the Fox series’ cancellation, were no longer angsty teens, but mopey adults).
So, the “Runaways” are teenagers—moody ones. That’s because angsty teens wanted to read about a diverse group of angsty teens with cool powers going on fun adventures, instead of moping about their boring adult problems. The “Runaways’ ” ages make them unique among Marvel characters.
What endeared fans to “Runaways” was that it came at a time when the “X-Men” comics struggled to keep the readers interested. There was also a psychic dinosaur. So, you know, that’s a hard thing to top.
The series creators, Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, also made an even bigger tweak to divorce “Runaways” from “X-Men”: The “Runaways” kids have parents, and those parents are super-villains.
“What?!?” you may say, and you’d be right to say it. That is a pretty fun twist, even if those super-villains turn out to be nobody cool. (Like, nobody you or your buddy would know, but super-villains none the less.) And so before the Runaways do the typical superhero thing, they square off against their parents, get betrayed by one of their own, defeat their parents and go off on adventures. You know, like you do.
After that initial story (ending with Volume #7, if you want to go pick up the collected editions), “Runaways” devolved into a typical superhero book in that it lost the excitement and energy of the initial run. But—some clunky and overly-topical dialogue aside—that initial run holds up to this day.
If Hulu is smart about how they make the show, they’ll focus on the first seven volumes and borrow only slightly from the rest. Because if they use the basic premise of these children discovering the truth about their parents and fighting against them, that could be a lot of fun—and something different from what we’re currently getting with Marvel’s TV offerings. And we desperately need different, even if it comes in the form of a sneaky X-Men reboot.