The world of Marvel and DC Comics superhero TV will continue to expand in the next year, with new series launching from both companies with aplomb.
Marvel has two more Netflix series launching this year, with The Defenders and The Punisher both still on the docket. They're also teaming with Freeform for Cloak and Dagger, teaming with Fox for The Gifted and launching Inhumans in IMAX theaters before running the full series on ABC.
DC, meanwhile, has all four of their shows returning to The CW, and will launch Black Lightning there in the spring. They're also launching their own DC Comics-themed streaming service with parent company WB that will include a new Titans series, featuring the grown-up Teen Titans in a new live-action show.
But amongst all of these, there's one standout, and that's Marvel's Runaways. Their first partnership with another streaming service, Hulu, will see the most recently created characters yet to come to air (accepting some of the Inhumans on S.H.I.E.L.D., of course) in a starring series, and also arguably the most important ones yet. It's why this is the upcoming superhero series we're most excited to see.
Runaways debuted in 2003, created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona (with Christina Strain and editor C.B. Cebulski) as part of a new imprint aimed at teenaged readers called Tsunami. While the imprint didn't last, the series made its own impression on fans thanks to a diverse cast of realistically portrayed teenagers and a subversion of the superhero genre that no one had ever seen. Here, six teenagers meet up for their parents' yearly charity party and discover that their parents are really a group of supervillains called The Pride, which sends the kids reeling and on the run.
Easy enough concept, and on its own, it's very fun. When Alex Wilder, a child genius and the de facto leader of the "team," first sees his parents (and his friends' parents) in colorful garb, he declares immediately that all of them must be superheroes! That childlike wonder that teens still see their parents with on occasion quickly shifts when they witness an unequivocal proof that the adults aren't exactly on the up-and-up. This literal shift in the kids' point-of-view, going from parental hero worship to thinking they're just the worst, is something most go through, and instantly relatable, even if your parents weren't actual supervillains.
The core cast offers up diversity and representation that's often ignored by superhero adaptations, too. The main group consists of Alex Wilder, the young black strategist (and son of the Pride's ostensible leaders); Nico Minoru, a Japanese witch who becomes the leader of the group; Karolina Dean, an alien who comes out about her powers only shortly before coming out about her sexuality as a lesbian; Gertrude Yorkes, whose time-traveling parents gift her with a telepathically linked Velociraptor (oh man, cannot wait to see that on screen); Chase Stein, whose genius inventor parents passed on their attitude, but not their smarts, to their son; and Molly Hayes – on TV she'll be Molly Hernandez (and presumably not a mutant), the youngest and most naïve member of the group but thanks to her mutant legacy also the physically strongest.
This group alone, containing kids of four races, majority female, is a landmark moment in superhero TV. While strides have been made for characters and teams to be more inclusive, like the Secret Warriors team led by Daisy Johnson (Asian-American actress Chloe Bennet) on S.H.I.E.L.D., this being the entire core cast makes it notable and different. The struggles of finding your own identity, and finding out those tasked with keeping you safe and raising you are not what they seem are themes anyone –not just kids – can relate to.
Brian K. Vaughan is also part of the executive team bringing this to life as a consultant, and has expressed his confidence in the adaptation through and through. The pedigree of the showrunners, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who have Chuck, The O.C., and Gossip Girl in their rearview mirrors, is strong: they know teens, and Schwartz has experience with Chuck in subverting genre.
Basically, everything is adding up to make Runaways an easy win for Marvel TV and new partner Hulu. It's hard to put into words just how special this comic was when it came out. It captured the original feeling of X-Men or Teen Titans, but did something brand new, too – it made the kids real. These kids didn't grow up being raised or trained to be heroes, they were just kids, and struck out on their own out of a sense of disenfranchisement, not out of some superheroic duty. They love and lose, they are betrayed and lifted up. It uniquely captured the experience of the day you realize your parents aren't superheroes – and how they still can be, even after that revelation. It's hard to accurately compare this series to anything else out there, because there really isn't anything quite like it.
Hopefully the TV version will follow suit, and with what they have in place, it looks like it will. Runaways is special to a lot of people, not the least of whom, BKV, has a vested interest in the show. If it can capture even a fraction of the beauty, joy, sorrow, betrayal, fun, excitement and shock of the original comic run (oh, and the really well-designed and unique clothing, too, please – Adrian and Christina will be so pissed if that doesn't make it to screen), then superhero fans will be in for a real treat.