If you're not familiar with Marvel's Runaways, I'll be blunt: You've missed out on something spectacular. Something that's truly awesome. The series debuted in 2003 under the auspices of writer Brian K. Vaughan (writer of such current comic hits as Saga and Paper Girls) and Adrian Alphona (primary artist for Ms. Marvel), and it was just as incredible as you think it would be given that creative team.
The series, which centered on a group of teenagers with supervillain parents, featured an ethnically and racially diverse cast. The TV show based on Runaways that's currently in development took things a step further, renaming major character Molly Hayes as Molly Hernandez and casting a Latinx actor in the role.
There aren't many parts of the Marvel universe that embrace us, as people of color, but we exist in some places. In a few corners, like Runaways, we're even celebrated.
That's why today's announcement of a new Runaways series is so jarring. Marvel has announced that Rainbow Rowell, writer of popular YA novels such as Fangirl and Eleanor & Park, will be writing a new Runaways series. Kris Anka will be joining Rowell on art.
Now, I don't have a problem with Rainbow Rowell. I've read one of her books, Fangirl, and I liked it. I've heard there are some issues with Korean representation in her hit novel Eleanor and Park, which is why I haven't read it. (I should add that there are also Korean people who adore the book — after all, PoCs, even within the same culture, aren't a monolith.) But that, combined with the knowledge that Runaways is one of the few places PoC truly belong in the Marvel universe, makes me worried.
Look, I think Rainbow Rowell will do a fine job with this series. She's a talented writer. She's good at characters. I'm not worried about this series being bad, because most likely it won't be. She'll probably do a great job. And I'm very glad that Marvel chose a woman, rather than another white male writer, to pen this comic. Brian K. Vaughan developed these characters expertly, but let's face it: Not every white male writer out there is as talented or thoughtful as he is, especially considering some of the men currently writing for Marvel. I'm glad the company was wise enough to realize that the reins of this series should be handed to a woman.
However, it might be selfish, but I can't help but be disappointed Marvel didn't take it a step further. Again, I think Rainbow Rowell will do a good job with this series; this isn't me complaining about her or campaigning to get her replaced. But I strongly believe that a Runaways comic series should be written by a woman of color.
When it comes to writers, Marvel's track record is laughable when it comes to women of color. They've begun to reach out to more women writers, with Margaret Stohl and Chelsea Cain as examples of ladies doing excellent work on Marvel comics recently. (Let's also add that the majority of ladies they've added to their writing roster have been prose and comics writers with a proven track record of hits — a standard that many of their new white male writers don't have to meet, which is frustrating, but a discussion for another time.) But when it comes to women of color, by my count Marvel had a whopping TWO comics out of NINETY that released in May written by women of color: America (Gabby Rivera) and Hulk (Mariko Tamaki).
People of color, especially people of color written authentically, have always been at the fringes of the Marvel universe, if we existed at all within its pages. There should be more room for PoC talent at Marvel, especially for women. While the company might be diversifying on the page, too often those "diverse" characters are written by white men. Hiring Rowell, a woman, to write this team is definitely a step forward, and I applaud that. But considering Runaways is one of the most racially diverse teams in the Marvel universe, and beloved by so many who clamor for more inclusivity on and behind the pages, it would have been really nice to see a woman of color writing the series.
I'm super excited for Runaways to debut, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Rowell does with the characters. But I can't help but feel a little bittersweet at what could have been, even if it was only in my imagination.