After the roaring success of Netflix’s many Marvel shows, Hulu has finally thrown their lot in with the comic book crowd and ordered a Runaways live-action series. The Runaways are a team of kids and teenagers who joined up to strike out on their own after they all found out that their parents were supervillains. They didn’t exactly set out to be a superhero team, but because so many of them inherited superpowers or impressive technology from their evil parents, trouble kind of finds them. They are definitely amongst Marvel’s most underrated and under-utilized teams, so it’s great that they’re getting an opportunity to shine in a new series. Personally, if we were going to have a Marvel teen superheroes series I was gunning for my little babes the Young Avengers, but hey, it’s not like I’m bitter or anything. The Runaways and the Young Avengers did have a lackluster team-up once, so I can dream.
There are a lot of important aspects of the Runaways that make them unique, so I have a lot of expectations about this Hulu series. The comics set a high bar for diversity back in 2003, so I have a couple of points that I consider perfectly attainable and also very important for the show to be progressive, inclusive, and true to the comics.
1) You Better Believe I’m Banking on a Queer Romance
The focal couple of the Runaways team is Karolina and Xavin: Karolina is a Majesdanian girl (a type of sparkly alien) raised as a human, Xavin is a Skrull (also a type of alien, but one that can shape-shift). Xavin first shows up in a masculine form and really hits it off with Karolina. They flirt a bit throughout the first several comics before Karolina sheepishly admits that she likes girls. Xavin promptly takes a feminine form and explains that Skrulls have a very loose concept of gender, and because of their shape-shifting abilities it’s common for them to change their appearance and sex characteristics. From there on out Karolina insists on referring to Xavin as “she” and “my girlfriend,” which Xavin seems to be perfectly fine with. It’s really cool that this is not only a lesbian relationship, but also that Xavin is what we on Earth might call genderfluid or gender-nonconforming (LGG&F has discussed Skrull gender and this romance a little before). While Xavin isn’t actually human and can change exterior characteristics at will, depicting such a character as both a hero and someone fully accepted by their team is a great way to help begin the process of normalizing people outside the gender binary. In other words, don’t half-ass it, Hulu; don’t pick one queer hero and call it a day. We need genderfluid heroes and lesbian heroes!
2) Hit Me with that Racially Diverse Cast
This one, thankfully, isn’t a mere earnest hope. The cast has just recently been announced and I’m relieved to see how well the lineup turned out. We’ve got actual Japanese-Americans playing Japanese-American characters, and we’ve got at least two Latinas. Overall we’ve got maybe two or three white people in the primary cast, which is appropriate; I mean, the comics take place in Los Angeles. It’s hard to say exactly what these young actors will bring to the table; they seem to be largely unknown or have only been seen in very minor roles, but I have high hopes that they’ll prove themselves. It’s great that Hulu has gone out on a limb a little and given this group of diverse young actors an opportunity to be part of a Marvel title, especially since superhero media is so culturally significant now.
3) Gimme Some Teenage Agency and Decision-Making
Most teen superheroes start out as sidekicks or have superhero mentors. At the very least they have regular annoying parents that they have to hide their superheroing habits from, but the Runaways are completely on their own, entirely self-directed, and have to make all the tough grown-up choices themselves. They make bad choices sometimes, they struggle with leadership, they get homesick and have their share of angsty moments. Teenagers are hard to write, and I often see writers and directors both struggle with capturing genuineness in young or teenaged characters. Runaways is a series that is very much about being young and having the struggles of adolescent life compounded by superhero problems. Unlike your average teen drama, the Runaways’ parents are literally their enemies, and they really do have issues that nobody else understands. I don’t want to see these kids behaving like fully actualized adults, and I really don’t want to see them behave the way a 50-year-old thinks the hip young folks behave with their youtubes and their emojicons. With any luck, the show’s creators will take some cues from their young cast members to keep them as tuned in to the teenage mindset as possible.
4) I’m Gonna Need Some Body Diversity, Guys
One of the things that really sets Runaways apart from the vast majority of superhero comics is that everyone on the team has a very ordinary-looking teenager body, especially Gert Yorkes, who is a little heavy compared to her teammates. We know from the casting announcements, however, that the actor cast to play Gert looks very slender, which is a real disappointment for fans who aren’t. There’s an incredible lack of body diversity in media, which is especially harmful for young women, as they’re just developing their body image. Now, of course I don’t want the actor to purposely gain weight for a role, as that would probably be bad for her, but I would have preferred that they cast someone who fit Gert’s body type better. Failing that, they could have at least incorporated a wider variety of body types in the cast in general, but based on the images available online, everyone seems very slim and conventionally attractive. I’ll withhold final judgment until the show actually premieres: who knows, there may be a lot of secondary characters who pick up the slack in the body diversity department.
5) Accuracy in Dinosaur Species Depictions Is Very Important to Me
So, I’ll admit, this one is a low-priority issue as far as important things in the world are concerned, but Gert Yorkes is psychically linked to a large dinosaur, and in the first portion of the Runaways comic series, there is some debate amongst the team members about what species of dinosaur it is. Now, artist depictions of this dinosaur vary, and it’s evidently been messed with a little bit by evil technology, but it’s clearly not a velociraptor, okay? Anyone calling it a velociraptor needs to sit down. Gert argued uncertainly that it was a deinonychus, but it looks too heavy in the body and legs to be a deinonychus, and too long in the snout. I’m going to posit that it’s a utahraptor, and also point out that regardless of what species it is, it should almost certainly have feathers. I fully expect that dinosaur to be a beautiful, artful, archaeologically-informed beast when we see it in all its CGI glory in this series, and I will settle for no less.
The Runaways are decidedly different from existing superhero teams and they have a ton of potential to make an interesting TV show. Because their presence in the Marvel comics universe is pretty limited, it should give the show writers a lot of freedom to develop their own stories that work within this new medium and explore each character individually more than the comics have. Plus, there is that slim chance the Young Avengers might show up. Maybe. I can dream.
The new series will premiere sometime in 2018. Details on it are scant thus far, but I will definitely be tracking its developments very closely!