After years and years of development, abandoned film scripts and more than a few canceled ongoing comic series, the long-awaited moment has arrived: “Runaways” is making a major comeback in the form of a television series. A live-action adaptation of the fan-favorite/bordering-on-iconic Marvel comic just got ordered to series by Hulu, where it will become the latest in a long line of streaming Marvel Television series.
Of course “Runaways” marks a change in how Marvel Television has previously operated; instead of arriving on Netflix like “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage,” the teen-centric superhero series will stream on Hulu. But defying expectations and doing its own thing is what “Runaways” is all about, and has been since it debuted in 2003.
Initially an underdog series from two lesser-known creators launched as part of a long forgotten initiative, “Runaways” grew from a surprise hit into one of the most enduring new concepts launched by Marvel in the past decade. Even though it’s somehow been seven years since the last “Runaways” ongoing ended, the series — with its totally original characters, fresh concept and ahead of its time art — has become one of the titles new readers turn to when they want to peek inside the Marvel Universe. The characters still resonate all these years later, and they’re about to be introduced to a much wider audience.
If you’re new to the cult classic series and wonder what all the fuss is about, we’ve prepped a “Runaways” origin for fans both old and new.
There’s one word that’s integral to this book’s origin that many people probably don’t know: Tsunami. That was the name of the manga-influenced imprint that Marvel launched in January 2003 in an attempt to draw in new readers. Issues of these series would be collected in pocket-size digests, similar to manga. The line gave series to a number of established characters (Mystique, Emma Frost, Namor, Human Torch, Venom, the Inhumans), new characters in series with recognizable titles (“Sentinel,” “New Mutants”) — and then there was “Runaways.”
Unlike the other series, “Runaways” starred totally new characters (who you’ll read more about in a bit) in a drastically different setting (Los Angeles as opposed to Marvel’s Manhattan). Instead of going with a familiar name, legacy or characters, the series used its high concept to hook readers: what if you found out your parents were super villains?
The series also didn’t have familiar creators behind it. Sure, Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona are A-listers nowadays thanks to their work on “Saga” and “Ms. Marvel,” respectively, but “Runaways” served as their introduction to many, many readers. Prior to this teen Marvel series, Vaughan was most known for a run on “Swamp Thing” and an arc of “Batman.” His groundbreaking series “Y: The Last Man” launched at Vertigo just under a year before “Runaways” started. And “Runaways” was Alphona’s comic debut; in fact, “Runaways” comes so early in Alphona’s comic career that you literally see his style evolve quite rapidly throughout his four-year run on the title.
When it launched in July 2003, “Runaways” seemed like the unlikely pic for “breakout hit,” but it was. The Tsunami initiative folded after just a year (“Runaways” would still bear the Tsunami branding for the duration of it’s first 18-issue-long volume), and the book starring the totally new characters from relatively unknown creators was the only one to get a second ongoing (and, even later than that, a third). The odds were stacked against the series, but readers became invested in these new heroes — and, no surprise, Vaughan and Alphona made for a spectacular team. By Brett White