Few new series arriving this fall are as highly anticipated as Hulu’s Runaways, an adaptation of the 2005 Marvel comic created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphonsa.
The series focuses on six teenagers who learn two very big things: 1) they have superpowers, and 2) their parents are supervillains. They’re forced to decide whether they will take down their parents or give in to what might seem to be their evil legacy.
As Josh Schwartz, executive producer for the Hulu series, puts it, “Every teenager thinks their parents are evil. What if they actually were?”
There are plenty of great reasons to anticipate Runaways, from its impeccable casting of some exciting young actors (including One Day at a Time’s Ariela Barer and Casual’s Rhenzy Feliz) to the fact that Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who’ve worked together on everything from The OC to Gossip Girl to Hart of Dixie, are involved in the show.
It’s still too early for critics to have seen any episodes — the show will debut Tuesday, November 21, shortly before Thanksgiving — but the series’ panel at the 2017 Television Critics Association summer press tour did tease some intriguing nuggets. Here are five things to know.
1) Probably don’t expect a slavishly faithful adaptation of the comics
Hulu’s version of Runaways has kept the basic idea of its source material, but Schwartz said that Vaughan wrote Runaways’ first run — which ended after just 18 issues — in a rush, constantly thinking it would be canceled out from under him. So those first 18 issues are packed with huge twists, and they set up and resolve an entire story arc.
The series will follow the books — but not to the point of utter faithfulness. In particular, said Marvel Television’s Jeph Loeb, he liked that slowing down some of the storytelling would allow many players who were backgrounded in the comics to benefit from stronger character development.
The goal, said Schwartz, was to find a way to make the show “sustainable” across multiple seasons. And considering that Schwartz and Savage have had their own shows that blew through lots of story very quickly, then flailed in later seasons (most notably The OC), they’ll have learned from experience.
2) The Runaways’ parents will be important characters
Schwartz said the first episode of Runaways will focus on the events that reveal the true allegiances of the Runaways’ parents, but the second episode will tell that story from the parents’ point of view, with the two storylines colliding after that.
Savage said Schwartz was one of the main voices in the writers’ room asking for more time spent with the parents. When he first read the comics, Savage said, he wasn’t yet a parent, but now that he is, he was interested in why the parents in the comic act as they do.
Just how much the show will focus on the parents in addition to the kids remains to be seen. But all involved seemed to talk as if the show is hoping to set up the kids’ parents as villains for seasons to come — as opposed to resolving the kids-versus-parents conflict in season one, as might be suggested by those first 18 issues of the comics.
3) Schwartz and Savage were Marvel’s dream choices to adapt the comics for TV
Loeb said that when Marvel first started thinking seriously about which of its properties would work best on television, Runaways was near the top of the list. But the company wanted to make sure it could get the right people on board to bring a teen drama to the air. At the top of its wish list were Schwartz and Savage. So when the two came in for a general meeting at Marvel TV and said the Marvel title they were most interested in working on was Runaways, everyone immediately hit the ground running.
4) Runaways is connected to the larger Marvel universe — but only in the same sense that every Marvel project is
One of the running jokes in the comic series is that the Runaways can’t get the Avengers to come help them because the kids are based in Los Angeles, while the bigger, more famous superheroes are all based in New York. (Only in the Marvel universe would Los Angeles be a provincial backwater!)
Loeb didn’t directly say that the TV series will use that exact reason to explain why the Runaways don’t ever hang out with the Avengers (and by extension, why the larger, more famous Marvel movie universe doesn’t cross over with its TV universe — aside from corporate schisms), but he did say that the show is nevertheless part of the Marvel universe as a whole. He declined to say any more, because he didn’t want to directly define the relationship between the two.
Still, he said, would a bunch of teenagers really care about what Captain America or Iron Man had to say? “Would you be following Iron Man [on social media], or would you be following someone that was more your age?” he asked. “The fact that they’ve found each other and they’re going through this mystery together at the moment is what they’re concerned about.”
5) The show addresses our current political situation, but only if you squint
To be fair, journalists — forever trying to get entertainers to talk about what their art has to say about Donald Trump — pushed this angle on the panel before it came up organically. But the folks behind Runaways admitted that a program that’s all about questioning authority might have certain resonances in this era, especially for those who lean left.
“Just because somebody’s in charge doesn’t mean they’re here to do good,” Schwartz said. Actress Ariela Barer, who plays the social justice–driven Gert, looped that idea into the show’s larger themes. “No matter how evil you could decide your parents are, you learn your ideals from them, and you become the person you are from them,” she said. And if that’s the case, what does that make you?
If Runaways can thread that needle between the heavily personal story of teenagers questioning everything their parents stand for and the more ambiguously sociopolitical story of what it means for any of us to question the ideals of the world we grew up in, it could be something special.