Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
Runaways, the new Marvel Comics-based series premiering on Hulu Nov. 21, has a cast so large the viewer may need a scorecard. So let’s make one.
The clever conceit of Runaways is that at some point every teenager thinks their parents are evil – but what if they really were? In 2003, writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man) and artist Adrian Alphona co-created six suburban Los Angeles kids who discover their parents are all supervillains, members of a criminal cabal called The Pride. It proved so popular that Runaways, planned as a miniseries, continued into multiple iterations to the present day.
The series begins with five teens and one 11-year-old discovering their parents committing human sacrifice to the Gibborim, extra-dimensional “Elder Gods” of the H.P. Lovecraft sort. It turns out the Gibborim have given The Pride wealth and power for 25 years, provided they perform the “Blood Ritual” sacrifice once annually.
The latest Runaways #1, which came out in September, features on the cover (from left) Old Lace, Nico, Chase, Karolina and Molly (with a vignette of Gert above).
That human sacrifice strengthens the Gibborim, who after the 25 years will be strong enough to wipe out humanity. They’ll allow six of The Pride to survive – but when each couple has a child, The Pride decides to pass on the Gibborim’s “gift” to their offspring. (The kids also discover that two sets of parents have decided to wipe out the other four, and use the six “tickets” for themselves and their children. Alas, there is no honor among thieving, murderous tools of extra-dimensional beings.)
Appalled, the kids steal some objects of power and become … well, runaways. (It’s not a formal name, like “Avengers.” They never refer to themselves that way in the comics, nor does anyone else.) Along the way, inherited super-powers emerge, coming-of-age occurs and adventures ensue.
However, that’s not where the TV series begins. Taking a cue from AMC’s adaptation of DC’s Preacher, the Hulu series expands on events that occur before the kids become runaways. That makes the members of The Pride major characters for a longer period of time, thereby expanding the cast to an almost unmanageable size.
Worse, some characters have been radically changed for their transition to the small screen. The biggest changes are to The Pride, who include such fantasy fare as mad scientists, wizards, mutants and aliens among their ranks in the comics – elements excised for the TV show, where all the parents are (or seem to be) entirely mundane. So the TV show may vary quite a bit from the comics, which are probably more of a loose guide than a blueprint.
Let’s break it down, one Runaway at a time:
Alex (Rhenzy Feliz of Casual) is a nerdy, yet charismatic, genius. He has no super-powers, but is the natural leader of the group. His parents, Geoffrey (Ryan Sands) is described as a strategist and self-made success, and Catherine (Angel Parker) is a lawyer.
In the comics, Geoffrey and Catherine are crime bosses who pose as legitimate businesspeople while running drugs, gambling, robbery and other assorted vices. Looks like there may be some overlap.
The third Runaways #1 featured a mix of new and old Runaways on the cover, including (clockwise from bottom left) Chase, a plant manipulator from 1901 named Klara Plast, Karolina, Old Lace, Nico, Molly and (center) a cyborg named Victor Mancha.
Gert (Ariela Barer of New Girl) is a rebellious, feminist, purple-haired social justice warrior with a telepathic link to a protective dinosaur named Old Lace. Her parents, Dale (Kevin Weisman) and Stacy (Brigid Brannagh), are bioengineers.
In the comics, Gert crushes on one of her fellow Runaways, but won’t admit it. (And no, I’m not going to tell you which one.) Her parents are time-traveling criminals masquerading as antiques dealers.
A genetically-engineered dinosaur (she looks like a raptor), who is telepathically linked to Gert.
Nico (Lyrica Okano of The Affair) is an introverted Wiccan who usually dresses in Goth apparel. She uses the Staff of One, a magical artifact that allows her to do anything she articulates – but only once. Her mother Tina (Brittany Ishibashi) is now a ruthless CEO, who has marital difficulties with the equally brilliant but less aggressive Robert (James Yaegashi).
In the comics the Minorus were dark wizards, which explains how they had the Staff of One for Nico to steal. Its origin on the show will be interesting to see. Also in the comics, Nico was a cutter, which came in handy, as the staff requires a blood sacrifice to activate. The self-harm aspect has been dropped, but don’t be surprised if the Staff still requires blood to work.
Blonde, beautiful and popular, Karolina (Virginia Gardner of Goat) seems to have the perfect life – but as a runaway develops super-powers. Her mother Leslie (Annie Wersching) is the charming and single-minded leader of the Church of Gibborim, a religion that some describe as a cult. Her husband Frank (Kip Pardue) is a former teen actor whose success did not continue into adulthood.
In the comics, the Deans appeared to be actors, but were actually scouts from an invading alien race named the Majesdane. If that angle is completely dropped, then it’s a mystery where Karolina gets her powers. Also in the comics, Karolina is hiding a big secret from her perfectionist parents, and it will be interesting to see if the TV show keeps that aspect.
Chase (Gregg Sulkin of Faking It) is a jock who is smarter than he seems. His father Victor (James Marsters) is an abusive, perfectionist, engineering genius, while his wife Janet (Ever Carradine) is the perfect PTA mom who secretly wants more out of life.
In the comics, Victor and Janet are mad scientists. They invent the “Fistigons” – super-powered gloves – which make it into the TV show, too.
An ad for the latest Runaways series features a Molly now in seventh grade, so she may finally be a teenager in the comics.
Molly (Allegra Acosta of 100 Things to Do Before High School) is slightly older on TV, and is an orphan who has been adopted by Gert’s parents. She develops super-strength, but the hows and whys are not yet known.
In the comics, the super-strength is pretty easily explained: She’s a mutant, the daughter of two mutants (Gene and Alice), and doesn’t need adopting. Also in the comics, in addition to being 11 years old, Molly is named “Hayes,” not Hernandez.
Those are some pretty big changes, but one element was beyond the show’s control: Marvel has lost the concept of mutants to Twentieth Century Fox, who have the TV and movie rights to the X-Men. Molly can’t be a mutant,
So what is she?
Anyway, changes are nothing new for Runaways, now on its fifth comic book title. Comics fans should recognize the basic story, which is now much more grounded for new fans. As Feliz (Alex Wilder) told TVGuide.com:
“It’s very true to the comic in terms of what’s happening. But at the same time, you don’t wanna give the same story. It dives much deeper than the comics does.”
And with 16 major characters, that should be plenty.
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