Excitement levels are building over #Marvel and Hulu's Runaways project, a TV series that nobody saw coming! In another post, I've already walked you through the comic book history of Marvel's latest superheroes; now it's time to discuss the strange twists of fate that have brought them to Hulu...
Marvel First Toyed with a Runaways Movie!
Nowadays, fans are used to the idea that Marvel has a long-term plan in the works - we all remember the Phase 3 announcement, but few Marvel fans realize just how much even the Phase 3 slate has changed since October 2014. Back in the dawning days of the #MCU, Marvel wasn't really sure which direction things were going in.
In the distant days before 2008's Iron Man, Marvel Studios primarily worked as a licensing division of Marvel; the focus was on licensing characters out to other studios, who would then make the movie with support from Marvel. That's why Sony got Spider-Man, Fox got the X-Men, and New Line got Blade. According to Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, in 2004 a change of leadership at Marvel Studios marked a shift to a whole new approach. Rather than get other studios to make Marvel movies, why couldn't Marvel Studios make the films themselves?
The license to Iron Man returned to Marvel in 2006, and the studio began to work on a movie. It was only when the post-credits sequence of Iron Man was filmed that the whole grand idea of the Marvel Cinematic Universe began to take shape. Back then, Marvel was trying to work out an overall direction for the films, and found itself restricted by licensing. Older licenses sat with other studios - Marvel had to arrange a deal where Universal distributed The Incredible Hulk in order to get the film made. Newer concepts, such as Brian Vaughan's Runaways, had never been licensed out, and so were more easily available.
As early as May 2008, Marvel was toying with a film version of Runaways - to be written by Brian Vaughan himself!
Why Didn't This Film Happen?
The initial plan was for a 2011 release of Runaways, which would be heavily based on the first Runaways comic book series. #KevinFeige told MTV that he considered Runaways to be "one of the best new concepts that we've had in quite some time".
"I love the idea of kids banding together, discovering this thing, which I think all kids secretly wonder at one time or another whether their parents are good or evil. Well, these guys find out, unfortunately, that their parents happen to be supervillains."
We didn't hear much news about Runaways for some time, until the announcement that Drew Pearce had replaced Vaughan as writer. Peter Sollett was soon brought on board as director. By August 2010, the film had even gotten so far as casting.
Then plans began to change. The Studio was becoming increasingly committed to the build-up for 2012's The Avengers, and it didn't make sense to release a movie that wasn't part of that build-up - you'd lose momentum. As Pearce explained, Runaways was put on hold.
“Basically, The #Avengers came along and everything else at Marvel got put on hold for a year. But the script is there, we’re good [to] go. It’s kind of like at the airport when you’re waiting for your slot to take off with Marvel, and we’re hoping we get a slot next year. Fingers crossed. They’re very happy with it, so hopefully it happens.”
Although there were initial hopes that Runaways would be released in 2014, these soon faded. In 2013, Kevin Feige himself admitted that Runaways was dead, although Pearce was given more key writing roles due to the quality of his Runaways script. Marvel Studios had committed to a world centered around the Avengers, and Runaways just didn't quite fit.
The Shift to a Runaways TV Series!
In 2013, the Marvel Cinematic Universe began to expand - with Marvel Entertainment taking charge of ongoing TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. One year on, with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. renewed for a second season, Marvel Entertainment began to focus on the possibility of other TV shows. This provided a possible channel for Pearce's script, but he wasn't convinced. He told ScreenRant:
"I’ve said it a couple of times before but in a ridiculous and grandiose way my model for the tone of the Runaways was always the Godfather rather than a family show. This is about a crime syndicate, truly powerful from the get-go, a deadly crime syndicate, and the realization of a bunch of kids that their parents not only are fallible but are borderline or truly evil. And the idea of being drawn into that is of course integral to the first arch of the Runaway story which [Brian K Vaughan] so brilliantly mapped out. So that was always weirdly my touchstone. I think it would be very hard – I don’t know because I don’t know the people who work at ABC Family or whatever – but I think it would be tough to walk in there and go “I want to make the Godfather.”"
Last year, building tension between Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter and Kevin Feige led to a massive restructure of Marvel's organization. Marvel Studios and Marvel Entertainment were completely separated, with Jeph Loeb established as head of Marvel Entertainment. Although both divisions of the Disney megacorporation work on the MCU, they no longer have any direct structural ties, and are essentially no more than concerned stakeholders.
One of the consequences of this restructure seems to have been that Runaways was in discussion once again. My strong suspicion is that Feige had wanted Runaways to be made according to Pearce's vision, but that key figures in Marvel Entertainment had wanted to take things in a whole new direction. Whatever the reality, that restructure cleared the way for Marvel Entertainment to discuss a Runaways series with writers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (of Gossip Girl fame).
Eagle-eyed comic book readers got a surprise just last month, when the Doctor Strange Prelude comic teased the possibility that the Runaways could enter the MCU. It featured a background character called Tina Minoru, a sorceress who - over in the comics - is mother of the Runaways' leader, Nico. A mystic artifact featured in the comic also visibly resembled the Staff of One, Nico's weapon, leaving fans curious. We now know this was deliberate; Marvel was preparing to unveil the Runaways.
Finally, this week, Marvel has announced that the project is a go - to be developed under the auspices of a deal Schwartz and Savage had already arranged with ABC Studios. Although Marvel has gone for a similar streaming experience to their Netflix shows, Runaways is to be aired on Hulu, a channel that tends to be focused on younger viewers. That in itself suggests that the series has a dramatically different tone to the one Pearce had worked on.
- The Comic Book History of Marvel's 'Runaways'!
- Five Things Marvel's 'Doctor Strange Prelude' #1 Revealed About the MCU
- From 'Iron Man' to 'Civil War' - the Ultimate MCU Chronology!
So there you have it - the behind-the-scenes story of Marvel's Runaways, the latest TV series to be announced by Marvel Entertainment! It's been a long time coming, but I for one couldn't be more excited. Like Schwartz and Savage, I'm a huge fan of Vaughan's Runaways, and the idea of introducing these troubled teens to the MCU is one I wholeheartedly support!
Are you excited about Marvel's Runaways? Let me know in the comments!