Marvel's Runaways Hulu series is officially a hit with critics and fans alike, and the buzz is only growing as the show enters its weekly airing schedule. With Runaways by and large hitting with audiences, Marvel now has an entire new Young Adult sub-genre and viewer demographic to potentially tap into.
Let's breakdown Why Runaways Opens the Door for More Marvel YA Projects (like the upcoming Cloak and Dagger), along with some suggestions of what comic book titles or characters could be tapped next for this expanding sub-genre of the MCU.
Runaways has been a big experiment for Marvel TV - a superhero show born from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the creators of soapy young adult dramas like The O.C. and Gossip Girl. Done the wrong way, it could easily have failed to please hardcore Marvel fans and mainstream YA TV viewers alike, but the concepts of superpowers and burdensome family legacies has married quite well to the more grounded concepts of teen angst and identity.
So far, Runaways is using the backdrop of a superhero universe as an effective metaphor for the anxieties of identity and fitting in that are common to teens, while the parent characters who are former criminals or outright supervillains bring slowly emerging themes about how a parent's actions (and the legacy created by those actions) can affect a child. It's the kind of YA material that teenagers and their parents all respond to, and fantastical flourishes like super powers or pet velociraptors help to preserve that Marvel Cinematic Universe feel.
Behind the scenes, the show is also giving platform to a cast of young actors who could grow into being stars, which is an aspect of the show that has lucrative long-term potential for Marvel Studios.
Now that we have the benefits and blueprint of an MCU brand in mind, let's talk about some other Marvel properties that could be a good fit for it:
The first and most obvious choice to help establish an official MCU YA brand. The Young Avengers are exactly what they sound like: a team of adolescent Avengers, which were created in the mid-2000s to reflect more of a modern youth concept of superheroism. Young Avengers would be a great YA series (or film series) because it could offer a more irreverent and (forgive the term) "hip" take on The Avengers concept, while also exploring themes of what it's like trying to live up to an ideal of "perfect heroes" when you are an imperfect kid, still trying to figure out your place in the world.
It would be a timely discussion for millions of youth out there trying to figure out how to carry the baton of hope for the future, in an increasingly bleak and divisive world. Watching the kids grow into their superhero roles (or take some tragic turns toward villainy) within modern social complexity would be a well-earned metaphor for growing up, which plays perfectly within in the superhero genre. Meanwhile, characters like Miss America would potentially be able to eventually step into their own spinoffs.
Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) has become a prominent hero in the Marvel Universe - one who perfectly embodies the more diverse and complex youth culture of the Marvel YA brand. As a Pakistani-American from Jersey, a Ms. Marvel MCU film or TV series would be free to delve into all kinds of challenging discussions over what it is to be "American" in the modern sense, with the youthful flavor preventing the show from becoming too heavy-handed and/or preachy.
Given her origin story (caught in a wave of Terrigenesis that shaped her powers based on her love of the Avengers heroes), Ms. Marvel would also have easy ties to other MCU properties like Agents of SHIELD, Inhumans, or the upcoming Captain Marvel movie. Kamala's power set (a "polymorph" who is able to shape-shift her entire body into anything she can imagine) would also provide the necessary Marvel superhero fantasy and action, but could also be mined for all kinds of metaphor about a Pakistani trying to feel comfortable in her own skin, within an American landscape rife with growing Xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments.
This one would be a bit more complicated to pull off, since there have been multiple Nova characters in the comics, and a version of the Nova Corps has already been established in the MCU, but it could be definitely be done, with some effort and planning. Since the MCU has already established its own cosmic brand (thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok), that corner of the sandbox could definitely use its own YA title, and Nova's story of a kid trying to grow into himself on a cosmic scale would be a perfect fit.
The story of current Nova, Sam Alexander, is much more suited to a modern YA story: Sam is the son of an alcoholic father, who on one believed when he bragged about his time as a Centurion in the Nova Corps. After suffering an injury, Sam was approached by the Guardians of the Galaxy and learned that his dad's stories were true. Upon donning his father's black Nova helmet, Sam was granted the power of the Nova Force and started protecting the cosmos and Earth from threats.
Richard Rider's story is a bit more dated (conceived in the '70s and much like the origin of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern), but has the same basic structure of a boy learning he is connected to the intergalactic police force, and setting off on a cosmic adventure. It would be easy to combine the two characters into one for the purpose of modern MCU property, with the Richard Rider name and intergalactic battles against the Skrulls (and friendship with ROM The Space Knight), all being superimposed over Sam Alexander's volatile family backstory and ethnicity (half-Latino).
If both characters are desired, then the story of Sam saving Richard from the Xandarian Worldmind and returning him to the world, could allow for a great mentor/student coming-of-age storyline, while also establishing a longer Nova legacy that could tie back into Captain Marvel's upcoming storyline about the cosmic Marvel heroine going to war with the Skrull Empire back in the '90s.
How do you feel about Marvel's Runaways TV series? Are you enjoying it? And what other Marvel YA series would you want to see? Let me know @KofiOutlaw!
Marvel's Runaways airs Tuesdays, only on Hulu.