For a series focusing on a group of teenagers who just so happen to be the spawn of the most powerful pack of super-villains in Los Angeles, Hulu is certainly downplaying the superhero aspect and playing up the dramatic elements of “Marvel’s Runaways.”
“(It’s) ‘The O.C.’ of the Marvel universe,” executive producer Jeph Loeb said at the Television Critics Association panel for the new show in late July. Fans of the Marvel comic book series already know “The Runaways,” which premieres Nov. 21, isn’t all about magical spells, flying aliens or fighting bad guys with Hulk strength. That’s all in writer Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s panels. But really, it’s a drama wrapped in superhero spandex. And it looks like Hulu is dropping the spandex.
“For us, we didn’t view it as a superhero show,” said executive producer Josh Schwartz. “We really view it as a coming-of-age drama, as a family drama, and we’re telling that story inside of a Marvel show.”
Co-showrunners Schwartz and Stephanie Savage of “Gossip Girl” and “The O.C.” fame, are at the helm of the next big Marvel project, arguably one of the most buzzed-about translations for dedicated comic connoisseurs.
The award-winning books follow a gaggle of adolescents who discover that their parents are members of a super-secret, super-evil group called the Pride. This revelation occurs in the midst of the Pride’s human sacrifice — a scene that was hinted at in the sizzle reel screened before the panel. In response, the teens form their own superhero posse in hopes of righting the wrongs of their guardians.
The series leans into this realization with the tagline: “Every teenager thinks their parents are evil, what if they are?”
On the panel, Schwartz (who was joined by executive producers Savage and Loeb and cast members Ariela Barer, Rhenzy Feliz, Gregg Sulkin, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner and Allegra Acosta) stressed that just because the elders have been exposed as all-powerful villains, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all that bad.
“It’s important to us that there are no true villains in the show,” said Schwartz. “The book obviously tells the story from the point of view from the kids. It was really important to us that we take the time to build out the parent characters as well.”
The series turned to Vaughan to help flesh out the rest of the world he created, specifically with an eye on the background details and motivations for the members of the Pride. The notes must have been pretty substantial, because after the pilot — which follows the kids’ familial revelation — the second episode will revisit that same plot but from the perspective of the adults.
“The two stories sort of meet up halfway through,” said Schwartz. “It was important to have that balance and to really understand the motivation from both sides of the equation.”
There are some advantages to making a drama under the Marvel umbrella. “When you’re a teenager everything feels like it’s life-and-death stakes,” said Schwartz. “In this story, it actually is. That felt like a really nice evolution for us in terms of storytelling.”
Still, trappings of the Marvel-verse were scattered throughout the presentation.
The Karolina Dean character (Gardner) was briefly seen in the sizzle reel aghast at her own skin glowing (which transformed from vibrant shades of yellow to pink to blue) and members of the Pride were seen donning bright red robes that gave the characters a villainous feel in footage that was screened for critics.
One member was noticeably absent from the superhero gang: Old Lace, the telepathic dinosaur and companion to character Gert Yorkes (Barer).
When asked about the whereabouts of the beloved dinosaur after the panel, Loeb responded: “I don’t think you will be disappointed.”
Take that for what you will, Old Lace lovers.