Runaways – the movie?

Danny reacts to the news that there might be a Runaways movie in the pipeline...

Yesterday, after rolling out of bed real late, this writer found an e-mail in his inbox from DoG editor Sarah Dobbs, with a link to a Hollywood Reporter report and the subject header “Have you read this?” A click later, I’m sure I said something along the lines of “oh, Christ”. Turns out Runaways, the critically acclaimed, Harvey Award-winning comic created by Brian K Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Lost), otherwise known to my friends as the series that got me into comic books, is in works at Marvel Studios for a cinematic release… sometime in the future. The film may not be ready for 2011 (!) at this point, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up.

The over-simplified plot of Runaways goes like this: a group of privileged L.A. teens learn, by accident, that their parents are members of an evil organisation by the name of The Pride and go on the run, amassing powers – and a dinosaur! – to fight back against them. Simple enough, really. Online fan speculation suggests that the movie – scripted by BKV himself – will stick to the comic’s original eighteen issue run for its plot.

Sure, I probably over-reacted with my “oh, Christ” reaction, but I definitely worry that it may be too soon for these teen heroes to be movie stars. Marvel have optioned far more well-known characters in the past – hell, even Shang-Chi, who I’d never heard ‘til about three minutes ago, has been kicking about since 1973. Runaways has been ongoing since 2002 and has dodged cancellation a couple of times already due to low sales. Think how an Iron Man movie with Robert Downey Jr in the lead was only recently considered as a risky move from the studio, and you get some idea of how well the studio’s going to have to sell the movie. Plus, the age of the main characters will probably, I’m guessing, call on a number of young unknowns… and, yeah, the film will have a dinosaur in it. Which is a blessing, really, because dinosaurs rule, but some people may look at it as a curse.

The series has been praised for its “honest portrayal of teens”, as the HR puts it, and fans have raised concerns over how some characters will be tackled: in particular, the characters of Gertrude, a slightly-overweight empath, and Karolina (minor spoiler ahead), a Majesdanian girl who slowly comes to accept the fact she is gay and attracted to her best friend, team leader Nico.

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While in debate with fellow fans over the Livejournal community The Hostel, Christina Strain, long-time colourist for the series, had her two cents to throw in on the just-announced project:

“Personally I’m excited, I think Brian’s [K Vaughan] improved as a writer and I’m sure he’ll make it different from the books to a certain extent, but that’s probably not a bad thing. [The first run] wasn’t originally picked up and given an ongoing number of issues like it has now. Marvel gave it a few issues and as it grew in popularity they extended our numbers over time. Looking at it like that, I’m sure Brian would love to tighten up some stuff but the first eighteen issues are a pretty well encapsulated story.”

Concerning worries of character changes: “I think, if anything – and this is just me speculating – the one thing we probably won’t have to worry about is the characters staying true to who they are in the books. It’s such a character driven book and I know Brian really does love them. I don’t think they’ll make Gert super skinny, I think she’ll probably be heavier than the rest, I think Karolina will still be a lesbian, even if it’s just in veiled references (which it WAS for most of the first arc) and I think everyone else will stay pretty close to how they’re depicted in the books. This is a Marvel produced movie so you know they’ll treat it better than other studios who are just licensing the property.”

She, erm, has a point. Plenty of ‘em, really. I can see myself getting excited for the prospect of a movie, especially with the creator taking time out from The Best Thing On Television That Isn’t The Wire Or Battlestar Galactica to do it, but it’s still early days yet – personally, I’d prefer a TV serial, but so would Strain. As she says on the Livejournal page, people in television say it wouldn’t work due to the lack of parental guardians. Funny, that.

In related Runaways news, Joss Whedon’s arc, which has been plagued by delays and a mixed fan reaction, concludes June 18th Stateside. The series revitalises itself with a return to Los Angeles and a new creative team of Strangers In Paradise’s Terry Moore and former New X-Men artist Humberto Ramos on August 27th. Brian K Vaughan should spend the rest of the summer in between drafts for the Runaways movie feeling very, very smug about himself. Go on, Brian, take a load off.