After years of rumored television and film adaptations, Marvel finally announced that it had reached a deal with Hulu to produce a live-action adaptation of its Runaways series to be penned by Gossip Girl creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage.
Created by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona in 2003, Runaways told the story of six super-powered young adults who all ran away from home after learning that their parents were secret villains in an evil cult. Rather than getting into the family business, the kids (who range in age from around 11 to 17) form a new chosen family amongst themselves and vow to bring their parents to justice.
Runaways tackled the sorts of plot lines that resonate with teen audiences, like disillusionment with one's family and making sense of one's place in the world. And when it came to gender identity and romance, the series was ahead of its time.
Like any story about teens on the run, love popped up fairly often during Runaways ' six-year run. Characters fell in and out of love, harbored unrequited feelings for teammates, and in once instance went so far as to change their gender in hopes of catching their crush's eye.
In Volume 2, Issue #7, Karolina Dean, a teenage girl who discovers that she's an alien comes out as a lesbian and is rejected by the girl she likes. She's then kidnapped by Xavin, an alien who claims that Karolina's hand in marriage has been promised to him.
The two develop sincere affection for one another, but when Xavin proposes Karolina tells him that her sexual identity would make it nearly impossible for her to be completely attracted to him. Xavin explains that as a shapeshifter, his physical form and gender are fluid choices that he can change at will.
Rather than chalking Xavin's decision to live as a human woman up to their desire for Karolina, Runaways took the time to revisit the idea of the character treating their gender as mutable aspect of their personality that shifted depending on their mood or the particular situation. For example, surprise might cause Xavin to shift into their female body while frustration might trigger a male response. And while Karolina does come to love Xavin in their female body, they make a point of explaining to her and the other Runaways that their female form doesn't actually define who Xavin is as a person.
Now that Runaways is headed to the small screen, Schwartz and Savage are in a unique position to tell a different kind of story within the superhero genre that neither Marvel nor DC have managed to get around to in their cinematic universes. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Joey Gutierrez and Jessica Jones' Jeryn Hogarth are the only two openly queer characters that Marvel has managed to include in any of its 13 movies and three ongoing television series. DC hasn't had any.
Much in the same way that Black Panther gave Marvel the chance to finally correct years of not prominently featuring characters of color within its cinematic universe, Runaways would be the perfect opportunity to finally bring some of the most compelling LGBTQ comics in recent history to life and send a message to studios that we're all ready to see more queer heroes on the big screen.