Published June 2, 2017

Runaways: Get Ready to Run

Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka reunite the teen super heroes this fall!

Image for Runaways: Get Ready to Run

For most kids, finding out your folks belong to a world-dominating cabal of super villains would be about the craziest thing in the world—but they’re not the Runaways! Back in 2003, Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona introduced us to a book called RUNAWAYS and a cast of characters that we instantly fell in love with. The adventures of Nico, Karolina, Chase, Molly, Alex, and Gertrude grabbed a faithful fan following that led to a number of volumes as well as appearances in other books like AVENGERS ARENA and A-FORCE.

In September, the newly announced RUNAWAYS creative team of novelist Rainbow Rowell and artist Kris Anka will have plenty of plans for the kids as they continue to grow up in a world jam-packed with threats large and small constantly threatening existence. The gang will get back together again starting with Chase and Nico who haven’t exactly been on the best of terms lately. We talked with Rowell and Anka about the importance of this book, where they plan to take it, and how they’re working together to get there. Was RUNAWAYS a book you got into when it was coming out? What does it mean to you as a comic reader and a creator?

Rainbow Rowell: Yeah, I read it in real time when it was coming out, and stuck with it ‘til the end.

I think I started reading RUNAWAYS because I’ve always liked teen teams. I was really into NEW MUTANTS and GENERATION X, too. But then it became my favorite comic—and introduced me to Brian K. Vaughan, who is one of my favorite writers, in any genre.

RUNAWAYS felt like nothing else I was reading at the time. It was completely character-driven. It had teenagers that acted like real teenagers. And they were so funny and heartbreaking. And they made so many mistakes.

Also, thanks to Adrian Alphona, the book didn’t look anything else I was reading.

I just loved everything about it. I remember trying to talk my friends into reading it. Even people who didn’t read comics.

Now that I’ve written books of my own and created my own teen characters, I realize how hard it is to write an ensemble where every character feels distinct and engaging.

Kris Anka: That first issue of RUNAWAYS came out just as I was about to be a freshman in high school. I was born and raised in L.A. There had never been a book that so distinctly lined up with me and my friends. I remember passing around the first few issues with all my friends. It didn’t quite hit me until I was reading the script for the new series that I fundamentally have been preparing for 28 years of my life to draw this book.

It’s not an understatement that I understand this book and these kids through and through. As I was rereading the previous runs and preparing for the new book and getting into the [heads] of the characters it really struck me that I know these kids. Each of the characters reflected someone I grew up with. I mean I literally went to high school with a blonde girl who was the daughter of a well-known actor! I knew a Karolina, I knew a Gert, I knew a Nico. You could almost say there are no other characters in the Marvel Universe that I understand better then these characters. The Runaways have gone through a variety of trials and tribulations since their last series ended. How does this new volume find them when it picks up?

Rainbow Rowell: So many trials and tribulations! The series picks up with them really down on their luck. I mean, half of them are dead. They’ve been squashed and scattered, and the ones who are left don’t even think of themselves as Runaways, necessarily. They never chose each other, you know? They were just kids who got thrown together in a crisis.

This whole first arc is about trying to getting the band back together—when you can’t even agree there was ever a band. It sounds like the book kicks off with Chase and Nico reuniting. How does she react to letting him back in her orbit?

Rainbow Rowell: She’s so fed up with him. Nico and Chase have spent the most time together since RUNAWAYS ended. They’ve—maybe literally?—gone to hell and back together. And he was a thorn in her side the whole time, constantly on her nerves.

So, Chase shows up in Nico’s living room, trying to get her to help him with this spectacular mess he’s made. And she doesn’t want to! She doesn’t want to get dragged back into his dysfunction. Kris, Would you say it’s more difficult working on a super hero comic like this where the characters have very distinct looks and styles, but don’t have regular costumes?

Kris Anka: Absolutely. On most other books I’d have the costume to fall back on that they’d probably be wearing most of the time. On a book like this it’s entirely reliant on a robust and character fitting wardrobe that I have to build for all of them. These characters have grown and evolved so much over the years, what still makes them “Runaways?”

Rainbow Rowell: These four people—Chase, Nico, Karolina, Molly—have been through something so tragic and so traumatic and so specific. They betrayed their parents, they saved the world, they made themselves orphans. There’s so much unspoken between them that no one else will ever understand. I think they’ll always feel like home to each other. They’ll always be Runaways. Given their ages, the Runaways are always evolving. When coming up with their current looks, how was it balancing what we’ve already seen of them while also evolving them forward? 

Kris Anka: The first big challenge of this book was boiling down their essences and finding what their styles have developed in to in modern L.A. The trouble with teen looks, especially in L.A., is that they don’t last very long. A lot of the styles from the early 00s just aren’t around nowadays and I didn’t want 18-20-year-olds to look dated.

Karolina who started as the daughter of actors sort-of-flower child Socal blonde would definitely be a Yoga-doing-Coachella kid nowadays. Nico’s Goth look has become the witch and crystals look. I spent weeks building Pinterests for each of the characters so I could have a multitude of outfits for them. What we see on the cover just happens to be the first look I [came] up with, but it is in no means the only look for them. Kris mentioned looking back at earlier runs; Rainbow, how much did you look back at the previous series or other teen comics to get a feel for these characters?

Rainbow Rowell: A lot. I’m a continuity junky. So there was never any question for me about whether to go back. I reread everything. The whole run. And then I read every appearance the characters have made since. Then I went back to the Vaughan/Alphona stuff again.

I didn’t really need to get a feel for the Runaways or teen comics; I already had that. But the exciting part of the project for me was moving these characters forward in a way that felt true to who they really are and what they’ve been through so far. Really bringing them back to life.

I wanted to write them in a way that would feel true to old Runaways fans—like me—and that would endear them to new readers. I hope that new readers fall for these characters the way I did 14 years ago. From a writing perspective, how has it been shifting from prose to comic scripting?

Rainbow Rowell: I’ve spent the last two years working on screenplays and the graphic novel I’m doing with Faith Erin Hicks, so I was all warmed up for RUNAWAYS.

But I’m still getting used to the pacing of a 20-page book—and how fast it goes. I think my original pitch for this six-issue arc would actually cover five years of monthly comics. Kris and Nick Lowe, our editor, have been really patient and generous with me. Kris, Rainbow comes from the world of prose writing. Do you think that gives her a different approach to comics?

Kris Anka: Definitely. In sort of a selfish way Rainbow’s new-ness to comics really helped me sort of specify early on and help us develop our work flow better so that we worked more fluidly with each other. There would be normal things you’d put in to a script that for this book I wasn’t looking for this time that helped lessen the learning curve for her and gave me more freedom.

When I got the first [drafts] of the scripts Rainbow had broken most pages down into beats, but it read so clearly to me and was so captivating I had no trouble in figuring out the panels and pacing that I asked her not to bother putting the panels in because it was already so clear. Plus given Rainbow’s skill in capturing characters I just couldn’t put down the scripts and I kept wanting to read more and more, which definitely helps get me excited to draw the book. Along similar lines, how has it been working with Kris on this series so far?

Rainbow Rowell: It has been, without exaggeration, a pure delight. Kris is a bountifully talented artist. And he brings everything I was specifically hoping for to the book. Adrian Alphona set the bar high for these characters. He drew them with distinct body types and each with their own sense of style. Kris gets that. I remember looking at Kris’s first drawings of Chase and thinking, “This looks exactly like Chase, but also brand new, and also somehow better than ever.”

Kris was already a RUNAWAYS fan. So we were both starting at the same place, and I think we immediately trusted each other with the evolution of these characters.

To see that next step in their evolution, check out RUNAWAYS #1 by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka in September!


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