We all know that superheroes have catchphrases, but so do their bosses. Marvel’s head of TV, Jeph Loeb, is well known among fans for trotting out a familiar refrain — “It’s all connected” — whenever he’s describing the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its various TV offshoots.
So far, the Marvel shows on ABC (Agents of SHIELD and the upcoming Inhumans) and Netflix (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and the upcoming Defenders and Punisher) haven’t crossed over network lines — or appeared on the big screen with the likes of the Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy, and we’re not holding our breath for that to change. And don’t even mention FX’s trippy Legion and Fox’s upcoming mutant series The Gifted, which take place in 20th Century Fox’s X-Men film universe, annexed from the MCU.
Now Hulu is getting into the Marvel game with Runaways, one of several new shows Marvel is producing for the 2017-18 TV season (along with Freeform’s Cloak and Dagger and New Warriors) which has sparked a new round of speculation — is it really all connected?
“It all lives in the same world,” Loeb insisted at a recent press conference for Runaways at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “How it’s connected and where it’s connected and what it’s going to be connected to remains to be seen — right now we’re trying to tell a great story.”
Runaways is set in Los Angeles, which gives the series some literal distance from the Avengers and Defenders-related shenanigans occurring in New York. But Loeb pointed out that the age of the characters — high schoolers who discover that, not only do they have special powers, but that their parents are part of an evil criminal organization — also dictates who they might interact with.
“If you’re a teenager, since it’s all connected through social media and it’s all connected in its own way, would you be following Iron Man or would you be following someone who’s more your own age?” Loeb said, noting that since the teens are experiencing the same revelations within their social circle, they’re more interested in sticking together and unraveling the mystery among themselves, “not what Captain America’s doing on Friday.”
But like all the shows and movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there will be references for hawk-eyed (get it?) fans to look out for.
“You’ll see things that comment on each other, we’ll try to touch base wherever we can, but it’s very much like real life; things that are happening in LA aren’t exactly affecting what’s happening in New Orleans, and what’s happening in New York doesn’t have to be on the minds of everyone in Chicago, and so it’s just being aware of it and trying to find a way to be discussed in a way that makes sense.”
One potential touchstone comes from the ages of the characters in each of Marvel’s new shows. “A lot of our heroes are adults who’ve had something happen to them that has irrevocably changed their life,” Loeb said. “We now have a Spider-Man who is 16 years old, but for a long time we had a Spider-Man who was much more of a young adult. It’s exciting for us to be able to explore the world of the hero and how it affects someone who’s trying to figure out who they are, as opposed to someone who kind of knows who they are and now their whole life has to take a left, so that’s really the journey we’re going on with these characters.”
When asked whether Runaways would include any parallels to real-world events, star Allegra Acosta (who plays Molly Hernandez) drew one unmistakable connection.
“This is a time where figures of authority are in question for some of us, and teenagers are at the age when they’re starting to see their parents as fallible,” she noted. “We’re realizing, just because somebody is in charge, doesn’t mean they’re here to do good.”
In a more pointed observation, she added, “it gives hope to young kids that you can be your own hero even if we don’t have a hero right now. It shows kids of all different ethnicities, we can conquer the world without a suppressor or a controlling, egotistical figure.”
The show will stick closely to the beloved comic books written by Brian K. Vaughan (who is also involved in the show), Loeb promised: “We try to respect the original material. There are changes that they are going through, some in a spectacular fashion, some in a more subtle fashion … as things are happening to them, they have to ask the question, ‘who else is like me, and does this come from something my parents did to me?'”
Marvel’s Runaways premieres November 21 on Hulu.