IT'S MILLAR TIME
Comic book veteran ushers in new hero universe with Jupiter's Legacy
Jupiter's Legacy Netflix
The moment Netflix arrived in Mark Millar's life came decades before he thought it would. Three decades, most likely.
“I thought I'd have a few more grey hairs before this happened,” says Millar, 51.
Millar is no stranger to Hollywood. Through his stellar run as a writer at both Marvel and DC Comics in the early 2000s, he became one of the biggest names in the industry. His stories sparked much of the modern comic book movie boom, including The Ultimates series, which he wrote for Marvel with artist Bryan Hitch and is widely considered to be the inspiration for the first Avengers movie. Millar later created his own works, such as Wanted, Kick-Ass and The Secret Service, which have been the basis of hit films.
For years, success at the movies didn't change how Millar conducted business as a comic book creator. He was head of his own company, Millarworld, which he ran with his wife, Lucy Millar, while collaborating with some of the best artists in the field.
Marvel Comics began in 1939, but Disney didn't purchase it until 2009. Warner Bros. bought DC in 1969, 35 years after its 1934 debut. Millar assumed Millarworld would have a similar fate.
Things changed when Netflix came to him in need of superheroes. The company and Marvel had spent years building a connected universe of characters, through Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage and combining those series to form The Defenders. But Disney was readying its own streaming service, an eventual home for new Marvel Studios shows.
So in 2017, Netflix reached a reported eight-figure deal for ownership of Millarworld and the rights to adapt its comic books into shows. The message was clear: Millarworld was set to be Netflix's biggest comics-inspired universe. And now, finally, that plan has come to fruition, with the partnership's first series, Jupiter's Legacy, now streaming. By Monday, it was the No. 1 Netflix show in Canada.
“It was like a dream, because what they wanted to do was exactly what I wanted to do, which was to create the next generation of pop culture,” he said of the Netflix deal. “Not reinvent things. Just put some new stuff out there. And not just one thing a year or two things a year. There was a budget and a platform to actually get everything out there. It was just a no-brainer for me.”
The eight-episode Jupiter's Legacy is based on the Image Comics series of the same name that Millar created with veteran comic book artist Frank Quitely in 2013. The plot is as Shakespearean as it is superheroic. It features a team of heroes, led by the Superman-esque Utopian (Josh Duhamel), endowed with superpowers almost a century ago after a visit to an island not on any map. There is conflict between those heroes, who feel a responsibility to use their powers for good, and their superpowered children, some of whom want to do anything but be their parents. And there are old sibling rivalries, as Utopian doesn't always see eye to eye with his telepathic brother Brainwave (Ben Daniels) frequently disagreeing on how they should affect the world and what lines can't be crossed.
Two timelines exist in the story. The present day, where many of the citizens are unsure about these old-fashioned superheroes. And the past that holds the secret to the origins of their power.
Millar serves as an executive producer on Jupiter's Legacy, a deal he equates to selling a house and then the new owner handing the keys back to the seller and saying they can do whatever they want with the property.
“I've always avoided having a job. Like most writers, the idea of a job horrifies me. They knew I was never a guy who was going to come in and sit at a desk all day,” he said. But his new arrangement “basically makes me feel as if I'm still running my own show, which is a perfect environment. You don't feel like you have a boss watching everything you're doing. It's a very relaxed and chill environment.”
Millar is proud to see Jupiter's Legacy embracing its comic book roots, and not hiding from them as some properties do when they hit mainstream screens. He advocated for comic book art-style opening credits and characters saying things like “supervillain.”
“As a comic book guy who's been a comic book nerd since I was five, I almost can't remember not reading comic books. It's in my blood. I bleed comic books,” Millar said. “The idea of not leaning into that would be crazy. The costumes are very bright, proper superhero costumes. Nobody is dressed in armour or anything. It's very out and proud as a superhero thing.”