Everything is built on top of something, and the dysfunctional heroes of Mark Millar and Frank Quitely's Jupiter's Legacy was built on the halcyonic heroes of a bygone earlier age. But now instead of hearing about it second-hand, Millar is providing a first-hand look in the new Jupiter's Circle series with artist Wilfredo Torres.
Set to launch April, Jupiter's Circle showcases superheroes from what's been called America's greatest generation -- those living and working in the 1950s and 1960s. This series features the the parents and elders of Jupiter's Legacy flush and in their prime, but Millar frames it not as a side-story but instead a wholly standalone story of the real life behind the superheroes of the Silver Age.
Newsarama spoke with Millar about the upcoming 10-issue series, about this idea of generations, and doing a superhero peroid piece as an homage to the Silver Age
Newsarama: What came first in your mind --- the story of superhero children in Jupiter's Legacy or the story of those original superheroes with Jupiter's Circle?
Mark Millar: It's a bit chicken and egg, to be honest. I always planned Jupiter's Legacy as the main book, but spent two months working out the backstory of all the characters, the superhero bloodlines, so it stayed consistent. But the stories themselves were just so compelling to me. I wrote them on post-it notes every day and arranged them around my office for literally eight weeks and I couldn't get them out of my head. This story just had to be told, even though Frank Quitely was obviously too focused on the main book. That's when I hit upon the idea of bringing in another artist. It would be distracting to see another interpretation of the main characters in the Jupiter's Legacy series, but going a generation back almost requires a different style. It's like Magneto being played by Fassbender instead of McKellan. We're more forgiving of the change and it really works to our advantage in a lot of ways because the different era should have a different feel.
Nrama: This Jupiter franchise hits upon a frequent theme of yours, that of generational gap -- something I remember vividly from Wanted. This idea of family --- like with the Sampson family in the Jupiter books -- what is it inspired by for you?
Millar: I prefer to write around universal themes instead of continuity. I'm not really interested in the return of this villain or how that story crosses over with this one. I love the early Stan Lee stuff where it's all about brothers falling out or issues with your parents or best friends becoming mortal enemies. This is the stuff ordinary readers can understand. We can all relate to this in a way we can't relate to stories built for the purpose of stream-lining difficult continuity issues. [laughs]
I've tried to make the Millarworld books as easy to grasp as possible and family is especially emotive, whether you're in a good or bad one. All the best stories go back to family because the passions are a little more heightened with the relationships we tend to have our entire lives. Also, we don't choose our family, which is really interesting. We choose our jobs and our homes and everybody else in our lives, but we simply have the family we're born with and that's really interesting to me.
Nrama: In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, you described this as an inverse of the "widescreen" style comics you helped innovate, focusing instead on quieter, more delicate moments. Was this a conscious reaction to something in your work or others, or how did you find this as the core of Jupiter's Circle?
Millar: It's not a turning point as such. A visual medium really needs that spectacle. I love it. But this particular story is about what happens between the crossovers and the alien invasions. It's about bringing someone you love breakfast in bed or annoyed because they're not doing their share of the washing up or being lonely because all your friends seem to have someone and you don't. Add a mask and a costume to this and it's suddenly fascinating. I haven't seen anything like this before. I touched on it in the first volume of The Ultimates, where more time was spent on the personal lives than the action, but this just goes all the way. It's entirely about the personal lives, but the drama is even more intense as a result.
Nrama: Can you tell us about the six superheroes at the center of this?
Millar: The heroes are the Utopian, his brother Walter, known as Brain-Wave here, and Lady Liberty. We've met all three of these guys before in the main series, but this is their adventures when they were younger and better-looking. Their team-mates are brand new characters Frank Quitely and I came up with called the Flare, who's a mid-life crisis superhero, and Blue-Bolt, who's a closeted gay superhero. We've seen lots of gay superheroes in the last ten years but these have all appeared in more enlightened times. we've played this guy more like Rock Hudson, closeted in 1958 and terrified of being ruined, which immediately makes it more interesting. But the best character - the real break-out for me - is Skyfox. He's the father of Hutch from the main series and he's the most interesting character I think I've ever created. He's going to be the one people love.
Nrama: I've read that this is a peroid piece of sorts, especially in terms of costuming. How detailed did you get in the research to make it accurate to the period, and what were the conversations like with Wilfredo Torres to get on the same page there?
Millar: The fifties and sixties are a period that interests me enormously in comics, TV and film so I feel very well-versed in the era. It's weirdly how I imagine the DC Comics New York too. the characters kind of had their heyday back then - every kid seeming to love them - so it feels very easy and appropriate to have them in this era. Wilfredo really specialises in this retro-50s look. He's so perfect for this. Friends suggested him and it was one of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given. He's amazing. People are going to love him.
Nrama: This is advertised at 10 issues, which will be your longest uninterrupted run since 2008's Fantastic Four with Bryan Hitch. I know with your creator-owned work you've generally opted for 4-6 issues, but what made it important to have ten issues for your story?
Millar: This and Jupiter's Legacy just needed to be epic. I think, at the end of my career, this whole series will be the thing people remember. It's a lot of work and my brain naturally works in 4-6 issue chunks, but I couldn't shorten this. It needed to be vast. This is the superhero Lord of the Rings. People are going to be surprised when they read what this all links up into. The whole project is the most ambitious thing I've ever attempted.
Nrama: Given the interconnectiveness in your Millarworld titles, will we see any clues to other books besides Jupiter's Legacy in Jupiter's Circle?
Millar: Well, the funny little in-joke with the Jupiter books is that these are the comics and movies the people in Kick-Ass, Starlight, Chrononauts, Nemesis and all the other Millarworld titles are reading and watching. I don't make a big thing of it, but you see the posters in the background occasionally. Supercrooks likewise exists in the same universe and we're going to see a couple of those characters in Jupiter's Legacy volume 2, even just as very minor figures.