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The concept of legacy is of great concern even to the world's premiere superhero. When you spend a lifetime combatting world-ending villains and foiling local bank robbers, you begin to question what you've really done with your life in the grander scheme. What do you leave behind once you're gone? Was it all worth it? These quandaries are embedded in the DNA of Jupiter's Legacy, Netflix's live-action series adaptation of the comics written by Mark Millar and drawn by Frank Quitely. After all, "legacy" is in the name.
"It all ties into this big science-fiction concept," Millar, who also executive produces the show, explains to EW. "But then you can knuckle it down to something even simpler: what if the world's coolest guy, like Superman, married the world's coolest woman, like Wonder Woman, and they had these f---ing awful children who would be like the Kardashians?"
Netflix begins to paint a picture of what that looks like with EW's exclusive first look at Jupiter's Legacy, in the form of a cinematic that takes panels from Quitely's original comic book drawings and transforms them into scenes from the show.
Josh Duhamel stars as Sheldon Sampson, a.k.a. The Utopian, this story's man of steel whose heroism helped shape the world of today. Duhamel portrays Sheldon across two time periods — amid the 1920s Wall Street financial crash when he gathers a crew to seek out a mysterious island that he's seen only in visions, and in the present, decades after these adventurers returned from that island with superpowers and formed The Union, the first generation of heroes. In their old age, a 120-year-old Sheldon and his Wonder Woman-esque wife, Grace/Lady Liberty (Leslie Bibb), grapple over the thought of their children, Chloe (Elena Kampouris) and Brandon (Andrew Horton), continuing their (here's that word again) legacy.
"After almost a century of superheroes just maintaining the status quo the smart ones start wondering what happens if they break the rules the older heroes have held onto their entire lives," Millar says. "What happens if they step out of this repetitive cycle? This is our starting point and it just goes nuts from here."
Another way he puts it, "Imagine The Incredibles, but the kids were a nightmare." But, can you blame them, when their dad's stature as The Utopian looms over their heads? "We're cutting back and forth between this naive optimism of a guy [Sheldon] who utterly believes he's going to save America by finding this island that doesn't exist and this man [in the present] who ultimately knows he's failed," Millar adds. "He's failed the country, he's failed the world, and he's failed his own family because the kids have ended up a mess."
At a time void of summer blockbuster season and superhero movies in the midst of a pandemic, Millar thinks of Jupiter's Legacy as "a summer cinematic event." There's Blackstar, a supervillain from the comics who's brought to life in live-action by actor Tyler Mane in prosthetics. There's Walter (Ben Daniels), Sheldon's brother and member of The Union who goes by the telepathic Brainwave. Then there's Hutch, as realized by Ian Quinlan. He and Chloe bring a Romeo & Juliet vibe to the show; despite being the son of the world's greatest supervillain and Sheldon's friend-turned-nemesis, George Hutchence/Skyfox (Matt Lanter), Hutch sparks a relationship with the rebellious daughter of The Utopian.
Millar had been working for years on comics for Marvel and DC before striking out on his own with his company Millarworld in 2004. "[When I] did my first ever superhero book I had to do something bigger than Avengers or Civil War or Logan or Superman: Red Son. That was my plan when I sat with the blank piece of paper," he recalled. "I wanted to do one story that would become the biggest superhero epic of all time. I wanted to do the superhero Lord of the Rings that would be timeless and just a bumper collection of books people would be reading in 50 or 100 years time." That thinking led to Jupiter's Legacy, first published in 2013 through Image Comics.
Millarworld has released multiple other titles and even struck a deal with Netflix to develop adaptations of his works. Jupiter's Legacy is the first TV series from that deal.
As a show, Millar likens it more to The Godfather "in the sense that it's about an unusual family at the heart of the most outrageous situation."
"But it feels incredibly human and very layered," he says, "because you can relate to everybody within the story and it gives it that humanity."
The eight-episode first season of Jupiter's Legacy will premiere on Netflix this May 7.