By this point, in Mark Millar’s Millarworld Week of news and previews on CBR, fans have already gotten a solid picture of where the writer’s creator-owned imprint will go in the early part of 2012. From March’s launch of “Supercrooks” on through April’s debut of “The Secret Service” and May’s “Kick-Ass” spinoff “Hit-Girl” (more on that tomorrow), the first half of the year has plenty of action. But one of the most ambitious projects the writer has on tap will hit later in the year, and the project’s title can finally be revealed.
This September, “Jupiter’s Children” — a superhero opus from Millar and artist Frank Quitely — will launch from Image Comics. CBR News is happy to exclusively present Quitely’s first cover for the series as well as Millar’s own take on the origins of the book.
“It was bizarre because [Quitely] came to me, which was massively unexpected,” Millar explained. “Frank and I are really good friends, and we’ve known each other for over ten years. Out families are about the same age, and we see each other socially. But he’s really worked at Marvel and then DC for the past decade, so I never thought he’d be interested in working on a creator-owned book. Like I said, there is a risk on doing a creator-owned book. It’s not like picking up your check from DC or whatever. And because Frank is a slow artist, that makes it doubly tough. But there’s a certain track record for both of us now, so working together means there’s less of a risk. He just said to me, ‘Do you have anything coming up that you think I’d be good for?’ and I said, ‘Um…actually yes!’ And then I went and tried to think of something.”
Millar laughed at the anecdote, though secretly he did have something ready for the man who drew his acclaimed issues of “The Authority” a decade ago. “This idea had been in the back of my mind for a few years. There are a lot of superhero ideas I’ve had just floating around, and so I sat over the course of a week or so and developed this, scribbled it all down and formed it into one big story,” the writer said. “I always thought it was quite interesting that mega-events with hundreds and thousands of characters like ‘Crisis’ or ‘Civil War’ are things that are always company owned projects. There’s no reason why they should be. ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Star Wars’ are these stories with thousand-year mythologies and hundreds of characters, yet they manage to be self-contained over the course of three movies or novel. In fact, in some ways it’s actually better to do an event from scratch because nobody needs to read 500 issues of ‘The Flash’ or whatever to understand what’s going on. The biggest complaint I hear with company crossovers is inaccessibility, but if everybody is starting with page one it eliminates that beautifully and you can bring the same excited, commercial head to the book as you would if you were doing this for one of the Big Two.”
Giving up some early details on “Jupiter’s Children,” Millar described the background of the universe fans will be seeing come September. “It opens in France in the 1920s, which immediately for a superhero story is a very different location,” he said. “We start on a bunch of explorers kind of like that opening from ‘King Kong,’ which I love, and they’re doing an exploration of the ancient world – these rich Americans who have put together an expedition to find something you’ll hear about in the story. From those first few pages, and a doomed expedition, we cut to the present day, and they came home from that trip altered and with a plan to save the American idea. In historical context, the Russian revolution is relatively recent and Europe is in a state of turmoil and they’re just on the cusp of the Wall Street Crash so they’ve gone on this trip to try and save America and then we cut to their utterly useless, meandering children in the present day essentially squandering their inheritance. It’s not crass and celebrity focused, although it touches on that stuff. It’s more Shakespearean, with the last of the old heroes, a King Lear figure, watching these teenagers and twenty-something with no altruism whatsoever. There’s a massive regret in his eyes as he looks around at the world he’s leaving behind, very much the world we see today with the Euro-zone collapse and industrial decline and six billion people worried about the future, he feels the children and grand-children of he and his friends just aren’t up to the job. But this is just the starting point. This is like saying that Star Wars is about Darth Vader boarding a ship and kidnapping the Princess. This is the first eight or ten pages and we just run with it from here.
“I think there’s something sad and quite unique where these ten or twenty, slightly damaged super-people feel they can never live up to their parents. And something even more tragic about the parents recognizing that their children, in many ways, are their failures. In the same way, Paris Hilton is the granddaughter of a man with incredible business sense and the will to build that Hilton chain of hotels. She doesn’t have the skills or drive he had. She’s just a vacuous party girl who was born with a silver spoon and mistakes money and fame for success or respect. In the same way, these superheroes know something enormous is missing from their lives and are daunted by the prospect of replacing their parents. That’s the thread running in the background, and on top of all this is this massive adventure story with aliens and robots and amazing ships and vehicles and a whole world I’ve been building with respect to what’s happening here in the real world.”
And there are plenty of real world problems impacting the story once Quitely’s action moves into the present day. “You’ve got the financial, and America losing power and influence to China, of course, but at the same time, there are massive internal problems in China with social engineering being just one of them. Over the last generation, there have been too many males born, so you’re looking towards a massive social collapse over there. Huge unrest within the next decade. The Arab world is obviously in chaos and we have the European problems and the governments of the world asking these new, young heroes to help. But they can’t. Half of them can barely read a book. Adamantium claws doesn’t mean you know the specific pros and cons of quantative easing. But like I said, this is the backdrop where the adventure takes places. It’s a huge, grand operatic piece that runs for ten issues and does super-heroics on a scale I’ve never even tried in something like ‘The Ultimates.'”
Overall, the writer anticipated that this project – by far the biggest of all the new Millarworld books – will also prove to be the most different from what fans expect from him. “Every now and then, you get a shift when you’re working on something and feel like you’ve turned a corner in your writing,” he said. “I felt that way when I went from ‘Superman Adventures’ into ‘The Authority’ – there was a shift where I knew I was capable of things that I wasn’t capable of before. I felt another shift with things like ‘Ultimates’ and ‘Kick-Ass’ taking me into new directions, but this one feels like the biggest jump of them all. It’s very mainstream, but it’s also very, very unusual at the same time. It’s quite an odd project, but at the same time I think it’s got massive commercial appeal. I think it’s going to be bigger than ‘Kick-Ass’ or ‘Wanted’ or ‘Nemesis’ or anything. I think this one’s going to break the 100,000 mark. This is my ‘Star Wars.’
And as with many of his new comics, readers may be wondering whether “Jupiter’s Children” is set to hit the big screen. “I love seeing my books turned into movies. It’s fun and it’s great for the comic sales. Never underestimate how much your comic and trade will sell when there’s a hundred million dollar ad out there,” he said. “I absolutely see it as part of the industry and we should embrace it, hence all those Kick-Ass hoodies and T-shirts and toys, which feed readers back into the comics and allow us to keep doing what we’re doing. But you know what? Even though this is the most commercial of all my properties, this is maybe my once in a life-time thing here because I’ve created a very different world and something that could be mined in a million different ways, I’ve turned down all offers. Frank is with me on this, but we just want to get on with the books for now. ‘Wanted 2,’ ‘Kick-Ass 2,’ ‘War Heroes,’ ‘Supercrooks,’ ‘The Secret Service’ and ‘American Jesus’ are all either being scripted or just months away from filming in two cases, but this one is off the table. We’ve played this very close to our chest so far and still had two offers in from guys we’re currently working with. But ‘Jupiter’s Children’ isn’t for sale yet.”
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of Millarworld Week with new details on “Hit-Girl” and “Nemesis 2.”