Mark Millar Expands His Image Universe

Writer Mark Millar has never had a problem going big. From his penchant for proclaiming his upcoming projects in astronomically large terms to his continued success turning his creator-owned works into Hollywood films, Millar's personality comes with a certain outsized set of proportions.

But for his next wave of creator-owned comics, the writer has been emboldened by the response of his 10-part superhero epic with artist Frank Quitely, "Jupiter's Children," to apparently continue down the path of "bigger is always better." Earlier this month at the Image Expo in San Francisco, Millar appeared via video to announce a new string of projects he called "the Marvel Universe for the 21st Century" - a line of books starting up in January of next year with "MPH" created with artist Duncan Fegredo.

To unpack this ambitions, Image Comics hosted a press call with Millar to discuss "Jupiter's Legacy," his new series and everything under the sun.

The call kicked off with talk of "Jupiter's Legacy" #3 which arrives next month. "This is the issue when everything cuts loose," Millar said. "We've basically been putting the pieces in place for this issue...this is when the shit really hits the fan. I think this issue is probably the best work of Frank Quitely." Millar said that that final layout for the book's release schedule will be a 10-issue series released in two chunks of five monthly issues.

"I'm just writing it as if it's coming out monthly. I'm writing issue #7 at the moment...Frank will be drawing it through some of next year," he said. "Back in October or November, I literally sat in front of a white board and wrote out all the back stories of the characters...it's been a real labor of love for me. Things are about to get crazy with it. This has been me being a good boy for the first few issues and setting everything up, but now we're able to get really wild with it."

Millar compared his construction of the story to Hollywood blockbusters, saying that he wanted to fight against the penchant of the big studios to do empty action all story long. Instead, "Jupiter's Legacy" is putting a focus on character work up front as director Matthew Vaughn has done in hopes that people will connect with the human drama first and then be shocked by the action later. "We're so used to being numb to violence in superhero comics," he said, saying that #3 will be a shocking break before returning to the familial drama after. "This is the moment where things go bad after meeting all the characters...it's just manipulating the audience, I guess. Your heart quickens in the next issue, and then you get a breather in issue #4."

The writer also made a comparison between his comics work and his film work, saying that he feels working on movies has reminded him why he'll always stay in comics as he's constantly feeling the pressure of budget constrictions in film. Now with "MPH" and his future comics work, he plans on growing his ideas and his execution to unlimited levels.

"My office looks like Sherlock Holmes' study," he laughed. "The way I'm handling it is that 'Jupiter's Legacy' is the movie that all the people in my other comics go and see...you'll see a scene in 'Kick-Ass 3' with a poster for it." Moving forward, all his new superhero books will spin out of the "Kick-Ass" universe where Hit-Girl may run through the background of "MPH." Though once the ten issues are done, there will be no more stories told in the world of "Jupiter's Legacy." "I don't want anyone other than Frank Quitely drawing these characters."

Thematically, Millar said "Legacy" is less a criticism of America than it is a love letter to ideas he's previously taken a more cynical view of in his work. "Everything I've done up until now, like most British writers, has been very anti-authoritarian," he said, but with this series, he wanted to focus on the benefits of democracy and the American system of government. "That ideal - that 1776 one - is a very sweet thing...it might not be around forever. So I kind of wanted to write a book about how awesome America is...I like the idea of America. What happens in this storyline is that the superheroes think they know better [how to run things]...and what happens next is the consequences."

The writer said that blowing the world of "Kick-Ass" out into more titles was the logical next step after going as big as he could in story terms with "Legacy," "You try and expand," he said. "Something like 'Kick-Ass' is relatively intimate, but 'Jupiter's Legacy' is ten times as expensive...but the one thing that could be bigger than that is the Marvel Universe...it's interesting, I interviewed Stan [Lee] for a magazine a few years ago, and he said how there were so few people [in the '60s] creating new characters...that suddenly seemed very exciting to me: the way he, Kirby and Ditko had gotten together. Why don't I get guys like John Romita and Frank Quitely and some other artists I haven't announced yet. I thought it would be cool to do Marvel but in a company owned by all the creators. It seemed like a great time to try something like that...I'd done my ten years at Marvel, so now seemed like the right time to try this."

"I feel I'm in a nice place. I've got the movies to advance what we're doing in print as well. I view these things as ads," he said. "I'm really just following that Marvel plan. They blazed such a trail with that stuff, it's crazy no one else has tried it. It is really hard, though...the lineup of guys we've got on these books is probably better than anything at Marvel and DC right now."

"Jupiter's Legacy" #3 goes on sale on August 28 with variant covers by Quitely, Bryan Hitch and Sean Phillips.

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