Netflix's Mark Millar plans to build a streaming superhero universe starting with 'Jupiter's Legacy,' after inspiring some of Marvel's biggest stories

jupiter's legacy mark millar
Millar (left) with "Jupiter's Legacy" stars Josh Duhamel and Andrew Horton on set. Steve Wilkie/Netflix
  • "Jupiter's Legacy," Netflix's first Millarworld series since buying the comic company in 2017, debuted on Friday.

  • Millarworld's president Mark Millar talked with Insider about the Netflix deal and the series.

  • "Jupiter's Legacy" is part of Netflix's grander ambitions to develop franchises and event shows.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

This story was originally published on Wednesday, May 5, and has been updated with Millarworld news announced on Thursday.

Comics writer Mark Millar is known for some of Marvel's most talked-about stories of the 2000s. But he credits a 2003 conversation with Stan Lee, the cocreator of some of Marvel's biggest characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men, with inspiring his trek away from Marvel and into a comics universe of his own.

"Growing up I always wanted to work at Marvel and DC," Millar told Insider during a phone interview last week. "But Stan said that every generation needs new characters."

Millarworld, Millar's aptly named comics company, was born in 2004, the year after his conversation with Lee. With Millarworld, he created his own comics with artists like J.G. Jones and John Romita Jr. that were adapted into films like 2008's "Wanted" and 2010's "Kick-Ass."

Then in 2017, Netflix bought Millarworld for an undisclosed amount in the streamer's first acquisition, giving the company access to a library of potential new franchises.

While Hollywood had quickly taken notice of Millar's work, he said he hadn't expected to sell the company quite so soon.

"I thought I'd be 70 by the time I sold it," the 51-year-old said.

The Hollywood Reporter reported at the time that the deal was worth between $30 million and $50 million, but The Wall Street Journal reported a pricier deal in the $50 million and $100 million range. Millar serves as president and creative chief and his wife Lucy is CEO, and they co-own each of the 20 properties included in the Millarworld sale, Millar said.

The first product of that acquisition, "Jupiter's Legacy," debuted on Friday. Based on Millar and artist Frank Quiteley's 2013 comic of the same name, it follows the world's first superheroes who are struggling with how to pass on their values to their children as their enemies become more dangerous.

Before "Jupiter's Legacy," Millar had created original stories about assassins ("Wanted") and a teenager with no superpowers who fights crime ("Kick-Ass"). With "Jupiter's Legacy," he wanted to create something a bit grander and larger in scope. He said he spent eight weeks planning "90 years of continuity" for the comic, with notes scattered throughout his office before writing a script.

"I thought it had to be the greatest thing I've ever done or what's the point," he said. "I wanted it to be the next step as a creator."

Millar said there was never any doubt in his mind that "Jupiter's Legacy" would be the first of his works he wanted to bring to the screen for Netflix. And the company was on board from the beginning.

"It wasn't even a debate," Millar said. "We were all on the same page."

kick-ass movie
"Kick-Ass" Lionsgate

Millarworld gives Netflix plenty of franchises to choose from

During Millar's time at Marvel, he ushered in a bold, and sometimes controversial, new iteration of the Avengers with "The Ultimates" along with artist Bryan Hitch, which laid some of the groundwork for the big-screen version of the team. He wrote the 2006 event comic "Civil War" that inspired the Marvel Cinematic Universe's 2016 movie "Captain America: Civil War."

But by 2011, after "Wanted" and "Kick-Ass" had hit the big screen, Millar felt comfortable enough to leave Marvel and dedicate his full attention to Millarworld.

Now, the comics company is shaping up to be a content powerhouse for Netflix, the leading streaming service with more than 200 million subscribers worldwide.

In Millar's office is a board with plans for the next five years of Millarworld at Netflix. Some of it has already been announced, including "American Jesus" based on the Millarworld comic, about a 12-year-old boy who discovers he's the resurrected Jesus Christ.

The evolution of Millarworld will be one of Netflix's first efforts toward franchise building.

Since 2017, when Netflix bought Millarworld, the urgency for new, genre-heavy content with broad appeal has grown. Netflix has been increasingly scooping up IP with franchise potential as competitors like Disney and WarnerMedia grow their own streaming businesses with a focus on established IP like Disney's Marvel and "Star Wars," and WarnerMedia's DC Comics.

"The thing that many studios are able to do is create great franchises," Reed Hastings, the Netflix co-CEO, told The Hollywood Reporter in September. "We're making great progress on that with 'Stranger Things' and other properties, but compared to 'Harry Potter' and 'Star Wars,' we've got a long way to go."

jupiters legacy netflix
"Jupiter's Legacy" Netflix

Last year, the streaming giant introduced two new divisions to help with this effort: the franchise-TV division led by Netflix's VP of international originals Kelly Luegenbiehl, and the event/spectacle-TV division led by VP of original series Peter Friedlander. "Jupiter's Legacy" falls under the latter team.

Friedlander told Insider that the best pitches and scripts are ones where the audience can relate to or empathize with the characters. What drew him to "Jupiter's Legacy" was that it was a superhero series about parenthood.

"We knew we had something special when a team of superheroes is arguing at the dining table and then going off to fight a villain," he said.

Eight years after the comic debuted, an entirely new audience will be introduced to "Jupiter's Legacy." But it's only the beginning.

"We have a list of things that are top priorities, and 'Jupiter's Legacy' and 'The Magic Order' were at the top of the list," Millar told Insider.

On Thursday, after Insider talked with Millar, he announced Millarworld updates including that "The Magic Order" series is back in active development, based on the 2018 comic by Millar and artist Oliver Coipel. Netflix decided not to move forward with the series last year as planned, which Millar attributed to pandemic-related filming complications.

"Some time away has given us a chance to come back with a completely fresh look at the material, and we should be getting into our new writers' room very shortly," Millar wrote in a blog post.

He also announced an anime series called "Super Crooks," based on his comic book about "superpowered heist comic about eight super-villains." The fantasy movie "Reborn" is also in the works from "The LEGO Batman Movie" director Chris McKay and starring Sandra Bullock.

Millar isn't just overseeing adaptations of his existing comics work, though. He's also expected to create new characters and stories in his role at Netflix, he said.

"We were drawn to the breadth of Mark's creations and stories," Friedlander said. "With his existing IP as well as the stories yet to be told, we knew it was a really great opportunity to have him as a partner."

Read the original article on Business Insider