The superheroes in Jupiter’s Legacy are a powerful but fallible family
When we think of superheroes, the image that comes to mind is someone who is stoic, courageous, a put-together example for society to follow. But then along comes Netflix’s superhero show Jupiter’s Legacy, which gives us something new with its depiction of an ageing, tired, depressed superhero dealing with the meaning of what he has spent his entire life dedicated to and believing in — a superhero struggling with the meaning of his legacy.
Jupiter’s Legacy is the streaming company’s first series adaptation from comic legend Mark Miller’s Millerworld company. The show jumps back and forth between time periods – the present and the 1920s during the Great Depression and stock market crash in America.
Something about the way the series subverts the superhero genre reminds me of films like Birds of Prey and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, although they are all fundamentally different. At the heart of this multigenerational storyline that focuses on the superheroes’ relationships and conflicts is the Sampson family: Sheldon Sampson/Utopian (Josh Duhamel), Grace Kennedy-Sampson/Lady Liberty (Leslie Bibb), Walter Sampson/Brainwave (Ben Daniels), Brandon Sampson/The Paragon (Andrew Horton), and Chloe Sampson (Elena Kampouris).
One of the compelling things about Jupiter’s Legacy is how it is not just a story about superheroes, it is also a story about a family in crisis that explores ideas of good vs evil, virtue vs vice and light vs dark — a pretty unique way of reimagining one of entertainment’s most beloved genres.
In an interview, when asked about what sets the characters that make up this superhero world apart from others, writer and creator Mark Miller said, “I realised when I was about halfway through writing it that you never see superhero families, you know? Superheroes tend to be single guys aged about 29 … And they tend not to be married, not to have children. So that immediately felt quite interesting. It felt very fresh and very new.”
“Ninety years, ninety years and what do we have to show for it?,” laments Utopian to his wife Lady Liberty in one of the episodes — summing up one of the main issues the series unpacks through his superhero family, and their own complicated relationships with each other and with society.
Every superhero movie needs an iconic villain and arch nemesis for the protagonist to duel and in Jupiter’s Legacy that villain is Blackstar (Tyler Mane) … or is it? Jam-packed with tons of unexpected twists, the franchise that Jupiter’s Legacy is often compared to is Marvel’s Fantastic Four, another superhero family saga.
While Jupiter’s Legacy’s simultaneously running storylines across time periods can make it difficult to follow and to piece together, it is, for the most part, worth a watch. It may not have been picked up for a second season by Netflix, its creator Mark Miller has confirmed that the streaming channel is developing a live-action adaptation of his Supercrooks comics set in the same world as Jupiter’s Legacy.
The show’s overall mood is perhaps summarised best by Sheldon Sampson’s father before one of the series’ pivotal moments when he says, “All your life you try to build something, try to build it bigger, better, faster. Build a legacy. Then one day, it turns out you’ve been building your own box, and you’re the one inside of it.”