JUPITER'S LEGACY Interview: Costume Designer Lizz Wolf On Creating A Visually Stunning World Of Superheroes

JUPITER'S LEGACY Interview: Costume Designer Lizz Wolf On Creating A Visually Stunning World Of Superheroes

Jupiter's Legacy Costume Designer Lizz Wolf talks in detail about translating the Millarworld comic book's suits from page to screen, those flashback scenes, what she'd explore in a season 2, and more...

Volume 1 of Jupiter's Legacy is now streaming on Netflix. Based on Mark Millar and Frank Quitely's Millarworld comic book series, the series follows the first generation of superheroes. However, as they pass the torch to their children, tensions are rising - and the old rules no longer apply.

It's a story that spans two different time periods, and with a sci-fi feel, the show boasts heaps of incredible costumes that were dreamed up by Costume Designer Lizz Wolf and her team. 

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Lizz to discuss her work on the series. We've already brought you highlights about designing Paragon's new costume and the challenges of creating Skyfox's look, but there are heaps of fascinating details to be found in our full chat about the show. 

That includes the thought process behind deviating from the simplistic designs in the comic books, whether the actors who are cast have an impact on what we see on screen, the flashbacks, artist Frank Quitely's reaction to seeing the costumes while on set, and Lizz's hopes for a second season.

Needless to say, we want to extend a huge thank you to Lizz for taking the time to share these insights!
 

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Something that struck me in the series was how you took characters like The Utopian, Lady Liberty, and Brainwave who wear costumes in the comics that look like simple spandex on the page and give them a lot of detail and depth; did you consider heading down a simpler route with them and which would you say presented the biggest challenge? 

Well, I absolutely never considered spandex, I’ll tell you that right now! [Laughs] Not to say terrible things about the material because it’s been a revolution in many ways, but it’s a hackneyed trope. I absolutely had a directive from the beginning to never bring me anything in that family. One of the things about our show, and certainly what I wanted to do with it, was create our own fabrics or embellish and texturise, print over and do all kinds of multi-step processes to eliminate any recognisability of anything. The only thing we used close to spandex was EUROJERSEY and we really only used it in one or two characters. Most of the other characters were built from alternative fabrics that we created ourselves. That was one of the most important things about this story. I’m very much a ‘Go big or go home’ kind of girl, and I really didn’t want to do things the way they always had been done. There’s a giant, oversaturation of the genre, and I think audiences are very sophisticated and the translation of Mark Millar and Frank Quitely's work was so important to us. Also, these are Golden Age characters. We didn’t want it to feel stuck in that time because these superheroes have to travel the expanse of a hundred years, so they have to be relevant and also inspire a generation to come. That was really important to me.

In terms of the biggest challenge with the costumes, Skyfox has about fourteen different fabrics and about two thousand seams. The masterminds that are WETA Workshop in New Zealand took that on for us after we had printed, embossed, reverse printed, and done all kinds of new technological applications to these fabrics, and did well with it. He’s got what I think amounts to the Rosetta Stone. He’s got all the information of the show and its design language embedded in his costume. That was pretty challenging, to come up with a way to make his suit look thoughtful and badass, but at the same time, it had to have all those details, layers, and textures make a cohesive visual experience. 

Do the actors playing these characters affect your design choices or are many of those costumes locked in before the cast is even put together?

The reality is, yes, the costumes were pretty much locked in when the casting was done. One of the coolest things about this project for me was that I was brought on very early. The costume department, myself, and my visual development team were able to create the language you see throughout the series. A lot of the sacred geometry, if you will, is hugely relevant to understanding the story and it took a lot of time. We were starting from the ground up on this and it’s no small feat given it’s the jewel in the crown of Millarworld. The producers and showrunner really saw the value of bringing the costume department in versus visual development or anything like that. We were super lucky on that end. I don’t want to name names, but this isn’t like a Marvel or DC project where you inherit the legacy of not only concepts, but expectations where there’s so much baked into that. We had to conceive most of this on our own and formulating our own recipe, especially using fresh ingredients, was hugely important. The actors came in at a time where the costumes were 95% approved and ready to go. Things absolutely were adjusted once they came in, but I would say the costumes were already conceived and on the runway ready to go. 

As a costume designer, how much fun was it to delve into that 1920s and 1930s fashion for those flashback scenes? 

1929 has got every angle of clothing. There was a lot of economic downturn, but also a lot of frivolity. Getting to know these people in that period is vital to understanding them as superheroes. I took that as seriously as I did the superheroes. This project really had three concurrent worlds going on. We had the world of Chloe and the young superheroes in contemporary clothes, this full period 1929 experience which included our adventure to the island, and then we had the superheroes. The period stuff was the juiciest, most amazing stuff to get into because there were so many things that had to be done. We built most of those clothes. Almost none of it was authentic pieces because not much has survived and it’s been worn to death. We had to make most of our principal pieces, so it was tonnes and tonnes of really carefully curated research, finding the fabrics and haberdashery, and just diving into that world was a total gift. Luckily, we had the best tailors and dressmakers in the business making our costumes and a full tailor shop dedicated to the period. I know that’s something I’m really proud of and no one ever really wants to talk about, so I’m very glad you asked me this question! [Laughs]
 


When you were designing the costumes for the show, did you work with Frank Quitely on what they should like, or was it very much down to you to take these characters off the page and bring what they wear into the real world, all while tackling the responsibility that comes with that? 

That’s a great question. I’ll answer that with my personal feelings. The reality is, when you’re given something as massive as this and coming from seminal work, you can’t do this without getting your panties in a bunch immediately! There’s a lot of sweat going on. We didn’t have access to Frank initially or at least we weren’t communicating. So, I tried to take the vision of the showrunner and producers absolutely always reverting back to the story and what was in those beautiful comics, lifting off and expanding from there. One of my greatest moments in this entire project was in October 2019. We were shooting and I came out of a door and completely unbeknownst to me, there stood Frank and his wife. The whole family. We walked him through all the costumes of all the different worlds. We had three warehouses of period, contemporary, and we landed in the superhero one and he was smiling from ear to ear in a way that just finished me off. I pretty much had to hold on to something to not pass out. That is the greatest acknowledgement that anyone who has to interpret a world like this could get. Not only that, I’m a nerd like everyone else, and I understand how important that is, but meeting my own hero was really special. He held up The Utopian costume and couldn’t let go of that beam. The minute he left the building, I fell on the floor [Laughs].

We’ve not heard anything official about a season 2 yet, but if it were to happen, are there any characters from the comics who weren’t in this first season you’re excited to come up with live-action costumes for? 

We don’t know, but I would be hopeful that the show is given a second season. One of the greatest things is that it’s a really good investment, and if you invest in the portfolio, I think there’s going to be a great pay off. This material and the world Mark created means it’s a world literally littered with superheroes and villains and bringing them from the page and reinterpret those things means we can find something hidden in the text or hidden in the pictures that aren’t necessarily known about and keep going because anyone could be a hero or villain. There are a lot of characters, but I’m more interested to see the evolution of Paragon and Brandon. I’m interested in seeing the evolution of characters that didn’t get screentime this season like Ruby Red who really represent the multiculturalism that is hugely important in this story. We have somebody from everywhere and there are cultural backstories to these things that we need to expand on and will do if there’s a season two. I would look forward to that because it’s something we really rolled into this first season. It may not be completely evident, but everyone has a lineage story to that event that happens on the island and that could be amazing. Given the storyline in the comics, it’s a roulette wheel of any period because the antics are far-reaching and extend over a hundred years. That part of it could be really cool. 
 

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