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Interview: Mark Millar and John Romita Jr on Kick-Ass (2010)

From page to screen: Kick-Ass, as portrayed on film Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and drawn in the original comic by John Romita Jr.

Every boy dreams of becoming a superhero and fighting crime. Then he wakes up, realizes that’s a dumb idea, and gets on with his life before he gets his dreams and skull crushed. Same thing tends to apply when a comic writer dreams that there will be a faithful movie adaptation of his creation: When it gets to the big screen, he just cringes through the premiere, takes the paycheck, and retreats to his fortress of solitude.

So nobody would have expected a comic like Kick-Ass, in which a nerdy teen decides to become a costumed vigilante, could make it to the screen intact. Yet somehow the tale of powerless and clueless less-than-super heroes has become one of the crudest, lewdest, and wildly entertaining big-budget indie films ever.

While Kick-Ass the comic seems like a poke at mainstream superheroes, it’s actually published by Marvel Comics where …. Hold up; we need a secret origin flashback: In 1993 a young Scottish writer named Mark Millar started working for the British anthology comic 2000 AD. America beckoned, and the Scot crossed the Atlantic to work for DC Comics and then Marvel. There he met artist John Romita Jr., son of industry legend John Romita Sr. and a superstar sketcher with a reputation for down-and-dirty, action-packed panels. The pair collaborated on the superbloody “Enemy of the State” storyline for the firm’s top-selling Wolverine title. Millar said, “After it was finished, we said, ‘Let’s do it again,'”

Marvel, eager to keep Millar writing its big-gun titles, allowed him to self-publish his less mainstream, creator-owned work through its Icon imprint – the perfect home for Kick-Ass. When it came to the gritty, crude, and bloodily realistic tale of a dumb kid in a mask, Millar knew it was time for a team-up. “The honest truth is, I only ever had Johnny in my head doing this, and I told him I would wait a year for him. It’s kind of like when a director has an actor in mind. Anyone with too clean a style, it just wouldn’t have worked. I can’t visualize these characters being drawn by anyone except him.”

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