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KICK-ASS Interview: John Romita, Jr. (Part I of V)
by Mel Valentin

Lionsgate gave the opportunity at Wonder-Con earlier this month to talk to the cast and crew of "Kick-Ass," Matthew Vaughan’s ("Stardust," "Layer Cake") big-screen adaptation of Mark Millar ("Nemesis," "Fantastic Four," "Wolverine: Old Man Logan," "Ultimates," "Superman: Red Son") and John Romita, Jr.’s (the upcoming "Avengers" relaunch, "World War Hulk," "The Eternals") comic book series of the same name. John Romita, Jr., Jane Goldman, Clark Duke, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Aaron Johnson graciously took time out of their busy schedules for one-on-one interviews.

Q: This is an early morning for me. I actually typed up some questions so I’d remember. I try not to drink too much coffee.

A: That’s the way to do it.

Q: Just to get going. I’m a big-time fan of your work. I really liked your work on The Eternals, Wolverine, World War Hulk.

A: Thank you very much.

Q: And the new Avengers that’s coming up. That leads me to what was actually one of my latter questions, but I’ll ask it now. With the first story arc complete in Kick-Ass, but now you’re going to be the regular artist on The Avengers, what will happen with the next Kick-Ass story arc?

A: The name of the [new] story arc, and you probably won’t be able to say this, but the name of the [new] villain is “Motherf*cker.” And the name of the story arc is “Balls to the Wall.” An interesting little anecdote about the villain’s name: Mark was trying to go as far as he could to shock people, so to speak. He said I’m going to come up with a name that’s going to shock people. He tells somebody at Lionsgate [Kick-Ass’ distributor] that the villain for the next story is named “Motherf*cker” and he expected a complete belly laugh from the guy. I think it’s the president of Lionsgate and he said, “That’s fantastic. That should get people’s attention.” Mark said, “I have to name this character “Motherf*cker.’” It worked. Wow. “Can you believe what we’ve come to as a society?” Mark said. That you can name a character “Motherf*cker” and people accept it.

Q: Have you started to work on the next story arc yet?

A: Yeah, we have. Mark said, “Watch what you say.” The trick is not be intimidated by the fact that there might be a movie right on the horizon. And not just that, but people are going to have high expectations about what to do in the second arc because of the success of the first arc. I’m not intimidated as much as I’m concerned that we do anything that’s repetitive and in order to be non-repetitive, I’ve got to find ways to slice and dice people in new ways. Believe it or not, but I’ve written [notes] about how to kill people. This is sick. I look back and listed the ways that little Chloe [actress Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays Mindy Macready/Hit Girl in Kick-Ass] slaughtered people.

Q: Time frame as to when we’ll see the first issue of the second story arc?

A: We’re supposed to get something done for the summer time and by the end of the summer. I think it’s been moved up because literally Chloe cannot get much older without negating the little girl aspect of this, so we want to accelerate this. As far as Matthew Vaughan can do the second movie or not. He’s working on another project. The faster we get done with this arc, the fast the movie will get made. At the very least, we’ll begin the arc quickly enough, which I say within the next month I’ll have [Millar’s] script and I’ll have pages to work on. I say within a month.

Q: One of the fascinating aspects of Kick-Ass is that the screenplay rights were sold before the first issue came out.
A: It works well. We’ve done it already. Everyone would have cringed had they known about it months before it actually happened. The screenplay rights being sold before the first issue came out takes away from the class of the comic book. It doesn’t. It just happened to work that way. Because of that, they made sure nothing was taken too far. Let me see if I can explain that better. If we had done the whole book and the movie was made and too many things were in common, it would have looked like we were doing it for the sole purpose of copying. Knowing full well that they [the comic book and the film] were running in parallel, they made a point of staying far enough and yet keeping the flavor [between the two versions].

Q: That’s what I found fascinating, that at certain points they start diverging, events happen in slightly different order, and they left the Kick-Ass character in a slightly different place in the film than in the comic book. I’m trying not to give away too much here.

A: Interestingly enough, Matthew Vaughan and Jane Goldman saw things in the comic that they thought were fine for the comic, but let’s do something a little different and yet keep the flavor of the comic book. For instance, the [spoiler]. The conversation went something like this. In a comic, the two of them going up in an elevator to slaughter the bad guys can be done in a comic book form. In film, it doesn’t work as well as the [spoiler]. I probably would have not thought of it as a good idea for the film, but it works.

Q: It works, especially since they hide the [spoiler] until the big reveal late in the film. Before the reveal, the audience is wondering what exactly that object we can’t see clearly is.

One of my other questions relates to Big Daddy’s origin. It’s different in the film from the comic book. I think it’s similar. It works better on film than it does in a comic book or conversely, the comic book origin doesn’t (and wouldn’t) work on film.

A: Mark Millar’s intent was to go one twist further. Let’s go one twist more. As you suggested, it works better stopping short.

Q: He is what you think he is.

A: And you love him better in the film. In the comic, he’s a pathetic character. He’s less pathetic and more of a hero in the film. I think Mark can be an iconoclast that way. You’d think Matthew would be the same way, [but he’s not]. He made Big Daddy a hero, a deranged hero, after all.

Q: Can you tell us something about the animated sequence in the film?

A: It was a lot of fun.

Q: It’s similar to the motion comics Marvel has been producing.

A: That was different than anything I had done before. Matthew said stick to your guns, stick to the comic book and we’ll animate the comic book work. It wasn’t 100% perfect, the way we wanted it done, but it’s a learning process. Matthew was ultimately happy with the final result.

Q: It looked great and anyone who’s read the comic book can
immediately tell the same artist did the in-film art.

A: It worked out all right. I’ll do better next time.

Q; Oh the movie was fantastic. It’s both morally reprehensible and ridiculous amounts of fun.

A: It was great. Everything I want in a film.

Q: I was consistently surprised by how far Matthew Vaughan went with the material, especially with the Hit Girl character.

A: Yeah, they did. I think they could have gone further. It could have been even bloodier. That’s we did in the comic book. We went crazy.

Stay tuned for Part II of our Q&A with the cast and crew of Kick-Ass (opening Friday, April 16th at multiplexes everywhere). Tomorrow we talk to co-screenwriter Jane Goldman about the screenwriting process.

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originally posted: 04/13/10 05:46:28
last updated: 04/15/10 03:41:43
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